Pocket Queens and Pocket Kings. The hands that every poker player wants, but the same hands that are often misplayed. This article will ignore the hand that all poker players hate (pocket Jacks!) and focus on a few strategies on how to play the other two big pairs, pocket Queens and pocket Kings.
Everyone knows that K’s and Q’s fall into the mix as two of the four best starting hands that you can be dealt along with A-K and of course A-A. It’s always fun to look down at your hole cards and see those Queens or Kings looking back up at you. However, a surprising number of players will consistently misplay these hands, especially after the flop. I realize that it can seem like every time you have pocket K’s that an Ace hits the board and just as often somebody will be holding one and show you down with it, but that really doesn’t happen as much as it might seem. Believe me, nobody has had more heartache with K-K than me, as a couple of years ago at WSOP bracelet event I busted out after trapping Jean-Robert Belland in a hand where he had A-J and I had pocket K’s. He spiked an Ace on the River and that busted me at the end of a 12-hour day right before we would have bagged up for the night. It was excruciating, but it doesn’t mean that I should play pocket K’s any differently than I did.
The trouble with many novice poker players is that they are a paranoid bunch. Those times when some random Ace takes down your K’s or Q’s tends to stick out in your mind and it makes you play the hand tentatively. When something bad occurs in a hand of poker and you lose a hand that you should have won, that stands out in your brain. When you win hands that you ‘had a right’ to win, your brain processes this information as the ‘natural order’ of things and moves on. Our brains remember the negative and pretty soon you are playing a hand like K-K to NOT LOSE instead of to win. Any poker pro will tell you that when you start playing poker to not lose instead of playing poker to win, you are in trouble and liable to get into a serious slump with your play. Just because obnoxious punk like JRB sucks out on your at the WSOP and ruins 12 hours worth of work at the poker table, does not mean that you should play pocket Kings any differently in the future!
I have also known players who will go to the other extreme and instead of betting too tentatively, will way over-bet the pot in order to force everyone out to keep from being sucked out on which is just as bad. Just recently I had a player explain to me that she made a huge pre-flop raise with K-K from the Button. The result was that everyone folded. When I asked her why she made such a large raise she told me that she was afraid of being sucked out on by someone with an Ace and figured it was better just to take down the blind and antes.
If you have a premium hand, you need action on it. You don’t get dealt pocket Kings or Queens all that often so they need to be profitable when you do. If you lose a hand that you were 80% or 90% favored to win, so be it, but you still need to attempt to maximize profits on those hands rather than taking the blinds/and/or antes in tournament play. The fact is, K-K is basically a 70% favorite against a random A-x hand, and even a 65% favorite against A-K. If you are up against a smaller pocket pair, you are 4-1 to win the hand, so trying to force everyone to fold is not real great strategy. Obviously it is better to isolate against one or two other players rather than four or five, but you have got to try and get paid with premium pocket pair hands.
The other thing you can’t do is assume that someone has an Ace when one pops up on the board and you certainly cannot assume that they are willing to showdown with one. I have seen a lot of players get timid with Q-Q and the flop comes up something like K-7-3. You may indeed be up against a king in this situation but the other player may assume that YOU have the K and fold to you bet. Or they may have something like a weak K in one of the Blinds or in position and fold to your supposed strength. The point is, you cannot assume that you got unlucky.
We have all been sucked out on when we have big hands at the poker table. It is part of the game. Most of us have been the beneficiary of a suck-out or two as well, so you have to remember this and play your strong hands like pocket queens and pocket kings to win rather than not to lose.
Contact Chris Wilcox at: firstname.lastname@example.org