In Texas Holdem, the dream hand is, of course, pocket Aces. Call them whatever you want (American Airlines, The Nuts, etc.), but they are only going to show up for you in the pocket once out of every 220 hands (and that is the statistical analysis). In reality, they may show up more frequently or, especially while on a bad run, less.
The less experienced player will sometimes make a critical mistake. Even the best professional sometimes does as well. When you do get the gift of the poker gods, the immediate thought in No-Limit is to shove your stack to the middle of the table. The question that you have to look at is... why?
Whether online or in a live ring game or tournament,
the object is to maximize the profit level of your hand. If you are the type who pushes all-in with Aces (or pocket paint pairs), you are missing out on a golden opportunity to build up and, in most cases, win a huge pot with the hand.
With pocket Aces, you have to face this fact; you also have to accept the fact that you may be outdrawn by a lesser hand and will lose a sizable portion, or all, of your stack on the one hand.
Let's look at the logic of the game. If you have the Aces in early position and you raise your hand, the only hands that SHOULD be calling are paint pairs and possibly A-K or A-Q. The likelihood of the AK-AQ is slim, as you already have two of the Aces yourself. So, the more likely hands you can put your opponent on are paint pairs or, if you know your opponent has a large stack or is a maniac, any pair, suited connector or suited cards. With Aces, you WANT people to call you, and you definitely want someone to re-raise you.
In middle to late position, it is unquestionably a re-raise position. Once again, you want people to fire back at you, especially any early limpers or raisers. If you do just smooth call a raise early, be prepared to lose the hand; while you have the best of things from the start, when you do not drive out your opponents, you do give them the opportunity to hit their hands and lose yours.
For example, late in a recent tournament, I found myself in a late position, one off the button, with a decent sized stack. I had just been moved to the table, so I did not have any reads of my opponents. I was dealt the gems and watched as early position raised and five people called. This was a case where the smooth call was not going to do anything but get me in trouble, so I re-raised all-in. Of the original six (the raiser and those who blindly followed the raise) only two stayed to play. One had A-K (expected) and the other had J-x (?). I ended up taking the hand, nearly tripling the stack that I had come to the table with.
In Limit, however, you have a completely different animal. You cannot protect your hand like you can in No-Limit, thus, you have a better potential to be outdrawn by those lesser hands. The No-Limit axioms still hold true, however. You want people to call, and you definitely want people to re-raise you so you can fire back at them. You do have to watch the people you are playing against and, although painful, be prepared to drop the big dogs.
Unfortunately, most people do not want to play the game that is poker. Rather than take the opportunity to maximize their potential, most people will push all-in preflop and drive the rest of the table out of the hand before it's even dealt. While this may be the right tactic late in a tournament, when you are battling for the win, early on it does no good for building up your stack. Play the game that is poker, take those big wins when you have the people coming against you when you have The Nuts, and be prepared for those unlucky turns when the cards do not come your way. All you can hope for in this game is to have the best of it when you have your money in, and with the Aces, you at least will start with the best hand in poker.
Too many people play pocket kings the same way they play pocket aces. While itís true that both are strong hands, cowboys arenít rockets; theyíre more vulnerable and they require slightly different preflop play.
For example, Iím much less likely to limp with KK in early position than I am with AA. If no one raises behind me when Iím holding aces, Iím still in pretty good shape. My hand still figures to be the best and I can bet the flop and play the hand. With kings, the situation is not so pretty.
Letís say I limp with KK in early position and get three callers. The flop comes down A-10-5 rainbow. Now I have to check/fold my hand. Iíve shown no aggression preflop and there are three other players in the pot. Itís too likely that one of my opponents has a ragged ace for me to even think about betting this flop. Itís time to let my cowboys ride off into the sunset.
Now that you know my thoughts on playing pocket kings, letís take a look at what the pros have to say:
David Sklansky on Pocket Kings
David Sklansky has written many books on the subject of poker including The Theory of Poker. If poker was a religion, The Theory of Poker would be its bible. Sklanskyís fundamental theorem of poker states:
ďEvery time you play a hand differently from the way you would have played it if you could see all your opponents' cards, they gain; and every time you play your hand the same way you would have played it if you could see all their cards, they lose. Conversely, every time opponents play their hands differently from the way they would have if they could see all your cards, you gain; and every time they play their hands the same way they would have played if they could see all your cards, you lose.Ē
Using Sklanskyís reasoning, we should raise every time we get dealt pocket kings because our opponents would be making a mistake to call us with anything other than pocket aces. However, Sklansky realizes that deception has value in Texas Holdíem, so in his book No Limit Holdíem Theory and Practice, he classifies KK as a ďusually raise (UR)Ē hand. Sklandsky recommends raising KK about 80% of the time and limping 20% of the time so your hand isnít readable.
Phil Hellmuth on Pocket Kings
How does the eleven time bracelet winner recommend playing KK preflop? Three words: jam and ram.
In his book Play Poker Like the Pros Phil Hellmuth recommends a super-tight and super-aggressive style of play. Part of that strategy is to get as much money as possible into the pot when you get hands like KK.
Hellmuth says you should raise and re-raise when you get pocket kings. In fact, according to Hellmuth a new player should do their best to get all their money into the pot preflop. This strategy is difficult to exploit and prevents weaker players from making post-flop mistakes. However, it does have its disadvantages.
For example, Hellmuthís recommended style of play is unlikely to get any kind of action from other players unless they have QQ+. Even the poorest of players will realize that youíre playing extremely tight and when you suddenly start raising and re-raising, they wonít give you any action without a premium hand.
marc-andre trudeau Poker
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