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How to Play AA & KK Optimally in No-Limit Hold’em

Evan Jarvis

categories General NLH

Pocket Aces and Pocket Kings are the strongest hands you can get pre-flop in No-Limit Hold’em. Playing these hands correctly is one of the lowest-risk ways to make a profit at the table, yet many players don’t fundamentally understand the optimal ways to play these monster hands.

In this article, we will discuss the top 5 tips on how to play these hands optimally.

1. Understand these hands lose strength once the flop is out

Many players will get overly excited when they see these hands and try to slow play them or get a lot of people in the pot before the flop. This is definitely a mistake. The more people in the pot, and cheaper your opponents were able to see the flop for, the weaker you’ve made your hand. You want to get the most money in when the hand is strongest (before the flop) and against strong hands that are willing to put a lot of chips in with poor equity. You do not want to see a flop with 3 or more opponents who are holding hands like suited connectors or small pairs that can stack you on random boards. Versus a lone opponent, AA is an 80% favourite, versus 2 opponents your equity drops to 60-70%, and once 3 people are seeing the flop with you your equity will land somewhere around 50%. You want to be against hands that you are crushing, like QQ, JJ, AK who will be willing to put in 3-4 bets pre-flop.

2. Do not change your bet-sizing when you have these monster hands

How often have you seen a player who typically comes into a pot for a raise, all of the sudden limp in? How about a player who typically raises 3 times the big blind, all of the sudden he just raises the minimum? These are all signs that you really want people in the pot, and an observant player will take notice of this change in behaviour. You want to play these hands the exact same way you’ve played your other hands, so good players cannot pick up a read on you.

3. Slow-play these hands only against overly aggressive thinking players

If you are following the triple threat, you will often times find yourself in situations where aggressive players are playing back at you when you’re trying to steal their blinds. Sometimes you’ll fold to them, sometimes you’ll be 4-betting them to keep yourself balanced. When you do this often enough, these players will not give you credit for having a monster hand when you do, and they’ll believe you are just playing back at them. Take advantage of this meta-game by 5-bet jamming and flatting 3-bets allowing them to stack off the rest of their chips. Your opponent’s tendencies dictate your optimal action.

4. Be willing to make the big folds post-flop

If you see there is tons of action after the flop, even on the most random boards, always keep in mind you only have one pair. If you weren't able to get at least 3 bets in pre-flop your premium pair is very vulnerable and you should play cautiously. All too often players are like “Well I have AA, I’m all in” even after seeing a raise and a re-raise after the flop. One pair can’t take that kind of heat.