Pocket kings are the second-best starting hand in Texas Holdem and one of those holdings that can bring you a lot of money if you know how to play them.
This article brings you some of the best tips for playing pocket kings in different situations. On top of that, we explain how you can improve your overall strategy in the most common pre-flop and post-flop scenarios to avoid costly mistakes.
Pocket kings are one of the strongest hands in poker and one of those pairs you want to open regardless of your position at the table.
Like with aces, your goal with pocket kings is to build as big of a pot as possible, which is why you should never slow-play this hand.
Facing an open, you will always want to 3bet your pocket kings. By 3-betting, you extract value from your opponent and isolate them to go heads-up post-flop. Remember, pocket kings are one of those hands that is extremely strong pre-flop but does not play particularly well in multi-way pots.
Your 3-bet sizing will mostly depend on your position and the action that happened before you.
In situations where one of your opponents has made a raise, and you have a position on them, you should 3-bet to somewhere between 2.5 and 3 times their raise. For example, if HJ opens to $5 and you have pocket kings in the CO, you will want to 3bet them to somewhere between $12.5 and $15.
In hands in which one of your opponents has made a raise, and they have a position on you, you should 3-bet to somewhere between 3.5 and 4 times. For example, if the HJ opens to $5 and you have pocket kings in the SB, you will want to 3bet them to somewhere between $17.5 and $20.
The reason why you should always increase your 3-bet sizing with pocket kings when you are out of position is that your opponents will have an easier time realizing their equity post-flop, so you want to give them a worse price on a call preflop.
Finally, in situations where one of your opponents has made a raise, and another opponent has called, you should 3-bet to somewhere between 4 and 4.5 times the size of the initial raise when you are in position and to around 5 to 5.5 times when you are out of position.
In almost all situations, you should avoid just calling with pocket kings pre-flop and go for a raise.
As we mentioned, your goal with pocket kings should always be to build up the pot before the flop, and the same goes for facing a 3-bet. Continue by 4-betting or going all-in, depending on the effective stack size.
If you have a position on the player who is 3-betting, you should 4-bet to somewhere between 2.2 to 2.5 the size of the 3-bet, and if you are out of position, you should 3-bet to anywhere between 2.5 and 2.8 the size of the 3-bet.
For example, if you are in position facing a $100 3-bet, you can 4-bet to anywhere from $220 to $250, and if you are out of position, your 4-bet should be a bit bigger.
The only time when it can be a good idea to call a 3-bet with pocket kings instead of 4-betting is when you are extremely deep in a cash game against a tight passive opponent. It can be a good idea because most tight passive opponents will continue against your 4-bet only with premium holdings, and they will fold all of their worst hands.
Note that these situations are extremely rare, and you should not worry about them that much.
If there is one hand that loves to see a 4-bet apart from pocket aces, it is pocket kings. In situations where you are facing a 4-bet, most of the time, you should simply go all-in. By doing so, you avoid playing on awkward flops that might give you the 2nd best hand or scare your opponent from continuing with his holdings.
There are some scenarios where you could debate calling instead of going all-in, but these situations are too specific to include here, and you will rarely be wrong by moving all-in.
There will be many situations in which you will have an overpair to the board, so we decided to include a few tips for this scenario.
When you have an overpair to the flop and you are in position, you will want to bet your pocket kings most of the time in order to extract value and charge your opponent for any draws he might have.
This rule applies for both 3-bet and single-raised pots, and your default bet size should be around 30% of the pot on dry boards.
Slow-playing becomes an option only if you have an exceptionally good read on your opponent that tells you that you can extract more value by checking back.
Connected flops are not something you want to see when you have pocket kings. You should be extremely careful on two-tone flops that contain three connected cards, such as Ts 9s 8d or 9c 8s 7c.
These boards hit the caller's range hard, which means they can apply extreme pressure on your hand. In addition to this, the connectivity of the flop means that you will have a difficult time navigating most rivers.
Therefore, you are best off checking your pocket kings both in and out of position and keeping the pot as small as possible.
Multi-way pots are not your friend when you have pocket kings and you should be very careful in these situations even if you have an overpair to the board.
The main reason why you should be more conservative in these situations is that your equity will go down significantly on the turn when you are facing two or more opponents. Your chance of winning the pot goes down even more if you are against three or more players.
This is true mainly because players have much tighter ranges in multi-way pots, so they will have a much stronger range than they would in heads-up situations. On top of that, the chances that someone will outdraw you significantly increase with extra players, so your overall equity goes down.
Although it might seem that every time you have pocket kings, the flop comes A-high, this does not happen as often as you think. However, this is one of the most difficult spots to get into with pocket kings for many players, so we have prepared a few guidelines to help you improve your play in these situations.
It might seem counterintuitive to bet when there is an overcard on the board, but when it comes to 3-bet pots, you should c-bet your pocket kings even on a-high boards a lot of the time.
When you find yourself in these situations, you need to think about your whole range, not only the hand you have. If you are the 3-bet aggressor, ace high boards favor you much more than your opponent, which is why you should continue with a c-bet.
The correct bet sizing in these spots would be around 30% since this amount allows your opponents to continue with the part of the range you beat. You are not bluffing here, you are using a small bet size to extract a thin value from your opponent.
When it comes to ace-high flops in 4-bet pots, there isn’t much difference in approach from the one you should use in 3-bet pots. Continuing to bet is the right way to go.
As the 4-bettor, ace-high boards hit your range much better than they hit your opponents, and by continuation betting, you are accomplishing a few things:
On ace-high flops, in 4-bet pots, your c-bet sizing should be smaller and around 25% of the pot.
That said, it is worth mentioning that it makes sense to check in these situations some of the time to balance your ranges, so it all depends on your position and the specific opponent you are playing against.
One of the biggest strengths of a good pocket kings strategy is knowing when to throw away your hand. Similarly to pocket aces, pocket kings are an amazing hand before the flop, but they are not invincible after community cars, especially on ace-high boards.
If you make a c-bet and your opponent shows strength by raising or calling your bet, it makes sense to give up or go into bluff-catching mode if you are playing against an aggressive player.
Just because you have pocket kings does not mean you should win every hand, so keep your chips in situations where you are likely to be beaten. To put it into perspective, you are making money each time you fold the worst hand in a situation your opponent would call.
Most players will agree that the biggest mistake they make with pocket kings is not folding them when it is obvious that they no longer have the best hand.
No matter how strong your hand is preflop, you are not entitled to win the pot. Folding sometimes also means making money.
As a final note, we would like to remind you that the guidelines in this article cover some of the most common spots where you will find yourself with pocket kings. Although this article will be a good start, the poker strategy is too complex to explain in one single text, so make sure to study different situations or join Pokercode to boost your progress.
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