Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Winning With Pocket Kings is Just as Bad as Losing With Them

Let me start this post by thanking Poker Grump for the homage he paid me on his blog the other day.  See his post here, he even called the post “The Dreaded Pocket Kings” which of course, is the label I use for all my posts about that nightmarish hand.  This will be the 40th post to have that label.  You will note that Grump also mentioned some things I supposedly like as much as I hate pocket Kings, although how he got the idea that I like the things he listed is beyond me.

I would like to comment briefly on the second hand he discussed in his post, the one he actually won.  His cowboys held up against an aggro player who had 6-7 offsuit.  I just want to say, if that had been me with those Kings against the same player, the flop would have come K-8-5, and the turn would have been a 9.  Guaranteed.  I would have been left to pray for a paired board only to see a deuce hit.  But that’s just me.
At any rate, I found out just the other day that winning with those Kings is just as bad—if not worse—than losing with them.  I was playing in the Binion’s 2PM tourn, now for $125, that I enjoy playing in whenever I can.  In a future a post, I will discuss the time recently when I played in that tournament for seven freaking hours only to bust out as the official bubble boy.  Frustrating doesn’t even begin to cover it.
I was determined to not let that happen again, and I was going to do everything in my power to put myself in a position to get a decent chip stack before it became a shove-fest, or bust out well before the seven hour mark so I wouldn’t have invested the entire day in a long, losing venture.
I made more raises than usual and with weaker hands.  I mean early in the tournament when I usually play pretty tight.  Not this time.  This met with some early positive results, and I chipped up a bit.  Then my aggression started running into resistance, and I started losing chips.  Sometimes I got re-raised, other times I got called and my continuation bets were raised, and other times I just got called with better hands.
After a few hours, I was getting a bit low on chips, but I wasn’t quite at fold-or-shove mode.  A player who everyone in the place knew came to the table, sitting immediately to my right.  I think he was a dealer, very possibly at Binion’s.  He had a bigger stack than I did.  He and a few others had limped into a pot and I looked down at two Kings.  Here we go.
I made a fairly big raise.  As I said, it was too early to shove preflop, and if they held up, this looked like a pretty good chance to get some needed chips.  Only the new player to my immediate right called.
The flop was King-7-5, rainbow.  He checked to me.  Now here, a lot of players in my position would check too, and slowplay what was now a really big hand.  But even though the board was really dry, I have adopted the philosophy of never slow playing a set.  Last trip to Vegas, I got burned with sets too many times.  Maybe it’s become a superstition, but that’s how I play them.  At least until I find myself sitting at the same table with someone who I know reads this blog, and I can easily fool them.
So I bet a little less than the size of the pot, and the other guy called.  I was kind of surprised he called, to be honest, but since I had the nuts at that point, I wasn’t displeased about that.
The turn was an Ace, and I wasn’t at all unhappy about that.  I figured that might have given the other guy a pair of Aces, possibly even two pair, but that was it.  There was no way I could imagine him having pocket Aces there.  If he had limped with them, he surely would have re-raised me preflop, right?  True, I have seen a player so bad he limped and then flat-called preflop with his bullets (see here), but I don’t expect that to see that twice in my lifetime.  I would especially not expect to see it in a tournament situation, where aggression is even more important than in a cash game.

