Basic Truths of Big Slick
I have seen a few blogs about how to play big slick, and when I found this article in CardPlayer Magazine I thought I should share it. This is written by John Vorhaus
You pobably think you know how to play A-K, and you probably do, but it never hurts to review some basic truths. Here are eight:
Basic truth #1
BIG SLICK IS A DRAWING HAND
Itís not a big pocket pair. Itís not even a small pocket pair. Itís not a favourite against any pocket pair, not even lowly pocket deuces. This means that a lot of times, especially in multi-way pots, youíre going to have to improve to win. How likely are you to improve? Holding A-K (and assuming that all your cards are live) youíll make at least a pair about 30% of the time. Thatís not so great, but pause to consider that if you do make a pair, it will be either top pair/top kicker orÖ top pair/top kicker. This means that for the many times you improve and your foe improves, or you donít improve and your foe doesnít improve, you will be leading in the hand. But bear in mind that if you donít improve, it increases the likelihood that your foe (or foes) have improved. From the flop forward, then, big slick is often a fit-or-fold proposition.
Does this mean that you have to hit to win with A-K? Not necessarily. After all, there are many ways to win in Holdíem besides having the best hand. You can also make the best bet, for instance. Which brings us toÖ
Basic truth #2
BIG SLICK IS A BIG CLUB
And you should swing it as such. Donít be afraid to make strong raises pre-flop with A-K. If you get called, youíll probably be either a slight underdog (against a middle pocket pair) or a big favourite (against a worse Ace or something like K-Q suited). The only time youíre in really grim shape is when you run into A-A or K-K. Much of the time you wonít get called at all, and when that happens, you earn something called fold equity; that is, the money you win when everybody mucks their hands.
A-K, then, makes an excellent raising hand because it loves to win without a fight, but goes into most fights with a reasonable, or even a dominant, chance to win. On this business of winning without a fight, consider the words of Annie Duke, ĎThe nice thing about moving in with A-K is that very often youíre going to get someone with a hand that you donít want to play against to fold.í Thatís fold equity in spades! So if youíre up against someone who you think might be pushing a middle pocket pair, push back with big slick. Youíll be a slight underdog if the two of you see the flop Ė but have nothing but profit if they fold.
If A-K is great for a raise, is it great to call raises with, too? The answer to that is a resounding yesÖ and no. Letís see why.
Basic truth #3
BIG SLICK IS GREAT FOR CALLING A RAISER IN POSITION
Since A-K is a drawing hand and not a made hand, you have to be careful about making huge re-raises with it. The sort of hands that can call huge re-raises are hands like A-A and K-K, and naturally your big slick performs rather poorly against those holdings. But hands that can open for a raise, and then continue to bet on the flop when called, include hands like good Aces, big paint, and a whole range of pairs all the way down to the bottom of the deck. If you just call in position with A-K, youíll be sitting pretty on a variety of flops. Of course youíll be driving the bus when you flop top/top, but youíre also in position to semi-bluff when the flop comes ragged.
Letís say youíre looking at a flop like 10-3-2. Unless your foe has a set, he canít be thrilled with that flop. Even his middle pair doesnít look so good with that Ten on board. To take him off his hand, just raise when he bets. If he calls, youíre still not totally dead because you have outs to hit your hand on the turn or the river, or guts enough to try to bluff again (not forgetting that you may, in fact, be bluffing with the best hand).
When thereís just one opponent in there against you, then, look to use your A-K as a lever with which to pry him off the hand. Donít try this trick if thereís a crowd in the pot, and especially if there have been pre-flop raises, re-raises and calls, becauseÖ
Basic truth #4
BIG SLICK IS BIG TROUBLE IN A RAISING WAR
Remembering that big slick is not a big pair, think long and hard before spending a ton of chips to call big raises and re-raises. Suppose you open for a raise, someone re-raises behind you and someone re-reraises behind him. What do you think they have? Unless theyíre total maniacs, youíre looking at big pocket pairs. And even if youíre not up against the dominating A-A or K-K, you could easily be up against Q-Q and J-J. In that case, youíre about a 2/1 underdog. Now suppose youíre up against, say, A-Q and 10-10. You love being up against A-Q, but not when 10-10 is in there as well, because one of your valuable Aces is spoken for, and your prospects correspondingly dim. This is an often-overlooked consideration of big slick. Yes, itís a pretty hand, and yes, itís a powerful draw, but are you drawing completely live?
