Texas Hold ‘em Hands


Making money and experiencing continued success playing Texas Hold ‘em requires a firm knowledge of the hands that you choose to play and when you choose to play them – after all, the object of the game is to have the best combination of five cards after the betting has ended. In Hold ’em, each player is dealt two hole cards face-down, which only that player can see. Then there are three rounds of community cards dealt face-up so every player can see. Utilizing both their hole cards and those that appear on the communal board, players attempt to make the best five-card poker hand, the names and rankings of which we have described in our Poker Hands page.

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Player has pocket Aces at the Flop.

For a quick recap, here is the basic ranking of poker hands from weakest to strongest:

  • High Card: When no pairs, sets, straights or flushes are present, the player with the highest value card is the winner. This also serves as an overarching rule, as the higher-value card will always be a deciding factor when comparing two hands of the same type (i.e. two straights, two flushes, etc.).
  • A Pair: Two cards of the same value.
  • Two Pair: When a player holds two separate pairs of differing value (i.e. a five-card hand of 5,5, 10,10,7).
  • Three of a Kind: Three cards of equal value. Aslo known as a ‘set’ or ‘trips.’
  • Straight: Five cards in sequential order. Unlike other hands, aces can be either low (A,2,3,4,5) or high (10,J,Q,K,A).
  • Flush: Five cards of the same suit. The suits are not ranked.
  • Full House: A hand with both three of a kind and a pair. When two full houses go against each other the player with the higher set will win. If the sets are shared, then the pair will decide the winner.
  • Four of a Kind: When a player’s hand contains all four cards of a given value
  • Straight Flush: As it’s name implies, a straight flush sees five cards of sequential value that are all of the same suit. A Royal flush is the strongest of these, featuring the 10,J,Q,K,A of a particular suit.

One important distinction to be made when it comes to Texas Hold ‘em is that players must make the best five card hand. This can be accomplished with any combination of the seven cards each player has access to (the two hole cards and five community cards) but does not require that a player’s hole cards factor into the decision. If the hand has played through and no player remaining in contention for the pot has hole cards that are better than what is shared on the board, the hand will be declared a draw and the winnings will be split among those players still in the hand.

Hole Cards

In Texas Hold ‘em, your first decision will always be based on your hole cards. As such, it’s important to know a bit about what kind of cards you should be looking for in the pocket.

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A player with pocket queens.

Pocket Pairs

The best starting hands in Hold ‘em, a pocket pair is when both of a player’s hole cards are of the same value. These pairs represent the only made hands possible before the flop is dealt, yet for many, their strength won’t go much further than that. While higher pairs (pocket 10s through pocket Aces) will likely remain a fairly strong once the flop hits and middling pairs (6s through 9s) at least provide strong draws, pocket fives and lower often end up yielding to players that made a better hand on the flop.

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A player with suited cards.

Suited Connectors

If you don’t land a pocket pair in the hole, your next best bet would be suited connectors. These hands, which see two sequential cards of the same suit, offer up a number of draws, notable flush and straight potential. This, plus the two live cards, make suited connectors (particularly strong combinations like ace, king) well worth playing, though weaker draws may spur some hesitation.

Connectors

Just a step down from suited connectors, connecting cards are also popular hole card combinations because of the additional straight draw. As with all combinations, the higher the cards the better, but when chips are low or blinds need to be defended, even more passive players will embrace connectors and enter the pot.

Suited Cards

Playing a hand simply because it is suited is certainly a bold move, as you’re relying on three cards of the same suit to come on the board. Yet you miss all of the shots you don’t take, and the additional draw can make a marginal hand more playable than one might initially think.

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A player with a pair of tens.

Gaps

If a hand isn’t a pair, connected or suited, you are holding what are sometimes classified as ‘gap’ cards, because there is a space between the values of each card. These hands are typically harder to justify betting with. As the gap between the cards grows, the odds of these hands panning out grow with them – and though it may be tempting to stay in a hand with a high card like and ace or a king, having a weak kicker leaves you in a poor position if someone else also hits the same card.

By only playing hands that have profitable expected value, you can greatly increase your ability to earn money over the long term. However, keep in mind that you need to play your hand as the situation dictates and not always avoid a hand just because it’s a not a long-term winner. There are times when your starting hand selection will have to loosen up to include some otherwise questionable gap hands, and of course there is always the thrill of bluffing an opponent to consider. At larger tables, it is advisable to stick with premium hands unless you’ve cultivated the kind of table image that allows you to bully your opponents, while you can afford to loosen up a bit when the field starts to dwindle.