Let’s talk about Pocket Kings.
Playing the cowboys is relatively easy most of the time, but every once in a while a dreaded Ace rolls off on the flop, which reminds me of this meme:
In this article, we will help you increase your win-rate with Pocket Kings by covering:
- How to play Kings in common preflop scenarios
- Playing Pocket Kings when you have an overpair
- How to play Pocket Kings on ace-high flops
Let’s get started.
KK is, obviously, the second strongest starting hand in the deck behind Pocket Aces.
For this reason, you will always want to raise with this hand preflop from every position when the action folds to you. Avoid limping with Pocket Kings as it will lead to smaller pots being won by you on average over time.
When faced with a raise, you should 3-bet with Pocket Kings every single time. You probably already knew that, but do you know what 3-bet size to use?
When you’re in position versus the raiser, you should 3-bet to around 3 to 3.5x the initial raise size. So if your opponent raised to $6 in a $1/$2 game, you’d 3-bet to around $20.
When you’re out of position versus the raiser, 3-bet to at least 3.5x the initial raise size. If stacks are deep (200bb+), you can go as big as 5x from the Big Blind.
You should never just call a raise with this hand because, first of all, you are incentivized to build a bigger pot as soon as possible. Additionally, Pocket Kings actually can benefit from equity denial because the weaker Ax hands in your opponent’s range (like ATo or A6s) will fold, taking away their chance to steal the lead from you on an ace-high flop.
When facing a 3-bet with KK, you should almost always continue to build the pot with a 4-bet. After all, your Kings dominate all but one of your opponent’s possible hands.
Editor’s note: The one cash game situation in which you may not want to 4-bet Kings is when you are extremely deep stacked against a very tight player. Keep in mind that such situations are very rare.
Size-wise, you want to be 4-betting to around 2.2 to 2.3x the size of the 3-bet when in position, and 2.5 to 2.7x when out of position. So, if your opponent was to 3-bet to $20, you would make it around $44 when in position and around $52 when out of position.
Further reading: What Top Poker Pros Already Know About 4-Betting.
Pocket Kings is one of the only 2 hands that is actually happy to face a 4-bet.
Slow-playing can sometimes be acceptable in this scenario, but it should only be done very sporadically, as the hand still benefits from fold equity/equity denial. Additionally, shoving ensures that you will avoid an awkward spot postflop if an ace hits on the flop.
Most of the time, however, you should simply 5-bet all-in.
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This includes both single raised pots and 3-bet pots. You want to start extracting value right away to build a bigger pot.
Do not slow-play without a very good reason!
Speaking of good reasons to slow-play…
I’m talking about flops like 7♠ 6♥ 4♣ or 6♥ 5♥ 4♠.
These boards often smack the preflop caller’s range, which revolves around small pocket pairs and suited connectors. They have what is called the nut advantage on these boards, which in a nutshell means that they have more very strong hands (two-pair or better) in relation to their whole range compared to the other player.
Checking to control the size of the pot is often a good strategy on these coordinated flops. You should build your strategy this way because, if you bet and get called, navigating many turn cards will be pretty difficult. You may end up stuck in an inflated pot on a dicey board.
Your overpair is pretty great on the flop in a multiway pot. But the drop-off in equity from flop to turn is significantly higher when there are three or more players still in the mix. It gets even worse when three or more players see the turn after calling your flop bet.
These multiway turn spots are dicey because the burden of defense is dispersed to more than one player, which means your opponents should play much tighter. Thus, when they do call, they have significantly stronger ranges than what they’d have in a heads-up pot.
I won’t sugar coat it — this spot sort of sucks!
You’re not going to put much money into the pot after the flop barring a King on the turn or the river, but that doesn’t mean you should check on the flop.
You need to focus more on your whole range, and A-high flops are extremely advantageous for you as the 3-bettor (regardless if you are in position or out of position).
Remember to bet small, as you want to force your opponent to continue with weaker hands than yours. You are not bluffing! Rather, you are making a thin, range-driven value bet.
Very similar to 3-bet pots, A-high flops massively favor you as the 4-bettor both whether you’re in or out of position. For this reason, it’s best to fire a c-bet with your kings.
The upsides of this play include:
- Keeping your range uncapped
- Realizing some equity (because you are very likely to see the turn)
- Getting some value from worse hands
- Denying some of your opponent’s equity.
As uncomfortable as it may feel, putting in a very small c-bet is your best course of action on A-high flops in 4-bet pots.
You had a great hand preflop, but a terrible flop came. You bet the flop, as the tips above suggested, but now you have settled into a part of the game tree where KK simply doesn’t have much expected value, and that is fine.
Don’t feel like you need to win every pot just because you had a great hand on the previous street!
Sometimes you just gotta give it up and move on to the next hand.
In my opinion, the hardest part about playing Pocket Kings is letting the hand go when uncontrollable circumstances don’t go your way. “Don’t get married to your hand” is a classic poker saying that holds true even nowadays.
That’s all for this article! I hope you enjoyed it and that it cleared some of your confusion about playing this hand. As usual, if you have any questions or feedback please let me know in the comment section down below!
Want to put your basic preflop skills to the test? Take the quiz Can You Ace These 10 Fundamental Preflop Decisions?
Till’ next time, Dan out!
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