There’s no shortage of discussion about folding pocket Kings on preflop in almost every poker forum.
We’ve seen professionals do it on occasion, but experts always advise against the idea of folding the second-best hand on preflop. Poker, being a game of luck, is highly unpredictable. KK may be the second-best hand, and the chances of another player to wake up with pocket Aces is highly improbable, but not impossible.
To prove that point, we’ve scoured the web to find 14 times when poker professionals fold their pocket Kings. These epic stories show that in poker, anything can happen. Recreational and amateur players could learn a lesson or two when it comes to handling KK as we count these stories down to the best fold of the century.
Why Would Anyone Fold Pocket Kings?
Before we get into the list, let’s find out why folding KK is a big deal for poker players.
Preflop, KK is the second-best hand on the table, only weaker than pocket Aces. In a 6-max poker game, the chance of another player picking up AA is 2.88%, while a 9-player table has a 4.32% chance.
The more players there are in a table, the higher the chances of pocket Kings to lose.
So yes, folding KK is not unfounded, and there will be instances where you’ll have to fold pocket Kings, even on preflop. The chances of this happening are so slim that it’s just dumbfounding to witness how professionals play this hand.
14. Michael Wolf
Professional players are always focused and on track of everything that happens on the table. Losing focus or getting pressured can force you to make decisions that may not be ideal, especially when you have the best hand of the game.
Under-the-gun is Michael Wolf, who wakes up to pocket Kings and immediately bets $3,500. Phil Ivey, with his A-Diamond and 6-Diamond, calls. Peter Ling, who picks up Q-Diamond and J-Spade, also calls to enter the flop.
Wolf already has a comfortable lead, and even with the Q-Spade, 6-Heart, and 9-Heart on the flop, he still has the best hand. Ling, now with improved card strength, makes a bet of $12,000. Wolf, having the best card, played slowly with a flat call. Ivey senses a storm coming and decides to get out of the table.
The turn came up with a 9-Club, and Ling bets $35,000. From here, you’ll notice how Wolf appeared to be quite unsure of his position. A considerable raise from Ling decimates his thought process, and after taking some time, he said something unexpected. I’m gonna give you some respect, Wolf said, before throwing his cards into the muck.
It was a blunder for Wolf because if you go back to the cards, there’s no possible hand that could’ve beaten his pocket Kings. Wolf quickly realizes this and even said, “I have no idea why I fold.”
Top 13: Dennis Baltz
Playing high stakes can put a lot of pressure, even amongst the best players. With too many scenarios running through a player’s mind, multiplied with the intensity of playing on WSOP Main Event, against a good player. Anyone would easily crumble through this environment and make a mistake that could waste an extremely dominant hand. But is it the case for this game?
The game starts with Dennis Baltz waking up to pocket Kings. Greg Raymer, with his pocket Jacks, follows with a $10,000 raise. It was a fast play for Raymer, right off the bat. A lot of experts argue that raising 10k with JJ is an overplay. But, I guess you’ll never know in poker because what happens next proves to be otherwise.
This round should have been an easy all-in for Baltz, but that raise from Raymer put a lot of pressure on him. Baltz quickly folds his pocket Kings, then realized his blunder as soon as Raymer said:
“…it had to be a good fold, because you’re not throwing away aces or kings, right?”
12. Jacky Wang
Folding KK on preflop can only go two ways; either it goes down as the best or worst fold of the tournament. This game happened on Live at the Bike and became the hottest topic in different poker forums for weeks.
The round starts with Garrett Adelstein waking up to A-Diamond and 3-Diamond, who quickly raised to $600. Bill Klein picks up pocket Jacks but decided to play slow and flat call $600. Jacky Wang draws pocket Kings and 3-bets to $3,500.
Garrett makes a 4-bet bluff to $10,000, which leaves Bill in an uncomfortable spot, getting squeezed in between a 3-bet and 4-bet. Anyone would have just let this go, and get back on the next round with a better hand, but not Bill. In this round, he made an unusual move by placing a 5-bet, raising the stakes to $27,000.
It wasn’t an ordinary raise for Bill; it was a back raise that displayed extreme strength with his hand! Bill isn’t notorious for playing aggressively, which puts more pressure on Jacky.
Taking his time and doing a careful calculation, Jacky decided that it would be best to fold his pocket Kings, instead of spending $23,500 for a call. Garrett folds right after, leaving Bill with +$14,100.
