I’ve really been stepping up my online game with great expectations of finding “my A game” with new tweaks and fine tuning. Things are progressing as expected with a new strategy and method of play resulting in more cashes.
As I’m spending more time online, I keep running into Big Slick. He likes to run races, make hits and see the river with Ace high. He thinks very highly of himself in most instances and costs players lots of money! My question, is he over-played or not playing to his highest value, or maybe even lost in the hand?
Hope Big Slick doesn’t hold it against me, but I have to be honest in my own opinion of AK. I’ve been playing poker for longer than I want to admit to most people. I’ve seen the game morph into a more strategic and mathematical game as young minds enter the game with strong focus and determination to beat the game and make it their own. With these changes range of hands have gotten much wider and have become situational more than positional. Enter Big Slick.
The old scheme of Big Slick has been and continues to be a raising hand. Most players have always been eager to throw Slick into a race and felt comfortable with a coin toss result. They never stop to think they also had a 50% chance of losing. Big Slick is and continues to be a good starting hand but a drawing hand. Taking Slick to the river as Ace high is absolutely ridiculous as AK is NOT AA. This is a huge mistake to think AK is going to always win at the river with no hit on the board, yet players still get married to the hand and continue to lose chips.
Situations dictate just how much he is worth, but recently I’ve been seeing a new avenue for Big Slick to trek down. Ace/King is getting folded. That’s right, folded. Three bet comes to me, raise and re-raise, I’m folding. Hand strength is everything and AK once again is just a drawing hand. I recently min-raised under the gun with AA and got a re-raise by KK, a call by JJ and the player holding AK pushed all in. In a 4 bet situation I don’t know about you, but this is an insta-fold. Playing AK conservatively early in tournaments is a smart strategy, playing stronger in mid levels is productive, but gambling with AK in late stages of tournaments is essential. You are often getting down to the short hairs of the tournament, maybe shorthanded with huge stacks versus short stacks, so you have to start gambling to win the tournament. Enter Big Slick with his hat and cane with more power than a drawing hand. How did this situation just change?
Raising with AK when the pot hasn’t been opened makes a perfect situation to portray a strong hand. Depending on the action in front of you, there may even be a situation that would dictate a re-raise to keep the hand heads up. You are now playing a part, representing a very strong hand, AA, KK, QQ so that you can set up the story you are about to tell on the coming board. Telling the “believable story” will win this hand without even hitting the board. Let’s take a look at this fairy tale. You’re down to 12 players with huge blinds and antes when the pot is opened for 20K. If you re-raise to 45K it guarantees you a call, and if you re-raise to 150K, the only hands that will call you here are going to be monster hands that are going to cost you all those chips. So the better re-raise would be 90K-100K putting the proof and pressure on your opponent. Methodical and precisely played AK can be more than a drawing hand, it almost becomes a semi-bluffing hand.
If you are obsessed with poker as many of us are, you probably watched the 2008 WSOP final table where Dennis Phillips limped into the pot, 300K in early position with AK. The next player to act was Ivan Demidov who quickly raised with AQc to 1.2M sensing a limp from early position as a weak hand. In response to his set-up, Phillips methodically re-raises the hand a healthy 3.5M. Demidov calmly raises again to 8.2M putting heavy pressure on Phillips. The pot sits with 12.5M. It will cost Phillips over 4M to see the flop after Demidov has 4 bet the hand! Phillips only thinks for a moment and makes the 4.7M call. The pot is now 17.2M. The flop is 8/10/J rainbow, Phillips makes it 4.5M with Ace high only with K kicker. Demidov sits back comfortably and announces I’m all in. Phillips is visibly frustrated with the results of this hand and is now under tremendous pressure. Who is telling the most convincing story so far? Phillips sees the writing on the wall and folds losing a monster pot with a powerful drawing hand that was semi-bluffed for a pot over 37M!! Who told the most convincing story, and what key points did either of these players miss? Clearly Phillips amateur status and mis-understanding of a 4 bet as a powerhouse hand played a key part in this story. He was unable to throw the hand down with signs of strength coming from his opponent, opting to see a flop. Not until he drew a dry board and Demidov came over him all in did he concede. A very costly AK hand. Depending on stacks and relation to blinds, I believe many pro players could have either pushed after the first re-raise from Demidov or certainly would have thrown the hand away after the 4 bet without even seeing a flop. On the other hand Demidov felt such weakness from Phillips after he limped in early position and clearly was a weaker amateur player that he could gamble and pull the trigger under tremendous pressure representing a monster hand when in reality he held an inferior hand. The “believable story”. This example may be the extreme because of the additional pressure of performing at the WSOP main event final table. But this is the stage we all want to reach, so why not learn a lesson from those who have? After all, they deserve to be sitting up there where we sometime hope to be.
Focus, strategy and reading your opponent have opened new doors for Big Slick. Practicing and running hands will hopefully open a few new plays and believable stories for my game as well.
Big Slick, you can play in my game anytime!