Coral’s Poker Guide Part 2: Poker hands
Before venturing out into the world of poker one should learn two key facets of poker; the value of their hand and what one should do with it. These two facts are often neglected by beginners, who depend on luck and attempted bluffs to win small irregular amounts.
All good poker players must know the value of their hand instantly, or risk being caught out with sloppy play. For example, on the surface a pair of 6s might look fantastic, but to the trained poker player they are a rather risky affair. Knowing the value of your hand both in terms of hierarchy and their power in specific situations is the key to being a successful poker player.
In this section we are going to take a look at each potential poker hand and discus their value and how to take advantage of their leverage.
Understanding Texas Hold’em hands
In Texas Hold’em each player is dealt two cards by a single dealer. The cards you are dealt are your personal cards, often referred to as your starting hands.
Five cards are then dealt out on the table in three stages; the flop, the turn and the river – these are called the community cards; betting takes place before and after every one of these stages, and those who decide their hand isn’t good enough will drop out. At the end of the round, everybody who still remains in the action flips their cards and reveals their hand – or, as it is referred to, the showdown.
We’ve already covered betting and table etiquette in this article here. Let’s take a look at some of those hands then and hopefully, just potentially learn something!
High card is the lowest hand value and is essentially a hand that does not connect with any of the community cards. For example, if you have two cards – the six of clubs, and the 7 of hearts – and you make no connection with the community cards, then you have a high card.
The weakest and most useless hand in the game, unless you are looking to bluff. Any player who has followed through with a high card towards the end is either inexperienced, on tilt, or was attempting to bluff. High cards are usually a result of holding on for an open ended straight or a flush, or when a player holds high hole cards, such as a king or an ace and is unable to create a pair.
If the flop has been revealed and you have little chance of connecting a straight, hold unsuited cards or you have not paired with any community cards, then it is recommended that you fold; you hold a hand with low value which is likely to be beaten against experienced players.
The probability of ending a hand with a high card is 50.1177%
A pair is the second lowest hand in Texas Hold’em poker, and is often one of the most received just behind the high card hand. The odds of receiving a pair is just 7% lower than receiving a high card, at 42.2569%. A pair can be anything from 2s to aces, with aces a higher pair beating a lower pair.
For example, is player one was holding a pair of 2s and player two was holding a 6 and 8, the pairs of 2s would initially be favourite to win as their hand is more powerful. If either a 6 or 8 was revealed in the flop though, then player 2’s hand would be more powerful, as their pair is higher than the 2s. As you can guess, going in with a low pair – or pocket pair, which is the name when you have a pair as your hole card – is risky, especially against a large number of players, where pairing from community cards is more likely than if you were heads up in a tournament. The less players in the action, the less likely you are to lose with a strong starting hand.
Playing low pocket pairs, or even pairs for that matter, is a good strategy when playing against a smaller table of players. This way, it is less likely that you will be shot down on the river because of a fluke card.
Of course, a pair of kings can easily be a winner in the right circumstances. But be warned, they can easily be trumped by the next best hand – two pair.
The probability of ending a hand with one pair is 42.2569%
Holding one pair can be a powerful hand, but holding two pairs is often a ticket to victory. After the pair, the odds of hitting another poker hand are dramatically reduced. The odds for receiving two pairs in any game is 7.62%, which is some 35% less likely than landing a pair. Once you start to understand the odds of hands, you start to learn the true power that they have. If one hand is 35% less likely to occur than another, and you hold that hand, there is a good chance that nobody else has a hand to beat it.
Don’t just go off the odds though, remember to read the player – don’t worry, we cover that as well.
If player one has a pair of K-A (that’s a king and an ace, this is the general format of poker hands, which we’ll do from now on to make things easier) and player 2 holds a J-9 (again, that’s a jack and a 9, just to clear things up), and the flop reveals K-J-9, both players believe themselves to be in a powerful position. In fact, though, player 2 now has a 73% chance of winning, as they hold two pairs instead of player 1’s pair of kings.
Think about it this way: after the flop, seven cards have been dealt. With 45 left in the deck player 1 needs a king or an ace to beat player 2’s two pair. Since he holds one king, and there is one king on the table, then there are only two kings left – alongside 4 aces, this means that there are only six cards in a deck of 45 that will result in a win for player 2. There are still a number of cards which can further enhance player 1’s hand as well – if for example another jack or 9 was revealed, they would have a ‘full house’ – a much more powerful hand!
Landing two pairs from the flop is a very powerful hand, and has great potential to turn into a full house. Landing two pairs from the turn or the river is equally as fortunate, by look at the cards on the table and if you can see any potential runs, or if anybody could be on for a three of a kind or a flush! Be careful and watch how your opponents are betting.
The probability of ending a hand with two pairs is 7.62%
Three of a kind
A three of a kind is, as you would guess by now, when you have a hand that contains three of the same card. This can be anything from three 2s to three aces, and like pairs, the higher the number the better the hand. Three 7s would be beaten by three 6s, and three kings would beat either one of these hands. The odds of landing a three of a kind are only around 3%, which shows how rare this hand is.
