Strategy Snapshot: The Battle of the Kickers

Published On: 13 January 2009 / Modified: 21 January 2019
Created By: Daniel Skolovy
Final table

The action at the high-stakes tables has been sporadic thus far in the new year. Still, we didn't have to look too far to find an interesting hand from the $200/$400 tables in which $84,576 changes hands thanks to an ace kicker.


luckexpress10: $42,288

Ozzy 87: $57,095

Game: $200/$400, No-Limit Hold'em, Full Tilt Poker

The Setup

The hand starts out with luckexpress10 raising to $1,200 from the button/small blind. Ozzy 87 makes the call and the flop comes 2 T 3.

Ozzy 87 checks and luckexpress10 bets $2,000. Ozzy 87 check-raises to $7,000 and luckexpress10 calls.

The turn comes the 5. Ozzy 87 bets $9,800 and again luckexpress10 makes the call.

The river comes 5 and Ozzy 87 shoves all-in for his last $36,000. luckexpress10 calls off his last $24,288 and shows A T. His ace kicker beats Ozzy 87's Q T for the $84,576 pot.

Top Pair Top Kicker in Heads-Up Pot

luckexpress10 kicks the hand off with a raise to $1,200 off the button with his good suited ace A T.

Heads-up, any ace is good for a raise when in position. If it's suited and has a decent kicker on top of that, then more power to you.

Ozzy 87 makes the call from out of position with Q T. Two broadway cards are good enough to see the flop in a heads-up match even if you are out of position.

When the flop comes 2 T 3, Ozzy 87 checks and luckexpress10 bets $2,000 with his top pair, top kicker. TPTK in a heads-up pot is almost always the nuts and that being the case, he fires a good value bet.

Ozzy 87 also flopped top pair, good kicker with his Q T. In a heads-up battle top pair is a monster, and he check-raises to $7,000.

Ozzy 87 check-raises for value; he can't know that he is outkicked but he does know that in a heads-up game his opponent is very likely to call with a wide range of hands he does beat, something like 55-99, weaker tens and flush draws.

luckexpress10 chooses to smooth-call with his top pair, top kicker rather than raising.

He may believe that his opponent is bluffing and by flat-calling he allows his opponent to continue to bluff, or he may just want to see what happens on the turn.

The turn brings the 5, a safe card for both players.

Ozzy 87 bets $9,800 with his top pair, good kicker. The blank turn gave him no reason to believe his hand is anything but the best here and he fires a good two-thirds pot-sized bet for value.

luckexpress10 once again chooses to flat-call.

Again, he may want to let his opponent keep bluffing if that happens to be the case or he may be feigning weakness with his hand.

By not raising he may trick his opponent into believing that he does have one of the weaker pocket pairs rather than the top pair he actually holds.

The river comes 5 and Ozzy 87 ships all-in. What is true on the turn is true on the river when it blanks completely.

The 5 changes absolutely nothing and Ozzy 87 probably felt his hand was good the entire way.

Of course that isn't the case but in the heat of battle you unfortunately cannot see your opponent's cards.

Ozzy 87 put luckexpress10 on a range and because he believed the bulk of luckexpress10's range contained weaker hands that would be willing to pay off turn and river bets, he bets both the turn and the river for value.

Unfortunately for him luckexpress10 has the A T and not one of those weaker hands. By winning the battle of the kickers, luckexpress10 is the one stacking the $84,576 pot and not his opponent.

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