A♣K♥ on the Flop, what do you do here?

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In a live $1-3 game it folds to an Early Position player who limps and the two Middle Position players call. It folds to you on the Button with A♣K♥ and you raise to $15. Everyone folds except the MP1 player who calls. The flop comes Q♥J♥4♠ and Villain leads into you for $30. Action is on you, what do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: In a $1-3 cash game it folds to UTG+1 who calls and two Middle Position players call as well. It folds to us and we need to make a sizeable raise to thin the field. A typical raise would be something like $9 to open and then adding in the $9 worth of calls we would raise to $18.

This seems quite appropriate but we size down a little to $15, which is reasonable given the stack depths. We should err on the side of making raises slightly too large rather than slightly too small when there are multiple callers already in the pot, as playing a 4+ way pot with AK is not an ideal situation for us.

We raise to $15 and the initial caller folds. The first Middle Position player calls and everyone else folds bringing us heads-up to the flop. The flop is QhJh4s giving us two over cards, a gut shot straight draw, and a backdoor heart flush draw. This isn’t necessarily an extremely strong hand, however the pot is $40 and the effective stack is $80 so we have a stack to pot ratio (SPR) of just over 2. In low SPR situations it is very important we don’t fold too often when we have meaningful equity in the pot.

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Our opponent leads for $30. This is a fairly substantial bet given the pot size, and Villain certainly appears pot committed. If our 11 outs are clean (3 aces, 3 kings, 4 tens, and the backdoor flush draw) we have ~41% equity in this pot. Our outs are quite likely to be clean because our opponent is much more likely to check-raise their very strong hands here rather than lead in order to maximize value on their big hands. In fact, sometimes our opponent with have hands like KT/T9 or a heart draw here and we’ll actually be ahead.

Given all those factors we have too much equity in the pot to fold. Calling with the intention of not folding on any future street and moving all-in on the flop are both very viable plays. If we shove now, we get the occasional fold from hands that would be giving up a significant chunk of equity here. Even if our opponent is purely bluffing with a hand like 65s they still have quite a bit of equity against our hand.

While moving all-in with just Ace high might feel a little rough, it is the right play in this low SPR spot.

Moving all-in is the correct play.

What would you do here?
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