A Look at House Rules: The Kill
The kill! It sounds ominous — and confusing — and it can be both. But in poker the “kill” is not about bloodshed or taking out a contract on anything other than a stack of chips. Understanding how the kill works in different game formats is the key to deciding if you want to play in a game with the kill.
The kill is inspired by an action junkies’ desire to gamble by increasing the size of the stakes, adding a higher-stakes limit to a game in progress in order to run one game with two different limits. It shouldn’t be confused with a game that allows “overs” (discussed in “A Look at House Rules: Games in Progress, Limit and Format Changes”) since “overs” is an option for certain players to play hands at higher stakes while a kill forces everyone to play a higher limit when the kill is in effect.
How the Kill Works
1. Fixed-limit, high-only games
In games such as $4/$8 fixed-limit hold’em, a condition is usually required to initiate a “kill pot.” The standard requirement is for the same player to win two pots in a row.
A button is placed in the pot which is pushed to the winner (the first pot won is known as a “leg up”) and stays in front of the player as long as that player is in the next hand. If the player folds, the button is sent back to the pot and the process starts anew. But if that same player wins the second pot, the next hand is a kill hand in which the “killer” must post a blind according to the predetermined kill limit.
If it’s a “half-kill game,” the game limit would go up to $6/$12. If it’s a “full-kill game,” the blinds would increase to $8/$16. If the same player then wins a third straight hand, the kill would stay in effect until a new winner takes a pot at which point the limit would revert back to $4/$8. The norm is that the killer has last action after everyone calls the amount of the kill.
2. Fixed-limit, hi/lo split games
In split-pot games, the condition required to initiate a kill hand is one player winning/scooping the whole pot with a certain predetermined amount in it. The pot-size requirement depends on the limit in progress. The killer would then post the big blind for the new limit along with the kill button.
If the game is a $10/$20 Omaha-8 and the game was a “half-kill,” the killer would post a $15 blind and the limit would be $15/$30 for the duration of the hand.
3. No-limit or pot-limit games
In no-limit or pot-limit games, players can “kill the pot” by posting a blind from any position (that isn’t a required blind position) at the table, thereby forcing any player coming into the hand to play for double the kill amount. In some no-limit games the killer may put the kill on by posting more than the amount of the big blind (BB). The norm is that amount cannot be bigger than one-half the player's stack.
It is also possible that more than one kill can be put on a hand (there may be a limit to the number of kills allowed). After all the blinds have received the option to take last action in the order of kills being posted, the action starts in normal fashion with those in first position initiating first action.
When the Kill is Optional
In games that do not have a forced kill requirement (like pot size or a player winning two in a row) but in which the kill is available, the kill must be announced or the amount of the kill must be placed in the betting area before any cards are dealt. By the way, don’t shake your head if you’re playing no-limit, lowball draw, and a player posts a kill after seeing two or three of his or her cards — in some rooms it’s allowed.
In many draw games and even some limit games, the player “under the gun” (UTG) must open for an amount that is double the amount of the BB. Thus if blinds are $2/$4, the UTG player would have to open for $8. In a draw-lowball kill game, the BB could set out $5 and force the next player to open for $10 in order to continue with the hand. The next player could look at two or three cards and kill the pot for $9, forcing the next player to open for $18 if he or she continues with the hand. The killers would have last action, in order of kills posted, after all other players folded or called.
Kill Blind Rules
Keep in mind that house rules may allow a kill player to have last action on the blinds, or may force the player to act on his or her kill blind when the action comes to him or her.
A few other points regarding kill blinds:
- Players cannot buy the button on a kill hand if the kill is one of the blinds.
- Players cannot change seats or leave the game until the kill blind has been satisfied. Only in the event of a play-over where the returning player is going to take the next hand and the play-over is the kill will a player escape having to post the kill blind.
- Blinds may not be chopped when the kill is on from any position that isn’t a regular blind position.
The kill may sound perfect for an action-packed home game, but it may be too much if the regular group has a limited bankroll and everyone conforms to a set limit each week.
Home games usually have plenty of action and if a kill game is introduced to your favorite home game, proceed with caution. Once you have a feel for the kill and note how it affects the play of others (and their chip stacks during the course of the kill game), you’ll soon know if it’s a good idea for your style of play or if you’re best sitting that type of game out.
Kill games are not available in online poker. If action is your first pick for game priority when you log on to your favorite online poker site, find the best games suited to your playing style and set your game filters. You can play in a variety of limits when you multi-table the action and adjust your schedule accordingly to suit your game play.
Online poker also allows you to multi-table in a variety of game choices. If you’re tired of hold’em, try seven-card stud hi/lo as one of your game choices for a change. Keep in mind it’s much more difficult to track the number of draws in draw games and up-cards in stud games when you multi-table.
Jump in, test them all out, and sample the variety of limits. Changing up your choices could help improve your game.