Poker Hand Rankings

Poker hands are ranked here in order of strength, from the weakest Poker hand to the strongest.

High Card
If a Poker hand has no other combinations, then it’s valued by the highest card.

Pair
Two cards of the same value (10, 10).

Two Pair
Two separate pairs (4, 4, King, King).

Three of a Kind
Three cards of the same value (5, 5, 5; or A, A, A)

Straight
Five cards in sequence, but not in the same suit (8 of hearts, 9 of hearts, 10 of diamonds, J of diamonds and Q of spades).

Flush
Any five cards of the same suit, but not in sequence (2, 5, 8, J and K of diamonds).

Full House
Three of a kind combined with a pair (9, 9, 9 with 7, 7; or Q, Q, Q with 6, 6).

Four of a Kind
All four cards of the same value (5, 5, 5, 5; or 10, 10, 10, 10).

Straight Flush
Any five-card sequence in the same suit (7, 8, 9, 10, J of spades; or 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 of hearts).

Royal Flush
This is the unbeatable hand in standard five-card Poker. A, K, Q, J, 10 and all of them with the same suit.

Reading Your Poker Opponents

Reading your opponents is probably the most vital and at the same time most underestimated aspect of the poker game.

The newbie player usually thinks that it would be enough if he knows the poker rules for becoming a good poker player, but that’s far away from reality. As a matter of fact not being able to estimate your rival’s hand range may cost you a lot of money in some difficult situations.

Magician Card Gamble Poker Play  - Peggy_Marco / Pixabay

Lets make one thing clear. Reading your poker opponents is not an easy skill to learn. It takes discipline and a lot of time and even after that there is no 100% telling what the guy on the other side of the poker table has, but you should be able to narrow down his hand range to a few options left and with that you can work out a plan how to play against him.

Recognize the Board Combination

The first thing you need to do is to determine what is the best possible hand out of all combinations that the board offers. It is crucial to know how good your hand is against the other possible hands that your opponent may hold.

Narrow your Opponents Hand Range

You need to analyze what actions did your opponent take on each betting round. This way you will realize to what showing card he called, raised and if he raise how much did he bet? All this individual pieces will give you an insight of his hand range.

Discipline in Poker

Good poker players need to have an edge to win. What differs a good poker player from a bad one? A bad poker player does not expect to win, while a good poker player does. Why? The bad player hopes he gets lucky and the professional relies on his skills!

A good poker player understands that different games require different kinds of discipline.

For example, a disciplined no-limit player can be a bad limit player. He or she does not play too many hands, but only the good ones, which also have a chance to win.

The main difference between a disciplined no-limit and fixed-limit player is that the fixed limit player takes care not to lose his money slowly and bit by bit, while the no-limit player has to take care not to lose his whole money with one hand.

A good poker player knows when he should play and when to stop. He recognizes when he doesn’t play good and when he lacks discipline. That’s the moment when a good poker player calls it a day.

A good player knows that he is not perfect and that he makes mistakes. If he makes a mistake, he learns from it and doesn’t begin to cry or blame others for it. It’s not bad to commit an error. It’s just bad commit a mistake twice.

Psychology in Poker (Limit vs. No-Limit Poker)

A good poker player is not egocentric. He may be a selfish asshole, but when he sits down at a table to play poker, he tries to see things from his opponents perspective. He tries to understand how the other gambler are playing and what they are thinking. A good poker player asks himself this three question:

  1. What kind of hand does my opponent have?
  2. What does my opponent think I have?
  3. What does my opponent think that I think that he has?

The first step is to know the answer to these three questions. The second, much more important step is to manipulate the answers to the questions. If you have a pair of kings and your opponent has a pair of aces, and we both know what the other one has, then it makes no sense to continue playing? A pro manipulates the last two questions by the way he plays and bets. The fact that he never plays the same, but instead varies his game, makes it harder to see through him.

Poker Card Game Casino Cards  - Rollstein / Pixabay

Psychology is a lot more important in no-limit games than in limit poker games. Limit has much more to do with mathematics while no-limit has an important psychological component.

Starting Poker Hands

If you are playing Texas Hold’em then you should know what are good and what are bad starting hands. Also you should be aware which you should call, raise or fold. Of course there are a lot of factors who can impact your actions. Some of these factors are:

-the number of players
-loose or tight opponents

Howsoever, for a beginner, who is playing in low-limit poker following classification of starting hands is fully sufficient.

Note: The following poker guidelines are only for fixed-limit Texas Hold’em

Starting hands you should raise with:

AA, KK, QQ, JJ, 1010, AK, AQ

These are preflop hands that you should raise for the pot to increase and give you more potential winnings.

Starting hands you should call with:

AJ, KQ, KJ, QJ, J10, 99, 88, 77

With these above hands you want to see what the flop is bringing you and if you want to continue playing with them. With those poker starting hands you should not call three bets. Call only one ore two.

Why Play Poker

Why would you play poker? It seems to be a simple matter, however, the answer is complex and personal. There are many reasons to play or not to play poker and often the reasons give you a clue about your poker character and what limit one should play.

Reasons for playing poker

Social gatherings: This is one of the main reasons for the traditional game of poker in your own home. Friends are playing cards together and sometimes you even meet new people with who you become friends later on. If this is one of your main reasons, then you should play low stakes poker. This will keep the game friendly and it’s fun.

Entertainment: Poker is a competitive game. To win, you have to have skill and a little luck (the longer you play the less luck becomes a factor). Many compare poker to sports, because you can compete with other players and at the same time you can have a lot of fun. On the other hand you have to be carefully as well. Since you play with real money you can also lose a lot of money.

Education: The skills and acquirements you need as a good poker player can also help you in everyday life. While playing poker you will learn to better judge other people on a logical and strategically level.