The poker community went nuts over this fold, given that Jacky has a stack of $420,600. A call to $23,500 could’ve been a better move for him, but it’s how poker works. Bill Klein had an excellent display of his ingenuity and taught everyone how to get away with JJ.
11. Mike Matusow
There are bad folds that come out of nowhere, but sometimes, there are magnificent bluffs that create bad folds. High Stakes Poker hosted this round between Mike Matusow and Phil Hellmuth, and it went down as one of the best plays of the tournament, leaving everyone speechless.
The game starts with Mike waking up to pocket Kings and raises to $1,800. Everyone on the table folds, except for Phil, who bets $7,000 with a 7-Diamond and 2-Spade! Mike makes a call for $5,200 to enter the flop, which came up with Q-Diamond, 6-Heart, and J-Spade. Both players checked on the flop, and the turn came up with 8-Diamond. Phil raises to $17,000, and this is where things got interesting.
At this point, there are only three hands that can beat Mike’s pocket Kings; trip Jack, trip Queen, and a pair of Aces. Instead of capitalizing on this, Mike decided to call $17,000 and wait for the river, which turned out 6-Club. Phil bets $40,000, and from here, you’ll see so much uncertainty from Mike, who eventually folds his KK.
Both players turned their cards over, and everyone was in shock with how this game panned out. Phil only had one thing to say about one of the best bluffs in the tournament;
“it’s a new game today, boys… it’s a new game!”
Bonus: tonkaaaap (Twitch streamer)
Before we enter the top 10 KK folds, let’s lighten things up a bit with a fold from a Twitch streamer and professional online poker player who goes by the name tonkaaaap. You may have heard of him, but if not, then perhaps his ohyaaaaaaa battle cry, or in this case, his cry for disappointment.
“Ohhh, this is a good hand. Big fan of Kings.”
It was a good start for tonkaaaap waking up to pocket kings with a stack of $102,659. When it’s his turn to place his first bet, tonkaaaap tried to raise to pot size, then accidentally clicks the Fold button. “Ohyaaaaaaa…” That was the last thing he said before going utterly silent for minutes, possibly honoring the death of his pocket Kings.
There’s no reason for it. Just a sheer combination of excitement and rush to raise has led tonkaaaap to waste pocket kings and ruin the rest of his stream that lasted for more than 2 hours. If this can happen to professional streamers, it can happen to everyone. So let’s all try to be calm, composed, and cautious when waking up to KK.
10. Gary Raina
It can be overwhelming when you play against someone who doesn’t speak much. It’s not that you expect players to converse during the game, but when you play against someone who goes by the nickname The Silent Assassin, you know that silence is never a good sign. This game is between Andy Tsai and Gary Raina on Live at the Bike.
Under-the-gun, Andy wakes up to A-Heart and 6-Heart, and raise to $600. Gary, with a $50,000 stack, picks up pocket Kings and makes a 3-bet to $2,500. Andy calls $1,900 to enter the flop, which came up with 7-Spade, 9-Heart, and 2-Diamond.
Gary checks the flop, trying to slow play his pocket kings and get Andy to bet more. His slow play is panning out fine as Andy bets $3,250. Gary keeps his slow phase and calls. Both players brace for the turn, which came up with 4-Diamond.
Keeping his slow play and trying to set traps for his opponent, Gary checks. Andy then makes a surprising $10,000 bet, slowing building up a seemingly dream pot for pocket Kings. Gary calls for the river, which turned up with 2-Heart. Gary checks again, and in a surprising turn of events, Andy goes all-in, which decimates Gary and forces him to fold.
9. Tom Marchese
There are good fast plays, and there are bad fast plays. This game got into our top ten because it had the hand of the night, but the player played too fast, leading to one of the best folds of the century. It was played on Live at the Bike with three players; Tom Marchese, Jennifer Tilly, and Justin Schwartz.
The game starts with Tom waking up to pocket Kings, who immediately raises to $300. Jennifer raised to $800 with her pocket Aces, and Justin called with his pocket 10s. Tom re-raised to $3,000, and without spending a lot of time to think about her next move, Jennifer went all-in.
This part is where everything went spiraling down for Jennifer as Justin folds his TT, followed by Tom’s KK. Folding pocket Kings preflop is a tough decision to make, but it went down as one of the best folds of the century. Holding onto it and playing against AA would’ve been devastating for Tom.
