I folded pocket kings in a game of Texas Hold’em

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It’s always hard to fold pocket kings. K-K in the hole is the second-best possible hand that could be dealt to you. The only better hand is A-A in the hole; and that’s quite rare.

So is K-K. But it happens – one out of 221 hands dealt to you. (Speaking of rare hands, I once saw three players in sequence show down hands of A-A, K-K, and Q-Q.)

Well, take my word for it: I folded my pocket kings on the flop! It was a middle-limit game at a local casino. By all measures, it was a good table – several loose players and relatively little preflop raising. I had been in the game for about one hour, and was a bit ahead, looking forward to a long enjoyable evening of poker, a tasty dinner, and going home a winner.

In a middle position, I looked down on Kd-Kh. Great hand! It’s a made hand preflop; and, I know how best to play such hands: Try to thin the playing field, so you play against no more than three opponents. With more than three opponents seeing the flop, your K-K becomes an underdog – a long-shot to win the pot at the showdown.

So, being a “good soldier,” that’s exactly what I did – or tried to do. One player ahead of me limped in to see the flop. Then I raised it up. I had played against the player to my left on several occasions.

 I knew that Jack was a conservative player, careful in his selection of starting-hands. So, I certainly had to respect him when he raised me. That made me rather apprehensive. Still, I thought my pocket Kings were in the lead.

Two others called his three-bet to see the flop. Reasoning that it was very unlikely Jack had A-A in the hole I decided to cap the betting with a third raise. Only Jack and the player to his immediate left – dub him Joe –called my reraise to see the flop.

Joe was new to me and I had no idea what kind of player he was. With all that raising, it was a good size pot. Optimistic, I could almost “taste” victory.

The flop had a scare card and far from ideal for me: A-9-3 rainbow. That Ace was scary! I decided to bet out to try to learn where I stood. Was my K-K still in the lead? Unfortunately for me, after a quick glance at his holecards, Jack raised again. And, as if that weren’t enough, without an ounce of hesitation, Joe followed suit – and reraised the pot!

If either Jack or Joe held an Ace in the hole, my hand – as pretty as it was – must be second-best. I would need to make a set of Kings or better to take this pot. I had just two outs, so the odds against me were over 10-to-1, assuming I called on both the turn and river. And, with both opponents raising/reraising, that would be very costly for me.

Based on my evaluation of Jack’s playing traits – fairly tight and conservative, I believed that he would only be raising like that with a big pair, A-K, or A-Q suited in the hole. I was even more concerned about Joe’s over-raises.

I narrowed his range of hands down to A-A or A-K. He might have connected with a set of Aces on the flop. If one didn’t have my pocket Kings beat, then surely the other must. So, despite the size of the pot, I folded my K-K.

Showdown: Jack and Joe battled it out. Jack showed his Q-Q in the hole; and Joe held just K-Q suited. Neither had an Ace. My pocket Kings would have taken this pot!

 I could not but wonder if they had colluded to bluff me out. They had no way of knowing the strength of my hand. Discussing this hand with an accomplished poker buddy, he agreed about folding in this situation. How about you? Contact me at [email protected]

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

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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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