Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hand Chart Construction, Part 5: Suited and Unsuited AX

{Unless specifically noted, I'm not differentiating between suited and unsuited cards in the text here. Generally speaking, having suited cards adds a few percentage points to the equity in your hand. This may or may not make a difference in how you play the hand, given your reads on the opposition. In general, however (and obviously) suited cards gives you outs that unsuited cards don't, and this should be factored into your decision process.}

Ace-King. Big Slick, Anna Kournikova, Walking Back to Houston. Whatever you want to call it, AK is one of the trickiest hands to play in hold'em. It's also one of the strongest. And it's also just a drawing hand. In other words, it's a contradiction: powerful yet also not a made hand before the flop. When you hold AK you should be both pleased and wary.
  • Hand Type: AK is a strong Drawing hand with a lot of Semi-Bluff strength.
  • Position: You can and should play AK from any position preflop.
  • Stack Sizes: When super deep with AK, you should be wary of getting it all in preflop against players with very tight ranges, especially if they're 4betting you. At 100bb deep or less, however, you should be less afraid to 4bet all-in against most players, and under 60bb calling 4bets is a no-brainer.
  • Table Dynamics: Like most hands, who you're facing should affect if and how you play AK, but AK has such power that it's strong against both tight and loose players, and passive and aggro players alike.
  • Upstream Action: Because you hold one of the Aces and one of the Kings in the deck, the chances of someone else having AA or KK at your table goes down. It's also less likely someone has AA when you hold AK then when you hold KK. And as we saw with KK, you shouldn't be afraid of getting it in, so you really shouldn't be afraid of getting it in with AK. Okay, that said, you do need to be careful and factor in your reads on the opp. 
  • How to Play: Folding is rarely a horrible play at hold'em preflop, and if you're concerned you can fold AK to be big 4bet if your read is one of huge strength... but generally speaking, you've got a big hand with AK and shouldn't be too afraid of the opposition. Often, you're at worst a coinflip against an opponent holding an underpair. It's also very important to remember that it's always better to be the one shoving with AK than be the one calling with AK.

Ace-Queen. Also known as: Big Chick, Queer Anna, and Walking Back to Houston (yes, the same nickname as AK). This hand is one that a lot of beginners lose money with. Why? Because it looks so strong, but is dominated by AK, AA, KK, and QQ, which are all hands that other players are willing to get it in with preflop. The old joke goes something like: "Hey, did you hear about Joe? He got married." "Really?" "Yep, got married to AQ and then got divorced from his stack." Here's a simple example of the hand I blogged about a little while ago that demonstrates how it should be played.
  • Hand Type: Like AK, this is a strong Drawing hand with a bunch of Semibluff strength.
  • Position: You can and should play AQ from any position preflop, especially AQs. Occasionally, you can consider folding AQo UTG at an aggressive full-ring table if there is danger of you getting 3- and 4bet.
  • Stack Sizes: Get it in with shallow stacks preflop, be cautious and exercise pot control at 100bb-sized stacks, and feel good about folding if the stacks are super deep.
  • Table Dynamics: Against nits that show aggression you need to be very wary with this hand, but against LAgs you can be more willing to get money into the middle.
  • Upstream Action: You should almost always 3bet with this hand, especially if you have position. You should, however, be more than willing to fold to an upstream 3bet.
  • How to Play: Strong but cautious, with an willingness to fold to significant pressure.

Ace-Jack. Ajax, Blackjack, Big Jerk. After reading the AQ hand description above, you should no doubt be thinking this hand is not as strong as it looks. Yep, that's exactly the message to remember with AJ.
  • Hand Type: Moderate drawing hand (to one pair) with moderate Semibluffing strength.
  • Position: At a full ring table, I really only play AJs UTG and UTG+1; i.e., I dump AJo. Otherwise, I open raise this hand from other field positions, and might consider 3betting if I have position. From the blinds it's pretty tricky to play this hand, and you really need to factor in the player type and his position if you're considering getting mixed up with a field opener.
  • Stack Sizes. Above 100bb this hand is just not worth getting your stack in with. You can however seriously considering jamming on a short stacker and/or calling their jam.
  • Table Dynamics: Raise this hand at TAggy tables, and consider just calling in position against LAgtards. 
  • Upstream Action: You should be more than willing to dump this hand if a good opponent has shown upstream strength.
  • How to Play: Play this hand strong if you're not getting resistance, but if you are: folding is absolutely standard.

