Don’t underestimate the value of the King

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Let’s start with a bit of ancient history: King Tut (1341-1323 BCE), aka Tutankhamun, became the Boy King of Egypt at age 9, taking over from his father.

The Boy King became a celebrity of sorts when his tomb and remains were discovered in 1922. His father was responsible for leading Egypt away from the worship of many gods to monotheism and the concept of separation of church and state.

Today, many countries have kings – highly respected but often serving a mostly symbolic role – while other individuals or groups actually control and rule the nation. In poker, too, the Ace always holds sway over the King. Of course, that’s why we poker players so treasure the Ace. Nevertheless, just as in the body politic, a King remains of considerable value at the poker table.

Peek at your holecards. On average, in the long run, you can anticipate being dealt a King in the hole about one out of every six hands – often enough to warrant being prepared. (Expect pocket Kings only one out of 221 hands – rather rare.)

So, what is the best way to play your hand when you hold a single King in the hole? Answer: It depends primarily on your kicker, betting position and the type of players opposing you.

 King with a small kicker, 7 or lower, is rarely worth your investment of even a single called bet. We regard these as typical “Hi-Lo hands” – one high card (Ace down to 10) and one low card (7 down to deuce). Such hands usually are best folded preflop.

Unquestionably, don’t even hesitate to muck a Hi-Lo hand if there is a raise before you or likely to be after you bet. That would be the case if a maniac was seated to your left.

There could be one exception: If your Hi-Lo holecards are suited and it is a loose-passive game (lots of opponents staying to see the flop and few if any raises preflop), a single bet is warranted in the hope of flopping two – or possibly three – cards of your suit.

Of course, if you are in the Big Blind and there is no raise, it’s a good idea to see the flop for free. You never know what the flop will bring. You could be pleasantly surprised. I recall the time when, in the Big Blind, I had 2-3 in the hole and there was no raise. So, I was able to see the flop for free. And what a flop it was: 2-2-3, giving me a full-house. Wow!

Here’s a summary of what to do when you have a King.

 King with a middle kicker, 8 to 10, might be played from middle and late positions provided the Hold’em Caveat is satisfied: multi-way pot with no raise. That is so you can have a decent size pot should you be lucky on the flop. See the flop as cheap as possible because you would have to get lucky to catch a good hand.

Again, be leery of a possible raise after you call. You would like to see the flop at minimum cost – i.e., no raise.

 King with high kicker, J to A, is always playable. Raise with K-Q and K-J, even if not suited, to thin the field – hoping to force out A-x hands, and get some chips into the pot that you might very well win with a little luck. By the way, by thinning the field you are helping luck to smile on you.

• If you have read my book “Hold’em or Fold’em?” you are familiar with the Hold’em Algorithm. It provides a quick and easy way to make the important decisions we have described above, as well as others related to starting hands.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Email: [email protected].

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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