Sunday, January 20, 2013

The dreaded pocket kings

Actually, I don't dread pocket kings. I win with them at least as often as would be predicted statistically, so I'm happy when I see them. The post title is an homage to my friend Rob, who hates pocket kings ("dreaded" is his label for them) almost as much as he loves breastscleavage, vaginas, hookers, and inappropriate touching.

Story the first

This happened at Harrah's Cherokee when I was there with Cardgrrl on my recent North Carolina scouting trip. I had bought in for just $100, because I didn't know what to expect from the locals and wanted to be cautious and conservative, at least at first. Over the course of about three hours, I had worked that up to a bit over $300. Our table had only one aggressive player--a middle-aged Asian guy who had amassed the biggest stack (over $800) by stealing all the orphan pots and putting his far more conservative opponents to difficult decisions. He was not crazy, but he was the only unpredictable player I had to tangle with, while the others had well-defined styles and were generally not too difficult to decipher.

I raised to $10 from early position with the two black kings. Asian guy reraised to $25 from one of the blinds. Reraising was pretty common for him, but doing it from the blinds instead of from position was a deviation from his standard practice, and doing it against me--my raises had been getting lots of respect from the table, including from him--was similarly outside of his usual bag of tricks. So I was certainly on notice that his hand range was stronger here than it typically was for his reraises. However, it could still easily include A-K and any pocket pair probably down as low as 8s or 9s.

I just called. I had not put in a single four-bet the entire session, and I thought that doing so now would make it too easy for him to get away from hands that I had beat; it would effectively turn my cards face up. I thought there was also a ton of deceptive value in playing it this way. After a three-bet, he was virtually certain to make a continuation bet, so with my positional advantage I hoped to be able to make more money from him by letting him continue to fire.

The flop was J-J-4. I didn't think he would three-bet me pre-flop from out of position with pocket 4s or with any hand containing a jack except for pocket jacks, and flopping quads was too remote a possibility to worry about. So this was basically about the best flop I could hope for, short of making a set. I was behind pocket aces, but everything else in his range I had beat.

He led out for $75, an overbet of the pot. I didn't expend any effort trying to interpret his bet size or body language, because they simply didn't matter to my decision. I wanted to play for stacks, period. I had deliberately underrepresented my hand pre-flop for precisely this reason: to get him to think that some smaller pocket pair was likely to be good, and/or that he could push me off of a pocket pair by aggressively playing A-K. After having done that, it would make no sense to reverse course. So I pretended to be thinking for a decent amount of time, in order to further the impression that I was unsure about what to do, then hit the "all in" and "confirm" buttons.

His head dropped and he looked dejected. I thought that presaged a fold, but nope--after about five seconds he entered his command for a call. After the computer played out the turn and river, it displayed my kings, then showed my opponent's cards, the only hand I did not want to see: aces.

I was busto. The outcome sucked but it was a situation where I was effectively predestined to lose as soon as the PokerPro table's random number generator set the order of the virtual deck. There were other opponents who were so tight and solid that I might well have been able to fold the kings at some point when facing their sudden eagerness to put all their chips in. But not this guy. He was the only player in the game against whom folding kings could not make sense, because aces were a minority of his range, even given the atypical pre-flop circumstances.

Story the second

Today I went to the Palms to play poker while other people were preoccupied with the big sportsball thingy that was on the ginormous-screen TVs. (One of the dealers asked me if I had any bets on the game. I had to admit that I didn't even know who was playing.) I still have several buy-ins worth of Palms chips in my collection. I was unable to sell them to collectors at a profit, so I'll just use them to play poker with.

This was a wild and crazy table. We had three players driving the action. Sadly, I spent most of my 3 1/2-hour session in the graveyard of card-deaditude, unable to take advantage of the juiciness. I only stayed afloat by the occasional audacious bluff, which got respect because my lack of cards was interpreted by the other players as uber-tightness.

In the hand in question, UTG was the table big stack, with about $1200. He raised to $11. The next player called. I smooth-called with K-K.

I realize that telling two stories about pocket kings without reraising makes it seem that this is my normal course. It isn't. But in both cases there were perfectly valid reasons. Here I still had two players behind me who were ramblin'-gamblin' dudes who loved to try to steal pre-flop with large reraises, and who, even when facing resistance, were willing to get all their money in pre-flop with marginal holdings and just hope for the best. I wanted to let them do their thing.

Sure enough, one of them three-bet behind me to $80. With a raise this ridiculously large, he either had a pocket pair in the 10s-jacks-queens range and didn't want to have to make difficult decisions later in the hand, or he had complete garbage and was just on a steal. With aces or the other two kings he would reraise a smaller amount, trying to induce action. He was absolutely not the kind of player who tried to shut down the action with his premium hands in an attempt to win a small, low-risk, uncontested pot.

It folded around back to me. I had about $200 left--truly a no-brainer decision here, since my opponent (a smart, experienced player) would recognize that he was being offered better than 2:1 to call my shove, and would therefore have a hard time folding just about anything. I pushed, and he called as soon as the dealer announced the amount. I showed the kings. He kept his cards face down, which I took as a favorable sign.

I don't remember how the board ran out, but he passed his cards back to the dealer without showing and began to count out what he owed me. Another player asked to see the hand, and the dealer showed it: 6-7 offsuit!

It's nice to know that the dreaded pocket kings can still manage to beat 6-7 offsuit for a $432 pot--even if Rob would have you believe otherwise.


lightning36 said...

But what about the breasts and vaginas?

Rob said...

Thanks for the homage, Grump!

Great stories too.

The truth is that I have actually won some pots with this dreaded hand and have even blogged about them.

But it sure is nice to be known for something, right? A few weeks ago, an employee at BSC came by while I was playing there, who I didn't even know read my blog, and whispered to me, "remember, if you get pocket Kings, just throw them away."

Anonymous said...

Your hand at Cherokee is standard. My last time playing there I had quads 4 times, my opponent had quads twice, and ran my top boat into a gutshot straight 200 hands. Doubt I've had quads 4 times in 7 yrs live play. It's a joke, the machines are rigged for coolers and action. Generally not a conspiracy type, but I'd prefer a "fair" game.