ALL ABOUT POKER:
CONSIDER YOUR KICKER
by Bill Burton
Bill Burton is the Casino Gambling Guide and columnist for the Internet portal About.com located at:www.casinogambling.about.com. He is the author of "1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets" (available online at www.billburton.com) and "Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold'em" (available at 10% discount from the BJI online store). Bill is also an instructor for Golden Touch Craps: www.thecrapsclub.com
There are many times when the winning pot is determined by a kicker, however some players donít think about their kicker until they lose their hand. This is why you should always consider your kicker when choosing your starting hands.
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.
One of the biggest mistakes made by many players is playing any ace regardless of their kicker. Playing an ace with a small kicker is referred to as playing a "weak ace." For example, if you play a hand such as an Ace with a 6, and an Ace comes on the flop you can still lose with top pair.
If one of your opponents holds an ace, your chance of winning with your six as a kicker is 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 along with three other sixes that would result in 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 the same odds of pairing either one of your hole cards on the flop. 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. For example, if you hold an Ace and a Queen and the highest card in the flop is a Queen, 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 a player constantly plays any Ace regardless of the kicker, you beat 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.
Beware the Blinds
Players in the big blind can often find themselves in kicker trouble when they flop top pair with a weak kicker. In the last few weeks, I have seen several players knocked out of a tournament when they found themselves in this situation. These players moved all in with top pair and were beaten by a player with the higher kicker. You should stop and consider your kicker before making such a move.
Dump Weak Hands
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 beware when you flop top pair from the blinds with nothing to back it up. Just being aware of the potential problems that can be caused by a small kicker can greatly improve your chances of winning.
Until Next time remember:
Luck comes and goes.....Knowledge Stays Forever.
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