How to Play Hold em Starting Hands AK, AQ, AJ

This article is in a series of articles that will look at various starting hands you can get in hold’em and what to do with them. It will focus mainly on preflop play, and will cover a normal 9 handed No limit game were you have an average chip size and a reasonable read on other players. While these articles do focus on no limit play, the principles can be applied to limit and pot limit games.

efore we discuss situations with these hands the first thing you need to know about these hands is they are drawing hands. If you do not hit them on the flop and make a pair, straight or the like the hand has very little value. Yes, ace high can win a pot but generally only in a heads up pot, in a multi way pot if you do not hit you have a very weak hand and in most cases must fold the hand. Due to the fact that they are drawing hands obviously having the cards suited is a lot better then having them unsuited.

However despite the fact that you are effectively on a draw with them they are powerful hands. This is due to the fact if you do hit you will have the best kicker and if no one hits you are very likely to have the best hand. Also the odds of having a pair preflop are 16:1 against so if you get dealt A,K baring anyone having a pair you have the best hand preflop.
We will look at what you should do with these hands in the following 3 positions early, which is 1st or 2nd person to act, late position on the button or 1 off it, or in middle position.

Early Position:

From an early position I would raise with these hands. I would put in a standard raise of 3 to 4 times the big blind. If someone reraises you have to decide what hand they have. If you have A,K and you think they have any pair you are about even money to win. If you think they have A,Q or lower you are a huge favourite and should reraise. With A,Q or A,J you should most likely fold because you do not want to risk them having A,K and even if they have a pair you are only 50/50.

Middle Position:

If no one has entered the pot then you should follow the advice of above. If limpers have entered the pot you must raise the pot to about the size of the pot. You should do this to stop someone limping with a marginal hand and out flopping you.
If one person has raised in front of you then with A,Q and A,J I suggest folding. With A,K you can either fold or raise depending on what hand you put your opponent on. Calling here is also ok, but if you do this you must be prepared to throw your hand away if you miss the flop.

If someone raised and at least one other has called the raise you should probably just flat call the raise. If you then hit the flop you are likely to have the best hand and if you miss you can get away from the hand cheaply. You could reraise here put it would to be all in to be effective. If you raised all either the raiser or one of the callers probably has a large pocket pair and if he calls you, you will be only a 50/50 shot.

Late Position:

From late position the decision set is basically the same as from the other positions.
I do not recommend limping with these hands on the button as this shows weakness in your hand. This means that if you miss the flop or the flop looks ugly the blinds will have no hesitant in betting the flop and you will have a hard time getting them of the hand. It is true you will probably get more action if you do hit the flop because of the limp preflop but overall these play cost you money in the long run.

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