Why Don’t I Play KQo? Pre-Flop Thinking in Texas Hold’Em

In another article we mentioned that KQo is not a particularly great hand (well, actually KJo, but they are pretty much the same). This surprised many players, especially new players. Two very high cards, how could it not be a good hand? It’s not unplayable, but it’s not great, and many poker books will back us up on that. But why? As a good poker player, you should not simply trust any book or article you read. Here we will discuss the thought processes involved in evaluating the hand. After that you can decide for yourself if KQo is a playable hand.

In the table

In the bonanza 88 full-ring slot game bonus138 KQo has a 16% chance of winning if everyone calls for the showdown. You’ll often see numbers like that quoted, but the truth is they’re not really that helpful unless people do everything. The raw statistical odds of winning with all nine players at showdown aren’t as illuminating as you’ll never actually see a showdown like that. Even failure with so many players was extremely rare. Even so it puts KQo better than about 90% of all other starting hands, it means at least something.

KQo sits in Group 4 of the Sklansky Group. That’s outside those fine top three groups, but still way ahead of many other hands. Phil Helmuth, in Play Poker Like the Pros recommends usually playing KQ, match or not, but it’s still a pretty weak hand. In Internet Texas Hold’em, Hilger doesn’t even include KQo in his list of hands that can be played from early position, and still recommends folding in late position to a raised pot. So the details may vary, but none of them put a strong recommendation to hand.

Don’t override the table just yet, we need some information there. Specifically, look at all the hands that came before KQo. There are lots of face cards, aces, pairs, and some matching connectors. Keep this in mind. This is the hand you will face.

Pre-fail and fail

Understanding what happens pre-flop is the key to picking an early hand. Who is in the hand, and how much are they betting? Do tight players make raises, or maniacs again with steal attempts? How about the guy in the middle position who is called flat, or the little blind who min-raises? All of this has important consequences, obviously not just for KQo, but in a very important way for KQo. It just so happens that someone like Hilger says KQo can’t be played in early position, because you won’t have enough information to make a decision.

Once you have considered all the actions that occurred before the failure, you are ready to take the next step. No, it does not decide to call or raise. It is considering what happens to failure. Deciding how you will play on the flop will make it easier to decide how you will play pre-flop.

Tight Player

If you have tight players who have placed bets, or so-called raises, you can almost be sure at this point that they have a better hand than you. They will only play the first pair of the Sklanksy group, very high pairs, very matched connectors, and high aces. Besides connectors you already have worse hands.

First, consider a completely missed flop, such as 2♥ 9♦ 7♠. What are you going to do here? In addition to matching connectors, your opponent’s tight hand has you beaten. Maybe a bluff might work if they hold a high ace, but if they hold a pair they are more likely to back out. If you check them, they will bet correctly because they feel they have the best hand. In either case, would you be willing to call knowing that you only have a high king?

Then consider a flop that’s really good for you, like K♥ Q♦ 9♦. If your tight opponent has a queen or king then you’re going to pay a premium here, or do you feel comfortable letting go of the top two pairs when he raises? You have to bet here to find out what they have. When they call you have a problem. Did he happen to be playing JT and flop straight, or maybe he had a flush or a straight draw. After all, they might buy themselves a free river card with the call. Those two extra cards have a good chance of hitting one of their out cards.

Maybe less than half the time you get

ima call or raise. Maybe most of the time he’ll just fold. But what have you won in that case? You don’t get much more than preflop action, which is most likely not high if you only hold KQo. But what is even more disturbing is that in order to collect the pot you have to risk significant stakes knowing that if called, you will likely be beaten.

Freelance Player

Consider this time that you have placed a small pre-flop bet and were raised from a late position by a loose player. Even if you think of it as a bluff to steal your bet, you can’t really be sure. Even maniacs will statistically get a better hand than KQo about 10% of the time. You will fail in this bit blind. Also, is it a passive player, or is it aggressive?

Let’s consider again the same failure as before 2♥ 9♦ 7♠. Are you comfortable now trying to bluff a casual player? You shouldn’t. If they pay attention to the way you play, they may assume that the flop is completely out of your hand, and they are right. Suppose they play total trash, no cards over nine and no pairs. That doesn’t sound bad until you realize it gives them more than 30% of already made a pair — stronger than KQo at this point. Loose aggressive players are likely to bet here regardless of what they had before the flop. Are you willing to call? Remember that any ace beats you at this point as well. Suppose instead it is a passive-loose player. This now works like a tight player, you can bet and he will fold or call with a better hand. He’

Now the flop is K♥ Q♦ 9♦. Against loose KQo players are of course the favorites here, but not always. A loose player can easily call any bet with a straight or even draw. Even worse, an aggressive player, if another diamond comes on the turn or river, will represent a flush with a large stake. But maybe they already have nine? Knowing these players at this point would be a huge advantage. Most aggressive players change, sometimes very little, how they bet on monster hands, draw hands, and trash. Loose-passive players at this point will fold weak hands, but aggressive players can make it very expensive for you. Having courage at this point will be necessary. Equally important is not tilting when he makes his fortune suck and take your money.

Against loose players, you may have to save yourself unless you get the perfect flop. Even when you hit the perfect flop, the pot can grow quickly and test your comfort limits. So before you decide to call preflop, decide if you’re really willing to go all-in against a loose player with a good flop. That doesn’t mean you have to, but if they feel you won’t, they will push it.

Thinking forward

The previous example is not meant to show how weak KQo is. They are meant to illustrate a bit of forethought in your starting hand selection. Don’t just think about whether you have a good hand now, think about how you will play that hand on the flop. You can see that in some situations a good shot doesn’t necessarily make the game easier or risk-free. In some cases you can just fold, but if you do it too often, you will lose a lot of pre-flop bets. For any hand, you have to think about what will happen on the flop. Look around before you pre-flop and consider who might come with you. Whether it will be played live, or multi-way — an even more stressful situation that we don’t consider here. Are you perhaps avoiding the flop and folding good hands, or are you more likely to stick with losing hands? If you are not going to be comfortable playing the flop then it is better to get out of the pre-flop. That is often the fate of KQo.

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