Originally Posted by grossout
I'm clearly missing something
Everything in your post is right so you aren't missing the fact. What you need to do now is think a little deeper. If AKs is the "loser" to most hands that would properly call an all-in PF why should you go all in?
To get some data compare AKs to all other pocket pairs, and other premium hands (AQs, AJs, KQs, etc.) using pokerstove. You will notice that with the exception of AA and KK (which combined occur in less than 1% of hands) the AK has pretty good equity. On some hands it is ahead and with the exception of AA & KK it is never behind by much.
So of the hands an opponent is likely to call your all-in (with exception of AA, KK) you are essentially a coin flip. There isn't much potential -EV there. Your potential for huge losses is limited. Also there are three things that make it +EV (often times a LOT of +EV).
1) There are bad players. Many players love the all-in a little too much. They will call an all-in with AQs, AJ, Axs hell even KTo or higher. The AKs is superior against all those. Don't assume you will get called with inferior hands but know your opponents. If opponents at your table calls all-ins with too many hands there is bonus equity there.
2) Pot odds. There is money already in the pot especially in middle tournament (when antes kick in). Say there is $2K in the pot, you have $5K all-in and are called ($12K total). You got 2.4 : 1 pot odds on a matchup that is essentially a coin flip and that is +EV. Thinking a little further this is why AKs is worth MORE in late position (or in the blinds). I hate getting AKs UTG because it loses a lot of potential equity because the all-in usually limits you two 1 caller + blinds, you don't gain any folding money. The best is being on the BB, having UTG PFR and then getting 2-3 callers. You might get 3:1 pot odds for your all-in. Note: the shorter your stack relative to the blind the more value AKs has. Read that again (or run some numbers) if it doesn't make sense.
2 - the ugly) Variance. Since AKs is a coin flip for most matchups you will lose when called with a pocket pair about 50% of the time. Get that in your mind right now, you can't change that. The variance that comes from that is hard for many players to deal with. Marginal players don't comprehend the huge variance in near 50/50 all-ins and thus think "AK sucks, I keep getting burned" but +EV is +EV.
Understand the variance, don't let it cause you to make sub-optimal plays. If you play poker long enough you will get hundreds of AKs all-in and the variance takes care of itself.
3) Folding Equity. If there is $2K chips in the pot and you think your opponent will fold 30% of the time when facing an all-in (even with superior pocket pair) then that needs to be part of your equity analysis. So why are people likely to fold even pocket pairs? Because betting for AKs is very similar to premium pairs. Your opponent doesn't know if you have AKs or AA. So while JJ is coin flip with AKs it is smashed against AA. Remember how AKs is not much of an underdog against any pair, that isn't true of pairs. Thus dynamic makes calling with low or medium pairs very dangerous and going all in with AKs less dangerous.
Now that being said there are two situations where you have no folding equity. The first one being when you call an all-in. So calling an all-in with AKs may be the wrong play even if going all-in with AKs is the right play. The second situation is calling stations. Some players will call any all-ins with any pocket pair. In those situations AKs has no folding equity and loses a lot of value. Know your opponents.