Can I fold KK preflop?

by ~ July 15th, 2009. Filed under: Instructional posts, Poker theory.

Occasionally we find ourselves in a situation where we have KK and for whatever reason the thought crosses our mind that we should consider folding it preflop. The most common situation is where a number of factors come together, such as

  1. Reads that indicate players are are very tight,
  2. Initial raise comes from very early position,
  3. Preflop action and aggression from more than one player,

all factors that might indicate that our opponent, or at least one of them, might be holding AA, in which case we’re a big underdog.

Straight off, the odds that we hold KK and another player holds AA at a nine player table is 3.9%, or only in 1 out of 24.5 times that we have KK will one opponent hold AA. For a six max table the numbers are 2.4% and 40 to 1. Is this one of those times, or one of the other 24.5 times?

Lets look at it combinatorially. If our opponent will play the same way with AA/KK/AK/QQ, then what are the chances that he holds each of these?

  • 6 combinations of AA: 81 – 19 dog
  • 1 combination of KK (because we hold two Ks)
  • 6 combinations of QQ: 81 – 19 fav
  • 8 combinations of AK (because we hold two Ks): 69 – 31 fav

PokerStove says overall we’re a 57.2 – 42.8 favorite. Even if you remove QQ, we’re only a 52.7 – 47.3 underdog. And consider the money that has likely gone into the pot already. If you raised to 3 big blinds, your opponent re-raised to say 10, you reraised to 25 and he pushes all-in, if you both started with 100 big blinds the pot is 150 big blinds and you only have 75 left. Sure you need to win 33% of the time and KK is a 81-19 dog to AA, but you have to be extremely sure that he is so tight/passive that he never does this with AK or QQ or never as an over-representation with JJ or TT or AQ to be able to fold KK here. Without reads to guarantee your opponent holds AA, you have to get it all in with KK.

There’s one more situation where I might consider folding KK preflop. It’s a bubble situation where we are short, one or more other players involved are also short, and there is heavy action (increasing the odds that we get outdrawn by two pair or trips). If that bubble is very important, say as in a satellite situation, I might consider folding KK and even AA to avoid risking being outdrawn and to avoid going out on the bubble. If you want to see the results in action, try playing some play money freerolls. There you’ll see times where 4-7 players are all-in on the first hand and watch AA or KK get hammered by an 85 or 32 that hits a full house.

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2 Responses to Can I fold KK preflop?

  1. Pat

    Completely agree with your final paragraph on folding on the bubble *just in case*. It’s always tough to fold a strong pair preflop and you’ll never know for sure.

    This is an interesting video: involving folding KK.

  2. PokerAnon

    Yeah, I don’t know that I’ve ever done so. I know that I’ve not been able to fold AK short near the bubble, and where the bubble was more important to me than normal. In general, bubbles are not that important though except for situations like satellites where the bubble is everything.

    A few minutes ago I shoved AQs from the button in a 210FPP satellite at the final table over an under the gun limp from the biggest stack. Reason being that the two players in the blinds were short and I didn’t think that they should get to see a flop. Under the gun player was pretty bad; something like 46/0 over 50 hands. I didn’t really want or need to risk going out at this point as the second biggest stack but I was annoyed at the idiot play of the big stack. Bad play on my part against the big stack, but I was annoyed. He folds.

    Later he confirms his lack of understanding by getting involved 3 way with a short stack all in preflop on the bubble, and he bets the river with nothing, fortunately losing to the other player who was in and who had paired something but checked down and took out the bubble player.

    I watched the video. It’s similar to the hand Phil Gordon talks about where he folded KK and Mike Matusow folded QQ preflop to Phil Helmuth’s AA and Helmuth complained that he never gets action with AA; until Matusow and Gordon showed him what they folded and then Helmuth was incredulous. You reaallly need reads to fold KK preflop, and I don’t have the confidence in my reads to allow myself to do so.

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