Last Updated: October 27, 2023
Checked by: Ivan Potocki
The first things that you need to learn when playing Texas Holdem are rules and poker hand rankings. Without knowing what beats what you will be struggling to move forward. Thus, spending a few minutes going over the list of poker hands in order will pay for itself in no time.
#1. Royal Flush: Ace, King, Queen, Jack and a Ten of the same suit – A♣ K♣ Q♣ J♣ T♣
#2. Straight Flush: five cards in a row with the same suit that is not A-high, such as – T♠ 9♠ 8♠ 7♠ 6♠
#3. Four of a Kind: combination with 4 cards of the same rank, like 8♠ 8♥ 8♦ 8♣ 4♣
#4. Full House: three cards of the same rank and a pair, like J♥ J♦ J♣ 5♥ 5♣
#5. Flush: five cards of the same suit that are not in a row, like K♥ Q♥ 8♥ 5♥ 3♥
#6. Straight: five cards in a row, like 5♥ 6♦ 7♣ 8♣ 9♦
#7. Three of a Kind: three cards of the same rank and two cards that do not match, like 9♥ 9♠ 9♣ 6♦ 3♠
#8. Two Pair: combination with two different pairs, like 4♣ 4♠ 7♣ 7♠ K♣
#9. One Pair: two cards with the same rank and three random cards, like A♦ A♥ J♣ 7♦ 3♥
#10. High Card: when all your cars are with different ranks and with no combination, like K♥ Q♠ 8♣ 3♠ 2♦
There are a few situations where players can have a similar holding, but you still need to decide the winner of a particular poker hand. If two players have one pair hands, the one holding a higher pair will win.
KKxxx will always win against JJxxx and so on.
However, sometimes players end up having the same pair, such as KKQT3 and KKJ72. In this case, “the kicker” comes into play, and the player holding the highest non-pair hand will win.
Therefore, a poker hand with K♥ K♠ Q♣ T♦ 3♠ will take down the pot because it has a higher kicker (Q>J).
If the top non-pair card is the same (like K♥ K♠ Q♣ T♦ 3♠ vs. K♥ K♠ Q♣ 9♥ 4♥), then you have to compare the second high card and if that is the same, then the third one. The pot will be split if all five cards are the same and both players end up having the identical combination.
It could happen with two pair hands as well. If players have JJ55K and JJ55Q, the one holding a king as a kicker will take down this pot.
Royal Flush is the best possible poker hand containing cards from Ten to Ace all of the same suit. Therefore, there are only four different Royal Flush poker hand combinations:
This poker hand stands tall at the top of poker hand rankings, so if you are lucky to get one, you are guaranteed to win the pot because Royal Flush beats everything else in poker.
A Straight Flush poker hand consists of five cards in order, all being of the same suit, so there are way more possible combinations compared to Royal Flush.
Ten times more to be exact since there are 40 possible Straight Flush hands combinations in Texas Holdem.
Here are a couple of examples of possible Straight Flush hands:
The ranking of a Straight Flush is not determined by the suit of the hand, but rather by the highest card in the combination.
If you have Ks Qs Js Ts 9s against 9c 8c 7c 6c 5c, you will win because the King is higher than the 9 of your opponent, so it can be compared to ranking a simple Straight to determine the winner.
Four of a Kind is an exceptionally strong poker hand and ranks third in the official poker hand rankings.
As the name suggests, it is made of four cards of the same rank with an additional card, which is entirely irrelevant.
The best Four of a Kind poker hand is A A A A x, which beats all other 4 of a Kind and lower hands in poker.
Here is a couple of examples of these poker hands, which is also known as Quads:
It is fairly easy to determine how Four of a Kind ranks among other holdings since the higher quads always win against lower ones. For example, K K K K x is better than J J J J x, just like 9 9 9 9 x is better than 3 3 3 3 x, and so on.
Also, this poker hand only loses to Royal Flush and Straight Flush combinations, so while it is not the best possible poker hand, it still beats everything else, so you can be very happy when you have it.
A Full House poker hand is made of three cards of the same rank and another two cards with different rank.
The best possible Full House poker hand is A A A K K, which is called Aces Full Of Kings, but there are plenty of variations of this holding. A couple of examples:
To determine which Full House poker hand ranks higher, you need to compare three cards of the same rank.
