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Kill button has pluses and minuses in poker

Oct 30, 2019 3:00 AM

Many casinos have introduced the Kill to its limit games.

I am not sure how players react to this fairly recent innovation, but they seem to accept it quite well as part of the game. It adds an element of excitement to the game, and usually results in bigger pots.

As you wander around the Hustler Casino in Gardena, Calif., occasionally you will see a flat circular plastic disk, about 3 inches in diameter, on a Texas hold’em table, sitting in front of one of the players. Catching the attention of the players, the words “1/2 KILL” in large black letters sits atop a bright red-background.

Here’s how it works. When a player wins two pots in a row in the $4-$8 limit game, with the second pot containing a specified minimum number of chips (20 chips), the dealer places the Kill button in front of that player. It can be either a full-Kill or a half-Kill. At the Hustler Casino it’s half-Kill, which I much prefer.

The player on the Kill button must post 1-1/2 big blinds before the cards are dealt to start the hand. Effectively the stakes for that hand are increased by 50 percent. Should that player be fortunate enough to win that pot, then he continues to hold the Kill  button, and again posts the 1-1/2 big blind.

Playing his hand during the Kill, each player must match the Kill to stay in the hand. In a $4-$8 limit hold’em game, the Kill would be $6. And a raise (a 2-bet) would be $12 preflop and on the flop. Then, the upper limit effectively increases to $12, with raises of the same amount. 

Thus, a 4-bet (usually the maximum allowed in raised bets with more than two players still in the hand, would be $48. That’s a lot of chips (money) for a recreational player who signed up for a $4-$8 game. 

As you can see, the Kill is likely to result in huge pots. That’s to the good if your hand improves to a monster, especially the nuts; but can be quite costly when you lose.

With those bigger pots, it makes it all the more costly when your hand is beat — especially if it’s second-best. (Ugh!) On that basis, it would be wise to adjust your play in Kill hands. 

An easy way is to simply increase — by 1 or 2 points — your starting-hand criteria based on the Hold’em Algorithm. (Refer to Hold’em or Fold’em? — An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision). Hence, with the higher point-count criteria, you would be staying to see the flop much less often, and have a better chance to improve your hand to win the pot when you do pay the half-Kill to see the flop.

While table-selection is always important, it is even more so in Kill hands. Furthermore, the more aggressive the table, the more costly it is bound to be — especially before the flop when there are likely to be multiple raises.

To deal with that situation, one thing you can do is to observe the play at each table before you are called to a seat. (Make good use of the time while waiting to be called.) Try to avoid playing at aggressive tables. If that table is very aggressive, be prepared to fold more often than usual by using a higher point-count criteria (1 or 2 points higher) based on the Hold’em Algorithm. Patience is a virtue.

Then, when you know in advance that this table is highly aggressive, just tell the floorperson before you are seated at that table: “I’ll wait for another table.” That’s your privilege.

If a table turns very aggressive after you have been playing there for a while, you can always ask the floorperson for a table change and hope it’s much less aggressive. I have seen players change tables several times during a session.

Yes, the Kill button can make a big difference.

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