The striking fact about AK it’s not a very big favorite over even 7-2, in the 2:1 range. It does have any other Ace dominated except a pair of them, which is a great situation to be all-in before the flop against any other nonpair holding. In low limits, AK is hard to maneuver. If you miss, there’s nothing much to do with it. If you hit your Ace and someone is still playing with you, depending on the player, you’ll never know if they paired their kicker or not. All you’ll know is that you didn’t pair yours. On top of that, when you lose to a lesser Ace, you are more upset because that would never happen in no limit and there is some electrochemical charge that makes you think it shouldn’t lose. Which makes it twice as bad.
The hard facts about AK is that it can only make one straight, which is the nuts. But it will always be a draw to a gutshot. If it’s not suited, it really sucks. If it’s unsuited and three of Ace’s suit hit on the flop, then usually you can hang around, depending on the pot and how people are reacting, which is how I determine how many flush cards are still in play and the likelihood of another falling. So it has to be suited just to give it some added weapons.
At the casino, I play this hand before the flop three different ways. If I’m in middle and especially late position and no one has come in, I’ll make it 5,6, or 7 to go, depending on my feeling of how many players will call that extra money having only 2 in the pot so far. Typically, if there’s a flop I can interpret as one that didn’t hit anyone too hard and missed me as well, I can fire at it if it’s checked to me. If someone shows strength or leads out, I’m done. If it hits me that’s another story.
Most of the time I just limp in the 4-8 and at the casino. Not to be sneaky, though it is a side product, but to risk very little to see what I can make. Because so many people love and value AK, they won’t think you have them beat if they played A-9 or A-10. If the flop misses me I’m done. I don’t draw to gutshots, even if I’m priced in a lot of the times. If I limp and someone raises and a lot of players fold, then I fold. If someone raises and everyone stays, then I stay. There is a little more incentive to play AK at the casino since they have the bad beat, which is constantly at 40,000. And AK is a hand that can get beaten badly.
If there is any heat in front of me, I usually throw it away. Even if the heat is from AQ or another AK. AK is just not a hand that can show a lot of profit at lower limits, which is not its problem. Its problem is that its stigma creates a sense that it should win, even when it improves, and it gets overvalued and overplayed. The problem is that most people lose money with it when it doesn’t hit and that people invest too much front money trying to make it work. If the theory is to play opposite of your opponents, then playing it cheaply and carefully is the way opposite. AK is a brilliant blind hand because everyone thinks if the blind doesn’t raise before the flop then leads out, that they have hit bottom two rags. And because most people raise with it from the blind, the fact that you didn’t makes it all the more deceptive.