Ace-Ten. AT is also known as the Johnny Moss hand. This is about as weak of an Ace hand you want to regularly get involved with. Yes, it can make a straight, but it's effectively a 3-gapper that is dominated by eight hands that people love to play (AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AK, AQ, and AJ).
  • Hand Type: Moderate strength Drawing hand with some Semibluff strength.
  • Position: Not recommended to play this in EP at a full ring table, but otherwise this can be opened in MP and LP. Be careful playing this one out of the blinds.
  • Stack Sizes. If you're good at post-flop play (read: not getting married to your hand) and treat this as a drawing hand, you can play this one relatively deep. Otherwise, think of this hand as a weak version of AJ.
  • Table Dynamics: Against both nits and LAgs, this hand can cause  you grief.
  • Upstream Action: Unless your read is that the opp opens wide and folds a lot to 3bets, I'd suggest just folding this to any real upstream action.
  • How to Play: Cautiously.

A9-A6. Unsuited, these hands are basically trap hands that offer a lot of reverse implied odds. They don't make straights, and they're almost always out-kicked if you make TPTK. Suited versions are OK to play, but only if you're getting good implied odds and have position.
  • Hand Type: Weak Drawing hand with weak SDV.
  • Position: Unsuited: only play these in LP in unopened pots. Suited, look for upstream limpers that might be playing weaker cards of your same suit.
  • Stack Sizes. Big or small stack sizes usually mean the same thing: fold
  • Table Dynamics: Against both nits and LAgs, this hand can cause you serious grief.
  • Upstream Action: If suited, you're looking for a bunch of limpers, or possibly a raiser and then a bunch of cold-callers. Unsuited, you're folding to any uptream action.
  • How to Play: Rarely play these hands.

A5-A2. Unsuited, these hands are also trap hands that offer a lot of reverse implied odds. Oddly, they're actually stronger than the A6-A9 variants as they can make straights. They're essentially always out-kicked if you make TPTK. Suited versions are also OK to play, but only if you're getting good implied odds and have position.
  • Hand Type: Weak Drawing hand with weak SDV.
  • Position: Unsuited: only play these in LP in unopened pots. Suited, look for upstream limpers that might be playing weaker cards of your same suit.
  • Stack Sizes. Big or small stack sizes usually mean the same thing: fold
  • Table Dynamics: Against both nits and LAgs you need to proceed very cautiously if you do enter the pot.
  • Upstream Action: Like the A9-A6 hands, if suited, you're looking for a bunch of limpers, or possibly a raiser and then a bunch of cold-callers. Unsuited, you're folding to any uptream action.
  • How to Play: Rarely play these hands unless there are a ton of implied odds.
Starting Hand Chart for the AXs and AXo hands
All-in for now...
-Bug


2 comments:

  1. Nice job on the AX hands. A few comments...

    1). While suitedness for your AX hands adds only a few percentage points to overall equity, what make suited aces powerful is the ability to stay aggressive when you flop a flush draw, which will happen about 10% of the time. So one way to look at it is that suited Ax is about 10% better in potential future fold equity than unsuited Ax

    2). While it's true that A2-A5 allow for straights, I don't think they are better than A8/A9 overall. The 8/9 kicker is worth something against fishy opponents who play every ace regardless of kicker. Also, pairing your 9 or 8 is worth much more than pairing a 2 or 3 - it is much more often you will have middle or sometimes even top pair with a pair of 9s or 8s. Finally, note that any hand from A2-A5 can flop only a GUTSHOT straight draw, a weak draw that doesn't allow you to be as aggressive and semibluff like you can with a 9out flush draw.

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  2. Matt, good comments; I think you make some valid points.

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