For example, K K K J J ranks higher than Q Q Q A A because Kings is higher than Queens despite the fact Queens has a higher pair as a kicker.
Also, if you and your opponent both have Full House hands with the same trips like J J J 8 8 against J J J 55, the additional Pair will be considered, and the player holding J J J 8 8 will take down the pot.
If you happen to have identical hands, then the pot will be split, and each of the players will get half of it when playing heads-up.
To make things simple and fully understand how a Full House poker hand is made up, you can also see this as having Three Of A Kind along with One Pair accompanying it.
Full House poker hand ranks fourth in the poker hands rankings list and only loses to Royal, Straight Flush, and Four of a Kind.
While it does not rank at the immediate top of this list, it is still a very powerful holding, and you will often win with this poker hand.
A Flush poker hand is made of five non-consecutive cards of the same suit. While you might think that Flush is not that great since it only ranks 5th in poker hands rankings, it is actually a very strong hand in Texas Holdem.
Poker flush examples:
If two players have a poker hand containing a Flush, the one who is holding the highest card in his hand will win the pot.
For example, A♣ 9♣ 7♣ 3♣ 2♣ is a better hand than K♥ Q♥ J♥ 9♥ 7♥ because of the Ace in the hand. If the highest card is the same, then the second-highest card is compared to announce the winner and so on. Following this logic, A♣ 9♣ 7♣ 3♣ 2♣ beats A♦ 8♦ 7♦ 3♦ 2♦ because the nine is higher than an eight.
It is also worth mentioning that suits do not play any role in poker Flush rankings, so it does not matter if you have a Flush of spades, hearts, diamonds, or clubs, and only the card ranks are compared to determine the winner.
Poker Straight is made of five consecutive cards or simply put five cards in a row. This hand's name makes it fairly easy to remember and understand it since you can easily associate that with five cards going one after another.
Various poker Straight examples:
Just like with a Flush, suits actually do not play any role in Straight poker hands rankings, and the highest card determines the value of the hand in the combination.
For example, Q J T 9 8 is called a Queen-high straight and beats all lower straights while still loses to King-high and Ace-high Straights. If both players have identical straights, then the pot is equally divided between them.
Poker Straight ranks 6th in poker hand rankings and is considered a medium-strength hand for that.
That being said, Straight in poker will win you many pots, especially when there are no Flush or Full House possibilities on the board.
As the name suggests, Three of a Kind means a poker hand that contains 3 cards of the same rank.
While this hand can further be divided into Trips and Sets, this does not change the hand's value, which ranks 7th in the poker hands rankings list of Texas Holdem.
Here are a couple of examples of possible 3 of a Kind poker hands:
The card ranks of those three cards determine the value of your Three of a Kind poker hand. For example, J J J 5 4 is stronger than T T T A K.
However, if both players have the same denomination of 3 of a Kind, then you have to look at the kicker, and the one who has the highest card takes down the pot. For example, J J J A 6 is better than J J J K Q.
Three of a Kind ranks in the 7th place of official poker hands rankings, so it could not be considered a premium holding. That being said, it is still quite a strong hand that is not easy to get, and it can even be the best possible hand on boards where there are no Flush or Straight possibilities.
Two Pair poker hand is made of two cards of the same rank accompanied by two cards of different rank, and one random card.
As the name suggests, Two Pair hands are very easy to recognize, and yet there are so many ways to make it:
As you can see, there are various ways to make Two Pair poker hands In Texas Holdem, and most of the time, it will be good enough to take down the pot.
While it only ranks 8th in the poker hands ranking, it still beats the most common One Pair and High Card combinations.
However, since there are so many various Two Pair hands, you need to understand how to determine the winner, and here are a couple of rules to follow when comparing those hands.
First of all, you have to compare the highest pair in combination to determine the winner. For example, if you have Q Q 5 5 3 against J J T T 8, you will take down the pot.
If both players have the same higher pair, then the second pair is compared, and if that is also the same, then you need to use the kicker to determine the winner. For example, Q Q 5 5 3 would lose to Q Q 5 5 9.
One Pair is one of the most straightforward poker hands that contains, you guessed it, exactly one pair and three other random cards.
There are quite a few ways to make One Pair poker hand:
There are many One Pair hands options, and making an overpair is quite different from pairing the lowest card on the flop and making 3rd pair.
