What to do with Top Pair but a Weak Kicker

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One of the core hands that strong players win a huge amount of extra money with, and also lose far less than a weaker player will, is top pair bad kicker. This is a complex hand to play in most spots, and one that can get you in a great deal of trouble if not thought about carefully. To help look at a few spots with these hands, it is helpful to try and break down our priorities with these hands into a few simple categories: Showdown value - your hand will often be good enough to win at showdown so you rarely want to be folding. Weakness in large pots - your hand will rarely be good in big pots, so pot control becomes a concern. Disguise - you want action from weaker pairs. Obviously any poker situation is much more complex than these three things, but they generally come up time and time again with the hands, and just to see these concepts in action I want to look at the same hand only played by two different players and consider the pros and cons of each. Hand 1. You 2.5x raise Kc6c from the button and a solid player in the big blind defends. Stacks are 35bb effective. The flop comes out Ks2h3c. Your opponent checks and you check. The turn is the 2s. Your opponent checks and you bet half the pot. They call. The river is the 7h. Your opponent checks. You bet half the pot again, and they call with pocket sixes and lose. Hand 2. You 2.5x raise Kc6c from the button and the same player in the big blind defends. Stacks are 35bb effective. The flop comes out Ks2h3c. Your opponent checks, you bet half the pot and they check raise you 3x. You flat. The turn comes out the 2s and they lead three quarters of pot into you. You fold. In both these hands it is perfectly reasonable for a skilled opponent to have pocket sixes. However, in the second hand you went from having the best hand and getting some nice value, all the way to being put in a spot where you had to decide whether to play a big pot with top pair bad kicker (after all, once he leads pot into you on the turn you basically have to decide whether to play for stacks), where you backed down and folded. As we see from the two paths this hand can take, simply checking the flop here does wonders for your prospects. It shows some weakness, as your opponent expects you to continue with any pair here - making it much more likely they will call you down with weaker pairs. You also keep the pot smaller, making it much easier to get to showdown - something that ticks the box of two of our key concerns here. Firing out achieves none of these things - it simply starts building a big pot with a hand we don't really want to be playing a big pot with. Many weak players see good players continuation bet a lot, and suddenly reason that any-time they have hit anything they should be firing. However, your life can often be made much harder by mindlessly continuation betting, and thinking through your key priorities with a marginal hand like top pair with a weak kicker is crucial to maximising wins and minimising losses at the table. Join Betfair Poker Now View our Latest Promotions

Many weak players see good players continuation bet a lot, and suddenly reason that any-time they have hit anything they should be firing.

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