KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the month “March, 2015”

KK vs. AA & QQ

I was in Las Vegas last week with my buddy Mike, and this was a hand that he played in a $1-2 NL cash game.

A player in early position raised to $12, and an older gentleman called.  Mike – on the button –  squeezed his cards and found KK, and 3-bet to $36.  The Small Blind calls for $36 and the opening raiser folded.

Then the older guy – who hasn’t done anything fancy up to this point – goes all-in.  Huh?

Pretty easy actually… he has exactly pocket Aces.

Mike figures it out and folds, and the SB then folds QQ face up.  The Villain proudly shows his Aces, and Mike says “Nice hand sir, I had pocket Kings.”

But that’s not the end of the story.

Another player at the table complimented Mike on being able to let go of KK’s there.  This player, while not involved in the hand, had been sitting at the table for awhile with his professional poker coach sweating him (i.e., watching over his shoulder).  Rather often, both the player and coach would leave the table for a few minutes of private conversation/coaching, then return for more play.

When the older guy left the table, the coach told Mike that the older guy badly mis-played the hand and that he, the pro/coach, would have “felted” Mike in the same situation, by flat calling Mike’s 3-bet.

Later on, Mike and I debated how that might have worked.  For starters, we both acknowledge that some percentage of the time, either a K or Q would hit the flop, and either Mike or the SB would win.  We know that any pocket pair will flop a set about 1 in 8 times, so the chances here with both KK and QQ seeing the flop are about 23% that one or the other (or both) will flop a set.  So a flat call by the AA hand entails a moderately high level of risk.

Let’s assume all 3 players have starting stacks of $300 (equal to the max buy-in at this table).  The pre-flop betting totals $12 + $36 + $36 + $36 = $120, and each player has $264 remaining.

If the flop is all low cards, and the older guy checks, Mike is certainly likely to make a strong continuation bet, say $60-90 range.  If both call $60, now the pot is $300 and each player has $204 remaining.  If Mike bets $75 and both call, the pot is $345 and each player has $189 remaining.  Maybe Mike can sniff out the Aces, but we can see how the pot size escalates to the point where it becomes very difficult to avoid being pot-committed by the river.

We also explored another line the older guy might have taken.  Suppose, I asked, he re-raised the minimum pre-flop after Mike’s raise and the call from SB, to $60?

All of the color suddenly left Mike’s face.  “I probably would have shoved it all-in right there,” he said, “in order to protect my big hand against going to the flop against 2 villains instead of one.”  He reasoned that calling $60 surely brings SB along for another call, and the raise size doesn’t scream “I HAVE ACES!!!” like the old man’s call/shove line.  This could easily be AK or QQ prepared to fold to a shove.  If it goes 3-ways to the flop, Mike would have felt very vulnerable to any Ace on the flop, and one or both villains could have a lower pair and flop a set.  Any Q, J or T would be terrifying, so why not make them pay the maximum price now?  If both fold, he still wins $60 from the old guy, $36 from SB and $12 from the original raiser, for a total profit in the hand of $108… not bad for a $1/2 game.

The min-raise, we decided, would be the play the old guy should have made to maximize the likelihood of felting Mike.  While he was probably happy to win, he may have missed out on a lot more value.



Patience and poker.

Disciplined card selection

Makes the difference.


Tight and aggressive:

Protecting chips and waiting

For villain’s mistakes.


When profitable

Go for the throat and felt them.

Otherwise fold now!

OESD on button

Here is an interesting decision from last night.

I am playing in a $1/$2 NLHE home game, and familiar with all of the players.

“K” raises UTG to $9 and there are 2 callers, including “R.”  I am on the button with 9-8o, and call.  I could easily just fold here, but I like to see flops on the button as I can manage the pot size better from here than anywhere else, so when I hit a big hand I am more likely to realize good value.

Flop ($36):  Ts-7d-4s.

I have an open-ended straight draw (OESD).  Let’s see what happens.

K opens for $25.  At this point, I think he likes his hand, betting that much from out-of-position.  He is a generally competent but fairly tight player, and would not bet into 3 opponents here with air.  This suggests an over pair like AA, KK, QQ or JJ, or possibly a strong flush draw with As-Ks or As-Qs.

I’m debating whether to call.  The pot odds are not quite good enough, but with my position there is a good chance to realize some implied odds if the flush hits.  I could also raise here, but knowing K I’m not sure I have much fold equity with his range.  For sure I will call if one of the other players calls, especially R who is very loose and aggressive.

R, however, has other plans, and raises to $85.  He has about $55 remaining in his stack.


Let’s try to figure this one out.  R is a very aggressive player who likes to put pressure on his opponents.  He is prone to over-playing top pairs, so we’ll start his range with A-T, K-T, Q-T, J-T and T-9.  We’ll also add sets (TT, 77, 44) as his LAGGY reputation enables him to fast-play big hands and get paid a lot.  Also top 2-pair… he is loose enough to call pre-flop with T-7.  Also 9-8 for the same OESD that I have. Also 6-5 for a lower OESD.  And finally As-Xs for nut flush draws (excluding As-Ks, As-Qs, As-Js that he likely would have 3-bet with pre-flop).  This is 142 combos.

