Poker Hand Rankings

Learn the Basics First

Poker is a simple game, where the fundamentals, such as poker hand rankings, are often overlooked in favour of glamorous hands, lofty ambitions and an overemphasis on deception, which, somewhat counter intuitively, stems from technical skill and not from a misplaced sense of trickery, dishonesty or courage. If I were wrong, Lance Armstrong, Richard Nixon and Oscar Pistorius would make the greatest poker players. Evidently, this misconception has arisen from the growing trend that has populated the marketing world claiming that it’s not what you sell, but how you sell it. However, this proposal is predicated primarily on the presumption that we understand, what we are selling. Concurrently, I postulate a more basic and quotidian poker principle. Know what you sell, before you learn how to sell it. And so this article will focus fervently on the fundamentals, for even Lance Armstrong learnt how to cycle, before he learnt how to cheat.

Also, feel free to WATCH our Poker Hand Rankings animation video below:

Poker is a Game of Probability

When thinking about what beats what in poker, it is important to keep in mind that poker is a game of probabilities, and so logically, the more probable an outcome, the more logical the decision in pursuing what logically seems to be more probable. Of course, we are all taken in by the fanciful hands we see played so often on high stakes poker by professionals. One seldom overlooks the 86 off suit bluffs by Tom Dwan or the 52 off suit all in from Phil Ivey. However, these professionals were once mere mortals who grasped this simple truth early on in their careers; that professionalism stems from perseverance, and flexibility stems from fundamentals. And so, here, are, the fundamentals.

The Bigger the Pair, the Better the Hand

Picture of poker hand rankings.

In poker, each player is dealt 2 hole cards before the flop. These 2 hole cards are then, with the help of 5 additional community cards, used to make the best 5 card poker hand. Although one may ascribe to a poker hand rankings chart for further clarity, the same principle behind poker hands order, is ubiquitous, and simple. As aforementioned, poker is a game of probabilities, and so the lower the odds for a particular hand, the higher it stands in hand rankings. We begin, intuitively, at the bottom, where the 2 hole cards dealt to each player, do not even make a pair after all 5 community cards have been dealt. In technical terms, the highest card you possess, determines the value of your hand. Since you are likely to make no pair at showdown 45% of the time, the high card poker hand is suitably placed at the very bottom of any poker hand rankings chart. On this count, if you do make a pair 45% of the time, you are likely to have the best hand. And since poker, and online poker in particular, is a game of probabilities, most hands are won with pairs. The bigger the pair, the better the hand. However, the value of any poker hand diminishes on each round of betting since additional community cards are revealed thereby increasing the number of permutations lowering the value of big pairs. And since a flush, a straight, a three of a kind or a full house can only be made with 3 cards or more, the best possible hand one can hold before the flop, is a pair. The bigger the pair, the better the hand. Therefore, if you are dealt pocket aces, you can be rest assured that you will reach showdown equipped with the best hand and the requisite smirk, at least 55% of the time.

Know the Rules...

Although this is outside the purview of this article, it is essential to know the rules of Texas Hold'em that apply to poker hand rankings. They are as follows; High card, a pair, two pairs, three of a kind, straight, flush, full house, 4 of a kind, straight flush, and royal flush. In the next article, we will explore the various combinations of hands that constitute the comprehensive and illustrative poker starting hand rankings chart as advocated by A step closer perhaps, to the 52 and 86 off suits.

However, it is incumbent on us youthful enthusiasts who are aspiring to learn poker hand rankings and how to play poker optimally and professionally, that we understand the underlying principle behind poker hand statistics and play the odds with care. Simply put, one cannot simply play any 2 cards or any pocket pair assuming that they have a good chance of winning the hand consistently on account of the showdown equity of their hole cards alone. If that were true, luck would be the only determinant of a winning player, and skill would be limited to the optimal use of poker odds calculators and software that reveal poker hand odds. Fortunately, probability, or as I like to call it, providence, has taken the initiative in reconciling certain inequities in poker games. For example, although pocket deuces will hold up against an opponents unpaired hand 50 - 55 % of the time, we must factor in the possibility of our opponent having a pocket pair of his own, in which case, the higher pair would reign supreme. Once again, the bigger the pair, the better the hand. Therefore, it is important that we factor in these details in our quest to familiarise ourselves with optimal poker strategy, which necessarily advocates that the probabilities and statistics that determine poker hand odds, apply for every player the same. In other words, if we make a pair from our unpaired hole cards 55% of the time, so does our opponent. It is this aspect of poker, which requires a player to make a judgement based on incomplete information as to the value of his opponents hand, that makes the game exciting, exhilarating, and for all intents and purposes, worth learning.

So if this article is allegorical to any extent, it is, to the degree that we first understand the value and importance of statistics and probabilities in poker hand rankings. And since the pairs eat up a major chunk of the pie chart, we must first learn how to play them well. On the contrary, one might mistakenly interpret an equity of 55% or 60% to be marginal or minimal without considering its practical implications as opposed to only its theoretical implications.

To them, I say this. The game of blackjack gives the house an overall equity of 50.25 to 50.5% in the long run which is sufficient for them to make hundreds of millions of dollars annually. But on a more specific note, I personally lost all the money I had to blackjack, and finally decided to stop as a gesture to symbolise my acquiescence to defeat; all because of a 0.25% edge. Imagine what I could do with a 5% edge in my favour. That is when I discovered online poker.
Back to TOP

By Chetan Kaul