There aren’t many hands that are better than pocket kings in No-Limit Hold’em. In fact — if we’re talking pre-flop — pocket aces are the only hand that straight up crushes kings. The odds of running into aces pre-flop are extremely low so new players shouldn’t worry too much about that scenario. Regardless pocket kings are a monster and should be played like one. We’re going to take a look at the odds behind pocket kings and provide some basic tips for maximizing your profit with the hand they call cowboys.
Pocket Kings Basics
Pocket kings are the second best hand in Hold’em, full stop.
The only hand that is ahead of kings pre-flop is the superlative pocket aces and that’s a very unlikely situation.
You’re always going to be ahead of every single hand other than aces, the only question is by how much. It ranges from 93% favorite to trash like king-deuce while your odds go down to “just” 70% against ace-king.
One of the best aspects of kings is their propensity to crush the other power hands like pocket queens and jacks. Kings are also a 70% favorite against ace-king (despite the pesky ace).
Of course there is one hand where you aren’t the favorite and that’s against the dreaded aces where kings still have a 19% chance to win.
Here’s a look at some of the standout numbers when it comes to pocket kings:
The one thing players hate to see when they have pocket kings is an ace on the flop, which turns their hand into a measly second pair. Despite the danger that only happens about one in five times.
Of the five premium hands pocket kings gets crushed by pocket aces but crushes pocket queens and jacks.
Ace-king is slightly more in the middle as there’s always the potential for an ace to hit. Pocket kings are still a huge favorite against big slick, however, so it’s not something that should scare you too much.
Interestingly middle connectors like 6-5 suited and 8-7 suited actually play better against kings than power hands like queens and jacks because they have more outs to straights and flushes.
For instance 8-7 suited creeps up to 22% against pocket kings, which is a couple percentage points better than pocket queens odds.
The other important note about pocket kings is that it doesn’t play well against multiple players. Pocket kings are an automatic 82% against any two random cards if you’re against one player. That number sinks to 68% if you’re against two other opponents. Finally if four opponents come along for the ride then you’re basically 50/50.
Tips for Playing Pocket Kings
The trick with pocket kings (as with all poker) is to get the money when you have the best hand. That means you generally want to be betting your kings.
With pocket kings you have a huge advantage in that the board won’t telegraph your hand as you’ll usually have the over pair.
Many new players attempt to get tricky with pocket kings and trap their opponent by checking or calling. This can have disastrous results as you are giving you opponent a chance to improve their hand and potentially letting more players in the hand.
The chances of pocket kings winning go down drastically in multi-way situations (think about all the times you’ve had an opponent flop two-pair or an ace) so you should be attempting to isolate one or two players.
The elephant in the room is when the dreaded ace hits the flop. It’s definitely unpleasant when an ace hits the flop while you’re holding pocket kings but it doesn’t mean you have to immediately fold.
When an ace hits the flop you have to re-asses your position but if you’re cautious you won’t lose your stack.
One of the most important aspects of playing kings is to avoid getting to attached to them. Remember if an ace hits on the flop then your kings are suddenly smashed by a lowly ace-deuce.
Folding kings on the flop can feel extremely weak but it can save you from tough decisions on later streets.
The Secret About Pocket Kings
Here’s one trick you can take to the bank with pocket kings: Don’t fold pre-flop. Just don't.
Now that's not to say that the odd professional poker player hasn't correctly folded his pocket kings against aces but if you're a new player you shouldn't even be fooling around with the idea folding kings pre-flop.
The odds of kings vs. aces pre-flop is fairly unlikely at 21-1 and even even after all that your kings still have roughly 20% equity to win the hand.
Now once you’ve played for a long time there is actually some precedent for folding kings. You might be in a situation where you’re playing a satellite and you’re one elimination from qualifying with a huge stack. You might be facing a ridiculous five-bet against three other players. You might consider it then. But not before.
Bottom line is that no one is ever going to fault you for not folding pocket kings to pocket aces. You can just the beat, try to forget it and move on to the next hand.
Meanwhile you might get some criticism if you folded pocket kings and your opponent ended up having ace-king.
One more time: Don’t fold pocket kings pre-flop.
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