With football season just around the corner, it seems like a good time to talk about kickers.
And no we’re not talking about Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski.
Instead, we’re talking about that other card you should be paying attention to, when you’re playing Texas Holdem.
You only have to sit down with a few amateur poker players for an hour to see how often they don’t even bother taking their kicker into account.
Hands like King-Deuce, Queen-6, Ace-3, instead of going into the muck where they belong, they end up being played out to the river.
This usually ends up costing whoever was daft enough to play them at least a few chips.
Stretch those few chips over a full game or a full tournament and you’ll see how amateurs go broke and never seem to last until the money without some major luck.
The amateur poker players biggest weakness when it come to scenarios in which they ignore their kicker is an Ace.
For some reason, so many players see that big capital “A” and the other card almost magically disappears, unless it’s another big “A” or a face card.
The thinking goes something like this:
“The other card in my hand doesn’t matter, I’ve got an Ace! The best card in the deck!”
If you’re thinking like this you may as well hand your chips to the guy sitting next to you before you even sit down.
Here’s where it all falls apart.
Let’s say you’ve just bean dealt Ace-3.
You’ve got your magic “A”, but the 3 isn’t worth much.
You’ve got a shot at a possible straight, but you’ll need a little luck for that to pan out.
Even though someone else raised pre-flop you go ahead and play you Ace, not taking into account the 3 or your position (which we’ll say is early), and the flop hits Ace-5-King…
You made a pair with you Ace, but the 3 leaves you vulnerable to anyone else at the table that might also have an Ace.
If you’re playing at a table of 10 players, another player will have an Ace 62% of the time.
If someone else does have an Ace, the only way you’re beating them right now is if they have Ace-2.
Basically, by playing the Ace-3 you’ve just given away some chips unless you think you can bluff out your opponent.
It could be worse though.
Let’s say you play your Ace-3 again, but this time the flop hits Ace-3-King.
This time you’ve made two pair despite your lame kicker!
Don’t get too carried away, though, because you called a pre-flop raise again and you’re facing an opponent who has Ace-King.
You go ahead and bet your two pair aggressively, only to lose even more chips to the higher two pair.
Unless you get a read on the better hand, you’re toast.
It’s situations like this that make your kicker an essential part of deciding whether or not to play a hand.
You should also look at your chip count, position, and skill level of your fellow players and tendencies too, but for true beginners start by considering your kicker.
By avoiding hands like Ace-3, King-2, etc, you’ll keep yourself from giving away small amounts of money with regularity, and more importantly keep yourself from falling into traps that can cost you a huge chunk of your stack.
by Dave Harrison