Playing A-K Early In 1-Table SNG Tournaments

Ace-King Is A Great No-Limit Holdem SNG Starting Hand, This Article Discusses Some Of The Issues With Maximizing Value And Avoiding Trouble With Ace-King During The Early Stages

Ace-King gets a lot of Sit And Go Tournament players into trouble. While this is one of the strongest Sit N Go starting hands before the flop, it can often lead to tough decisions after the flop – particularly when played passively. At the same time as extracting the maximum value with this hand, we need to be cautious enough that we avoid spewing chips. This article discusses these (and more) strategy considerations to help you get the most out of your Ace-King hands played early in 1-table SNG tournaments.

We start by assessing our objectives with A-K before the action begins, noting that a heads-up flop with position would be ideal. Next we look at how to play Ace-King in early and late position – including from the blinds - to best meet our objectives. Play on the flop is then considered with position again a key factor. Finally we bring these factors together in relation to extracting the maximum value with our holding.

A great way of determining your action with any hand in a SNG tournament pre-flop is to visualize the ideal scenario after the flop and do all you can to manipulate the situation in your favor. With Ace-King we are looking for a small number of opponents, as the value of this hand is significantly diminished multi-way. We also prefer to be the aggressor and not the caller – since we will miss the flop much of the time we need a way in which to win those chips, and continuation betting into one opponent who has called pre-flop would be ideal.

Playing Ace-King Early - How Position Affects Your Plans

Of course, from early position there is only so much we can do to influence the number of opponents in the hand. We recommend that players resist any thoughts of limping though. Firstly this encourages multi-way action, and secondly those times you do get to re-raise you are likely to see the flop out of position, meaning you will have to commit more chips to the pot to find out if the flop helped or missed your opponent.

From later position your choices are wider. Again we recommend that you take the lead in the betting pre-flop, however a tight ‘calling’ type player raising ahead of you will not be disclosing much information about their hand by flatting your 3-bet. There are circumstances where some pot-control can be useful pre-flop when your opponents are prone to both call before the flop and play ‘fit or fold’ after the flop.

Of course, your position raise will often be met with a big re-raise from your opponents. Here you need to think carefully about the SNG as a whole in addition to your opponent’s range. Against a JJ+ AK you are a coin-flip at best and could be dominated, against a range that includes A-Q you are in better shape. Assuming you have a profitable edge over the field then a discreet fold can reduce variance – you can find better spots than this. Against a ‘crazy range’ that includes more aces or even KQ / KJ suited you can call here.

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Playing Ace-King Early - Play From The Blinds

Finally for pre-flop play we look at play from the blinds. Again the tendencies of your opponents are key, A healthy sized raise could end the hand early in some games or it could result in you acting first after the flop with 4 callers in a big pot in others, not an ideal situation when finding out where you stand will cost 30% of your remaining chips. Play positively from the blinds but settle for a small pot, building a pot after the flop with top pair out of position is not our intention here.

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Playing Ace-King In SNG Tournaments - Decisions On The Flop

After the flop your decision making follows 2 paths. Approximately 1/3rd of the time you hit top pair (or better) and want to build the pot. The remaining 2/3rds of the time you miss the flop and would be happy to take the chips in the middle.

Again position is key if you missed and face action ahead (with the exception of small ‘donk bets’) you can usually safely fold. When acting first as the pre-flop aggressor then a continuation bet into 1 or 2 opponents on a dry (not too many draws) flop will usually take the pot. When checked to in position you should also usually continuation bet with the intention of taking the pot right away. Do not make these bets too small or you’ll find opponents calling to see if they can hit on the turn – particularly at the lowest buy-ins.

Those times you hit then you are looking to get more chips in the middle. Here is the key, your actions are actually almost the same as when you miss when you are in position – which greatly disguises those bluffs later on. When out of position you need to assess the texture of the flop, the tendencies of your opponents and also what would look natural for you. If you always bet after raising pre-flop then go ahead and bet, top pair is not a hand strong enough to get tricky with in a lower limit SNG.

When you are in position and face a bet into you then your choices are wider still. With money behind and a dry flop you’ll often take the stack of someone with middle pair or a K-J type hand. Sure you’ll run into the nuts now and again – but over time this will usually be a chip earner.

To summarize, play those Ace-King hands positively during the early stages of 1-table SNG tournaments. Raise and bet rather than call – you want to have the lead in the hand as often as you can, and position where possible. While we recommend living to fight another day when the action gets multi-way and expensive, being the aggressor both in and out of position is key to long-term profit with this hand.

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Further Reading For SNG Fans:

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