Folding pocket kings before the flop in no-limit hold’em is such a rare event, it almost seems like it would be too obscure to merit much attention when discussing tournament strategy.
Then again, when it does happen, it highlights a number of fundamental principles of poker, including understanding position, recognizing the significance of stack sizes and other contextual factors relevant to the tournament, being aware of history with a particular opponent, and, of course, knowing how to use other available information to narrow that opponent’s range.
Thinking back through many years of tournament reporting, I can recall exactly one instance of watching a player fold pocket kings before the flop, and it happened in the World Series of Poker Main Event.
It was late on Day 2c of the 2013 WSOP Main Event, the last level of the night, in fact. The blinds were 600/1,200 with a 200 ante, and Yevgeniy Timoshenko opened with a raise to 2,700 from the hijack. Chris Tryba then made it 5,700 to go from the cutoff, and the action moved to Jackie Glazier on the button who four-bet to 9,400.
All three players had more than 100,000 to start the hand, which meant there was a lot of room for preflop shenanigans. That said, a cold four-bet certainly signaled strength. Then the blinds and Timoshenko all folded, and Tryba slowly put in another reraise to 22,700. After sitting for quite a while, Glazier reraised again, too, making it 36,000 to go.
Those of us watching didn’t have a lot of time to think about what was happening after Glazier’s six-bet, as Tryba very quickly reraised again, this time to 70,000. That’s when Glazier went deep into the tank, taking a couple of minutes to think about what to do next.
Finally she pushed her hand to the dealer to fold, and Tryba immediately showed Glazier that whatever she had, she’d chosen well as he had . She said she had folded , and it was clear to all that she had.
In an interview later she discussed how it had marked the very first time she’d ever folded pocket kings before the flop. It was a highlight of what turned out to be a deep run for Glazier that year, one lasting all of the way to Day 6 and a 31st-place finish.
Last week during the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure came another instance of a player finding a preflop fold with pocket kings. Two-time World Poker Tour champion Darren Elias managed the feat in a hand versus Jeff Gross in the $25,000 High Roller event.
The hand came during Level 12 (blinds 1,200/2,400, ante 300), and started with an UTG raise from Jean-Pascal Savard to 5,600. Gross then reraised to 16,400 from the cutoff, and Elias four-bet to 34,500 from the button. The blinds and Savard folded, then after a pause Gross five-bet to 64,000.
Elias had but 87,500 behind, and took a long time before finally folding — and briefly showing — his . Unlike Tryba at the WSOP, Gross didn’t show his hand, although did add afterwards “I had an ace.”
Elias spoke with our Sarah Herring about the fold afterwards. Take a look:
Note how Elias mentions that with about 50 big blinds (actually less than that), he believes it was the shallowest he’d ever been when folding kings, suggesting that it is something he’s done before.
Have you ever folded pocket kings before the flop in a tournament? What set of circumstances would there need to be in order to convince you not to play before even seeing the community cards?