Kicker in Poker Explained: The Supreme Guide - BlitzPoker

Kicker in Poker Explained: The Supreme Guide

Kicker in Poker

If you like playing poker for real money on the internet, chances are you’ve come across the term “Kicker in Poker” and wondered what it means in terms of how poker hands are ranked. The “Kicker” in poker, also called a side card or an extra card, doesn’t actually influence the ranking of your poker hand. It’s an additional card that sits alongside your main hand.

So What’s a Kicker in Poker

In poker, a kicker (also known as a side card) is a card within a poker hand that doesn’t directly impact the hand’s rank. However, it can be used to break ties between hands of the same rank. For instance, take the hand A-A-6-K-2; it’s considered a pair of queens. In this case, the 6, K, and 2 serve as kickers.

Understanding the Purpose of Kickers in Poker Hand Rankings

Example #1: Three-of-a-Kind Showdown

Player 1 holds 8-8, and Player 2 has 9-9. The board reveals 8-9-3-2-J. Both players end up with three-of-a-kind. Since 9’s outrank 8’s, the kicker doesn’t matter.

Example #2: One Pair Battle

Player 1 has AJ, and Player 2 has AQ. The board displays A-10-8-5-3, resulting in both players having one pair of Aces. Here, the kicker plays a crucial role. Player 1’s hand is A-A-J-10-8, while Player 2’s hand is A-A-Q-10-8. Player 2’s higher kicker (the Queen) makes him the winner.

Example #3: Outkicking Queens Overs Kings

Player 1 has 85, and Player 2 holds K8. The board shows 8-8-K-6-2, giving both three-of-a-kind 7’s. Player 1’s hand is 8-8-8-K-6, while Player 2’s is 8-8-8-K-A. The second kicker makes the difference, and Player 2 takes the pot with the higher card.

Example #4: Identical Hands, Split Pot

Player 1 has 86, and Player 2 has 87. The board unfolds 8-8-J-K-2, resulting in identical 5-card hands: 8-8-8-J-K. Since the 6 and 7 in their hole cards don’t count as kickers, a split pot is declared, sharing the winnings equally between both players.

The Kicker in Various Poker Formats

Draw Poker Kicker

In draw poker, kickers refer to unmatched cards, often an ace, that a player keeps during the draw. They hope that either it will match with another card drawn or act as an extra winning card during the showdown. Sometimes, players hold onto kickers to trick their opponents into thinking they have a better hand, like pretending to have three-of-a-kind when they only have a pair.

Texas Hold ’em Poker Kicker

In Texas Hold ’em, kickers become especially important. Here, a winning hand might include one card in a player’s hand matching a card on the board, while the second card acts as a kicker. For example, if one player has A-8, another player has A-7, and the board shows A-K-6-5-4, the player with A-8 will win because their best hand would be A-A-K-8-6, beating the A-7 player whose best hand would be A-A-K-7-6. However, if the board shows A-K-Q-J-3, both players would tie as they would both play the hand A-A-K-Q-J; in this case, it’s mentioned that their kickers “don’t play” or that the “kicker on the board plays”. This scenario results in a split pot.

The Role of Kicker or Side Cards in Poker

In poker, kickers play a critical role in breaking ties between hands that are of equal rank. They are the cards used to determine the winner when players have matching hands. If these kickers are also identical between two or more hands, the hands remain tied, and the pot gets divided among the equivalent winning hands, following the poker kicker rules.

To determine the hierarchy of kickers, they are ranked based on the evaluation of a high-card hand. The kicker holding the highest card takes precedence. However, if two kickers possess the same highest card, the second-highest card is then used to decide the winner. In rare instances where the second-highest cards are also identical, the process extends to the third-highest card, and so forth.

For instance, let’s consider two players both holding a pair of sevens. If the first player has 8 8 A Q 5 and the second player has 8 8 K J 9, the first player wins because their A Q 5 kicker outranks the K J 9 kicker in the poker hand ranking. This showcases the significance of kickers in determining the victor when hands are closely matched in poker games.

When the Kicker in Poker Counts and When It Does Not?

Hand Type Does a kicker count?
Ace high ✔️ Yes
One pair ✔️ Yes
Two pair ✔️ Yes
Three of a Kind ✔️ Yes
Four of a kind or Quads ✔️ Yes
Straight ❌ No
Flush ❌ No
Full House ❌ No
Straight Flush ❌ No
Royal Flush ❌ No

Strategy For Kickers in Poker

You might have realized that not all poker hands are the same. Kickers, in poker, really matter and affect how strong your hands are and how often you win.

Kickers are most important with one-pair hands. (It’s less likely that two players will have the same two-pair or three-of-a-kind when they both have one-pair).

That’s why it’s crucial to know how to play with top-pair hands of different kicker strengths.

The value of your kicker will affect these betting factors:

  • How many times you bet during the game.
  • Which specific times you choose to bet.
  • The amount you decide to bet.

The Deal Of In Position vs Out of Position Matter For Kickers In Poker

In poker, your position matters a lot. When you’re not in a good position, it’s better to play less aggressively compared to when you’re in a better position, even if you have the same strong hand on the same game board!

Your position can change how you should play a hand. If you’re not in a good position, generally, it’s better to check and call more often. Maybe you should bet for fewer rounds when you’re not sure about the value of your hand.

When you’re in a better position, you can make more aggressive bets with a wider range of hands.

For instance, a hand like “Top Pair, Top Kicker” (TPTK) might become a move to catch a bluff on certain turns or rivers when you’re not in a good position. This move helps avoid getting into tough situations and dealing with being in a weaker position.

Against skilled players who balance well between bluffing and having valuable hands, this strategy is useful. They can easily trouble you by raising when they have a better position than you.

Closing Thoughts

Knowing about poker kickers and how they decide between identical hands is a big deal in poker. Sometimes, players forget how important these kicker cards are when their hands tie.

Mostly seen in Texas Hold’em to figure out which hand wins, kickers also matter in other poker games like Seven Card Stud, Pot Limit Omaha, or Open Face Chinese Poker. So, whether it’s a standoff between matching hands or comparing hands in different poker games, these kicker cards are a key factor in who takes the win.

Kicker in Poker FAQs

What is a kicker or a side card?

A kicker, also known as a side card in poker, is an extra card used to break ties between players who have the same hand. It’s not part of the standard hand rankings but comes into play when multiple players hold identical hands. For example, if two players both have a Flush, the kicker or side card determines the winner by comparing the highest non-matching card in their hands.

How does a kicker decide the winner?

A kicker determines the winner in poker by breaking ties when players have the same hand. It comes into play when multiple players hold identical hands, like a Flush or a pair. The winner is decided by comparing the highest non-matching card, or the kicker, in their hands. Whoever has the highest kicker wins the round.

What does top kicker mean in poker?

When talking about kicker in poker, the “top kicker” refers to the highest card that doesn’t match any other cards in a hand. It comes into play when players have the same hand ranking, like a pair or a two-pair. The card with the highest value among these non-matching cards decides who wins in case of a tie.

How do kickers work in poker?

In poker, kickers come into play when players tie with the same hand. They’re extra cards used to decide the winner by breaking the tie. For instance, if two players both have a Flush, the kicker—the highest non-matching card—determines who wins. It’s the card that helps settle the score when players have identical hands.

What happens if you happen to have the same kicker?

In poker, when players end up with the same kicker in a tie, they usually split the pot equally. If the highest non-matching card, called the kicker, is the same for tied hands, there isn’t a clear winner. So, the pot gets divided evenly among the players who have that identical highest kicker.