What Beats What In Poker - Easy Guide

Doyle Brunson famously said in an episode of High Stakes Poker, "back in the day, we didn't play jack eight off suit." In the poker community, we ascribe the credibility of this statement not to his autocratic or magisterial demeanour, or to his whimsically lethal accent, but rather to the fact that he has a perfect understanding, of what beats what in poker. To his credit, jack eight off suit finds itself morbidly placed at the short end of the stack, more often than not. And it is with this understanding, and a few dozen bracelets thrown in, that today we call him 'Big Papa'. Doyle Brunson, the legend who didn't play jack eight off suit.

An image of poker cards beaten by bullets.

Now that our motivation is well incentivised, replete with a role model worthy of emulation, we can delve into the mind of a professional who not only did it all, but started it all. Now before Doyle started making big bucks, or even entertained the whim of making big bucks, he had his fundamentals richly endowed with the requisite factual wisdom of what beats what in Texas Hold'em, the cadillac of all poker games, and the subject of all past and future ascriptions. Starting traditionally, at the very bottom, with the high card hands and pairs as discussed in the preceding article, we now attempt to move our way up as an endeavour to answer the more attractive and glamorous questions, like what beats a three of a kind in poker, or what beats a flush in poker, or for that matter, what wins in poker. But to answer these questions, we must first entertain the 'why's' before we entertain the 'whats'. In a sense, before we consider what beats what in poker, we must first subscribe to the relevant questions. And the real question is, why do we deem any two hole cards worthy of play?

As is described eloquently and elegantly in the Cashinpoker training videos, a starting hand must reveal the potential to fulfil two out of the three pre requisites in an attempt to credibly ascertain what beats what poker hand in the pending betting rounds. Namely, big pair, flush and straight potential. They are the fundamental principles one must incorporate in determining what beats what in holdem. In the case of big pair potential, the name itself speaks volumes. And since we have learnt the probabilities and principles germane to playing big pairs optimally, it is more than evident that high ranked cards will help make bigger and better pairs, which more often than not, produce winning hands. However, it is important to note that although any big card like an ace or a king may make a big pair, they seldom produce the winning hand by themselves. The reason is intuitive and simple. If one player enters a pot in a six handed game with A5 and makes a pair, another player is equally likely to make the same pair but with a better kicker, or a higher second card that would adjudicate the winner in the event that both players flop the same pair. The allegory lies not in the quantitative analysis of how often said situation will arise, but rather in the qualitative analysis of how likely you are to lose most if not all your chips if providence were to flop you with top pair good kicker, and your opponent with top pair top kicker. However, we can avert this disaster with the knowledge that 2 big cards pair bigger and better than any other combination of big and small cards. This concept is amplified both disastrously and optimistically when our pairs develop into monsters such as sets, quads, and full houses. Consider the following statement. The answer to what truly beats a full house in poker, is a fuller house.

The same concept however, does not hold true for flushes. Although it is evident that two suited hole cards are more likely to make a flush than two unsuited cards, the concept of the kicker is nullified and non existent. The reason is progressively intelligible. Since only one of the four suits can form a flush on a board in a particular hand, the singularly highest ranked card of the flush determines the winner. In reluctantly simpler words, since a diamond or spade nut flush hand can only comprise one ace of diamond or spade, there simply can be no kicker. Furthermore, an A2 diamond flush beats a king queen diamond flush despite the apparent arithmetic and aristocratic superiority of a king and a queen as opposed to an ace and a deuce. The same holds true for a straight. The higher straight, or in other words, the straight with the higher highest card used in forming that straight, reigns supreme thereby eradicating the role of the kicker in the poker rules that define what beats what. And if the aforesaid is truly intelligible, the J8 mystery should now be translucent and diaphanous.

Once we are abreast with the "why's", the primordial incentive of winning necessitates these fundamental assertions to be deeply ingrained in our psyche, as is a requisite in determining what beats what in cards, or in any game for that matter. For example, knowing what beats what in blackjack, is the know all and end all of the game limiting the requisite skill, or requisite knowledge of an optimal blackjack exponent to the confines of a 3 by 3 inch chart, or a 1 by 1 inch app on the latest iPhone. Knowing what beats what in poker however, is just the beginning. Knowing why what beats what in poker, is a step closer to understanding the beauty of probabilities, and by extension, the beauty of the game. Knowing why what beats what in poker, is a step even closer perhaps to understanding why Doyle Brunson didn't play jack eight off suit, and why he can roam the streets of texas accoutred with enough bracelets to put a reputable jewellery store to shame. A mediocre hand, not worthy of legend.

" Back in the day, we didn't play jack eight off suit." In the poker community, we ascribe the credibility of this statement to the fact that jack eight off suit seldom if ever makes a straight or a flush, and when it does flop a pair it is usually either the lowest pair on the board, or a medium sized pair with a medium kicker. Doyle Brunson, the legend, who fully understood what beats what in poker.
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By Chetan Kaul