Playing limit Texas hold’em, you are seated in a middle position; it is a full table of nine players. You look down on two beautiful red Kings in the hole. Pocket Kings is a made hand; it could win without further improvement.
Consider it is highly unlikely an opponent has pocket Aces; the odds are more than 25-to-1 none of your opponents holds A-A in the hole. At that point, your hand is a big favorite – 70-80 percent over each of players.
But, your K-K is not favored if three or more opponents stay to see the flop; it becomes an underdog – likely to lose the pot. That’s why skilled players will raise to thin the playing field. The goal is to play against two opponents. (A single remaining opponent is OK; but “your” pot will be much bigger with two opponents.)
Another consideration: What if an opponent re-raises you before the flop? (That has happened to me on occasion.) Since it is highly unlikely he has a better starting hand than your K-K, chances are he holds a big Ace in the hole (such as A-K or A-Q, perhaps even suited), a pair lower than your K-K, or two honor cards – most likely suited or connectors. You are bound to be a big favorite with the odds much in your favor.
At that point, pause a moment to contemplate the situation; and then raise him back. It’s a four-bet! (You are certain your K-K is well in the lead.) Assuming your pocket Kings holds up, you could very well scoop a good-size pot. The money odds are well in your favor.
Hold your breath, but don’t be too obvious. (No tells from you.) As long as an Ace does not fall on the flop, you can breathe much easier. Your pocket Kings most likely are still in the lead; and, you are bound to be a favorite to win this pot.
You need not be a poker genius to realize an opponent often will be dealt a single Ace (A-X) in the hole. If you do not have an Ace, the probability at least one of your eight opponents has an Ace in the hole is over 60%. Think about it: In more than one-half of the hands dealt, at least one opponent has a big Ace in the hole.
By raising before the flop, there is a reasonable chance an opponent with an Ace in the hole who has a weak kicker will muck his cards. The same strategy would apply if you were in an early position with one proviso: There must be one or more loose players in later positions, and you feel certain your raise will be called to see the flop with you.
Assuming one opponent holding A-X stays to see the flop, what is the chance one of the three flopped cards will give him a pair of Aces? If no one else has an Ace in the hole, then the probability is 13.5 percent (Ref. Texas Hold’em Poker Textbook by Thomas M. Green; www.poker-textbook.com). That’s a long shot, but well within the realm of occurrence.
Meanwhile, as is most likely the case, you did not improve on the flop. If an Ace does fall on the flop, then you would be left with only two outs to catch a set on the turn or the river. Of course, under those circumstances, your hand would be practically “dead in the water.”
How should you proceed from here on? We’ll leave that up to you. What would you suggest? A prize to the reader who offers the most interesting and well thought-out response. Send to [email protected]