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How to play pocket kings

8th November, 2005
The second best starting hand in Texas Holdem is pocket Kings, or as they are sometimes referred to, pocket cowboys. Here is a short discussion about pre flop and post flop play, as well as a mistake that many players make with KK in tournament play.

The best way to play KK pre flop is often much like you play pocket Aces, but after the flop they can sometimes be a little more tricky. You want to play against only one or two players if at all possible. The more players who see the flop with you, the less likely you will have the best hand at the showdown.

In limit Texas Holdem, unless the table is very aggressive and you are positive that someone behind you will raise, you should raise. I will go so far as to say that if you raise pre flop every time you have KK in limit play that you wont ever play them wrong. As you gain experience and move up in limits, you will start to see opportunities to trap with them, but even then a raise will not be incorrect.

In no-limit Texas Holdem, the best play is to raise enough that most of your opponents fold, but not all of them. It can be hard to know the correct amount, but usually three to four times the big blind is correct.

Post flop play is straightforward unless an Ace hits the board on the flop. When no Ace hits, you need to spend the rest of the hand maximizing your opponents contribution to the pot. When an Ace does hit, you must bet to give your opponent an opportunity to fold, unless a King also is on the flop. Then you can pretend to be weak / scared and give your opponent a chance to lose more chips.

If you bet with an Ace on the board and are called or raised, you will have a very tough decision to make. Until you reach the higher levels, where your opponents are capable of making a play at you, you should usually get away from the hand when called or raised.

There is one area that I see many inexperienced players make a mistake in tournament play with pocket Kings pre flop. Especially early in a tournament, it may not be best to get all in pre flop with KK. I do not have enough room in this column for a complete explanation, but because of the nature of tournament play, as in if you lose all of your chips you are eliminated, early in the tournament if you can raise enough to isolate an opponent without getting all in, you will have the opportunity to survive when the flop contains an Ace.

If you get all in pre flop, many times you will be up against a hand that contains an Ace like AK, AQ or even AJ. Now I will agree that over the long run you will win these all in confrontations most of the time, but even when you are not all in pre flop, you will still win big hands when your opponent hits a Queen or Jack for top pair / top kicker but they still have the second best hand to your Kings.

The good news is that over time, you will make money with KK even if you do make a few mistakes when playing them, so it is usually better to be too aggressive with them as opposed to too weak.

Until next week, good luck at the tables and may you look down to find cowboys often.

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