What Happens if Two Hands Tie in Poker?

For newcomers to poker, certain aspects of the game can be confusing, especially when it comes to hand rankings and determining the winner in tie situations. Seasoned poker players have the advantage of quickly recognising the winner, whether it’s in Texas Hold’em or other poker variants like Omaha. Don’t fret if you’re just starting; mastering the essential poker rules comes with experience. In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of tie situations in poker and the significance of kickers.

Understanding Poker Tie Situations

Poker, like many card games, has specific rules that must be followed in tie situations. If two or more players have the same hand, the pot will be evenly split among them after the rake is deducted. This scenario arises when their five-card combinations are of the same rank, which can lead to confusion among players.

For a tie to occur, all five cards in both players’ hands must have the same rank. However, if they have the same card rank but some of the other cards differ in value, the player with the higher “side card” or “kicker” will be the winner. Let’s consider a common example of this situation when both players have a pair.

Example: You have AK, and your opponent has AQ on the board AT345. Even though both of you have a pair of aces, you win the hand because your five-card combination (AAKT5) is higher than your opponent’s (AAQT5) due to your king kicker, which beats their queen kicker.

Understanding Kickers in Poker

A “kicker” or “side card” is a card that doesn’t directly impact the rank of a hand but plays a crucial role in determining the winner when hands tie. If players have the same rank and the same kickers, the pot will be split between them.

For instance, let’s take a board with the cards AK897. Player one holds AT, and player two holds A5. Both players have a pair of aces, but their kickers differ.

Player one’s best five-card combination is AAKT9, while player two’s best combination is AAK98. Since player one’s kickers are K, T, and 9, which are higher than player two’s K, 9, and 8, player one wins the hand.

When Does a Kicker Count?

To avoid confusion about when kickers count, remember that poker always considers the best rank of five cards for each hand. You must use five cards at all times, which can consist of the cards dealt to you or community cards.

If you have a pair, you’ve already used two cards, leaving you to use three more cards to complete your five-card ranking. In situations like the AK vs. AQ example, kickers count because both players have a pair, and they need to use three additional cards to determine the best hand.

Kickers are relevant in several hand combinations, including two pairs, four of a kind, and sets. However, certain hands like straights, full houses, flushes, and royal flushes do not have kickers, as they already utilise all five cards for their ranking. In such cases, the player with the highest-ranking hand wins.

The Role of Kickers in Different Poker Hands

Let’s take a closer look at how kickers impact the outcome in various poker hands:

  1. Pairs: As mentioned earlier, kickers come into play when two or more players have the same pair. The one with the higher side card wins the hand.
  2. Two Pairs: In a two-pair scenario, the player with the higher-ranking top pair wins. If both players have the same top pair, the one with the higher-ranking second pair wins. If both pairs are identical, the kicker determines the winner.
  3. Three of a Kind: The player with the higher three of a kind wins. If both players have the same three of a kind, the kicker decides the outcome.
  4. Four of a Kind: The player with the higher four of a kind wins. In extremely rare cases when two players have the same four of a kind, the fifth card (kicker) determines the winner.
  5. Full House: When two players have a full house, the one with the higher-ranking three of a kind wins. If both players have the same three of a kind, the pair’s rank becomes crucial.
  6. Straight: Kickers do not apply in straight hands, as all five cards are essential to the hand’s ranking.
  7. Flush: Similar to straights, kickers are not relevant in flush hands.
  8. Straight Flush and Royal Flush: These hands don’t have kickers either, as they are already the highest-ranking combinations.

The Impact of Kickers on Bluffing and Hand Reading

Kickers not only influence tie situations but also play a significant role in bluffing and hand reading strategies. As an experienced poker player, being able to accurately assess your opponent’s possible hand range based on the board and kickers is a valuable skill.

When considering a bluff, understanding the potential kickers on the board is essential. Suppose you have a weak hand with a low pair, and the board displays cards that could potentially complete a straight or a flush. In this case, it’s crucial to recognise that a player holding a higher pair or a stronger hand with a better kicker is likely to call your bluff. Bluffing against opponents who have strong kickers can be a risky proposition, as they may easily call with a superior hand.

Conversely, when you have a strong hand, analysing the potential kickers on the board will help you assess the strength of your opponent’s hand range. If the board shows potential for a better kicker than yours, it’s important to consider the possibility that your opponent might have a stronger hand. On the other hand, if the board contains low-value cards that are unlikely to improve your opponent’s hand, it increases the likelihood of your hand being the best, even with a lower-ranking kicker.

As you gain more experience, you’ll become better at reading your opponents and deciphering their hand strength based on kickers and board texture. This skill is especially crucial in no-limit Texas Hold’em, where players have more room to make bold moves and bluffs. Being able to accurately evaluate the strength of your kicker and your opponent’s potential kicker will give you a valuable edge in making informed decisions during the hand.

When Poker Pot is Split

When a poker pot is split, it is divided equally among the players who participated in the showdown. If only two players were involved from the beginning, each will receive slightly less than their initial investment due to the rake.

It’s essential to play on a poker platform with the best rakeback deals to maximise your winnings. Rakeback is a percentage of the rake that the poker room returns to the players. By choosing a platform with favourable rakeback deals, you can boost your overall earnings.

Nuts on the Board

In poker, “nuts” refers to the best possible hand on the board. Sometimes, players make the mistake of betting significant amounts when the nuts are present on the board, leading to unnecessary losses.

Examples of nuts on the board include:

  • A royal flush on the board.
  • A nut straight on the board.
  • Four of a kind with an ace on the board.

In such scenarios, it is advisable not to bet at all since the pot will eventually be split equally among all players involved in the showdown. Betting unnecessarily only increases the pot size, which results in higher rake deductions, ultimately reducing each player’s share.

Relevance of Kickers in Tournament Play

In poker tournaments, tie situations can be critical, especially when players are near the “bubble” – the point where players start entering the prize pool. A bubble situation occurs when one player needs to be eliminated for others to start getting paid.

Let’s explore a tournament scenario to better understand the importance of kickers:

Imagine a tournament with 11 players left, and the top 10 players get paid. Two short-stacked players go all-in and both have the same five-card combination at showdown. However, one of the players has a better hand due to their higher-ranked kicker. The player with the better hand knocks out both opponents.

As a result, the first player to go all-in and lose finishes as the bubble in 11th place, missing out on a cash prize. The player who went all-in after them finishes in 10th place and secures a payout.

This situation emphasises the significance of considering kickers, especially in tournament play where a single hand can determine a player’s tournament fate.

Online Poker and Tie Situations

In the digital era, online poker has gained immense popularity, offering players from around the world the opportunity to participate in poker games and tournaments from the comfort of their homes. The rules regarding tie situations and kickers remain the same in online poker as in live games.

Online poker platforms use random number generators (RNGs) to ensure fair and unbiased gameplay. The use of RNGs eliminates any possibility of bias or manipulation in card distribution and tiebreakers, providing a level playing field for all players.

In online poker, tie situations are resolved automatically by the poker software. The pot is split equally among the tied players, and the respective winnings are added to their account balances. Thanks to the advanced technology used in online poker platforms, the process is swift and seamless, ensuring smooth gameplay without any disputes.


Understanding tie situations and the role of kickers is crucial for any poker player looking to improve their game. While tie scenarios can lead to confusion, mastering the rules and concepts, especially regarding kickers, will give you an edge at the tables. As you gain experience and develop a deeper understanding of poker strategy, you’ll be better equipped to handle tie situations and maximise your chances of winning.

You may also like