AK ranks very high among the top 3% strongest hands, that you can be dealt in a poker game. For that reason, the majority of poker players will just go for an all-in preflop line. The typical lines are 2bet and 4bet all-in jam, 3bet and 5bet all-in jam or 3bet, 5bet and call an all-in jam. There is a problem with these lines though: They are not profitable at modern fullring cashgames.
If your villain is the very common tight and aggressive player, or a semi-loose and aggressive player, his range is often down to QQ+ and AK at the point of 4bet+ actions. That is a 3% range. AK blocks 3 combos of AA, 3 combos of KK and 7 combos of AK. That leaves 12 combos of QQ+ and 9 combos of AK. AK has just 38,82% chance of winning those massive flips. It is slight better than other lower ranked hands. You might be surpriced, that a hand like JJ, that is ranked higher than AK, only has 36,19% chance of winning these spots. The reason is, that it does not block the aces and kings, that villain can have.
Let’s go through the math in some well known scenarios.
Scenario 1: Should you call a 4bet all-in jam with AK?
You are in the BB, 3bet to 9 bb and face a 100 bb 4bet jam from a tight and aggressive player in SB. You have to risc 91 bb to win 109 bb. The break even percentage of a call is 45,50%. SB has QQ+ and AK. That is a 3% range. According to Equilab’s range calculator, you can only call with KK+. That range has a chance of 70,64%. You should fold AK. AKs has a chance of just 41,90%. AKo has a chance of just 38,82%. Even a hand as strong as QQ has a chance of just 40,21%.
Scenario 2: Should you call a 5bet all-in jam with AK?
You are in the SB, 2bet, 4bet to 23 bb and face a 100 bb jam from a tight and aggressive player in BB. You have to risc 77 bb to win 123 bb. The break even percentage of a call is 38,50%. BB has QQ+ and AK. That is a 3% range. According to Equilab’s range calculator, You can call with QQ+ and AK. That range has a chance of 50,00%. AK has a chance of 38,82%. However, you should not just call to break even. You should have a margin for rake and it would be nice with some profit too. If you add 1%, or even 2%, then you should fold AKo and call AKs. AKs has a chance of 41,90%.
Scenario 3: Should you call a 4bet jam from a semi-loose and aggressive shortstack player?
You are in the BB, 3bet to 9 bb and face a 40 bb 4bet jam from a semi-loose and aggressive shortstack player in SB. You have to risc 31 bb to win 49 bb. The break even percentage of a call is 38,75%. SB has 99+ and AQ+. That is a 5% range. According to Equilab’s range calculator, you can call with TT+, AQs+ and AKo. You should call with AK. AKs has a chance of 45,70%. AKo has a chance of 42,87%.
AK goes up in value, when played all-in vs maniacs and aggressive fish.
This all applies to spots in which your villain is a good tight and aggressive player or good semi-loose and aggressive player. Things dramatically, when your villain is a maniac or aggressive fish. These players will have a wider range, that not only has strong hands, but also junk hands. These players, that a take a 3bet all-in jam line with hands like A4s, KQ or 87o are not uncommon.
AK can lose.
While AK might be ahead in preflop all-in spots vs aggressive fish, it should be noted, that AK can lose to a better or worse hand anyway. It’s just the reality of the game.