When you play in a poker game for a while, you’ll inevitably hear the term “kicker” and see the kicker concept applied at the table. A kicker is a card used as a tiebreaker when two or more players get to showdown with the same hand strength.
If you’re wondering how kickers work in poker, this article is for you.
How Do Kickers Work in Poker?
Kickers come into play when two or more players have the same hand strength at the end of a hand. The kicker is the highest card in a poker hand that’s not part of a made hand.
For example, let’s say we’re playing a game of Texas Hold’em, and the board runs out K♠ T♥ 8♣ 5♥ 2♦. Two players go to showdown, one shows K♣ Q♣, and the other shows K♦ J♥.
Both players have a pair of kings in this scenario, but the player with K♣ Q♣ wins the pot by virtue of having a better kicker. This player has the superior five-card hand, as K♣ K♠ Q♣ T♥ 8♣ beats K♣ K♦ J♥ T♥ 8♣.
When both players have the same pair, the next-highest card in the five-card hand plays as the kicker. The first player’s Q♣ outranks (or “outkicks”) the second player’s J♥.
What if Two Players Have the Same Kicker?
When two or more players hold the same hand strength and the same kicker, the next-highest card in the hand comes into play. For instance, A♥ A♠ K♣ T♥ 8♣ beats A♦ A♠ K♣ 9♦ 8♣, as the T♥ plays as the better second kicker versus the 9♦.
In a battle of two of the exact same hands, with the exact same kickers, the pot is split between the two players.