A friend and student called me up in a bit of a funk, and lucky for him I offer coaching and poker therapy at reasonable prices. We met a while ago when I was giving a group class down near MD Live! casino.  He is a thinking player with a tight and aggressive (TAG) style.  The unfortunate thing is he had been on a recent downswing.  He claims he was still making logical decisions, but he had been bitten by variance and was in a lot of pain from it.

He was $1,600 deep at $2-$5 with pocket Kings.  A solid hand, good for a raise from any position.  He opens for $20 from middle position.  A loose passive player calls from the button and then a tightish regular from the Big Blind makes it $80 to go.

Hero tanks.

Hero folds.

We might convince ourselves we are not letting tilt get the better of us, but when a solid player like this is laying down Kings

  • Pre-flop,
  • In position,
  • 300+ BB deep
  • To a standard squeeze
  • In a game where people are known to “3-bet with anything”

I know he is not thinking rationally.  He might think he is, but he is not.  What was his Monsters Under The Bed thought process and how can he be made to see the mistake for himself?

He thinks the Big Blind has exactly this range:

  • AA – 6 combinations
  • AKs- 2 combinations
  • QQ – 4 combinations (discounted because Villain would sometimes flat)

Putting all this into account he rightly assesses that he is behind that range.  It is 47.6% to 52.4% so he ended up folding preflop.

The pain is worse because the hand gets to showdown and the Big Blind won with QQ.  The really sad thing is that the flop was:

K♣ Q♥ 6♣

My student missed out on a set over set situation $1,600 deep because he would not call the three-bet to $80.  This is result-oriented thinking, but my student made a few mistakes in thinking here.  I asked him exactly the right question to make him see the mistake for himself.

“Would you have called with 77?”

Yes, he would have called with Sevens and tried to flop a set.  He then says, “Why would I call with 77 but fold KK?  That is ridiculous!”

Even if he was playing as logically as possible, he was still filled with fear.  The fear was that KK has reverse implied odds vs AA on most flops that are Queen high or less.  With 77 though if he misses he knows he will not lose any more money. He did not want to get stacked again after a month of awful luck.  I know, I have been there myself.  I have seen those monsters under the bed.  Well, I did not actually see them, but I heard them and they sounded hungry.

So, then I asked him another question.

“If you had the discipline to fold pre-flop because you thought you were behind, would you have had the discipline to fold later?”

Yes, he would have had the discipline.  Then Hero thought about what happens if he calls the three-bet.  The Button is likely to close the action by calling with a wide range.

AK: The regular is unlikely to continuation bet with AK unless he hits.  The Big Blind would lose a lot of money with AK if the case King finds his way into the flop, and Hero is not losing much if an Ace flops.  There are no reverse implied odds versus AK, rather there are some really nice implied odds when the case-King hits the flop.

AA vs KK: Yes there are some reverse implied odds here.  Hero is likely going to pay off a street of value on the flop, but is only a 6:1 dog by the time the turn comes out.  He will likely know exactly what the Big Blind has and what to do about it on the turn.  There are some nice implied odds if a King does come out by the turn.  He will lose some money in this matchup, but you are supposed to.

QQ vs KK: Now the implied odds come our way and the Villain in the Big Blind is unlikely to push QQ for value on the turn even if they are an overpair still.  We won’t likely get three streets of value from this matchup, but we will do just fine.

I am not saying that Hero should simply “try to flop a set with Kings” and play set-or-jet on the flop. There are few players so tight that you can soul read and fold KK, in position, 300+ big blinds deep, in position.  Hold your nose and call.

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Showing 7 comments
  • Eager Student

    Hi Doug,

    Great article. I played regularly in a nit fest day game in LV for three months and got stacked several times with KK vs AA against these NITs. It made me gun shy, but I learned a lot.

    I have since folded KK pre-flop twice because my passive opponent limped in early position and limp 3bet big. Both times I put opponent on AA and was right both times. Other times I called and lost my stack.

    There have been a few times where my opponent limp 3bet and I called because the stacks were deep and opponent had over 20 times the raise amount I necessary to call. Usually I missed and folded my small pair, but a few times I hit a set and got stacks in on the flop against an over pair.

    Appreciate your books, articles and videos!

    Thank you,
    Eager Student

  • Eileen Sutton

    Great stuff, Doug. Folding. Geez. I would have 4-bet the BB. But what do I know 🙂 I stacked off pre flop the other night with pocket aces. Villain had kings and turned a set. Such is poker.

    Questions: I know there are 6 combos of any pair. Where do your other 2 numbers come from?And why are the Qs “discounted”? Thanks so much.

    AA – 6 combinations
    AKs- 2 combinations
    QQ – 4 combinations (discounted because Villain would sometimes flat)

  • Doug

    Thank you for the kind words.
    Even though there are more combos, we say they are discounted because actions earlier in the hand would have removed some combos.

    So because sometimes with QQ, Villain would have flat called pre-flop not all the combos are in his raising range. This is quesswork, but it gets us close.

    • Bryggern

      Eileen, there are 16 combinations of two cards that are not equal, 12 offsuited and 4 suited. There can only be 2 suited combinations of AK suited, when you hold two kings in your hand.
      QQ discounted explained below by Doug.

  • Kevin C

    Great article Doug!

    I think hero’s assumptions of villains 3bet range are off imo.

    AA-6, KK-1, AK-8. I don’t understand why he thinks tag villain would only 3bet AKs and not AKo.

    My math worked out that flatting QQ mw vs a tag pfr is probably correct while it’s correct to 3bet QQ mw vs a loose passive pfr. So given this I’m discounting QQ from tag villain’s 3bet range.

    Any thoughts on my assumptions Doug? Thank you for all your knowledge and I’ll be signing up in 2-3 months once the bankroll starts rolling in :). Choo Choo!!

  • Doug Hull

    I just know I ain’t folding kings pre that easily.

  • Ac3JuL

    With 300 BB deep you should never ever fold KK, even if you’re 100% sure you’re against AA. You have the odds to setmine as long as the SPR is higher than 6.