Being notorious for making conservative bets, Tom knew that Jennifer would at least take more time to analyze her odds if she has pocket Queens. AA is the best hand preflop, but playing it a bit slower, especially with a TT and KK in play, could have resulted in the biggest pot of the night for Jennifer.
8. Christopher Frank
Christopher Frank was a newcomer in professional poker when he had two of the best hands in the WSOP Main Event. The first one was a potentially devastating royal flush for his opponent, Chris Klodnicki. It didn’t complete the course as Klodnicki fold on the river, but Frank insisted on showing the whole world that he meant business in the WSOP.
The next hand was even more impressive when he woke up to pocket Kings. It immediately faced a lot of action, with one short-stacked player going all-in and his adversary for this round, Maxim Sorokin adds more pressure with a substantial re-raise.
It was a dream pot for anyone with KK, but Frank decided that it wasn’t worth the risk, so he folded. It turned out that his pocket Kings could have decimated his bid for WSOP because Sorokin had pocket Aces.
As a new professional poker player, those moves skyrocketed Frank to stardom. Most poker enthusiasts would agree that performing a prophetic fold on pocket Kings is one of the best ways to introduce yourself to the world of professional poker.
7. Niklas Astedt
What happens when a successful businessman, politician, and highly skilled poker player named Antanas “Tony G” Guoga faces the young professional poker Niklas Astedt? In a live stream from PartyPoker, these two went head to head in one of the most epic poker games of the century.
This duel starts with Astedt waking up to pocket Kings and an immediate raise to €700. Tony G called for the flop, which came up with 8-Club, A-Diamond, and 9-Spade. Astedt bets €500, then Tony G responds with a call for the turn, which came up with 8-Spade.
In this round, both players checked, and the river came up with 10-Heart. Tony G immediately placed a bet of €2,000, and a couple of attempts to try and provoke Astedt to call, but he failed. Astedt folds his pocket Kings after saying these:
“I’m not gonna give you my 2,000.”
Although not a potentially devastating round, it turned out to be one of the best folds for Astedt, because Tony G has two pairs; ace and ten. The irony is that Tony G kept on insisting that he’d be ok with any profit, and ended up taking only €1,200 from a very dominant hand.
6. Niklas Borg
What happens when two slow players collide? In this game, both Niklas Borg and Arto Lehtonen didn’t play for huge wins. Both of them played their cards very well, slowly building up their stacks, preparing for the perfect time to pounce. This game was hand 99 hosted by Unibet with £5 / £10 blinds.
Arto fired first with a bet, then Niklas, with his pocket Kings, quickly fires back with a strong 3-bet. Arto re-raised to 4-bet for the flop, which came up with a 3-Spade, 4-Club, and 8-Club. Straight from the flop, Arto made a bet of £825, which was small enough to avoid raising any suspicion. He wasn’t doing anything big in the previous rounds, which would’ve made anyone feel comfortable.
To everyone’s surprise, Niklas suddenly threw his cards to the muck. No one expected that move, considering the very little data from Arto’s bets.
It turned out to be one of the best folds of the century, and no one even dared to explain why or how Niklas was able to make that move.
With pocket Kings on your hand and low-value flop, the only real threat at that time was pocket Aces, which Arto has. How did Niklas make that read and fold? I don’t know.
5. Sam Barnhart
After burning through half his pot from an earlier duel, it seems that Sam Barnhart has developed a paranoia for the night. It turns out that his fear led him to fold preflop, even with pocket Kings, which saved him from an early bust.
The game starts with Barnhart waking up to pocket Kings, and raises to $55,000. Denilson Menezes fires back with a $150,000 all-in bet that silences everyone on the table. Barnhart took some time to analyze his hand carefully, but what ultimately got him to fold was his bust from an earlier round. It was in his gut feeling, but before he threw his cards to the muck, he said:
“Sorry, guys, this time imma lay this down.”
Was it a good fold? The organizers asked Menezes if he wants to reveal his card; he obliged to reveal pocket Aces. With 230,000 in his stack, this round would have obliterated Barnhart if not for the genius fold that he made. Barnhart ended up losing the tournament, but this will go down as one of the best KK folds of the century.
4. Alex Foxen
Poker is a game of luck, focus, and resistance. The first player to lose focus gets busted first. This game is one of our top favorites because of the lessons that recreational players can learn from this hand. The intensity, blank stares, and body language used in this hand show a massive difference between amateur players and high-level poker pros.
