Poker Trouble Spots: KK in Early Position Part 2

Pocket kings

Playing a large pocket pair such as KK in early position can be tricky for beginner poker players.

The first part of this article went over your various preflop options with KK. If you haven't read part one, you can check it out here.

How to Play KK on the Flop

One of the things to take to heart from this article 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


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 preflop, your best option is to open with a bet.

Michael Tureniec
Pretty much always good to flop the nuts.

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


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.

Gus Hansen
If an Ace hits multiway, you probably have to fold.

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:

  1. To completely give up without your opponent showing any strength
  2. 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.

Jennifer Tilly
Be willing to fold, but don't fold light.

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


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.

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.

Daniel Negreanu
Keep the pot small when you're vulnerable and you'll be alright.

Too many players overplay their hands and are willing to move all-in here with A T, a draw such as K Q or a pair like J J.

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.

Key Takeaways

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.

Related strategy articles:

Please fill the required fields correctly!

Error saving comment!

You need to wait 3 minutes before posting another comment.

david 2015-02-19 02:39:20

how much should be bet if a Ace flops? he says not to "3 bet to a large contested pot". so do you min bet? check and call?

TommyGun 2011-11-03 10:15:45

Davey.. Ofcourse its a legitimate strategy. Just look at the hands you were up against. Pre-flop you got your money in good on every occasion but unfortunately got outdrawn. We all know this crap happpens. Over the long run you are going to be a winner. Dont start beating yourself up over such decisions. You got your money in good, you were ahead when all the money went in, so well done.

R. 2011-07-05 14:55:17

Scott - in this position youre only gonna get called when you are behind, so no point in going all in, shoulda made a small raise or check, to see if anyone has anything, most players with the nuts cant handle if everyone checs the flop and so they bet on the turn to get value in it.

Davy 2010-10-11 06:11:24

I shoved all in pre-flop with KK today, lost to TT (T board), then lost to JJ (stray straight), then lost to A4 (A board), and lastly lost to JJ (J board) all 1v1. That's a lot of money gone in a day. Is shoving KK a legitimate strategy at all?

Sean Lind 2010-01-20 20:16:07


The all in's not a horrible play, but it's not great either. Really, no one's ever going to call your bet unless they have a queen. You might bet called by Jacks or Ace-10, but those are unlikely.

Unfortunately you're short stacked, so you're moves are limited. You should have raised pre, with stacks that size there's no need to get fancy preflop. If your opponents have any sort of hand, they'll call or ship on your raise preflop.

Only in a deep-stacked scenario should you consider not raising KK from under the gun really.

Scott Kerner 2010-01-20 05:41:35

I recently had KK in early position (1st to act after BB). I was one of seven at the table. Blinds were about 12x their starting value (300-600) and I had about 60% of my starting stack value. My normal play would have been to RAISE maybe somewhere between 2000-2400. However, there were two agressive players behind me, one of which (at minimum) I expected would re-raise the pot at which point I would have RE-RAISED I limp in for 600. It turns out, they both limp in and the SB and BB simply call 600. I realized the danger I was in against a flop potentially containing an Ace. But, the flop shows Q-Q-T. This is where I need the help. My move was all-in. The next player calls me and everyone else folds. He had Q-Ts in the hole....SOB flopped a full house. Obviously I know the odds of that are about 1/10 of 1%, but I am wondering if my all-in was a good play of not. Should I have just checked instead?


Sorry, this room is not available in your country.

Please try the best alternative which is available for your location:

Close and visit page