Inside the Poker Tour (35)
By now many readers of this column know that I am not a fan of throwing kings away before the flop. The problem is that by the time you know you are likely against aces it is too late! Usually you are now getting the correct odds to put your remaining money into the pot. A well-known French player laid down Kings in a dramatic confrontation with Howard Lederer after some raises early in an event in Paris a few years ago and went on to final table, outlasting Howard. He laid the kings down for 3,000T or so, but the pot was over 16,000T (as the hand was described to me) so unless you want to put the final results in my grill how can you justify that?
In the main event at Tunica in 2005 on day one I witnessed an incredible hand right at a break, many minutes into the break by the time it had played out. I believe the blinds were at 100-200 with a 25 ante at the time. Eric Seidel raised to 600T with a big stack from near the front (seat two) and Howard Lederer re-raised to 1600T as the chip leader in the event from seat five, when it came back to Eric he re-re-raised to 4500T and now the ball was in Howard's court. Howard thought for several minutes before finally re-re-re-raising to 11,000T. Eric moved all-in and when Howard called he turned up AA, Howard held KK. The flop brought a king and Eric walked sickly to exit. "Sorry," I offered to him. "I would have called me too with Bub's hand," he replied through a smile while gritting his teeth. Now Howard was in a spot to lay Kings down as he had over 40,000T and was against 30,000T plus, when Eric made it 4500T, alternatively he could have called and seen the flop, but instead decided to press forward emphatically by putting more chips into the pot. The only way he is going to lose the hand is to fold the kings before the flop arrives.
One can contrive the situation where you throw kings away before the flop and it might even come up in a real money game, but it seldom comes up in a tournament. Especially in the modern game where aggression and attacking through re-raises are common.
David Grey told me he laid down kings three times before the flop in one day! If true that is surely a record that will likely stand forever. David is one of a very few players that I consider to be astute enough at reading other players hands that he is capable of correctly mucking kings before the flop, but three times in one day?
Years ago there were many more examples of laying hands down correctly. One of the most famous was at the final table of the Tournament of Champions where David Chiu raised as the chip leader and Louis Asmo re-raised all-in with the second largest stack (representing AK or QQ, as though he hoped to not get action with those type of hands, he later told me) and David mucked the KK face-up and so Louis showed AA. That was an impressive laydown at the time, but much more often a mistake these days.
Casey Kastle made one of those mistakes in the 2004 LAPC main event at the Commerce and it haunted him for days afterward. They had just arrived at the final table of ten players and an average chip stack was 345,000T with blinds of 8,000T-16,000T and 2,000T antes, Antonio Esfandiari was the chip leader with about 660,000T, and the standard bring-in raise was to 50,000T. Casey had 345,000T and in first position looked down at KK and brought it in for 45,000T and the player behind him that had only moved all-in for the past few hours moved all-in again with 440,000T, after a few more players it came to JC Tran who stood up and thought for several minutes, finally moving his stack of 365,000T into the pot with the action returning to Casey and his remaining 300,000T. If Casey calls there will be 1,079,000T in the middle pot (the pot he can win) and to quote him "I had no reason to think that aces were out. I just made a bad laydown thinking that I had plenty of chips still to play and that one of these times the all-in player would surely have aces. (They both held QQ and split the pot.) David Sklansky was postulating what the chances are that someone held aces in this scenario the following day, but I agree with Casey that in this situation it was not mathematical. I then made the mistake of showing the kings as I mucked them." (and so got a lot of unwanted criticism.)
To add further insult to this story Casey picked up kings exactly one round later in first position and made it 45,000T to go again and Bill Gazes moved all-in with his stack of 280,000T with 88, Casey called and it came 8 on the turn and Casey was gone.
The bottom line here is that I am saying that laying down kings before the flop is rarely correct and if you have any doubts whatsoever about taking such action that you are better off risking your tournament life with this hand as you are unlikely to get a better one. After the flop is a different story, of course.
In the Bahamas at Pokerstars III on flight A of day one I held kings on the third hand of the tournament and was gifted a large sum. The button raised it to 200T behind one late position limper over a big blind of 50T, I held KK in the little blind and made it 550T with the button calling. It came AK9 rainbow and I bet out 800T, assuming that I am unlikely to get any action from QQ or JJ or 10-10 but holding some hope that my opponent has AK or 99. He calls and the turn brings the 4 of hearts, leaving two hearts on board and I bet 2200. He calls and I now have him on AK, or AhQh, and the river is another 9. Hoping that I am against AK I bet 5,000 and he calls, mucking quickly when he sees my hand.
Later in the day I call some re-raises and regret every decision. The first time I hold 99 in the cutoff and make it 350T over a big blind of 100T and the button, who is playing tight, re-raises to 1000T. I call and it comes A82 followed by check check. A 6 on the turn with no suits and I bet 2000T thinking he might muck JJ or QQ but he now makes it 4000T and I am forced to muck as I have to give him AA. He now has the chip lead.
During the next round I make it 600T over a big blind of 200T from the button and the young kid in the big blind, clearly an internet player announces raise, eventually making it 2100T. I call and double him up after the flop comes 7c6c3c and find that he repopped it with Kc4c. He is up to 7500T when the next hand comes upI raise it to 600T again from the cutoff with AQ off and he announces raise from the little blind this time, again making it 2100T. I thought he looked a bit more alert this time but I have 19,000T and given our relative chips decide to take a flop, which comes Q73 and he bets 2600T with me moving him all-in. He holds QQ and a few rounds later I dip below 10,000T for the second time in the tournament. Only the third dip takes me lower on my final hand as I go out 57th on day four, in the usual way, losing a race. Sigh.
So, til next time play good...and get lucky!
Ed Note: Play KK for all your chips at Everest Poker