Pocket aces and pocket kings, otherwise known as the preflop nuts are the two most profitable starting hands in poker. They are so strong that they should virtually never be folded before the flop and if you play them correctly, they will be a large source of your poker profits.
I will never ever limp pocket aces and kings preflop. In fact, I don’t really limp any hands preflop. I will always make a standard raise before the flop. In a cash game this is usually 3-big blinds, in a tournament where stacks are usually smaller; I will make a smaller raise. Depending on the tightness and aggressiveness of the game I may vary this preflop raise size. Nothing is set in stone.
If someone has limped before me, I will always raise and isolate with pocket aces and kings. I will never limp behind.
If someone has raised it up ahead of me, I will sometimes slowplay but more often I will 3-bet my hand. Usually to 3-4 times the initial raise size.
When To Slowplay Preflop
Let me let you in to a little preflop secret. I will always slowplay pocket aces and kings preflop if the original preflop raiser is a good regular and there is a fish left to act.
Fish are the source of profit in poker and for obvious reasons, you will want to play as many pots as possible with them. By playing your pocket aces deceptively you achieve two things in this situation.
- You get to play a pot with the fish.
- You get to play a hand deceptively against a good player.
There are two other situations where i will slowplay pocket aces and kings preflop against my opponents, these are:
- The preflop raiser folds to 3-bets an extreme amount of the time, thus making it better to slowplay because by 3-betting your opponent will fold so often.
- There is an aggressive player left to act who will likely make a 3-bet squeeze play.
These situations don’t come up that often, so most of the time I am 3-betting and playing my pocket aces and pocket kings fast before the flop. That being said, you should keep your eyes peeled for situations like this where you can perhaps squeeze more value out of your hand by just calling preflop.
When To Fold Pocket Aces Postflop
In general, when you have pocket aces and kings, you will want to continue betting for value almost always. The only exceptions are:
- The board gets scary.
- A passive player shows aggression when you bet.
Although the above are over generalizations, they are somewhat accurate as a guide when to fold pocket aces and kings or at least play them more cautiously.
Let’s have some examples. Say you raise preflop and your opponent calls. The flop comes down 7d 6c 8d. You make a continuation bet and your opponent calls. The turn comes down a flush completing card or a card that makes 4 to a straight. In this situation you will have to play your pocket aces very cautiously. Your opponent could have made two pair, a straight or even a flush. Most of the time it is best to check to your opponent and hope that he checks it down with a weak hand. If your opponent bets, chances are they have you beat and you should fold.
Another situation you should fold pocket aces and kings is what your opponent either has a draw or has you crushed. Let’s use the same example as previously, you raise up pocket kings preflop and the flop comes down 7d 6c 8d. You make a continuation bet and your opponent raises. In this situation I see many players making a mistake and losing their whole stack. Assuming stacks are fairly deep, 100 big blinds or deeper, felting here with an overpair is usually bad.
When your opponent has you beat with a set, a flopped straight or two pair you have very little equity. On the other hand, if your opponent is semi bluffing with a flush draw or combo draw, you are flipping against them. In this spot the prudent play is to fold, sure sometimes you fold the best hand but in the long run you save money and avoid getting it in dead.
Playing Passive Opponents
It is important to categorize your opponent as either aggressive or passive. Aggressive players are more likely to bluff, so in general you should fold your strong hands less against them. On the flip side, passive players tend to call more than raise. When you have identified your opponent as passive and he still raises you postflop, chance are that he is not bluffing and in-fact has a very strong hand. Against these players you will want to make big folds and lay down your pocket aces or kings.
Value betting is the act of making a bet with the perceived best hand, whilst trying to get called by a weaker hand from your opponent. With pocket aces and kings, most of your profit will come from value betting and your opponent making a bad call against you.
Some situations will require you to value bet just one street, two streets or all three streets. Whether or not you should value bet should be determined by how the board runs out and how much of a calling station your opponent is. So for example:
- On the board run out 228Q5 with no flushes. You will want to value bet pocket aces and kings on all streets as the preflop raiser. Your opponent is unlikely to have you beat unless he has a fullhouse or quads and the 22 on the board means that you beat all two pairs.
- On a board like QT57J you will most likely want to value bet two streets and check back the river if possible. The reason for this is that on the flop and turn you figure that your hand is good and worse hands will frequently call you. However the river gives many hands that were calling the turn two pair. For example QJ and TJ. On top of that hands like AT and KT that called you on the flop and turn will now fold the river. Depending on your opponent you may or not want to value bet the river. If your opponent is good you will want to check back, most good players will fold hands like KQ and often AQ when you triple barrel. If your opponent does this, it defeats the purpose of betting three streets for value.
Playing Pocket Aces and Kings Profitably
In summary, pocket aces and kings are strong hands. We generally like to bet fold with these hands frequently. What this means is that, unless your opponent gives you a reason to stop betting, we will continue betting. If your opponent raises your bet, well, we will deal with that when it happens. Sometimes you should fold, sometimes you should not, a lot of that is extremely opponent dependent and somewhat out of the scope of this article.
Remember though, the majority of the profit from pocket aces and kings will come from you value betting with the initiative and your opponent making a call with a weaker hand. Therefore it is absolutely imperative that you keep value betting as long as you think your opponent will call you with lots of weaker hands.