Friday, August 23, 2013

Kings of March Madness

March Madness?  That was a long time ago, I know.  But yes, I still have material from the March Madness trip (as well as all the ones since).  And this one, it turns out, has a lot to do with my favorite hand, the oh-so dreaded pocket Kings. 

And since this post will be so K-K oriented, it gives me a chance to tell a more recent story from an otherwise forgettable session from the Bike here in L.A.  I had only just gotten to the table and played a few hands.  There was some seat changing going on, players coming from a broken table, etc, and as the cards were being dealt the guy who was supposed to be the big blind complained that he wasn’t, or somebody said he shouldn’t have to post to come in (at this room, at this level of game, you have to post to come in, so it’s just like the Bellagio).  As someone  was complaining, the cards had been dealt and the action had started.  One guy threw his cards back because he was told to post and he didn’t’ want to (or think he should have), and the dealer said hold up, hold up.  He just wanted to recreate things to determine if the guy had to post or not, I think.  Meanwhile, the guy UTG to my right, raised to $15, first in.  I looked at my hand and saw, of course, KK.  I waited for the dealer to figure out if the hand was a misdeal or not.
But before he figured it out, almost everyone but the guy who raised and me had tossed in their cards.  The dealer was upset, “No, I didn’t say throw them in, I said wait.”  But now it was too late, and so he called all the rest of the cards back, which basically were mine and the guy in front of me who had raised.  He just slid them in face down but I showed everyone my cowboys.  A few people on the other side of the table expressed their sympathy.  I asked the guy who raised if he had Aces.  He didn’t say anything at first, then finally said, “Let’s just say I liked my chances.”
I don’t think for a minute he Aces, he would have showed them, I believe.  He was a young, fairly aggressive, solid player.  He raised big a lot and we didn’t often see his hand, but a few times we did he didn’t have a premium hand.  I’m sure I was way ahead of him.  I’m also sure he would have called my three-bet and sucked out on me.  So that has to go down in the books as a good result with pocket Kings for me.

Back to Vegas.  The rest of this post takes place on the very first night of March Madness.  One of my first hands, on the button, I had Ace-Jack suited.  One limper and I made it $10.  The blinds folded but the limper, an older gentleman, called.  And when he called, he said, “I’ll check it down.” 
Huh?  Where did I agree to that?  Well there was an Ace on the flop and he checked and I bet and he folded face up.  What did he have?  The dreaded pocket Kings!  Really. I didn’t say anything but I think I must have given off a physical tell giving away my surprise that he played his hand so badly.  And so he said, “I knew you had an Ace.”
Yes, sir, I’m sure you did.  Did you also know an Ace was gonna come on the flop, because you were way ahead of me before then.  He was kinda short stacked too, having less than $50 in front of him.  I dunno how he doesn’t raise preflop there, or even better, after he limped and I raised, why not just shove back?  I wouldn’t have called a shove with my Ace-Jack that would have been a much better play than what he did.  Even I don’t play K-K that badly.
A few hands later he lost another hand with K-K.  I don’t recall the details but I do know for a fact that he didn’t raise preflop with them again!
Much later, the KK guy rebought and changed seats.   He limped into a hand and a guy in middle position made a standard raise.  The guy to my right re-raised.  Back to the KK guy and he shoved for over $100.  The ol’ limp/raise maneuver.  The original raiser thought for awhile and said, “I can’t believe I’m gonna fold this hand,” but he did.  The other guy called for less. 
Turns out the KK guy had Aces this time, and the guy to my right had the KK.  The original raiser said he had pocket Queens.  The guy with the Kings busted out, not getting any help from the board.  The guy with the Queens said when he sees that move, an older guy limp/raise, it is always, 100% of the time, pocket Aces.  He said he would have folded pocket Kings there too.
The funny thing was, the hands I described where the guy didn’t raise with KK happened before he had gotten to the table.  He didn’t see that old guy limp twice with Kings.  That would have made it even more obvious the guy would only raise (limp/raise) with Aces. 
I still think it was very risky move, there hadn’t been the kind of action at this table where you could be fairly certain a raise was coming preflop.  There had been plenty of limped pots.  But he got lucky this time.  But you know, if he had raised, I think the guy who raised first would have three-bet, the KK guy would have shoved, and he would have won more money when he shoved.
I flopped a set of Jacks and won a small pot.  Then it was my turn get pocket Kings.  I raised, two callers.  Lo and behold, a King hit the flop, along with two diamonds.  I had to bet and got no callers.  I dunno why I wasn’t celebrating there; for me, to win any hand with KK is a miracle.  But I was disappointed I didn’t win a bigger pot with a set of Kings.
My best hand of the night came against a New York cop who was in town for golfing trip with his buddy.  He was a really nice guy too.  I called his normal raise with pocket 3’s.  King high flop, but the low card was a three.  I bet out three times, he called three times.  My river bet was $100, which was actually a little more than he had left, and he called.  He saw my set and just mucked.  It was a nice pot, almost a double up for me.  He was nice about it, and said, “Every time I flop a monster I run into a bigger monster.”  So I asked him what he had and he said, “a pair of Kings.”  Huh?  That’s a monster?  Assuming he had Ace-King, he flopped top pair/top kicker and calls that a monster? 
He didn’t rebuy.  The dealer said to me, “Didn’t that guy say he was a New York cop?”  I confirmed that he did.  “Better be careful walking to your car.”  Nah, he was fine, but I guess he figures this is a bad beat story for him.
I raised with Ace-Jack suited and flopped a flush draw.  I made a continuation-bet and was called.  I made the flush on the turn and this time my opponent, who was the guy who folded Queens earlier, led out.  Lucky me.  I don’t think it’s a good idea to just smooth call there, or am I wrong?  I’m not inclined to slow play.  I bet 2.5x his bet and he mucked.  A smaller flush?  I don’t know.
The guy to my right had been replaced by a rather good looking woman, who played short-stacked the entire time she was there.  She was the only woman at the table the entire time I was there.  It was a welcome to sight to see her join our group of ugly mugs.  Then the guy who folded Queens busted her out.  She went all in on a board with two Queens and he called.  Turned out neither one of them had a Queen.  She had pocket Jacks and he had the dreaded pocket Kings.  She didn’t rebuy.
As soon as she left the table, the male dealer, said to the guy who busted her, “Thanks a lot, Mike.”  He seemed to a regular even though I didn’t recognize him.  Everyone knew what he meant and we all laughed.  “What was I supposed to do, lay it down there?”  All the guys at the table, and the dealer, pretty much in unison said, “Yes!”
In early position I bet $10 with QQ.  I was not happy about getting four callers.  I was not happy about an Ace high flop (no Queen).  I made a continuation bet of $25, first to act.  If I had gotten raised, I would have likely folded.  If I had gotten called, I’d probably would check/fold the turn.  Surely someone had an Ace, right?

