Getting started

Poker Hand Values

The cards used in poker have two qualities. Suit (obviously spades, hearts, clubs and diamonds) and Rank (two through Ace). With this in mind, here is how you create poker hands:
  • Royal flush - All cards of same suit. Ranks from ten through Ace.
  • Straight Flush - All cards of same suit. Rank in sequence.
  • Four of a Kind - Four cards with the same rank.
  • Full House - Three cards of one rank, and two cards of a second rank.
  • Flush - All cards of same suit.
  • Straight - All card with ranks in sequence. (ex. 4-5-6-7-8)
  • Three of a Kind - Three cards with the same rank.
  • Two Pair - A pair is two cards of the same rank. Two pair is two sets of cards of the same rank. (ex. 8-8-3-3-9)
  • One Pair - A pair is two cards of the same rank.
  • High Card - When no other poker hand can be formed, the highest ranking card in your hand is the "high card"

    Tie Breakers

    Hands can end in a tie, and result in a split-pot. But, there are tie breaking rules to consider first. They are:

  • Pairs - When two players both have a pair, the highest pair wins. When both players have the same pair, we look at the highest card in each hand. This card is referred to as the 'kicker'. For instance, 3-3-J-9-8 beats 3-3-9-8-7. If the pairs and the kickers are the same, the decision goes to the next highest card in the hand. 9-9-K-7-2 beats 9-9-K-5-3. This process continues until both hands are exactly the same or there is a winner.
  • Two Pair - the higher of the top pairs wins. A-A-9-9-2 beats K-K-J-J-10. If the top pair are equal, the second pair breaks the tie. If both the top pair and the second pair are equal, the kicker breaks the tie.

  • Three-of-a-Kind - the higher ranking card wins. J-J-J-9-8 beats 5-5-5-9-8.

  • Straights - the straight with the highest ranking card wins. A-K-Q-J-10 beats 9-8-7-6-5. If the straights both contain cards of the same rank, the pot is split.

  • Flush - the flush with the highest ranking card wins. A-9-8-7-5 beats K-Q-J-5-4. If the highest cards in each flush are the same, the next highest cards are compared. This process continues until either the hands are shown to be exactly the same, or there is a winner.

  • Full House - the hand with the higher ranking set of three cards wins. J-J-J-2-2 beats 9-9-9-A-A.

  • Four of a Kind - the higher ranking set of four cards wins. 9-9-9-9-2 beats 8-8-8-8-A.

  • Straight Flush - ties are broken in the same manner as a straight.

  • Royal Flush - Two or more Royal Flushes split the pot.
  • Saturday, February 3, 2007

    Beginning Holdem Strategy

    It's true that in Texas Hold'em any two cards can be a winner. But it's cards, not dice, and although luck plays a part in every hand, strategy can make you a long term winner.

    Texas Hold'em is a game where you should pick and choose your battles wisely. Playing every hand will of course lead to winning more pots. But in between those wins will be more losses as well. Playing the right hands, at the right time will leave you with more chips in your stack.

    That leads us to seat position. Timing is everything in some cases, and in poker it certainly counts for something. While some cards are playable under some circumstances, they aren't under others. Seat position is a key part of the circumstances that dictate whether you should play a hand, or wait for a better opportunity to present itself.

    Professional poker players can sense what their opponents have in their hands. When just beginning you may not be able to read your opponents with that level of skill, but if you can take a moment to read the cards on the board, you can tell with certainty what they do not have. Reading the board lets you know what hands are possible, and from there you can use other information from your opponents to gauge what hands are probable. And act accordingly.

    Often players will find themselves in need of a card to complete their hand. These hands are known as drawing hands. When on a drawing hand, it's nice to know what the odds of your ship actually coming in are. Armed with those odds, you're better able to play your hand correctly. So, see the drawing odds page for a chart that will tell you the odds of completing your gutshot straight, flush, or three-of-a-kind. Information is power at the table, and this information is part of the basic skills that winning poker players possess.

    Related to drawing odds is the concept of pot odds. When you know you're waiting on a card to complete your hand, and there's a bet before you, you'd like to know if calling that bet is a good idea or a bad idea. If you're familiar with the concept of pot-odds, you'd be informed enough to make that decision. When you're ready to have that kind of power at the tables, read the primer on pot odds.

    Video guide with one of the pro's

    Poker Strategy - Pot Odds

    When you see a flop, you will generally be in one of three situations. Situation #1: Your hand totally misses the board.
    Qs Js Ad 8h 7h
    Your Hand Board
    You have nothing, so you should check and fold. A bluff is also another possibility. Situation #2: You hit the flop well and hold a strong hand.
    As Ks Kd Jh 4s
    Your Hand Board
    In these situations, you should generally bet or raise. Situation #3: You have a drawing hand The third possibility is that you currently do not hold a strong hand, but it is possible for you to make a strong hand if the turn or river brings you a good card. This situation is known as "drawing."
    As Ks 4s 6s Jd
    Your Hand Board
    In this situation, a spade will make you a flush, and an Ace or King will bring you top pair. When you are drawing, there are several tools that will help you make your decisions. One important tool is "pot odds." Calculating pot odds is fairly simple. First, you must count the number of outs you have. An out is a card that will improve your hand.
    Qs Js Kd Th 7c
    Your Hand Board
    In this example, your outs are 4 Aces and 4 Nines, or 8 outs total. To calculate your percentage of hitting an out on the next card, you take the number of outs times 2, then add 1. In the above situation with 8 outs, you have roughly a 17% chance of hitting on the turn. Once you figure out your chance of hitting a draw, you multiply it by the pot plus the bet to determine the maximum bet you can call. For example, if the bet is $10 and the pot is $90, the bet plus the pot is $100. Now let's say you have 6 outs (6 cards will help you). This means you have about a 13% chance of hitting. If the pot is $90 and you must call $10, you should call because you can call as long as you have at least a 10% chance to hit ($10 / $100). However, if the bet to you is $20, you should fold, because that would require a 18.2% chance of hitting ($20 / $110).