The Beginner’s Guide to Poker Hands: Start Your Poker Journey Here
Ask anyone who’s ever played poker, and they’re sure to tell you what a fascinating game it is.
This is probably why it continues to be so popular the whole world over, with millions of people playing every day and a proportion of them even making a good living from the game.
Its history is a little obscure, but it most likely derived from a German game called “pochen” – literally to bluff – and a similar French equivalent called poque.
The game we play today only really started to take shape with its arrival in the United States in the 19th century. A number of variants soon developed, often given names from where they originated.
The most obvious of these are the universally played Texas Hold’em and Omaha.
What many people don’t fully appreciate is that, at heart, poker is a very simple game that is made very complex by all of the variables that it includes.
It’s also seen a huge boom in recent years, thanks to the emergence of online gambling in many countries.
In the UK, online gambling is popular, with gambling providers available for a range of gambling activities, including casino games and sports betting.
Many casino sites offering games like online poker now offer ways to play for everyone, from absolute beginners to seasoned pros.
For the former, online poker has proved to be a safe environment to get to grips with the rules of the game, free from the need to feel intimidated by other, more experienced players.
Step One: Learn the Language
One of the aspects that can make the game seem a little impenetrable is the language used. There are buttons, big blinds, small blinds, flops, and rivers, to name just a few of the words you’ll hear flying around.
So, one of the very first things to do is to build up a glossary of these terms, so you know exactly what they mean.
It’s also a question of learning the etiquette of the game – for example that dealing moves around the table in a clockwise direction, and when you decide to pull out of a particular round, you need to “mess” your cards by putting them all face down on the table.
But this isn’t the time or the place to go into the various ins and outs of the game because we’re here to talk about hands.
Memorizing these and being able to recall, almost on the spot, which ones beat the others is one essential skill that you’re going to need as a poker player.
The Hands You Need to Learn
The good news is that the value of the five-card hands stays constant across most forms of the game, so you only have to memorize them once.
In some instances, like in Hi-Lo games, the ranking is inverted. But as long as you know the order that they come in, it’s just a question of reversing the ranking.
The principle behind their value is a fairly straightforward one. Namely, the lower the probability of getting that particular hand, the greater its value.
In essence, this is the same principle behind all kinds of wagering.
So, for example, in roulette, there is a far higher pay-out for guessing a single number than there would be for whether it will be odd or even, red or black.
Similarly, in horseracing, the less likely a horse is to win, the higher the odds you will get on it.
Poker Hand Rankings Explained
The strength of your hand is going to dictate how you play the round. In descending order, here’s the ranking.
- Royal flush – the rarest of all hands, this is the ace, king, queen, jack, and ten of a single suit.
- Straight flush – a straight flush again includes five cards of the same suit in sequential order, for example, 2♣3♣4♣5♣6♣.
- Four of a kind – this is fairly self-explanatory. You have four of a kind when you have the same card from each suit in your hand – and the higher the number, the stronger the hand will be.
- Full house – a full house is when your hand consists of three of a kind and a pair across any of the suits in the deck.
- Flush – any five cards from the same suit is a flush. They don’t need to be in any sequential order.
- Straight – This is a sequence of any five cards from any of the four suits in sequential order. An example would be 3♠4♦5♣6♠7♥.
- Three of a kind – any three cards of the same number across three different suits.
- Two pair – any two pair of any number regardless of suit.
- A pair – two cards of the same ranking.
- High card – in the absence of any of the hands already described, simply having the highest card in your hand can, very rarely indeed, can win.
Those Are the Hands – Now it’s a Question of Tactics
It’s all very well knowing the hands and their rankings. But the true skill comes in knowing how to best exploit the cards you’re dealt.
This also means making a careful study of betting strategies – as well as brushing up on a bit of human psychology.
That’s because poker is a game of incomplete knowledge. You may know what your hand contains, but you won’t have a clue about your opponents’ positions.
It’s also what makes poker such an intriguing and involving game and one which you’re already taking the first steps to master.