So always evaluate how strong your specific hand is based on the board texture and the situation.
One Pair ranks at the bottom of the list of poker hands ranking and beats only a High Card combination. Despite that, it does not mean that you should not be happy when hitting this hand since it is still way better than holding nothing, which is actually the most likely outcome of all.
High Card is the absolutely worst possible combination according to poker hand rankings. If you have a High Card combination, it means you do not have any pair in your hand and not holding five consecutive cards or all cards of the same suit.
However, you will rarely hear a player say “I have a High Card” since it is often referred to as the highest card in the combination. Here are a couple of examples:
So High Card hand is actually called based on the highest card in the combination, and it is the weakest possible holding standing tall in 10 out of 10 places in the official poker hands list.
If you ever get lost what the best poker hands to play are, just refer to this starting poker hands list, and you should be good.
Choosing the right hands preflop is one of the most important things when starting out, and it can have a huge impact on your win rate.
Do yourself a favor, do not play unreasonable holdings, and concentrate on getting maximum EV with your best poker hands.
The best possible starting hand in Texas Holdem is pocket aces, which is a favorite to win against every other hand with a significant margin. It is also known as Pocket Rockets and Bullets because of its strength.
Pocket Aces has:
So this hand is a massive favorite in any preflop situation, and you should be happy to get as much money in the middle as you can when holding the best poker hand there is.
The second strongest of best poker hands is Pocket Kings, also commonly known as Cowboys.
The only hand you are afraid of is Pocket Aces, while you will surely dominate everything else when you have Pocket Kings. Your odds with this hand:
As you can see, you are in good shape with Pocket Kings against most of the hands, but the biggest threat is the opponent holding an Ax hand since it has the most chance to outdraw the second-best poker hand.
Pocket Queens is the third in the list of the best poker starting hands and beats everything else apart previously mentioned AA and KK.
Your odds of winning with Pocket Queens:
Just like other premium pairs, Pocket Queens is a solid holding with great odds to win before the flop, so you should be looking to play this hand as fast as you can in most situations.
However, you will often see overcards on the board, and when this is the case, you should not overplay your hand since most of the time, it becomes perfect just for bluff catching in those situations.
The 4th number in top starting hands is proudly sitting Pocket Jacks, also known as “fishhooks.”
While you might hear players complaining about this holding, it is actually a very strong starting hand, and you should be very happy to see it.
Your odds of winning with Pocket Jacks:
The biggest threat to Pocket Jacks is overcards, so you should be careful if you have one or more of those on the flop. That being said, this is still a very powerful hand preflop that dominates many other holdings, so you should not shy away from playing it aggressively.
The first non-paired hand in this list comes in fifth place of top starting poker hands list, and here you see Ace-King suited, also commonly known as Big Slick.
While it is surely not as strong as premium pocket pairs since you basically don’t have anything when you miss the flop, it still fairs quite well against other poker hands, especially if you manage to get your money in preflop.
Your odds with Ace King suited:
While it is not favorite against pocket pairs, you will always be in a close battle with those unless you happen to be against Pocket Aces or Kings. On top of that, you are ahead of all other unpaired hands, so you should be happy to put your money in the middle before even seeing the flop.
Pocket Tens is in 6th place on the best poker hands list, and it is good enough to start raising for value before the flop and come over the top on aggressive opponents.
It is a strong poker hand that does necessarily need to improve to take down the pot.
However, if you see a lot of raising, 3-betting, and 4-betting before you, this is not a hand you want to put all your money in the middle with that dynamic.
Odds of winning with Pocket Tens:
It deals fairly well with lower pairs or hands with one overcard, but now there will be way more poker hands that contain two overcards to Pocket Tens, making it only a small favorite against those.
Ace Kind offsuit is the only non-paired and non-suited hand in the list of the best starting hands in poker and is ranked in 7th place.
While it is weaker than AKs because it is way less likely to hit a Flush, it is still a very powerful holding that dominates a big part of your opponent's range.
If you are not up against Pocket Aces or Pocket Kings, you are in good shape no matter what your opponents are holding and are either flipping against pocket pairs or dominate their hands.
Another suited hand is found in 8th place of the best starting hands, and here you can see Ace Queen suited. It is a very good hand with plenty of postflop playability.
