MCU poker tip: Are kings almost as profitable as aces?

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Even in no-limit hold 'em, a pair of aces and a pair of kings are two completely different types of starting hands. Yet you’ve probably seen them lumped together and defined as the most profitable hands, to be played the same way before the flop.

Even many hold ’em professionals and experts group a pair of aces and a pair of kings together as the best premium starting hands. That’s a mistake.

The truth

Kings are nowhere near as profitable as aces in hold ’em. Although the difference is much slighter between lower-ranking adjacent pairs, such as between eights and sevens, there’s a very large gap between aces and kings in terms of profit when played correctly.

In fact, despite what you might have heard, just calling with aces when first to act in a full-handed no-limit game earns slightly more profit than raising! That’s not always true with a pair of kings (although calling with them early is frequently the best choice — just like with aces). The difference arises because aces can more safely be played deceptively and can more easily trap opponents who may do the raising for you. Therefore, despite the option to profitably just call with kings, I tend to raise with them more often than with aces in early seats.

The real kings

To phrase it strangely, but correctly: In hold 'em hierarchy, aces are the kings and kings aren’t.

Averaging all situations together, figure aces to be worth about 40 percent more than kings, when played at a skillful level. This means that a pair of aces is all alone in a separate starting hand category.— MC


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Mike Caro

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mikecaro FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/caro.mike Known as the "Mad Genius of Poker," Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority of poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full biography at Poker1.com.

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    1. Well you figure an ace flops 17% of the time you don’t have one. Either you lose or its hard to make a decent profit. I almost would guess 40% is on the slightly low side.

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