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25/11/2005 No.25
he Guardian Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Friday December 9, 2005
How to play poker
(How to play has been running from issue 16)

We have now discussed every sort of ace you can get in a Texas hold 'em starting hand; let's have a little chat about kings

I sometimes think that it should be possible, during any poker game, to make an extra bet on whether or not there will be an ace on the flop. If I'm holding a pair of kings, I reckon the odds are about 2/1. It always bloody turns up to kill your hand.
Naturally, with a pair of kings, you raise or re-raise before the flop. If the flop comes without an ace, you can play your kings the same way as we discussed for a pair of aces: bet them strongly, while keeping an eye out for straights and flushes on the board or opponents who just won't go away.

But what if an ace does appear on the flop? Now you've got two problems. One is that many people like to see the flop with an ace in their hand, so you might well have gone behind. The other is that many people like to bluff an ace-high flop, just in case the raiser hasn't got one.

This is why I would generally check. Betting can get you into trouble: if somebody raises, you don't know if you're being bluffed or not. So it can be more informative to check, and see what your opponent does. If he bets, you can call to take a view on the next card. Or you can choose to believe a conservative opponent, and throw your hand away. Or you can raise. A check-raise is very effective here, as it would take a will of iron to bluff you again. If you check-raise, and get called or re-raised, then you are 90% likely to be losing. At least you know where you are.

As for non-paired kings in your starting hand, obviously, AK is very strong. You also want to see a flop with KQ. You can call with KJ or K10 of the same suit - looking to make two pair on the flop, or a straight or a flush, or a big draw. If you make one pair, it probably ain't good enough.

And other kings? K9 and downwards? Sorry ... in the bin.