If you land a three of a kind during the flop then this puts you in a very powerful position indeed, especially when this is a result of holding pocket pairs. Landing three of a kind this way allows you to mask the fact you hold a powerful hand, as a heavy raise when a pair is on the table can cause opponents with weak hands to fold. If this is the case and your three of a kind involves two community cards then be wary, because someone else might hold the same hand. Remember though, only one other person can hold a three of a kind alongside you, as there are only four cards – hence why this combination is a powerful hand.
It is well worth pushing through an aggressive bet if one holds a three of a kind after the flop as this will eliminate outsiders who hold weaker hands. If anybody stays in the action though, be wary as they could hold a good hand. Take a look on the table and if there are three of the same suit, a run of cards: 2-3-4, for example, and a player is betting large amounts, then be wary, they might hold a straight of a flush.
The probability of ending a hand with a three of a kind is 2.87%
A straight is when you have a sequence of five unsuited cards that numerically follow each other; this can be 2-3-4-5-6 (which is the lowest straight possible), to 10-J-Q-K-A, which is the highest potential straight. Any of the cards can come from the community cards – so, for example, if the community cards are 4-5-6-7-8, the whole table will have a straight. Although, if anybody has a 9, they will have a higher value straight as their’s runs to 9.
Straights are extremely powerful hands and are seldom beat, so landing a straight during the flop is generally a ticket to victory. There are a couple of things to look out for, such as the suit of the community cards. If, 2-3-5 comes out and you have 4-6, then you have a straight, but if the community cards are all hearts, then there is the chance that somebody could land a flush – which is five cards of the same suit. If you see players who normally wouldn’t bet big suddenly place a lot of chips down, there is a good chance they are primed for a flush and, depending on the course of the tournament, require you to fold your low straight.
The probability of ending a hand with a straight is 0.76%
A flush, as the name wouldn’t suggest, is where a player has a hand that consists of five non-sequential cards (unlike a straight) of the same suit. This is one of the most powerful hands in poker for a number of reasons, but mostly, it is because a flush beats all the hands that most commonly arise. Most of the hands that arise in poker don’t generally rise past a flush in terms of value, as other hands are not very common, and so landing a flush during the flop or turn phase of the game and is one of the most powerful scenarios a player can end up in.
Flushes are determined by the value of the highest card, and are often called by this also. A-K-9-8-4, all in the same suit would be referred to as an ace-high flush. This would beat a 8-6-4-3-2, or an 8-high flush, as the highest value in the second hand is 8.
Pushing through with flushes is wise when you hold two of the same suit as your hole cards, and you match with three community cards. If you only have one card that matches with 4 community cards and your hole card is an ace or a king then go ahead, as you have a good chance of winning. If your hole card is low then be wary, as anybody who came in with a pair could have a high card in the suit that is required.
The probability of ending a hand with a flush of is 0.17%
The full house poker hand is one of the most powerful hands you can build towards. Basically, a full house is when you have three of a kind and a pair with one hand. Full house is also referred to as ‘three of one kind and two of another,’ and is often used as a powerful and surprising hand to beat a player with three of a kind, or two pairs; especially weaker players who overestimate the power of a pair.
The strength of your full house depends on the value of your three of a kind. Three aces and two kings beats two kings and three aces. Likewise, two fives and three fours is beaten by three eights and two fours. It’s all about the value of your three of a kind, and as such, even through it’s a rather powerful hand, consider that your opponent might hold the same hand you have, but reversed.
The full house generally occurs in two ways:
1) You hold a pocket pair and the community cards create three of a kind
2) You hold two high value cards, and two of your cards and one of the other end up in the community pile
If you’re trying to work out whether an opponent has a three of a kind, scenario 1 is usually the easiest to spot. If, after the third identical card is deal on the table, a sudden raise comes from a player, or even a suspicious check, then be wary as they most probably hold pocket pairs and are trying to lull you into the action. This is especially tricky if you’ve ended up with a three of a kind in the process. Remember though, sometimes it is just best to fold.
The probability of ending a hand with a full house is 0.17%%
4 of a kind
One up from the full house is four of a kind, which is the third most powerful hand in poker.
Basically, as the name would suggest, four of a kind occurs when you have four of the same card. This consists of one, or two from your cards and two, or three from the community cards.
There’s nothing much more to say about four of a kind, other than if you get it, you’ll probably win! The only thing you can get beaten by is a royal flush, which let’s be honest, is so rare that you’d have more chance winning the lottery.
The probability of ending a hand with a four of a kind is 0.0256%
So, let’s talk about the straight flush; essentially the most powerful hand one can ever possess. It is a combination of both a straight and a flush, meaning that you need to land a run of cards all in the same suite. One example of a straight flush would be 3-4-5-6-7, all in hearts.
As you can probably guess, landing a straight flush is rather difficult indeed, and many players have not experienced one either.
The only hand that can beat a straight flush is a royal flush, which is 10-J-K-Q-A, all in the same suite. This is the most powerful hand in the game and, if you manage to land this one, you may as well go all in. Everybody has heard of the royal flush, so there’s absolutely no need to go into detail about this monster. Just trust us when we say it’s good!
The probability of ending a hand with a straight flush is 0.0014%
The probability of ending a hand with a four of a royal flush is 0.000154%
So, that’s everything you need to know about poker hands!
Now you’ve got to grips with poker hands, why not learn which starting hands are better than others. This way you’ll be able to tell which two cards are your ticket to glory, and the cards that you need to bin off!
>> Next: Part 3 – Starting Hands