The pros and cons of kickers in hold’em


In my seminars, I always stress the importance of the kicker in the player’s hand. Average players simply don’t acknowledge the kicker as a principle factor in each hand and the hand outcome as a result of the kicker.
Let’s examine the pros and cons of kickers.

You’re in the big blind with Q-6; there are three players in the hand and the small blind folds when the limped action gets to you. You check in the big blind and the flop is Q-7-2 (one of four flops that can’t make a straight on the turn). You have top pair and a dry board. What do you do with top pair and three players behind you?

You bet and the next player raises. The other players fold. It’s on you now. Notice I didn’t state the amount of the raise or the type of player making the raise to make this example a pure question.
If you call and the other player also has a queen you’re most certainly outkicked. If you fold, you may be asking yourself why you bet postflop or whether you were beat.

When players are all-in preflop and one player holds A-K and the other player holds A-Q, we say the A-Q is crushed.

When the hands aren’t exposed the player with the Q-6 (top pair) seldom realizes he’s crushed to every other player holding a queen.
These types of holdings are common and are the cons. Let’s look at the pros, which will require additional help.

Playing a hand such as A-3 and hitting an ace on the flop, you have top pair and a kicker if it hits on the flop or turn that will often win the hand for you with two pair.

You know the three isn’t going to win you anything; you also know the three isn’t going to scare opponents when it hits. The additional benefit is an A-3 can make a straight that won’t be seen very often.

If you’re going to use your kicker (with top pair) always factor a backdoor straight. The Q-6 can’t make a straight, while A-3 can. Top pair and weak kicker will destroy your game.

— Antonio Pinzari has been playing professionally since the ’70s. He’s the creator of 23 Poker and Wild Tallahassee Poker, which you can learn more about at