If you have a pocket pair of either sixes or kings and the only other player to call has pocket Aces, which pocket pair are you better off having based on probability percentages of winning? Most people would intuitively say pocket kings are better. Intuition is incorrect in this case.
This is both a very hard question and a very easy one. It is an easy question because your odds are very poor with either pair. It is a difficult question because it is 2% worse if you have a pair of kings than a pair of sixes against the pocket aces.
Before I go into the analysis of this hand let me first say it is much worse to have pocket kings against pocket aces because you are much more likely to make a large call or bet, even all in bet, with kings than sixes, which will usually be folded against a large bet or raise. Theoretically these two hands can fall at endgame with two head up players left. In this case even the pocket sixes may make an all in bet since any pair heads up is generally a winner.
If you have two kings you must draw a third king without the aces drawing a third ace in order to win. If a four flush is unfolded on the board the aces will beat both sixes and kings if the hold cards of both players match the suit of the four flush. If neither player matches the 4 flush the point is moot, with the improbable exception that a 5 flush on board will unfold to tie the game. Otherwise the single player matching the 4 flush will win.
The reason it is 2% better to have sixes rather than kings has to do with the possibility of a straight draw. The king pair limits the odds of the aces drawing a straight since a king fall for an ace high straight is diminished by 50%. Likewise, the kings draw for an open ended straight is diminished by 25% since two aces are already out of play for that hand.
In real time play the odds of any pocket pair winning against aces is small before the flop, about 1 in 5. The 2% advantage due to a straight draw is small and more of an intellectual exercise than a real time consideration. You are more likely to make money on this tidbit of information as a side bet rather than a difference of tactical play.
If you would like to find the odds of any two to six combinations of hands in Texas Hold’em poker, feel free to use the free poker odds calculator at the World Poker Tour home page at worldpokertour.com. They have a whole section called “The Academy” dedicated to increasing your poker playing skills. Please also feel free to read all my other poker articles on Associated Content.