Raises and re-raises donít mean nothing (well, in some games they do) so if your A-K is facing a lot of heat, itís probably already badly dominated or, at best, drawing thinner than usual. Itís a rare player who can actually fold A-K when he has to, but that rare player has a name: Winner.
This is especially true in situations where all the money goes in pre-flop Ė itís unlikely that your A-K is going to be a truly dominant hand. For that to be the case, you need to get calls from hands like A-Q or K-J, and you canít count on your foes being bad enough to make those calls. More often, youíll be in a coin-flip situation, and such even money gambles should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Which brings us to a few considerations of tournament Texas
Holdíem, and the next ruleÖ
Basic truth #5
BIG SLICK IS A GREAT HAND FOR A SMALL STACK
If youíve reached the point where your tournament life is on the line (and holding anything less than 10 big blinds you are thus imperilled) youíve got to be happy peering down at big slick, and you should happily push your stack in the middle. Why? Because you get to see all five cards with it, and looking at all five cards youíll make at least a pair about 60% of the time. Moreover, if youíre that short-stacked in a tournament situation, youíll likely get calls from much worse hands Ė maybe even as weak as Q-J or J-10.
And if you donít get called? No problem. You pick up the antes and blinds, and move on. Which brings us toÖ
Basic truth #6
BIG SLICK IS A GOOD HAND FOR A BIG STACK
If youíre in a dominant chip position in a tournament, A-K is an excellent hand to go to war with. Why? Because when it gets calls from all-in players, itís likely either a small underdog or a big favourite.
Say you make a big raise with A-K. An imperilled player calls you with 8-8 (a reasonable call for a short-stacked and desperate player). Yes, heís a favourite, but only a slim one. If you beat him, you bust him. But if he beats you, he doesnít hurt you all that much.
Big slick and big stacks, then, go together very well in coin-flip situations. You have a good chance of winning, and a small enough price to pay when you lose. With this in mind, if you find yourself with big slick in a tournament, especially late, when the antes combine with the blinds to make every pot worth winning, do pause to measure your stack size against the stacks likely to call you. Be less inclined to push hard with A-K if there are many big stacks yet to act behind you. If you find yourself up against a big stack and a big hand, your tournament could end in a heartbeat.
Basic truth #7
BIG SLICK IS A BAD HAND FOR A MEDIUM STACK
If youíre in a tournament with a medium-sized stack and you pick up big slick, you may be inclined to push it hard. This is a reasonable inclination, for A-K is a quality hand. But if you get called, especially by an aggressive, tricky player, and then you miss the flop, youíve played yourself into a certain kind of bind. Youíll either have to make a continuation bet thatís essentially a bluff (since you donít, at this moment, actually have a hand), or checkcall, hoping the other guy is bluffing, or check-fold, thus surrendering the chips you put in the pot. None of these alternatives is particularly attractive.
The fact is that your medium stack is particularly vulnerable. Itís not big enough to bet others off the pot, nor small enough to push all-in with. So if youíre going to play A-K with a medium stack, do two things: first, try to play small pots pre-flop, so that you can get away from your hand if you miss; second, try to play in position, so that you get the benefit of last action.
This last bit is especially useful with big slick, because if you do hit your hand, you can make some subtle moves like checking the flop, hoping to induce a bluff or a bet from a worse hand on the turn.
Donít go too far with big slick. Itís not a made hand, and it is, often, a great big tease. Which brings us to the final basic truth of big slick.
Basic truth #8
BIG SLICK IS NOT WORTH GOING BROKE WITH
Ask all the big tournament pros and theyíll tell you the same thing: theyíre not going to go broke with A-K. Theyíre certainly not going to overvalue it in the early stages of a tournament, when the potential gain is small, but the potential risk Ė of going broke Ė is large. No, theyíre going to save their big moves with big slick for late in the tournament, when the antes and blinds have climbed high enough to force lesser holdings into the pot.