Arts & Entertainment

Daniel Negreanu on Poker: When Ace-King Misses the Flop

Ace-king is a pretty starter, but it’s important to remember, as attractive as it appears, it’s still a drawing hand. 

It’s a drawing hand because it won’t even beat a lowly pair of deuces without improving.  If you don’t hit an ace or king on the flop, you’ll often be forced to dump the hand.

One of the biggest mistakes amateurs make when playing A-K is that they continue to chase after the flop if the hand doesn’t improve. If you don’t catch a piece of the flop, don’t invest another penny in the pot.
Here are some other important factors to consider when you’re dealt Big Slick.

Number of Opponents

The more players there are in a pot, the more likely that your unimproved A-K is behind.  In fact, you could easily be drawing dead.

Let’s say you raise with Ac-Ks and four other players call. The flop comes 9h-6d-7d.

It’s highly likely that one of your opponents has at least a pair, and someone could even have a set or a straight. Even if you caught an ace and a king, you’d still lose the pot.

Don’t bluff at this flop. A bet saved is just as good as a bet earned.


If your A-K misses the flop, and your opponent has position, you’re just going to have to respect the power of position and proceed cautiously. If he bets at you — even though it might be a bluff — you simply don’t have a strong enough hand to justify a call.

However, if you’re the player in late position with an unimproved A-K, then you can call on the flop, whether you miss or not. Your call may freeze your opponent, which may allow you to pick up the pot on the turn with a bet.

Whether you improve on the turn is irrelevant because you’re playing your opponent, not your cards.

Added Outs

You’ll often miss you’re A-K and not make a pair. There’s still hope. You may find yourself with new added outs that give you a straight or a flush draw.

If you’re in this situation and only face a small bet, it might be worth calling to see one more card, especially if you’re drawing to the nuts.

Just remember, a four-flush with A-K on the flop is a powerful hand that should be played aggressively. On the other hand, a gut-shot straight draw on a flop like Q-10-4 must be played with caution.

Type of Opponent

Studying your opponents will help you make better ace-king decisions.

If, for example, your opponent is a mad bluffer, you should be more inclined to look him up and call his bet. But if you’re facing a tight opponent who only plays high cards, don’t even think about calling his bet if the flop comes something like Q-9-8.

Board Texture

Once you’re able to put competitors on a range of hands, you’ll have a better feel for what flops will miss them. Not surprisingly, these same flops are also good for your A-K.

Say you raise before the flop and a tight player calls. If the flop is 2-2-4, rest assured that he doesn’t have any piece of that board.

Go ahead and bet your A-K to protect it, while at the same time representing a big pair. If your opponent doesn’t have a pocket pair, or even if he has a four, he’ll likely fold after your bet.



Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.


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