He checked and I made another big bet.  To my delight, he announced all in!  Science has not yet invented an instrument sensitive enough to measure how little time elapsed between his saying “all in” and me saying “call.”
He turned over Ace Jack.  Yeah.  I don’t get it either.  He was drawing dead, and I had a very nice double up.  One of my first thoughts was, what I great post I’ll have, when I cash big time in this tournament and am able to credit it to winning with my kryptonite hand.  Then I couldn’t help wondering why he played his hand the way he did.
He hadn’t been at the table with me very long, so I suppose that maybe calling my raise with AJ wasn’t the worst possible play.  However, his hand is more often than not a raising hand in tournament play (and in cash games too, there less so).
But what I really couldn’t get was his calling the flop with nothing but Ace high.  If it had been a limped pot, I could see it, I guess.  But since I had raise pre?  Well, ok, maybe he thought I was just making a continuation bet and the flop missed me.  But what if I didn’t have a pocket pair when I made the c-bet?  What did I likely have?  How about Ace King or Ace Queen, two likely hands I could have made that move with, both of which would have beaten him.
I guess he put me on Queens or lower.  It seemed like remarkably bad play on his part.  But I wasn’t complaining, at least at the time.  The double up gave me a lot of chips to play with and for the next couple of hours I was one of the big stacks at the table.  I stayed aggressive with about a 50/50 success rate, so that over those couple of hours, my chip stack stayed about the same.  It was always one step forward, one step back, and I didn’t really get any really good cards that would have given me a chance at a big pot.
When the 50/50 success ratio finally ended, it did not end in my favor.  Raising with KQ offsuit and pocket 4’s hurt me.  Then the blinds and the antes started to hurt me.  Suddenly I no longer had chips to play with, not a lot of them, at least.  With the blinds at 400/2,000/4,000 my chip stack dipped below 50K.  I stole a few blinds, but as we took a break for them to color up the $100 chips, I was definitely in desperation mode.  I knew I needed a hand to shove with and I needed it fast.
First hand back from the break, it’s now closing in on seven hours of poker.  They are paying 12 and there are still 24 players left, so it’s a long way from cashing.  And lucky me, first had at 500/3,0000/6,000, I’m the big blind.  That 6,000 in chips really hurt, and I didn’t think I could afford to fold there unless I had a really bad hand.
It was Ace-6 of hearts, which I thought was more than enough to shove with.  The under the gun player had just moved to the table and I had no idea what kind of player he was.  He had way over 100K and chips and when he looked at his hand he announced “all in.”
Damn.  I had no read on him and it seemed to me like he had enough chips so that he didn’t have to shove there, especially if he had a good hand.  But I really had no clue.  It folded to me.  I did consider folding and hoping for a better circumstance to shove, but I decided this would likely be my best chance for a double up that would give me a chance to make a decent cash.  So I called.
He had Ace Queen and I groaned.  I needed hearts (or a 6 and no Queen).  There was only one heart on the flop, zilch on the turn so I needed a miracle 6 on the river and didn’t get it.  I bemoaned the fact I had to stay there through the break only to play one stinking hand after the break.
I looked at the clock, and saw that I had played seven hours and had nothing to show for it.  Then I remembered the pocket Kings hand.  If only I had lost with them, as I usually do, I probably would have busted out hours ago and been spared the agony of playing all that time for nothing.  In the end, I won nothing with that set of Kings and lost something—at least 4 hours of my life!
So I found out there are worse things than losing with pocket Kings.  Winning with them.


  1. Nice tourney overall, but I don't like calling all in with A6s. Shove with it all day, but not call.

    1. Thanks, Matt. Yeah, I know the call there was very questionable, to say the least. I wouldn't have done it if I wasn't the big blind and it was already gonna cost me 6,000 chips to fold. I knew I had to shove that orbit, and I thought this might be the last Ace I saw for awhile. I was definitely going over that in my mind a lot afterward.

    2. Matt is making the point that any two cards become playable at certain points. A6 loses prestige as a hand against previous activity. 76 can be thought of in similar fashion in the any 2 scenario. But never go beating yourself up after trying and failing. Getting cute with a read that fails isn't the end of the world.

      The only thing I'll add is start thinking any 2 earlier than your nature says. It works best with a stack that can damage. When it slip too low, calls are easier. An M=10 is often quoted but I like at least that or preferably more to create fear. Drops lower get deadly.

    3. Thanks, Ken, I was shoving with pretty marginal hands whenever I could, and stealing blinds and antes that way. Before I was in nothing but shove mode, I made a lot of raises light, and sometimes got blinds, sometimes got re-raised or called and then had to let it go. By the time I called the shove with the A6 hand, I was running way out of time.

      The book I read says shove at M=5, but I usually do it at M=10 or 12, unless I get Aces.

  2. "The Dread Pocket Kings"

    verb \ˈfik-ˌsāt\
    Definition of FIXATE
    transitive verb
    1: to make fixed, stationary, or unchanging
    2: to focus one's gaze on
    3: to direct (the libido) toward an infantile form of gratification
    intransitive verb
    1: to focus or concentrate one's gaze or attention intently or obsessively
    2: to undergo arrestment at a stage of development

    1. Are you saying I'm fixated on pocket kings?

      Usually I get accused of being fixated on breasts.