Sunday, January 22, 2006

Folding KK

The conventional wisdom is that, in a cash game (as opposed to a tournament), KK should practically never be folded before the flop. In Harrington on Holdem Volume I, Dan Harrington describes a time that he almost folded them, but then decided to call anyway. He claims to have never folded KK before the flop.

I've folded KK before the flop once in my life, back in college against my old roommate Ben. I now think it was a bad decision, although Ben insists that he did, indeed, have AA (I'm not entirely sure he's telling me the truth, though). Anyway, I almost folded KK again yesterday at the Rio, and after analyzing the situation more closely, I'm still not sure what I should have done.

Here's the situation. Playing 2-5 NL, I was in the small blind with about $800. The under-the-gun player, who had exactly $332 left, raised to $25. He was tight and rather passive, an I hadn't seen him do anything out of line in the couple of hours we had been there. So already I knew he had to have a premium hand.

The next player had over $1000 behind. He was loose and aggressive, and raised to $100. I figured him for AQ or better, TT or better. Everyone folded to me, and I looked down at KK. I decided that I very likely had the best hand, but that the UTG player also had to have an excellent hand, and was likely to put in the rest of his money if I just called. This was my best chance of getting the loose-aggressive player's money into the pot. So, instead of reraising, which is the usual play, I just cold-called the $100. The big blind folded, and, as expected, the UTG player went all-in for his last $232. He did this so confidently and uncaringly that I felt he very likely had AA.

The loose aggressive player spent a minute or so considering his play, and made the comment "I'm either going all-in or folding," essentially eliminating the chance he had AA... so at this point I was really hoping he pushes all-in. Alas, he folded, accidentally flashing two face cards that I thought were JJ (he confirmed this after the hand). In any case, he certainly was not holding an ace.

Now the action was back to me. I am reasonably confident the UTG player has AA, but can I really lay down KK? I was being offered 232 to 533 odds. This means I need to think I have about a 30% chance to win the hand to make calling correct. If he has AA I am only about 18 or 19% to win the hand. In my mind at the time, I was thinking that if he didn't have AA, I was about 80% to win. After further analysis, I think that if he didn't have AA, I was really only about 75% to win, but I was pretty close. (The 75% statistics was calculated with pokerstove, assuming the other possible hands he could have were 88-KK, ATs+, KQs, or AKo. Adding in a few hands like 78s doesn't change things much.) I decided to call, but expected to see him turn over AA... which is exactly what happened.

Anyway, doing the math shows that I needed to be 79% confident that my opponent was holding AA to make folding correct. Was I that confident? Uh... I dunno, I've always found it hard to put numbers on these things. I actually think I was about 80% sure he had AA. So, maybe folding would have been correct after all.


Ben said...

I had AA!

F.J. Delgado said...


I was playing in a game last summer in Neverland, and (unbeknownst to me at the time), I got cold-decked by the people who ran the home game.

I got dealt KK in the small blind, and an amateur in middle position called after a limper.

I raised to $75 (out of the small blind, which was $5 in a $5/$10 blind game), BB folded, a loose young kid cold called - he had been UTG and limped first to act -(he was short-stacked and acting sketchy) with only $200 or so remaining.

The amateur cheat re-raised all in for about $2000, which had me barely covered.

Now, this is a standard, JV play. But, what tipped me off about the dude's hand was the following: he kept staring at the kid with only $200, and NOT at me, the original raiser with $1500+ in front of him. This screamed to me that he had AA. I announced to everyone watching the hand that I was tossing a monster, showed KK, and sent it flying into the muck.

The dealer, the club owners, and everyone involved in the hustle must have been kicking themselves. Especially when my easy read turned out to be dead right.

AA ended up hammering QT off, and my lucky ass ended up saving more than 1500.

Moral of the story: I am no one's bitch. That was the third time I have folded KK in a medium sized No-Limit cash game.

Twice I was right, the other time, I folded to QQ.

The guy who pulled the AA cold-deck stunt was the same guy who rooted on Steve Dannenman at the 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event to a 2nd place finish on national television.

Keith said...

Whoa, nice lay down. How did you find out they were cheating? Why is Dannenman hanging out with this cheater?

Interestingly, you were only 2/3 in your reads in folding KK. I needed to be 80% sure, to make folding correct. So, even if my read were as strong as your reads were when you folded those three times, it would STILL have been correct for me to call.

However, with a raise, reraise, coldcall, and another reraise in front of me, I had a lot more information on my opponent's hand than you did... so my read should have been stronger than yours, at least based on the betting.

WK said...

how does the other guy looking at the short stacked player scream AA?


adspar said...

How do you know they were cheating? That's a serious claim, maybe you ought to explain.

Alex said...

Really, that's a serious claim...and I believe the current punishment for lying in a poker blog post is death, so you better explain yourself in a hurry...(note: I don't think that you're lying, and if you are, I don't care. But apparently some others do...)

adspar said...

I don't think he's lying, but I'm curious to see if and how he knows for sure that he was cheated. If he is sure, it would be very interesting to hear that story too. If he just suspects the cheating, I'd be curious to know what else happened.

Laugh if you like, but it is irresponsible to present suspicions as facts, regardless of the communication medium.

F.J. Delgado said...

i know all of this to be true... every home game is crooked to some extent (just stating the obvious, not offering that as support for my claim).

i will gladly defend my rationale and facts in person, but over the internet, I would rather make the claim without calling out too many of the people who were involved without hearing their side of the story first.

anyone who wants comfirmation/supporting facts is more than welcome to e-mail me or call me.