Holdem Kicker

Hold'em is a game of kickers. When a hand flops the top pair and gets action that reaches a showdown, the outcome is based on which hand has the best kicker with its top pair. For example, if you have a hand like K6 get a chance to see the flop from the big blind and get a flop of K83, you have to consider the value of 6 when compared with the likely kicker of any other player that might have a King. These kinds of hands are troublesome. The best approach to playing this kind of situations is based on a hand -domination perspective. The recommendation is to check the hand and call if someone bets. This does two things it minimizes your losses when they are beaten by another King with a better kicker while improving your profits by stimulating other players to bet as a bluff.

In a tight game, the hand-domination perspective does lead you to best strategy. You should check and call if someone bets. You should not call if there is a bet and a raise, although it really turns out that checking and calling a raise strategy holdem rather than folding to a raise is not big mistake. It only costs you little money on average.

In very loose games, this holdem strategy doesn't hold up. In a very loose game, betting the hand straight forwardly and calling if anyone raises makes twice as much money in the long run as checking and calling. This is not a best strategy. Many players will feel uneasy if they bet this top pair with a weaker kicker and got raised when the flop had an draws that someone may be raising on. Betting and calling is correct thing to do against a game of loose or very loose players.

This is so because in very loose games you are more likely to have other holdem players with 3s and 8s than Kings in their hands. In a loose game, your rivals are likely to have two kinds of hands than are likely in a tight game. A hand such as K2 is much more likely to be played by a rival in a loose game and a hand such as 86 is also much more likely to be played. You will get action, perhaps even a raise from hands like that, if you bet out your top pair with a weak kicker in a loose game. In a tight game, players are not likely to be holding those kinds of hands on the flop. Even in a loose game, you are beaten if you get raised but the chances are good enough that you are not beaten to make it worth calling a raise. The pot will be large enough to hold onto that hand because there are enough worse hands that loose players might raise with to make it pay off. Do not expect to win most of the pots by doing this, but do expect to win most of the money at last.

In very typical games, the two plays, betting against checking and calling are about equivalent in terms of the amount of money made. The best holdem hand is to possibly check and call in a typical game. It contributes about the same money as betting and does so with a slight risk.

The basic idea is to play your top pairs more aggressively in loose games while playing top pairs with weak kickers more passively in tight games. This is a difference in how a normal situation should be played differently under different poker games conditions. It does illustrate how important it is to think in terms of the game conditions and the kinds of hands your rivals are likely to have rather than thinking in terms of only your own hand.

Second Pair From the Blinds

Let's the example of K6 on the big blind but this time let the flop be Q62. You have flopped the second pair with a pretty good kicker. Someone may have a Queen but if they do, you still have five outs that will improve enough to win.

How will you play this hand? Here again it depends on the kinds of hands that the other active players are likely to have, with which kinds of hands they will be likely to call or raise if you bet and with what kinds of hands they will bet if you check. It turns out that you should play this hand very similarly to how you would play the hand if you had flopped top pair.

In very loose game, you should bet and call if anyone raises. In the tighter or very typical games, you should check and call if someone bets but fold if there is a bet and a raise.

This is against to the best holdem poker strategies. It suggests that you should check and fold this hand in the loosest games and bet in most game conditions. The argument for betting is that it will force overcards to your 6 (hands with cards between a 6 and a Queen) to fold, improving your chances of winning the pot. This idea is betting to knock players out is very common, but it is often emphasized more than its value. Many times you thin the field of hands that you would profit from if they called. You are not getting achieving anything of value.

In this situation of the second pair with a flop that has no possible draws, you are not going to get called by hands that you can beat. A bet might win the pot for you but if it doesn't win it for you right now, in a tight or typical game you are not going to be in good position if anyone calls or raises. The correct thing for you to do in tight or typical game is to check and call. By checking you are likely to persuade players from late position or because of the ragged flop even from early position, to bluff at the pot with perhaps something like a single Ace or King overcard. Allowing another player bet a single King overcard is the best probable outcome for you. You not only have the best hand, the long-shot card they are expecting for is a King a card that still leaves your card best.

However, in very loose games, you should play and bet because like when you flopped the top pair with a weak kicker, you tend to get calls from players with hands like 52. These are calls you might profit from.
You should be more aggressive in very loose games with the secondary hands. The loose players play hands even more secondary hands than your hands and you will be paid off. In tight games, you will do best by checking and calling with secondary hands. If you bet, you won't get called by hands that seems to be worse than yours and by checking you may induce a bluff from a hand that would not have called your bet.

Comments on Weak Pairs

There is an admonition for both these situations. It is no particular rule. How to play these hands depends entirely on the kinds of hands your rivals are likely to have and how they are likely to play them.
The top pair with a weak kicker or the second pair can be money out flows in your game. They do have to be played cautiously, and it is often correct to fold them. The idea is that these hands can be moneymakers if you are cautious and adjust your strategy to the specific game conditions.

Basic guidelines have been given for how to adjust your play poker of weak pairs with ragged flops. You should be more passive in tight games and more aggressive in loose games.

Before deciding what to do in the game, you need to analyze your game. What kinds of hands do the players in your game play? How do they play those hands? It is common to think that a weak pair is possibly beaten if there is a large field of active hands. That is true if the game is reasonably tight and there happens to be many active hands this hand but if the game is just usually loose then you are likely to be called by all kinds of hands that can't beat even your weak pair. Just play your hand accordingly.


Let's look at one more example situation. Let's take the favorite hand, a pocket pair of Aces when the flop looks scary. Suppose you have AA, and the flop is T96. This is not the flop you expected to see with your pair of Aces. The odds are that you have got the best hand but with this flop you cannot be sure. If you are not best then it would be very costly for you and even if you are best, there are a lot of cards that can fall on the next two rounds that will beat yours. It is not a good situation. In this case what you should do?

In many cases you should play this very aggressively. You should almost always bet or raise if someone else has bet first. You should almost never slow play in this kind of situation. Giving a free card, or a cheap card, can be disaster here. You possibly have the best poker hand and you should bet or raise to cut down on the odds that the probable draws are getting.

If the players are few, only one or two other active hands, then you should be aggressive. Do not bet and raise but put in the last bet. Even many passive players will raise with a flop like this if they have a decent draw but if there are only one or two callers they are not getting the good odds to be raising against your overpair. You can re-raise. The exception is when the game conditions are very loose and very aggressive. In that case you should still bet and raise if someone else has bet first but if you bet and are raised, you should probably not re-raise. The reason is that if there are four or five active hands, the collective draws they have are likely to put your overpair at a disadvantage to the players. Against the aggressive players, the chance of being re-raised by very good draws is too great to risk putting in extra bets.

This is an example where you should fairly play the hand the same way. You can bet it, raise it and re-raise it. The only exception is that you should hold back if it is a very loose and very aggressive table and you are raised. Here it is not significant to think in terms of what kinds of hands the other online poker players are likely to play as it is important to think of how they are likely to play those hands.

Continue: Dynamics of Poker Game Conditions

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