Your odds with AQs:
While you will hit many strong top pair hands on the flop and can make a nut flush, the biggest risk when putting all of your money in the middle is being dominated by Ace King.
Always evaluate the situation, and if your opponent is showing a lot of aggression, you can choose just to call and see the flop with this hand, especially if you have a poker position on him.
Pocket Nines is another strong hand in the list, and while it ranks lower than some unpaired combinations, it surely has its strength, and you should be looking to play it.
Your odds with Pocket Nines:
When you have a chance, always raise with 99 preflop when you are the first player to enter the hand, and do not shy away from 3-betting or calling as well, depending on your opponent.
The last hand in our top 10 poker hands list is Ace Jack suited. It has similar playability as AQs but ranks lower because more hands can dominate this holding.
Your odds with Ace Jack suited:
While you will hit many good flops with this hand with either a flush draw or a top pair, the biggest risk comes on an Ace-high flop where you face a lot of resistance. While having a top pair is great, you are quite likely to be dominated by Ace King or AQ, so play those situations cautiously.
If you are lucky to get one of the top 10 starting poker hands, you should be looking to play those in the vast majority of cases.
However, it doesn‘t mean that you should be folding everything else.
The next strongest hands in line are suited, and offsuit broadways suck like KQ, QJ, and QJ and all lower pocket pairs.
These poker hands can make really strong combinations by either flopping good Top Pair hands or hitting Three of a Kind.
After those, you can add all suited Ax hands and suited connectors. While these hands are not as strong on its own, it does have the potential to win very big pots when you improve it to the nuts.
Always carefully select the hands you play, since it is one of the most important poker tips for beginners and even more advanced players.
|Probability winning 1st hand||Probability winning 2nd hand|
|AA vs KK||82%||18%|
|KK vs AK||69%||31%|
|TT vs KQ||56%||44%|
|T9s vs 22||54%||46%|
|AJ vs 98||62%||38%|
|AT vs KQ||60%||40%|
|A8 vs J9||57%||43|
I hope you have a full understanding of which poker hands beat which in poker and general Texas Holdem rules. If that is the case, we can start discussing preflop strategy and hand selection.
As you probably know, the best hand preflop is pocket aces (AA). Unfortunately, you will get that just 1 in 221 times or just around 0,45% of the time.
Therefore, waiting just for premium holdings is not always an option, and you need to have a different plan for both tournaments and cash games.
Luckily, I already created a list of poker hands that you should be playing from various positions and included different ranges for MTTs and cash games. If you want to see it just grab my charts NOW and continue reading about how you should be playing the best poker hands in this game.
When you are ready to move forward and start playing, your primary job is to learn how to analyze poker hands. Without understanding how to put your opponent on a range of possible holdings, you will be just guessing and most likely not even improving much.
Therefore learning how to analyze Texas Holdem poker hands, or other games for that matter is the first thing you should master. For starters, you need to distinguish good and bad players and bear in mind that recreational players will be playing more random holdings, which is obviously good for you. So keep that in mind.
Also, you must understand how often you should be betting on different boards based on your range, and contrary to this, how often you should be defending when facing a bet. This way you will be able to see when your opponents deviate from optimal strategy and punish them for it. On top of that, you should know what is pot equity and implied odds to make better decisions.
Here are the simple steps to effectively analyze any poker hand:
Whenever you want to analyze any poker hand, you should start by analyzing preflop action first. You have to take into consideration your opponent’s position because it is a good indication of possible holdings. A player who opens from the first position (called UTG –under the gun) is not going to have hands like Q3s or 85s while someone who is opening from the button can easily have it. Thus, it is pretty clear that you have to play differently against such players and identifying which poker hands they could have is the first step.
Players from later position will be playing more weak poker hands and much wider ranges, so you have to remember it.
However, knowing the position is not enough. You need to determine are you up against a passive or aggressive player as well. If you are playing against a nit, he could be opening only the best poker hands, like just 15% of all holdings from the CO position while the more aggressive player could be playing 35% or even more and as you can see in these poker hands chars, the difference is massive.
As a result, the one opening 35% will have weaker holdings in his range, and you should be willing to play more hands against such an opponent as well.
If your opponent raises first in (RFI), you can easily put him on a range using previously mentioned Texas Holdem poker cheats sheets, based on his position.