Garrett Adelstein wakes up to A-Diamond and K-Club, then makes a raise to $1,600. Alex Foxen, with his pocket Kings, follows with a 3-bet. Garrett sees a chance to increase the pot and re-raised 4-bet. Alex called to get into the flop, which came up with A-Spade, A-Heart, and 5- Spade. Garrett made the first bet off the flop with $15,000, then Alex calls.
The turn was the most exciting part of the game, because Garrett is 70k behind, and needs to execute proper sizing to get the most out of his trip Ace. Into the turn, Garrett bets $30,000, then Alex calls. As soon as the J-Diamond of the river turns up, Garrett goes all-in, bringing the pot to $182,900. This round is where Alex breaks and folds his pocket Kings.
This hand shows the importance of focusing more on the players rather than the cards. Throughout this game, Alex only looked at the cards three times and spent 90% of the time just staring at Garrett, waiting if there is something that he can pick up from Garrett’s body language.
A lot of players would focus more on the cards, but the best players always use the slightest body language to analyze their position on the table.
3. Achilleas Kallakis
Do you want to know the best set of cards that we’ve seen in a game? It’s five pocket pairs in a 6-max game! You’ll know that this game will be a bloodbath just from seeing all of these pairs come into play. Not to mention that this table has one of the best trappers of all time – Achilleas Kallakis.
Two low-level pairs fold preflop, but Denis O’Mahoney, Darren Hickman, and Achilleas Kallakis went on a triple duel as they test each other’s hand preflop. Kallakis re-raised $66,000, bringing the total pot to $101,000. In an unexpected turn of events, O’Mahoney threw his pocket Kings, saying, “I think you got the hand.” Hickman went all-in with his next bet, keeping faith with his pocket Queens. This game led to an early bust for Hickman, with pocket Aces for Kallakis.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the coldness of this deck. It’s colder than a polar bear’s freezer, one commentator said. With that level of analysis from O’Mahoney, he’ll always go down in poker history as the man who dodges a perfectly camouflaged cannonball at the right time.
2. Johnnie Moreno
Our top 2 pick is another $25 / $50 No-Limit Hold ’em game from Live at the Bike. It was a game between Johnnie “JohnnieVibes” Moreno and Ken Hartono. When pocket Aces and Kings are in play, you can expect that heads will roll, especially in this game where the table is down to 5 players. The chances of drawing pocket Aces are too slim for most players to consider.
Both players trade raises until Ken decides to put an end to it by going all-in. This move changed everything for Johnnie and forced him to take several time extensions to analyze his hand.
While waiting for Johnnie’s next move, let’s talk about the small nugget of lessons that we can pick up from this hand. Most recreational players would have played this hand. The 5-player table brings down the chances of another player holding pocket Aces. Add it to the fact that Johnnie is already 4k deep into this hand. If you were in his shoes, would you fold?
Johnnie got the vibes of the table and folded his hand in a seemingly unexpected fashion. It was sheer genius and a beautiful display of analytical thinking. Ken’s poker face cannot even hide his frustration for losing what could have been a hand that turns the tide for him in this game.
1. Ian Steinman
In this jaw-dropping WSOP KK fold, you’ll see how great players can sense danger even from the most disguised cards of the game. There’s no way to hold the suspense in what happens here, so let’s get straight to it:
- Ian Steinman has pocket Kings; Diamond and Spade.
- Joe McKeehen has Q-Club and 10-Diamond.
- Cards on the table after the river are A-Heart, 5-Heart, 7-Spade, J-Club, and K-Club.
Now, put yourself in Ian’s shoes; what would you do with trip Kings? I would have called that $2,940,000 all-in by Joe, but that’s just me. Ian may have thought the same, given that he spent six time-extensions to think of the best move. It is the turning point; he needs to make a move that has the potential to either decimate or guarantee his bid for the championship.
Joe holds a completely disguised straight. The J-Club and K-Club are turn and river cards, which add more poison to Ian’s death card. Wow, Ian whispered before going into complete silence for minutes, then came back to make the fold of the century. With a beautiful display of focus, analytical thinking, and composure, Ian managed to save himself from a tempting death card that could have decimated his stack of chips.
Pocket Kings may be the best hand preflop, but it doesn’t change the fact that anything can happen in poker. Being too complacent is the worst way to handle KK, and you need to consider even the smallest probabilities before deciding your next move.
Recreational and amateur players should always keep these stories in mind. Remember that even the best poker players in the world are not safe from a perfectly disguised death card.