Friday, July 13, 2018

The Dreaded Pocket Kings (Squared)

You saw it, right?  If not "live" then you surely saw it on poker media the next day, right?  The hand everyone's talking about, one of the most incredible hands of poker ever seen at the Main Event of the WSOP.  It happened Wednesday night.

Just to recap, the situation was that there 10 players left in the main.  Play would stop as soon as one more player busted out, creating the "official" final table of nine.  Each of those nine would be guaranteed at least $1MM (now that's a min-cash I can deal with!).  The bubble (well, the final table bubble) would have to settle for a measly $850K and perhaps more importantly, an opportunity to continue playing for the $8.8MM top prize and the coveted bracelet.   

And then this happened.  Watch it yourself (mostly likely for the fourth or fifth time, right?)

Wow, some hand, huh?  Never have the dreaded pocket Kings been so damn dreaded.  Dreaded times two.  Or dreaded squared, right?

Also…this isn't just Aces vs Kings (another theme I've addressed a lot on the blog).  It's Aces vs Kings vs Kings.  Wow.

Is that crazy or what? 

The hand played out as expected.  No four card flush for one of the players (or worse, for two of the players).  No straight (wheel) for the guy with Aces.  No King-high strait for a chop for the two guys with Kings.Nothing totally bizarre like four Queens and a deuce on the board so the Aces would win that way.  And nothing like a 9-8-7-6-5 board so that everyone chops.

The Aces held.

What was interesting was the discussion afterwards of the preflop play.  The question was, should Antoine Labat, who initially just called Nicolas Manion's raise, have folded the dreaded hand when it came back to him after two all-ins?

Fold pocket Kings preflop?  Even I don't do that (though of course I should….every damn time).  A lot of top players insisted there was enough info for Labat to fold.  Do you agree?  Can you really be sure one of the other players has to have Aces there?  You're sure not putting either of them on Kings.

Of course the situation is critical here.  They are one player away from the final table.  But they are well into the money of course.  Do you tighten up there?  Do you think there's no chance one of the other two players has Queens or Jacks and maybe the other has Ace-King?

All I can say for sure is that whenever I watch TV poker and hear the commentary, I realize that these pros are playing a totally different game from the one I play.  I realize how out of my league I am.  So I can't really say.  All I know is that I can't really imagine myself folding Kings at that point.  And I'm the all-time leading Kings hater, right?

The play I find most unusual is that Labat flatted the initial raise, he didn't three-bet.  That makes Yueqi Zhu's three-bet look less like a really big hand.  He was short-stacked and would have shoved with a wide variety of hands.  If Labat had three-bet and then Zhu shoves, you know he's very likely got Kings or Aces. 

But then what to make of Manion's shove?  Of course, with Aces he's going to do that no matter what.  But if Labat had three-bet and then Zhu shoved and then Manion shoved, then Labat has to know he's behind one if not both hands (hey, if two players had KK, it's possible instead that two players had AA, right?)

The question then, however, if Labat had three-bet, would he be pot committed to calling no matter what?  I guess it would depend somewhat on the size of Labat's three-bet.  But since he didn't three-bet, his call there makes sense to me. 

What do you all think?

Here's the punchline of the story.  The next night, at the final table, Labat, the short stack, got pocket Kings again and of course shoved.  He got called by pocket Queens.  And wouldn't you know, there was a Queen on the flop and Labat was the first bust-out from the final table.

Dreaded Pocket Kings.

Well, I guess it's safe to say that if there's one person on the planet who hates pocket Kings more than I do, it's Antoine Labat.

Oh and by the way, check out this tweet from Poker News.  "The Dreaded Kings."  Hmmmm….I really should have copyrighted the phrase "Dreaded Pocket Kings."  You don't suppose they left the word "pocket" out because they were afraid I'd sue them, do you?


  1. For quite some time I was an unbeliever. I have seen the light!

    1. Now if I can just get you away from Queen-10 sooooooted.

  2. One correction. A King high straight would have won the hand with a chopped pot for the 2 with Kings. An Ace high straight wasn't possible without an Ace on the board because there couldn't be a King on the board. The guy with the Aces still wouldn't have had the straight.

    1. Ooops, you're right, Nick, thanks for the correction. I've fixed the post.

      Seeing TWO pairs of pocket Kings makes me dumb(er).

  3. Rob - who doesn't love Oprah, but c'mon.... the only pic is of Oprah??????

    1. You get a pic of Oprah.....and you get a pic of Oprah....EVERYBODY gets a pic of Oprah!

      Heh heh...well sorry about that but I really knocked this one late, late and just didn't have time to find an appropriate cheesecake picture. Someone posted this on my Facebook page and I thought it was perfect.

  4. one of the things many players never get right even over a career of poker is the concept of risk/reward. There is no incentive to get all in without the nuts in many, many spot because of the relational nature of what others are doing. When we stack off with kings, we are saying our opponents have a certain frequency of risk taking. Gauging our opponents' tolerance for risk is one of the primary skills in poker, and even the final tablist of the WSOPME don't show too much of a feel for it, never mind your average 1/2 schlub.