However, you should not forget to remove some of the unlikely poker hands from his range, based on a different action. If you open UTG and everyone folds to Big Blind who decides to 3-bet, you will not see many weak hands in his range.
For the most part, a player who is in the position to close the action in the big blind and is guaranteed to see the flop if he calls, will be simply calling with most weak and speculative poker hands.
Therefore, if he chooses to 3-bet he will be doing it with the top part of his range. PokerSnowie suggests such a range in the 6-max game from BB versus UTG open.
You must learn how to reduce the likelihood of your opponent holding one hand or another after he makes an action on the flop. Obviously, to get more accurate you have to put a decent amount of practice on and off the table.
Probably the best way to learn this is to study the theoretically right approach to any given situation so that you would know what hands your opponent should be betting or checking and make your decision based on that.
There are many poker tools and software that can help you with this, but the easiest one to start off is probably Poker Snowie because it has a clear and user-friendly interface so you will instantly know how to use it.
After you study strategy and learn when your opponents should be betting or checking, you will be able to easily remove unlikely poker hands from his range based on his action.
Bet sizing can give you a lot of additional information, so you should take notice of your opponent tendencies.
For example, recreational players will rarely bet small for value and most of the time will go for a big bet, so you can easily exploit that.
Obviously, that is just a general rule and it will vary a lot based on your opponent. Thus, in order to make the best adjustments, you should observe other players to see how they play different poker hands on different boards. Try to remember what action they take after seeing a showdown, even the one where you are not involved. You can easily use that info later on because players rarely change their tendencies. Therefore, you have to notice those tendencies whether you are playing live or online.
If you are playing live, you have to observe other players and whole table dynamics to get as much information as possible and that is probably the only way to be aware of different opponents at your poker table.
However, that changes a lot when you are playing online because you can get a ton of information from different poker stats and adjust your strategies versus different players.
Therefore, you should be looking to get help from many programs available today. If you not sure where to start, then get a free trial from either HM3 or Poker Tracker 4.
When you know the approximate range of your opponent, you can make decisions that are more educated postflop and choose your action based on the board texture.
Let us take a quick example. If your opponents open 15% of hands from the CO, he is going to have a good draw, middle pair or better around 57% of the time on QT7r. However, if he is opening around 35%, he will only hit those hands 35% of the time on the same board so his range will be much weaker.
You can counter that by bluff catching or even bluffing yourself, and there is no way you could know that without using poker tools to learn.
Just like on the flop, you can easily make educated guesses of your opponents range based on his action on later streets and community card that came. Most players will have tendencies that are easy to guess and play most of their poker hands without adjusting to the situation.
Meaning, if they are checking the second pair without a kicker on the turn one time, they are likely to be doing that almost always in similar situations. Therefore, after seeing it once, you will be able to remove these hands from his range when he makes a bet in a similar spot later on.
This can be applied in many situations, and you do not need to see how every opponent plays poker hands that he is dealt, because you can judge a lot from population tendencies and many players will be doing the same thing over and over again.
Obviously, you need to learn what is the right strategy in most common situations as well to see how other players are deviating from that and it will become a very big weapon. You will notice when other players will start making mistakes and can easily exploit that.
These are the most important things to take into consideration when analyzing Texas Holdem poker hands, and if you will be able to put your opponent on an accurate range, the half job is done already. Just remember:
If you want to see some poker hand analysis in practice, you can take a look at my poker hand of the week series where I cover many interesting spots or even peek inside Upswing poker lab review for more advanced stuff. And now, let us go to the example and see how all of that looks in practice.
Poker Hand Outline:
Folds to BTN who opens to 2.25BB, SB folds, BB calls
Flop (5BB) A♣ J♦ 9♥
BB checks, BTN bets 3.5BB, BB calls.
Turn (12BB) 6♠
BB checks, BTN bets 9BB, BB calls.
River (30BB) 2♣
BB checks, BTN bets 22BB, BB calls.
These are the poker hands that PokerSnowie suggests opening in a 100BB deep 6max cash game, so let’s consider it in this example. And for the sake of easier visualization, I made BB defending range with Poker Equilab, so that you would not have to consider mixed strategies with various hands, which is not important at the moment.
Light blue – poker hands that your opponent is likely to call most of the time.
Dark blue – poker hands that should be in 3betting range for the most part, but many players choose to call it.
