One of the hardest things to do in poker is to fold pocket Kings or Aces when the hand has potentially gone bad. There is a lot of argument about when and why to do thisâ€”and there are no hard and fast rules because every table is different, with different levels of skill and different styles of play, but there are certain instances that give you all the red flags you need to throw away the cards.
One of the first things to realize is how many people misquote the odds, or donâ€™t understand how a situation changes the odds. It is commonly quoted that pre-flop pocket Aces are an 80% favorite, or 4 out of 5, to beat about anything. Pocket Kings are in the same area as pocket Aces. But there is an underlying assumption with this statement that needs to be taken into considerationâ€”and is also a strong argument for why you should never slow play these cards pre-flop. These odds are assuming you are playing someone heads up. There are many times (and with limit games, you have to assume that this will be true constantly) that this will not be the case. When there is more than one person, even if those extra people are playing relatively crappy hands, the odds plummet.
With three players you can knock the odds down from 80% to 60, and with four or more, you are rarely better than a coin toss. Thatâ€™s right: given enough players, even the best possible starting hand only has fifty percent odds to win. Am I saying throw away pocket kings and aces every time you see a re-raise? Absolutely not, but there are times to be careful. For some individuals, the difference between being a good player and being a pro is the ability to throw away pocket Aces and Kingsâ€”even pre-flop if the situation warrants it. Many professional poker players have admitted to having done this, including Annie Duke and Dan Harrington, two of the best poker players in the world.
One great strategy for playing after the flop, if something really scary comes down (say three straight cards or three suited cards) and someone gives a normal raise, re-raise them to see what happens. If they fold, youâ€™ll take the pot. If they re-raise, fold. If they simply call, watch out, this could be a set up! The re-raise is nice because if you do it right, you may lose the chips from the bet, but it gives you enough information to know to fold to avoid losing the rest of your chips, an youâ€™ll catch the bluffer often enough to pay off.
The most common scenario to fold pocket Kings or Aces pre-flop (which is incredibly rare) usually involves being in a tournament satellite on the edge of the money. Hereâ€™s a scenario:
Youâ€™re at a table with five players left, and the top 3 all win WSOP seats. Your chip stack puts you in 4th place and you get pocket Aces as the big blinds. The player from the weak position throws in a large raiseâ€”enough to put you all in. The next player calls, and the small stack goes all in. In this situation, you’re rarely much better than 50/50 to win, and the right move is to fold the Aces.
If the large stack wins, heâ€™ll take out two players and you’ll win the seat. Even if he doesnâ€™t, as long as the small stack doesnâ€™t win, youâ€™re one spot closer to placing. Also, with four players, your odds arenâ€™t that good. Youâ€™re gambling with all your chips when staying out of the hand might put you in the money without risk. Wait for a better situation, and then cash in.
This is the one thing too many players canâ€™t do. They bet big pre-flop with pocket Kings so when A-Q-Q comes up they feel like they have to â€œchase others off.â€ This is the worst strategyâ€”youâ€™re not going to chase off an ace or a queen, so why throw away your money? Big pocket pairs are strong hands, but they also induce the worst losses when they get beat. Remember that the $1,000 in chips you donâ€™t lose over a month is just as good as the $1,000 you win.