The #1 Secret to Playing AK in a Sit n Go Tournament

Is there a secret to how you should play AK in a sit n go tournament?

Players seem to think so. Many players treat AK the wrong way, as if it were a premium pocket pair like AA, KK or even QQ. Then they blow too much of their stack, or bust the tournament completely, and are left wondering what the secret sauce is. After all, it couldn’t be their strategy that sucks.

So with that in mind, the point of this article will be to explain to you how to play AK depending on the situation you’re in or who you’re playing against. If you stick to my advice below, I’ll show you how to stick around in tournaments longer, increase your ROI and bankroll.

I might even show you my secret to playing AK.

What Stage of the Tournament Are You In?

The most common mistake that players make with AK is overplaying it preflop. Usually this means going all in preflop. That’s such a bad play, because at 10/20 or 15/30 you have anywhere from 50 to 75 big blinds. Being so deep you shouldn’t be putting your tournament life on the line with an unmade hand.

Yeah, AK is usually a favorite in these situations, but at 55% it’s not that much of a favorite. Going all in at 55% or 60% is so thin that you create a lot of unnecessary variance for yourself.

The one exception to this rule, in my opinion, are the larger field sit and go’s, such as the 45, 90 and 180-man tournaments. You have to double up several times in order to make the final table, much less make the final table with a big enough stack to take a top three finish. So going all in with AK in the larger field tournaments isn’t that bad of a play, simply because you will often be ahead, and better when you have AK then when you have ATC as a short stack.

But you don’t have to go all in preflop in the smaller sit n go’s like the 6, 9, 10, 18 or 27-man tournaments. Most times all you need to do is double, triple or quadruple your starting stack to outlast the bubble and make the money. This can be done by stealing blinds and being aggressive in the later rounds. You don’t have to risk your tournament.

Now, keep in mind that this advice does vary depending on what stage of the tournament you’re in. Once you get to the later stages of a sit and go, then it will make more sense to go all in with AK. The reason being, is that usually by this time effective stack sizes are short enough where you will not be able to play post flop. Once stack sizes get to the point of 10 or 15 big blinds, there isn’t much room to raise or re-raise and be able play postflop. So it makes more sense to go all in preflop, or re-shove all in, depending on the action.

How You Play AK Depends on Your Opponents Too

Another thing to consider is who you’re playing AK against. For example, playing versus unknown players will often mean that AK is the best hand. That doesn’t mean you should go all in pre-flop, though, just because your odds still aren’t good. But an unknown’s range is still wide enough that you’ll hardly ever consider folding, and often times can re-raise for value. Unknowns (or fish) will still hold on to hands that are crushed, or that have poor odds against you preflop, such as weak, A/K/Q/J-x hands or pocket pairs. So raising for value and playing the flop is the ideal move against these guys.

Against a regular, however, will be different — AK isn’t always so straightforward.

Good players know to have tighter ranges in sit n go’s, that there isn’t enough chips to splash around with. So when you raise with AK and are re-raised by a regular player after you, you have few options and none of them are all that great. You might even have to fold, especially if you opened in early position.

Sucks, I know. But think about it like this; if you were to open raise AK from early position and a regular three bet you from later position, they clearly know that you have a strong hand such KQ+ and probably any pocket pair. Then they 3-bet you, you can be confident that they have pocket pairs up to TTs or JJs crushed, as well as KQ and probably AQ, depending on how good this reg actually is. Most good regs (that play a standard strategy) will 3-bet hands like KKs+ and flat QQs and AK. So if you’re 3-bet, you’re almost always going to be beaten.

Now, let’s reverse the roles. When a regular player raises from early position you have to ask yourself what their range is. If you’re relatively new to poker, then this might be difficult for you.

So what you do is think of what hands you’d raise with from the same position. Even the tightest of players will open up 99s or TTs+, as well as KQ, AQ and AK. Versus this range it’s not going to be very profitable in the long run to 3-bet with AK, even with position. The reason being is that if you were to 3-bet here, the only hands that a regular would fold is 99s, TTs and maybe JJs. They might fold AK and AQ too. So the only hands that stick around are the ones that crush you, and all the others that you beat, had dominated or could’ve out-flopped fold.

Not an idea situation to be in, is it?

Playing AK On The Bubble

Last, I want to briefly discuss playing AK on the bubble.

Now most players who are well-versed in sit and go tournaments will have played with SNG Wizard. They know that in most cases going broke on the bubble with AK is horrible. You just have too much equity at this stage of the tournament to risk it all on a coin flip. So if you raise and are shoved on, you should fold, and if someone goes all in preflop you’ll most often want to fold. And you’ll want to keep in mind what players are good at exploiting on the bubble, so that you can avoid it from happening again in the future. In other words, if you know a player will shove on you if you raise on the bubble, shove your (AK) instead. That way you don’t have to fold the best hand.

Of course, this all depends on stack sizes, stack/player positions, your opponents’ ranges and the action. But as a default, or if you’re unsure as to what to do, just fold AK on the bubble. In most cases it won’t be that bad of a play, if it’s even a bad play at all.

Summary — There’s No “Secret Sauce” to Playing AK in Sit n Go Tournaments

Are you wondering what the secret to playing AK is?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but there isn’t one.

The truth of the matter is, that playing AK in a sit and go is really no different than playing any other unmade hand in poker — because that’s all that AK is, and you should treat it as such.