1. The unpaired hole card that accompanies a made pair in a Texas Hold'em game.
2. An unpaired card in your hand that often plays as a high card.
The term “kicker” is most commonly used in all varieties of Texas Holdem. In this type of poker game, each player is dealt a starting
hand of exactly two hole cards. These cards are dealt face down and are each individual’s private cards. The rest of the cards are
community cards and are dealt face up, in
the center of the table, for all players to share. Frequently, a player will make a pair by matching one of his hole cards with one of
the community cards. The remaining unpaired hole card is referred to as “the kicker.” This card is of supreme importance in Texas
Holdem, because it often plays. When it does, it can often be the card which determines who wins and who loses.
It is especially important when two or more players all make the same pair, by matching one of their hole cards with the same card on
the board. Since each player has only a two card
hand, when both players make an identical pair, the kicker is the only difference between the two hands. Since one pair often wins in
Hold’em, it is relatively common for hand ranking to come down
to a kicker. This is one reason that you should be mindful of the quality of your kicker during the preflop hand selection process.
Since it is relatively common for multiple players to make the same pair in a Hold’em game, you will want to make sure that you come
out on top the majority of times that it occurs when you are involved This is one reason it is correct to adopt tight starting hand
requirements. If you only play high cards, you will always have a decent kicker, if not the top kicker, nearly every time you pair.
This step of tightening up preflop can simplify the game and make it easier to play well, especially if you're a new player. If you do
this, you will not have to spend so much of your time or mental resources evaluating if your kicker is a problem.
Texas Holdem is not the only poker game where two or more players can make the same pair, it just happens more frequently in Holdem
games, because all players are sharing the same community cards. This means that kickers will come into play far more often in Holdem
games than they will in other types of poker games, like Seven
Card Stud. When two players make the same pair in a Seven Card Stud game, up to three kickers can be involved in determining which
hand ranks highest, since each hand is composed of a player’s best five cards. Sometimes a player will make the same pair as their
opponent, and will also match their opponent’s top kicker. In this situation it becomes necessary to go to the second and sometimes
the third kicker to determine who has the higher ranked hand. It is also possible for two players to make the same two pairs in Seven
Card Stud. When this happens, the player with the highest kicker has the higher ranked hand and is entitled to the
pot. As is the case in Texas Hold’em, if two players
make identical hands, with all kickers matching, the result is a split pot.
Kickers only matter if the ranking of the hands is close. In Seven Card Stud games they are only relevant in hands containing no pair,
one pair, or two pair. In Texas Hold’em, because community cards are used, hands containing three of a kind may also have their final
rankings determined by kickers. This coupled with the fact that lower ranked hands like one pair frequently go down to the kicker in
Holdem, makes kickers a major factor in Holdem games. The quality of your kicker is always a concern in a Holdem game. This is not the
case in Seven Card Stud. Since each player holds their own cards, and community cards are not typically used in Stud games, kickers
are not much of a concern. Most of the time, players don’t have hands that are close enough for their kickers to matter, and when they
do it is often more a matter of luck than skill. In a Holdem game, you can avoid kicker problems by simply avoiding hands before the
flop which contain marginal kickers. In a Stud game, it is not really possible to preempt kicker problems through tighter hand
selection on third street, as the issue tends to come up later in the hand. Clearly, kickers do not have the impact in a Stud game
that they have in Holdem. While they can still affect the outcome of the hand, kickers simply don’t have the strategic relevance in
Stud as they do in Holdem.
Usage: Good Kicker, Kicker Kicks, Top Pair Top Kicker (TPTK)
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