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Poker Hands: An Introduction


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To fool or be fooled

Poker is a pretty straightforward game. All you have to do is build a hand that’s strong enough to beat everyone else’s – or trick your opponents that you do have a strong hand regardless of what cards you actually have – to win.

But how exactly do you gauge the strength of your hand? Well, there’s a table below that shows you all the hands at your disposal and how each one of them ranks with respect to all the others. But before we get to that, let us first go over some of the basics:

Please note the following card references:

(h) Hearts (d) Diamonds (c) Clubs (s) Spades

What is a hand in poker?

Simply put, a poker hand is just a collection of specific cards. At the end of each game (i.e., the showdown stage), all active players must compare their respective hands to determine a winner (or winners in case there’s an unbreakable tie). The player or players with the strongest hand wins the pot.

In most cases (i.e., in standard games like Texas Holdem and Omaha), a hand is made up of five cards. Even in seven-card poker, only the strongest five-card hands get considered. The only difference is that each player gets more cards to work within seven-card games.

The only exception to this five-card hand rule are three-card poker games, where, as the name suggests, only three cards are used to make a hand.

What determines the strength of a poker hand?

Rarity dictates how strong a certain poker hand is. The more difficult it is to get, the higher it ranks. Now, while we won’t actually show you the math behind it in this post, if you enjoy working with numbers or are just curious, then there’s a detailed write-up on the subject right here.

You said something about tricking my opponents. What’s that about?

Well, it’s a technique called “bluffing.” It basically entails making your opponents believe that you either have a strong or weak hand depending on how you want them to act. By making other players believe that you have a strong hand, you can force those with weak hands to fold, thereby decreasing the total number of people you have to compete with come showdown time. By acting weak, on the other hand, you can bait them into raising the pot, which ultimately means more money for you at the end of the game.

All it takes is a bit of acting. Of course, being able to read your opponents would help a lot as well. But be sure to not overuse this technique to prevent your opponents from seeing a pattern and countering.

Poker hands in order of strength

Now that we’re done with the basics, let’s move on to the hand rankings:

Royal Flush Probability


The top hand in poker, it consists of five suited cards of consecutive values starting with an ace.

Ex: As Ks Qs Js 10s

Straight Flush Probability


It’s essentially a clone of a royal flush but it uses a king or lower as its highest card instead of an ace.

Ex: Js 10s 9s 8s 7s

Four of a Kind Probability


This hand is made up of four cards of the same value and a fifth kicker card.

Ex: 3d 3h 3s 3c 9s

Full House Probability


A trip and pair combo.

Ex: Kd Kh Ks 4s 4c

Flush Probability


Five suited cards of any value.

Ex: Ad 7d 6d 4d 2d

Straight Probability


As you may have guessed, this hand consists of five cards in sequence. The suits do not matter.

Ex: 6d 5c 4s 3c 2h

Three of a Kind Probability


Also known as a trip, it’s just three cards of the same value plus two kicker cards.

Ex: 4h 4s 4c 10d 7s

Two Pair Probability


A pair is just two cards of the same value. This hand has two of them plus a fifth kicker card.

Ex: 10d 10h 6d 6c 2s

One Pair Probability


In contrast, this hand only has one pair plus three kicker cards.

Ex: Kd Kh 6s 3c 2s

High Card Probability


It’s called a hand but it’s practically just a collection of random cards. This is what you get by default when you are unable to build anything stronger.

In most cases, it would be best to just fold when you get this hand – unless you’re sure that you can bluff your way to victory.

Ex: Jd 7c 6s 4h 2h

Mastering these poker hands takes experience

Don’t worry if the whole subject seems overwhelming. The more games you play, the more you’ll be able to master these things.

Speaking of playing more games, if you want to enjoy real money poker action at the comfort of your home, then sign up for a account today!


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