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"K" is for Kicker

by Bill Burton

Bill Burton is the author of 1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets available at, and Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold'em available at He is an instructor for Golden Touch Craps:

A kicker is a card in an unpaired card in your hand that will determine the winner in the event of a tie. Example: If the winning hand was a pair of Aces and you held A-K and your opponent held A-J, your King would beat his Jack. In this example the King and Jack are the kickers. A sixth card is never used to break a tie.

There are many times when a kicker determines the winning pot. Oftentimes players donít think about it until they lose one of these hands. You must consider your kicker when choosing your starting hands.

Weak Ace

One of the biggest mistakes made by many players is playing any ace regardless of their second card. Playing an ace with a small kicker is referred to as playing a "weak ace." When you do this you are setting yourself up to be beaten by a player who holds an ace with a higher kicker. If you hold:


And the flop is:


If one of your opponents holds an ace your chances of winning with your six as a kicker are very slim. Your opponent would have to hold a five, four, three or deuce in order for you to win. There are only 16 cards that he could hold that would make you a winner and along with three other sixes that would make a tie. If your opponent held any other card, you would be beaten if it went to the river with no improvements to either hand.

Pairing Your Kicker

You have to also consider that you may pair your kicker instead of the ace. In the above example, if you paired your six you would have a small pair with an ace. If, however, you play your single ace with a bigger card there will be situations where you would almost rather pair your kicker than your ace. If you hold:


The flop is:

You now have the top pair with the best kicker. Anyone else holding queen is sure to give you action with this flop. You might also get action from players holding the single ace who are looking for an ace to appear on the turn or river. If this happens, you will still have them beat with two pairs.

If you are in a game and notice that many of the players are playing a single ace, then you have the opportunity to make money from them if you only play an ace with a strong kicker. Many players will refuse to fold a pair of aces even if they have a weak kicker. These players will call you all the way to the river only to be beaten by your strong kicker.

Kicker On Board

There will be times when the kicker is on the board and you will have a split pot. This happens when two players have low kickers and pair their top card. For instance if you have:

Your opponent has:


The board is:

You would split the pot because the eight, which is the lowest board card is higher than your two and your opponentís three.

Any Suited

Many bad players will play any two suited cards from any position. I call this playing ASAP. One of the problems with playing this type of hand is that if you do make a flush with two low suited cards, you run the risk of being beaten with a higher kicker if someone has two cards of the same suit.

Dump Weak Kicker Hand

The best way to avoid getting beaten with a bad kicker is not to play the hand. Learn to dump that ace with the small kicker and donít play any two suited cards. This will help increase your profits at the table.

Until Next time remember:

Luck comes and goes.....Knowledge Stays Forever.

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