In a perfect world all the large pots you play at a poker table come when you have position.
In real poker life, though, trouble spots arise when you find yourself in early position and get dealt a hand often played into large pots -- like KK.
When you have a position best suited for small pots but a hand suited for large pots, you're liable to make costly mistakes.
Your best strategy in this situation greatly depends on the players you're against.
How to Play KK Pre-Flop
How you choose to play the hand pre-flop will dictate the choices you'll have to make post-flop. Your goal with KK in early position pre-flop is to take control of the pot and gather information about your opponents' hands.
The ABC way to play this hand is to open with a raise. Raising from early position pre-flop gives your opponents the impression you have a premium hand.
This gives you fold equity and generally wins you the pot on a continuation bet.
Typically, players that call your pre-flop raise here have a weaker hand and are hoping to out-flop you and "crack your hand" for a large pot.
These players are hoping for a "way ahead or way behind" situation and are willing to fold if they end up behind on the flop.
Unless you flop a monster or are up against a weak opponent who can't fold his cards, you typically don't want to have any opponents call your bets down to the river.
If all you have is an overpair, you don't have a hand that warrants playing a big pot. Use pot control to keep the pot small-to-medium in size.
A limp-reraise is a commonly used option in this case. The player in early position limps with his kings and waits for another player to raise. When the action comes back around, he then makes a large reraise.
The problem with this technique is it's only effective against very loose or reckless opponents. A limp-reraise is a display of colossal strength. Any decent player automatically assumes your most likely hands are AA, KK, QQ and maybe A-K or JJ.
In other words, a limp-reraise with KK always sees AA call or move all-in and rarely sees any other hands call. It's not uncommon to see players fold QQ or JJ to a limp-reraise.
The second drawback to a limp-reraise is you build a very large pot and are forced to play out of position for the remainder of the hand.
The final catch with a limp-reraise is the risk no one else in the hand will put in a raise.
In general, unless you're up against a maniac or you have a tricky enough table image that other players can realistically put you on more hands than the top 3-5, a limp-reraise should be avoided.
Your other option with pocket Kings in early position is to limp then call if someone raises. This is the exact opposite of "correct ABC play" and should only be used to mix things up.
If no one raises you'll head to a flop with multiple opponents and no information on hands. In this situation you want to play a small pot as chances are you're behind.
If someone raises and you're one of the only callers, you're in decent shape. Chances are you're going into the flop with the best hand and the strength of your hand is well-disguised.
Unfortunately, it's hard to find a flop you're really going to like.
How to Play KK on the Flop
One of the things to take to heart is the correlation between your post-flop options and the way you played your hand preflop. Since it would take up a lot of space to list every possible flop and situation, we've sorted the possible flops into a few major groups.
Here are some examples of those flops and what they mean to you:
You Flop a Monster
K K 9 9 2 2
In a situation like this you've flopped the nuts. The only thing you have to worry about is getting the most money into the pot as possible. If you raised pre-flop, your best option is to open with a bet.
More often than not your opponent will fold. But the times you do get a call or get someone to play back at you will make it worthwhile.
If you limped into the pot, you can take your pick of betting or letting your opponent take the lead. Best-case scenario is he has AA or AK and he thinks he's trapping you.
If you limp-reraised, you're probably not going to get paid. Only a person with a set of nines or twos and who hopes you have AA or AK can pay you.
You might get lucky though and get an overly aggressive player with AK willing to call some bets.
The Flop Brings an Ace
A A 10 10 9 9
This situation can be somewhat tricky. If you're holding KK on a flop similar to the one above, you have nothing but a middle pair.
If You Limped In: If you limped into this pot with multiple players along for the ride you want to completely give up on the idea of playing a big pot with this hand.
In a limped pot, especially at low limits, it's almost certain that any player with an ace made it to the flop. Play the hand the same you would if you were holding a pair of tens with no kicker.
If You Went in with an Open-Raise: If you went into this pot by opening with a raise, you have to be a little worried. But you shouldn't be ready to simply throw the hand away just yet as the range of a player who calls your raise includes a large number of hands still behind you.
Again, you're not looking to play a large pot with this hand. The only two real mistakes you could make would be:
- To completely give up without your opponent showing any strength
- To three-bet your way into a large contested pot.
Try to take the pot here. If your opponent wants to stick around, shut down and keep the pot small. Be willing to fold but don't fold light (meaning if the odds are attractive enough, calling small bets may be worthwhile).
If You Reraised: If you reraised and head to this flop you can greatly narrow down your opponent's range.
There's a very small chance he has AA (but most players would have moved all-in preflop when you reraised, plus with the A on the flop, odds are slim).
There's also a large chance he has QQ, JJ or AK. Although there are several hands your opponent could have, depending on his style of play, more often than not these three hands will be his range.
If he has QQ or JJ, he's worried about AA, KK and AK. If he has JJ, add QQ to that list. This means there's a very good chance you can take down the pot with a bet.
Unless you have a very good reason to do so, you should never call or reraise an opponent who raises this bet. If your opponent just calls this bet, you should also be worried. There aren't too many hands that can call this bet that you beat.
If he has QQ or JJ and calls, chances are he wants to keep the pot as small as possible. This will work in your favor.
If, on the other hand, your opponent is showing no sign of weakness and is willing to call, raise and bet into you, you should be willing to back down.
Even though there's always a chance he's bluffing a pot like this is typically not worth making a hero call. Your investment is still small and you really don't have all that strong of a hand.
If someone wants to bluff you here, chances are you should let them.
You Flop an Overpair
2 2 10 10 9 9
When you flop an overpair, far more often than not you have the best hand. If you limped into this pot there's still a very good chance you're ahead but any players that call bets in this limped pot should be suspect.
They either have a draw, top pair or a smaller overpair or they flopped something huge (like a set). Proceed with caution.
If you raised or reraised your way into this pot, chances are good you have the best hand. There are very few hands you have to worry about in the range of the players that call your raise.
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Unfortunately, though, you will see opponents make the same bets with QQ here as they would if they flopped a set. Which means you're frequently going to win a small pot, sometimes win a large one, and on occasion lose a large one.
Unless you really know the other players, at low-limit games it's almost impossible to get away from a set. Too many players overplay their hands and are willing to move all-in here with A10, a draw such as KQ or a pair like JJ.
Since there are more of these hands possible than sets or two pairs (and aces), you more often than not simply pay your opponent when he has a set.
KK Should Make You Money
The biggest problem with playing KK in early position is the tendency you'll find yourself in a "way ahead or way behind" situation on the flop.
In these situations you're going to win and lose multiple large pots. But unless you're making a lot of mistakes, KK should make you large amounts of money in the long run.
The best way to maximize the profit of the hand is to keep the pots small where your hand is vulnerable. If you can do this, you'll make money hand over first from the cowboys.
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