For this calculation, I’m keeping K’s range tight, with only AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, As-Ks, As-Qs, and As-Js.  Just 33 combinations.

My equity is 25.7%, vs. 49.5% for K and 24.8% for R.

My stack is fairly deep with nearly 200BB’s, and K has me covered having just won a large pot in the previous hand.  If I even think about calling here, I have to consider the possibility of K shoving over the top of me.

I must fold, and do fold.

Back to reality:  K calls the $60 raise, and the turn card is a 6 (not completing any flushes), leaving me writhing in agony staring at the large pot in the middle of the table.  K checks, R shoves his last $55, and after a long time in the tank, K calls.  The river is an off-suit five.  R shows A-T off-suit, for top pair, top kicker.  K shows AA and takes down a nearly $300 pot.

AAAaaarrgh! (or equivalent expletive not suitable for a family publication)

Given the facts at hand, folding was clearly correct.

R, on the other hand, really effed it up for me by over-playing his top pair hand against the continuation bet from UTG opener.  It should be noted that I ended the night with a healthy profit, whilst R was last seen slowly shuffling out the door with his pockets empty.

Two Pair on Flop

Here is an interesting hand from a live cash game earlier this week.

The game is $1/$1 no limit hold’em.  This is a regular weekly home game where all of the players are familiar to each other.

I am the small blind, and the player UTG straddles for $2, as he always does.  Three players limp in, and I have 43o.  I really should just fold here, but “it’s only a dollar” plus this is a very loose game, and the straddler does not automatically raise from his straddle position to attack limpers.  I call, and so does the big blind (BB).  Straddler (UTG) checks.

Flop:  ($12)  Ad 4c 3c.

I have bottom 2 pair on a low but drawy board, and can expect to get some value from players with Ax or club draws.  It is unlikely that I’ll see any really strong kickers, as AK, AQ, and probably AJ would have raised pre-flop.

So I open with a pot-sized bet of $12.  There is no reason to slow play here, and bottom 2 pair can turn ugly.

BB calls, then UTG raises to $30, and everyone else folds around to me.

Whoa!  Stop.  What’s going here?  Let’s try to figure it out…

BB is a competent player who is not prone to making really crazy plays, and likely to raise right away with the strongest hands.  I’m going to give him the following range:  Any Ace (other than A-K or A-Q which would raise pre-flop), 6-5o for open-ended straight draw, 7-5o for double gutshot straight draw, any club draw (other than 6c-5c or 7c-5c both of which likely raise now).  That is a really wide range of 207 combinations, but he’s the BB in a limped pot.

UTG is a much more aggressive player and much more likely than BB to be on a semi-bluff of some sort here.  Again, as the straddler, he did not do anything pre-flop other than check his option, so his range is also going to be very wide.  His range includes strong hands like 5-2, 3-3, 4-4, A-4, A-3, all of which beat me already.  Also strong draws like 6-5 and 7-5.  Against this part of his range, my lowly 2-pair is crushed.  But UTG also likes to run multi-barrel semi-bluffs, so I have to include all club flush draws (other than A-K, A-Q, A-J, A-T, K-Q which would have raised pre-flop) and pairs with straight draws such as A-2, A-5, 4-2, 3-2, 5-4, 5-3.  Like BB, UTG’s range is wide (but slightly different) and now includes 249 combinations.

Against these 2 ranges, I have 42.5% equity.  UTG has 33.1% and BB has 24.4%.

Heads up against BB’s range, I am a 65% favorite.  But I’m much more likely to end up heads up vs. UTG and not BB.

Heads up against UTG, I am a 55% favorite.

Complicating my decision, I don’t know what BB will do next, and can expect UTG to fire another large bullet on just about any turn card to put me to a difficult decision.

At the time, I thought I was in worse shape, giving UTG much more credit for the strong part of his range than the weaker part.

So I fold.  I’m increasingly conscious of the need to shift gears from “Oh, goody” to “Oh, shit” BEFORE donking off a bunch of chips.

Now for the rest of the story… after I folded, BB shoves all-in, and UTG calls.

BB has Ac-5c for top pair plus nut flush draw.  UTG has 8c-2c for a weaker flush draw and gut shot straight draw.  He needs a 5 or running 8’s.

My equity against the actual hands now shown is 44.3%, with BB at 47.1% and UTG at 8.7%.

The turn and river cards are both bricks, so I missed an opportunity to win a huge pot.  UTG re-loads.

Looking back at the actual equity, mine is about the same as my calculation against their respective ranges.  UTG is at the weak end of his range, and BB has a lot of outs against my 2-pair, with clubs, deuces, fives and aces all helping him.  Given that 3 players were involved, calling would have been +EV for me, albeit with a very high variance.

But with equity < 50%, folding isn’t terrible either.

The bigger lesson here is the hand cost me $13 and I could have simply folded in the SB pre-flop.  4-3 off suit sucks.  Out-of-position sucks.  Why bother?  Wait for a better set-up.  In this case, I caved to UTG’s positional advantage, then BB pounced.  Not sure what either of them would have done had I shoved over top of UTG there.

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