One by one, the players folded.  The last guy took his sweet time.  I was sure he was going to at least call, maybe he was thinking about raising.  But no, eventually he folded.  I considered that a minor miracle.

Not long after, I got those same Queens again and this time only one caller.  The flop was 7-6-5 rainbow.  This time my bet was called.  The turn card only made it worse, a 4.  So I checked, the player bet, and I reluctantly folded.  What else was I supposed to do there?  From the other side of the table, Willie, a regular I’ve mentioned quite a few times before, said to me, “Didn’t like the turn card, huh?”  No Willie, I didn’t.  Didn’t like the flop much either.
I got pocket Kings two other times this nite.  One time, no one called my preflop raise.  Yes!  The other time, it wasn’t so good.  I raised and only the old guy who had misplayed the KK early—and had limp/shoved with Aces—called.  There wasn’t just one Ace on the board, there were two.  Before I could even figure out what to do, he led out.  It didn’t take me long to muck.  There is no way that guy did not have an Ace.
Not longer after, I decided to call it a night.  I had made a nice a little profit for the first night of March Madness and was glad that, seeing pocket Kings as many times as I did, I never once got stacked with them.  A good night.


  1. I raised with Ace-Jack suited and flopped a flush draw. I made a continuation-bet and was called. I made the flush on the turn and this time my opponent, who was the guy who folded Queens earlier, led out. Lucky me. I don’t think it’s a good idea to just smooth call there, or am I wrong? I’m not inclined to slow play. I bet 2.5x his bet and he mucked. A smaller flush? I don’t know.

    Why is it not a good idea to smooth call here? You have the nut flush on a non paired board with someone betting into you? doesn't get much better than that.

    3 scenarios:

    He has two pair- 4 outs with one pull of the deck to go 11 to 1 against

    He has a set 10 outs with one pull of the deck to go 4.4 to 1 against

    He has a smaller flush - drawing dead and probably leading the river.

    1. Thanks, bill. One of the reasons I post some of these hands is to get feedback and I appreciate yours. I guess I should be getting better at maximizing value for my big hands, and that is a good example. I guess I am just too wary of slow paying anything less than an absolute monster. Been burned too many times, even if it was the right play. I do need to work on that. Thanks!

  2. I again offer the wise words to just fold KK if it causes you so much trouble. I wish you had folded them preflop when we played together at Luxor. : o )

    1. Yeah, I'll bet. I'm trying to learn to overcome my fears and "face the terror."

      Every poker book I've ever read tells me that KK is a "premium hand." So you have to play it right?

      Besides at this point, everytime I get the dreaded hand, I figure, no matter what happens, it's a future blog post.

  3. Not being a poker player (merely someone who enjoys Rob's writing) I had to look up "check out down." It seems to the uninitiated me that this is one of those things the dealer should ask everyone if they concur with before taking it as writ. No?

    1. It's "check IT down" Norm. It's an informal agreement between the players and no dealer would ever assume that just because one player suggested it, it was accepted by the other players. Unless the dealer heard the other player agree to it, he/she would proceed as normal. Even if both players said they wanted to check it down, the dealer would probably double check on each card to see if they still didn't want to bet.

      In this case, the dealer never assumed that I had agreed to it, so it was not an issue.

      I guess what you're asking is if the dealer in this story assumed I had agreed and/or needed to ask me if I agreed to that. No, the dealer wouldn't and shouldn't ask me about it, that might seem like he was suggesting it. The dealer properly waited to see if I agreed and when I said nothing, knew my silence meant that I didn't agree.