A kill is a betting-limit-related modifier to a fixed-limit poker game, usually a game of hold 'em, though the kill can be used on other variants. The kill is generally used to "juice" a game, to inject variety into a staid game, or to provide some air of "gambling excitement" to a game.
In a poker game with a kill, if a single player wins two pots in a row, the betting limits on all betting rounds of the next hand are doubled, and the player who won both pots is also required to post a new, larger blind bet usually called a kill blind. A kill blind is the size of the new small bet, which is twice the size of the normal big blind before the kill took effect. The player is required to post the kill blind regardless of their current position, though if the player is in a position where they would normally post a small or big blind, they post the kill blind instead of their normal blind, not in addition to it. Players who have the normal blinds for the hand still post the original blind amounts, even though the "big blind" is not yet in for a full bet in this hand (they will need to at least call the amount of the kill blind in order to continue in the hand).
The player who wins the pots which "trigger" a kill is known as the killer. A pot played with the increased stakes due to a kill is called a kill pot.
If the killer is also in a position which would normally be one of the standard blinds for the hand, the killer must post only the kill amount, instead of posting their normal blind amount.
Depending on casino rules, the killer may be required to act in a different position during the preflop betting round only (during post-flop play, the killer acts in their normal position as determined by the button). During preflop action, the killer may be required to do one of these three things:
- act in turn, in which case they act the same as a player who posts a blind to enter a game. For example, if the pot has not been raised prior to their turn to act, they may choose to check (pass on the opportunity to raise) or raise, or
- act last, in which case the killer does not act until every other player has already acted (in essence, they act as though they were in a position as a third, larger blind, after the big blind), and action skips over the killer when it comes to them on that first preflop round, or
- act last unless it is raised, in which case the killer acts last in the preflop betting round (same as the above option), unless the pot was raised prior to the action reaching the killer's actual position. If the pot was raised by a player in a position that is after the big blind but before the killer, the killer then acts in turn and may choose to fold, call, or raise, just as any other player would.
If a killer wins their own kill pot, the kill continues into the next hand, but the stakes are not re-doubled (they remain at their original, double-normal size, as they were on the first kill pot). The kill only ends once another player wins a (part of) a pot.
If a pot is split between more than one winner, the kill is ended (if it had been in force) and no player is considered to have won the split pot, for purposes of determining the two-pot-in-a-row rule. For example, if a player splits a pot with another player with equal hands (e.g. each had an Ace-high straight), the player does not become a killer even if they win the next hand outright.
In many casinos, there are additional conditions required to trigger a kill pot (e.g. a pot cannot trigger a kill if it is under a certain amount, or if there was no flop). In some casinos, there are even conditions on the first of the two pots (e.g. must be above a certain amount). There are usually no extra conditions for ending or continuing an existing kill. These types of extra conditions will vary widely on a casino-by-casino basis.
Games which are played with a kill nearly always employ some form of marker to indicate who won the previous pot. Frequently, this marker is in the form of a kill button.
A kill button is a round disc (usually plastic, and often large enough to make it visible to all at the table) which says "KILL" on one side. The other side may be blank, or may say "Leg Up" or "1" or some other phrase. When a player wins a single pot, they receive the kill button and are instructed to display the button in front of their chipstack with the "kill" side down. The button thus says "1" or "Leg Up", or is blank, and is intended to indicate that this player won the previous pot.
If no player is considered to have won the previous pot (e.g. the previous pot was split among more than one winner), the kill button is kept face down in the center of the table, and is treated as "part of the pot" to be won by the next winner.
If the player wins a pot while they have the kill button, they have won a second pot in a row, and the kill is triggered. The player then flips the kill button to show the other side, which then announces "KILL" to the rest of the table, reminding everyone that the subsequent hand is a kill pot. The player retains the button, since if they win a third pot in a row, the kill will continue.
When a player who currently holds the kill button folds (regardless of whether the pot is currently a kill pot or not), it is considered courteous to return the kill button to the dealer along with the folded cards, usually taking care to retain its current setting (e.g. if this is a kill pot, return the button with the KILL side up). The dealer will then place the kill button in the pot, to be eventually awarded to the winner of the pot (or left in the middle if the pot is split). When a new player receives the button, they again are instructed to display the button in front of them, with the KILL side down.
Variants of a kill
A half kill is the same as a kill, except when the betting limits are raised, they are only raised by 50% (e.g., a 4/8 game becomes 6/12 for the next hand instead of becoming 8/16). Sometimes, half kills are even used for odd betting numbers (e.g. 3/6 with a half kill), in which case the amount of the kill is specified by the casino (e.g. a 3/6 half kill which becomes 4/8). Half kill can be abbreviated as HK. Kills which are not half kills are sometimes called full kills to distinguish them from half kills, if necessary.
A scoop is a variant of a kill for a hi-lo game. In this variant, the kill is triggered when a single player scoops both the high and low halves of the pot for a single hand, instead of being triggered when a player wins two hands in a row.