Unmarked – either value 3bets or poker hands that going to be folded most of the time.
Learning what ranges you should be playing is quite easy, and actually, there are quite a few options for that. You can either grab my Texas Holdem preflop charts or get a free trial of PokerSnowie and make charts for yourself.
When you know which poker hands should be opened from every position and how to play against that, visualizing preflop ranges will be very easy and you can move forward to postflop.
The second step is to reduce likely holdings based on the flop action.
Firstly, you should be aware which boards are better for preflop raiser and which ones for the caller. This way, you will be able to know how often each of the players is going to bet and I highly recommend spending some time to learn this.
You can simply input preflop poker hands into PokerEquilab and see who has the range advantage.
As you see, this board clearly favors the BTN range. Moreover, the player on the button has more nut type hands, such as AA, JJ, 99 and even AJ. The big blind would be 3betting these holdings most of the time, therefore won’t have it when he simply calls preflop.
Taking that into consideration, it is clear that BTN should be c-betting very aggressively. This is how Pio solver thinks BTN should be playing in this situation.
Obviously, an optimal strategy always involves a lot of mixed play with the same poker hands, meaning that some of the time you have to bet and some of the time you have to check same holdings. Thus, it is quite hard to remember and implement in practice.
Therefore, for the sake of this discussion, let’s summarize BTN range and make it a bit easier to understand which poker hands you or your opponent should be betting in this spot.
Flop c-betting range: Sets, two pairs, most top pairs, 2nd pairs, 3rd pairs, low pocket pairs, open-enders, all gut-shots, runner-runner flush draws.
On this board, your normal bet size should be on the bigger side and vary from around 2/3 of the pot to 75%.
Facing such a bet, a player on the big blind should defend these poker hands:
As you see, the big blind strategy is much easier.
Big blind should be defending when facing c-bet: any pair or better (excluding low pocket pairs), open-enders and gut-shots.
This is how you should be playing the vast majority of your Texas Holdem poker hands and learning how theoretically sound strategy looks is a must to reach long term success.
You can easily make adjustments based on your opponent tendencies when you know how optimal range looks.
For example on this board of A♣ J♦ 9♥, BTN should e c-betting around 66% of the hands according to PIO solver, but if you are playing online and have stats that your opponent is c-betting way less or way more than he should, you can easily adjust your ranges to counter that. However, if you do not have such info, sticking to an optimal strategy that is suggested by these tools is the best way to go.
Same thought process could be taking for using different bet sizing. If your opponent bets huge on this board, like POT or even more, you can remove many holdings from his standard betting range.
When players bet very big, they tend to have very polarized ranges full of made hands, strong draws and total air.
Thus, you can easily remove hands like top pair without a good kicker, second or third pair from your opponent's range. Taking some practice and learning how to put your opponent on a precise range of poker hands will take some time, but when you learn how to do that, you will become an extremely tough player.
You have to follow a similar thoughts process for later streets as well. You should understand which hands BTN has to be betting and BB should be defending based on the Turn and River, in order to build a strong strategy.
No matter what the Turn is, big blind should be checking all of his poker hands.
Let’s say Turn is 6♠. In this case, BTN should be betting around 56% of all his poker hands, but if the turn is T♠, then BTN should be betting way more hands – around 76%
So obviously, defending ranges from the big blind will look differently as well and the player should be continuing with different poker hands based on the Turn card and opponent's action.
As you see, different runouts suggest a different line of action, so you need to understand which card favors one range or another and study how that changes your approach.
All of this process should be applied to the river as well.
Let’s say the Turn was 6♠ and now we see 2♣ on the River.
Obviously, big blind should be checking all of his holdings, including the best poker hands one more time and BTN should be betting like this.
At first look, BTN strategy could look quite strange because we are not only betting our best poker hands, such as two pair or better but also firing few one pair hands like AK and A7 alongside our bluffs with good blockers. But all of that is needed and will help you to become a tougher player.
After such bet the big blind should respond accordingly by calling two pairs+ and some one-pair bluff catchersin order not to be exploited.
This is how the whole process of analyzing poker hands looks. I will repeat myself one more time, but in order to learn how to put your opponent on a range, you must learn how balance strategies look. This way, you will know what to expect from your opponent's and how to play yourself in any given situation.