In order to make money: Most people play poker for fun, but there are also a few people who earn a lot of money with it. Not everyone can win a lot of money with this sport, but the desire to win more cash should be a reason to improve your poker skills.

Risk and Yield

Poker players like to take a risk, but only if they know that the risk is worth it.

Good poker players know how much money they can use for playing poker and how much money they need for everyday life.

Good poker players are basically somewhat risk-averse, that is, they don’t like too much risk. There are also players willing to take risks and risk-neutral players. For a venturesome poker player the yield may be smaller then the risk. For a risk-neutral player the yield must be equal to the risk. And for a risk-averse player, the yield must be greater than the risk!

Poker Cards Card Game Ace Play  - Rollstein / Pixabay

When you play poker, then each dollar should have the same value for yourself. You should just focus on making the right decision. If you for example buy in a 0.10-0.25 blinds table and there is a 52% chance for you to double your money, then you should take the risk, even if there is a 48% chance to lose your money.

Generally one should be risk-averse, so you always have a few chips left to play the next day.

When to call it a day

Most good players know when they call preflop and when they fold. This decision that is made preflop can be crucial for the further game. Of course depending on the table you are playing and also on the character of your opponents you should adjust and vary your poker game as much as possible.

However, in general you should always play strong hands preflop, because a medium strong hand will only cause you trouble. Cards like K4 are to be thrown away at any position. Maybe Heads-Up it could be played, but that is another story.

The described preflop situations are very important. Still, that is not all what matters! After that you may have to make three more important decisions. Of course theories like Pot Odds can help you to make a good decision, especially if you need one more card for a straight or a flush, but what are you going to do if you already have a strong hand and you don’t know if it’s good enough to beat the other ones?

Here is one example: 

You have AQ and the flop shows KQ5. Somebody did raise preflop, so how are you going to bet on the turn? This depends a lot on the other players moves. If one player is making a bet, another is raising him and the next player calls it then you can be sure that your pair of Q won’t have a chance.

This is just a small insight in the world of important poker decisions.

Small vs. Big Mistakes in Poker

In Limit Texas Hold’em your own bet is making just a little part of the pot. This encourages poker players to see the flop, because they can look at it with a little investment to maybe later win a big pot. This aspect of Limit Texas Hold’em especially attracts new and inexperienced players (fish) to make a bet preflop. Most bad players often lose their money because they are making continuously small mistakes. Those poker players keep betting even though the Pot Odds clearly tell them not to, or they simply have the weaker hand. Every time you keep betting despite the fact that you shouldn’t you commit small mistakes.

A big mistake in Limit Texas Hold’em is to fold a hand when you actually should bet, or even raise! Why is this such an immense error? Well, the problem is that within this kind of situations you are making the biggest winnings and since you did throw away those cards you won’t win anything. Let me make one thing clear, I didn’t meant that you fold and then later you see that you could have won this. I’m talking about the situation where you hold the best hand and still throw it away.

Here is one Example: You are holding AQ, you did a raise preflop and three other player did call. The flop shows KQ4. You bet, another one is raising you and two player do call. The turn brings a 6. The guy who has raised before is betting now and all other player are folding.

So what are you supposed to do? By now there are 18 small bets in the pot (8 preflop, 8 flop, 2 turn). Probably you are beat. If you want to see the river as well you will have to pay another 4 small bets. After the river card there is a total of 24 SB in the pot, so you have to win one out of six times to justify seeing the river. Lets say you have five outs then you have a 12% chance to get your card. You only need to be about 4% confident that you have him beat. This indeed is very small.

So in this case you should go ahead and call down, even though you probably are beat. However, many newbie poker players will fold this and that would be fatal if the other player was bluffing.

The Second Best Hand

When you are playing Black Jack the worst thing you can get is a 16th. The chance of winning is the lowest. Compared with Poker that would be 7x 2x. The difference is that in Poker you won’t lose any money with 7x 2x, because you will not play it. That is the reason why I’m not bothered with this hand, because I know it’s value and what I can expect from it. However, I have way more respect of AA preflop, since this card has a great potential to either bring me a lot of money or make me lose a lot. The paradox of having more respect from better hands is based on the poker concept relative value of a poker hand.

Everyone should be aware what the point in poker is and how you will make money constantly. You have to maximize your winnings and to minimize your losses. In this case maximizing your profits is the simple task. For example when you set a trap, or you slow play you can make a lot of money with a strong hand. However, basically every idiot can win with a good hand. The main difference between a pro and an amateur poker player is the way they are losing their hands. The good player knows when he has lost and throws away his cards. A bad player keeps betting until the end and loses at the showdown.

The psychological difference between the two players is that the bad poker player absolutely needs to know what the other player had so he can be sure that he lost for the “right reasons”. Like a cop he makes sure that nobody bluffs. On the other hand the professional poker player has overcome that urge.

Limit Poker

Playing the second best hand until the very end in Limit poker won’t hurt you that much. On the short run this will not have much of an impact. Howsoever, on the long term this will lead to a negative effect on your finances. A good way to avoid losing much money with second best hands is a good preflop strategy. Don’t play hands with low kicker like A7 or K4, because these cards will be easy dominated by hands with a high kicker like AK or AQ.

No-Limit Poker

At No-Limit it’s a whole other story. While in Limit poker you won’t lose all your money with the second best hand, that very likely can be the case playing No-Limit Poker. For that reason it is immense important to play hands that have the potential to become “The Nuts”. Those are usually either pairs which can turn into three of a kind or even a Full House and of course draw cards who have the potential to become a flush or a straight.

The key for success in No-Limit Poker is to throw away second best hands if needed.