Saturday, July 23, 2016

How to Play Pocket Kings

playing pocket kings
Knowing how to play pocket kings well is one of the best things that you can do for your winrate at the poker tables. The reason why is because KK is the second best hand that you can be dealt in poker. "Cowboys" (as they also called) will also be your second most profitable hand in the long run behind only pocket aces.

So learning how to play your kings well and maximizing your value each time you are dealt this hand is crucial. But many people get confused about what to do when somebody goes all-in preflop or when an ace flops for instance.

In this article I am going to cover these situations and more in order to get you playing pocket kings in the most profitable way.

Always Raise (or Re-Raise) With Pocket Kings

As I talked about in my how to play pocket aces article, it is really important not to screw around with hands like this at the lower stakes.

In small stakes cash games or tournaments you will consistently run into bad players who love to call with a very wide range. Even the so called good tight players often still have a lot of problems folding to a 3Bet for instance at these stakes.

If you are the first person to enter the pot, then you should always raise with your kings. Do not ever limp. And if somebody has raised it up already, then you should re-raise them the vast majority of the time.

The only time when you might want to consider slow playing (and it is very rare) is when you have a long history with a specific player and you want to mix up your play on occasion to keep them guessing.

The other time is when you are up against one of the few small stakes players who folds to 3Bets too much (e.g. 80%+). This is why it is a good idea to have the fold to 3Bet stat prominently displayed on your Pokertracker HUD.

Should You Go All In Preflop With Pocket Kings?

The short answer is yes, 100%

Look here's the thing. While we all tend to distinctly remember that one time (or even 3 times in a row) where our opponent happened to have aces when we got it all in, the simple math tells us that this is an exceedingly rare event.

In fact reminds us that the odds of running your kings into aces at a full ring table (9 people) are only 4% and at a 6max table it is only 3%!

Furthermore, these numbers do not even take into account all of the times (read: the vast majority) when your opponents go all in and show up with hands like:
  • AK
  • AQ
  • QQ
  • JJ
  • TT
Our kings of course crush all these hands. And this is not to mention all the times when your opponent just goes all in with something silly too just because they are on tilt.

So for all of these reasons, let's end the argument here once and for all. You should always go all in preflop (assuming 100bb stacks) with your pocket kings.

It is true that on extremely rare occasions you will run into pocket aces and have only 20% equity. But it is important to remember that this happens so infrequently and that most of the time you are way ahead.

Also, believe me, the great thing about this game is that the shoe will always be on the other foot eventually. By this I mean that you will be the one holding aces to their kings one day.

They aren't folding to you. So it all evens out in the end anyways.

How to Play Kings Postflop

So now that we have got the preflop game out of the way let's talk about how to play cowboys after the flop.

Well frankly, things don't change much. You should be betting and even re-raising with your kings the large majority of the time.

Once again we need to remember that low stakes online and live poker players are notoriously calling stations who love to hang on with any pair or draw. Why would you want to ever slow play against these kinds of players?

Furthermore, even if you are up against a decent regular who has a fold button, you want to build an aggressive reputation anyways. This because, having an aggressive poker table image ensures that you will get the most action when you want it (such as when you have kings).

You should be making bets on the flop and later streets against the decent regulars with your draws, ace highs, middle pairs and so on a lot of the time. So why wouldn't you make the same bet when you have a big value hand like KK?

What if an Ace Flops?

Now a common trouble spot of course is what to do with kings if an ace flops. This is a tricky situation for which there is no clear-cut answer. As usual in poker, "it depends."

It really depends mostly on your opponent in this case and how many aces you think are in their range. Recreational players in general are more likely to have the ace than the regulars.

However, the other issue here is that regardless of what they have, the ace is going to slow the action down. They might call one bet with their middle pair hand for instance but after that they will be done.

This is why I will sometimes take a check call line or a check behind line with pocket kings on an ace flop. This under-reps my hand and often allows me to get more action on the turn and river.

However, you definitely should still be betting the ace on the flop a fair bit as well. You don't need to be afraid of it every time it flops. Remember that an ace is just one small part of their overall range.

Should You Ever Fold KK Postflop?

On occasion yes. It is important to remember that a hand like KK is still just one pair. Just because you got dealt the second best hand in Hold'em does not give you a license to print money.

The great thing about this game is that somebody almost always has equity. That is what allows the fish to get lucky sometimes and win. This keeps them depositing more money into the poker economy for years even when they clearly lose in the long run.

So it is important to recognize the signs when your pocket kings might be beat and you need to fold. Here are some of the common things that I look for:
  • Tight regular giving me lots of action especially on the "big money streets" (turn and river)
  • Wet and heavily coordinated board
So first off, the players who you want to make your hero folds against are the tight nits who sit around waiting for the nuts all day and never bet unless they have something huge.

When these guys wake up and start wanting to play for stacks against you, the alarm bells in your head should start going off.

Secondly, the board plays a key role in my decision to possibly fold kings as well. By "wet and coordinated" I am talking about a flop like:


On a board like this there are so many two pairs, sets and even made straights that have us crushed. There are also tons of combo draws (such as T9) that either have huge equity against us, or even have us beat!

Versus an absolutely monster draw like T9 we would actually be significantly behind if we were to get all the money in on this flop.

how to play pocket kings

Final Thoughts

Pocket kings is one of the best hands that you can possibly be dealt in poker. Therefore, it is important that you play it well.

For the most part you should simply be raising and re-raising with it both preflop and postflop. You want to stay away from slow playing KK versus all of the calling stations and bad players at the lower limits.

This also means that you should get all the money in before the flop if somebody else wants to tussle. It is very rare that they will flip over aces. Most of the time you will be in a very good spot instead.

Lastly, there are some rare occasions where you might want to consider getting away from kings postflop. This is especially the case versus a tight regular who is giving you a lot of action on a highly coordinated and wet board that also hits his set-mining range hard.

Let me know in the comments below how you play your kings. Do you have any tips for how to maximize your value with them?

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pocket kings strategy


  1. Cheers for this man.. I got into a spot last night against 2 really fishy players that raised/called and then action to me.. I pinned these players as weak and shoved over the top and they both called. 1 had J8o and the other had Q2.. Flop 799 turn Q river 10.. lol was pretty gutted but reviewed my had later and came to the same conclusion for my play as I was 85% fav on the turn.. lol What do you think in this spot?

    1. Thanks glad you liked this post! Do you mean you shoved preflop with J8o? And also, it looks like you made a straight and won the hand unless I am reading this wrong?

  2. Thanks for your book (CtM) and for this blog.

    Would you still cbet flop with KK against a single villain if there is an ace on the flop and you are OOP? How would you play turn and river if the villain calls the cbet?

    1. No problem, glad you like them! It depends on who the villain is and what the turn and river cards are.

  3. My experience in zoom poker shows that usually a 5bet preflop means pocket aces involved. Even the fish are nittier in zoom and a great number of players are also slow playing set miners.

    1. I agree, Zoom tends to play tighter overall and this is why I don't really recommend playing it.

  4. Thanks for the post, go for "How to play QQ & JJ" post.
    By the way, may I ask what do you do for a living now, since you put less volume on micro / small stakes? Just living off blogging, making videos, books sales, coaching etc or you do something unrelated to poker as well?

    1. Thanks, I might write those posts in the future. I make a living playing and teaching poker primarily.

  5. How would you recommend using the auto rebuy feature in 2NL? I know you've said to use it but wondered which value to have it on? Thanks for all the good info!

    1. Hey George, I set it so that each time I fall below 100bb it automatically tops me up.