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Poker Masterclass - Lesson 1-i, Hand rankings.

Jan 7 2007, 02:42 PM (Post #1)
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Lesson 1-i - The Cards

Almost all poker games, including No Limit Texas Hold 'Em (which this Masterclass is primarily based on), are played with a single deck of 52 cards.

All four suits, Hearts Spades Diamonds and Clubs, are of equal value.

Aces are wild, meaning they count as both lowest and highest card depending on your situation. However, in most circumstances Aces are a high card, except in certain combinations.

Jokers are not used in poker.

Depending on what type of game you play, there will be a variety of cards you can use to make your 'hand'. In No Limit Texas Hold 'Em, you are given two personal cards (which nobody else can see) and then five 'community' cards are dealt face up for everyone to use, giving you a total of seven cards to choose from to make your 'hand'.

No matter what type of poker, and no matter how many cards you have to choose from, it is always your best five cards which make up your 'hand'. In the example of No Limit Texas Hold 'Em, you could use both your personal cards and three of the community cards, or only one of your personal cards and four of the community cards, or even none of your personal cards and all five of the community cards - whichever gives you the best combination of five cards to make a 'hand'.

The rankings of the five card hands are generally as follows, however there are a couple of varieties of poker which use different rankings of hands. This will be explained further in Lesson 8. For now, here is what you need to know to play No Limit Texas Hold 'Em:

#1 - The best hand possible.

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The Royal Flush

This is the cards 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace of the same suit. This hand is the one that all poker players seek. It can only ever draw, and that is if someone else has another Royal Flush, which is nigh-on impossible. In fact, the odds of even getting one Royal Flush in any given round is a staggering 649,739 to 1. That means you'd need to play around a quarter of a million hands just to get one of these bad boys.

#2 - The second best hand possible.

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The Straight Flush

Just like a Royal Flush, a Straight Flush consists of five cards of the same suit in order. In fact, a Royal Flush is nothing more than an Ace-high Straight Flush.

In the event of two people both getting a Straight Flush, the person with the highest card wins. For example, if Player A has 6-5-4-3-2 of hearts (a 6-high Straight Flush) and Player B has 8-7-6-5-4 of clubs (an 8-high Straight Flush), then Player B would win. However, the chances of this happening are again very slim, as the odds of getting this hand are estimated at 64,973 to 1, so it's highly unlikely you are beat if you're holding a Straight Flush.

#3 - Still a winner.

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Four Of A Kind (aka "Quads" ie "Quad Kinds")

Simply put, four cards of the same face (or value, rank). For example, four 10s, four 6s, etc. Once again, at odds of 4,164 to 1, you can feel safe in holding one of these hands as chances are nobody has you beat.

If the unlikely occurs and somebody else also has Four Of A Kind, then the person with the highest Of A Kind wins ie 6 Of A Kind beats 3 Of A Kind.

If you happen to be playing a variation of of poker which uses more than one deck, and two people get the same Of A Kind, then the highest "kicker" (that is the leftover card, in the example above it is the Ace) wins.

#4 - A not-so-rare but still very valuable hand.

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A Full House - (aka a "Boat" or "Full Boat")

Three cards of the same face and a pair of cards of the same face. This card occurs more often than the above three, around 693 to 1, but it is still incredibly valuable. I don't know how many times I have held a seemingly unbeatable Flush (#5) only for my opponent to turn over a Full House and take all my money.

This hand is an excellent one to be holding, as it can hidden pretty well from your opponents and allows you to goad them into betting with their seemingly unbeatable Flushes, Trips or even with a Pair of Aces.

With two Full Houses, the one with the best Three Of A Kind wins. If two people have the same Three Of A Kind, then the best Pair wins.

Full Houses are described in the following way. A hand of 6-6-K-K-K would be described as "Kings over Sixes" or "Kings full of Sixes" or even just "Kings Full".

#5 - The most annoying hand in poker ™.

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A Flush

The reason I call this the most annoying hand in poker is that there will be many a time when you are holding a Straight, or Trips, and then notice that the community cards contain three or four spades. It is then that you have to wonder - does my opponent have a couple of spades in his hand? The amount of times a hand is beaten by, or 'folded' in fear of, a flush is innumerable.

And it doesn't end there. Two Flushes are decided by who holds the highest card in their Flush. So, even if you yourself have a couple of spades, you have to decide - does my opponent have an Ace, a King, etc?

Flushes are decided in the following way:

A spade Flush of A-Q-8-7-6 (aka an Ace-high Flush) would beat a spade Flush of K-8-7-6-3 (aka a King-high Flush). Similarly, a Flush of A-K-7-6-2 would beat a Flush of A-K-6-3-2, as the 7 beats the 6. An so on, right down to A-K-J-10-3 beating A-K-J-10-2.

#6 - A treacherous hand to hold.

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A Straight

A hand of five sequential cards of differing suits. I call this a treacherous hand to hold for many reasons.

First off, say your are playing Hold 'Em. The five community cards (used by all players) come up 3-4-5-6-6, of different suits. You are holding a 2. Now, you may be thinking "Yay, I have made a 2-3-4-5-6 Straight ssmile.gif". Well hold on, stop, and think.

Straights are ranked based on the highest card. So, while you have a '6-high Straight', your opponent may have a 7, or even a 7 and an 8, giving him a 7-high or 8-high Straight, beating your's.

Also, say the cards were 3D-4D-5D-6C-6S. Your opponents may have a couple of diamonds, beating you with a Flush. Or they could have another 6 and a 5, winning with a Full House. Or they may even have two sixes, giving them Four Of A King of 6s. Or even the Ace of diamonds and 2 of diamonds, giving them a Straight Flush!

Whilst the individual odds of getting a hand like this is infinitely impossible, it is easy to see exactly why a Straight can be so treacherous. Even if you had a 7, your opponent could beat you with as little as a 7 and an 8, or even have on of the other two 7s to give them a draw with you. I will go into all this in more detail later in the lessons, but I wanted to make the point that in my opinion Straights should be avoided unless you are absolutely sure you have the best hand.

(It should also be noted that a Straight is the only hand in normal Hold 'Em where Aces are low, in the hand A-2-3-4-5 which is a 5-high Straight. In all other hands in normal Hold 'Em, Aces are high).

#7 - The likely lads.

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Three Of A Kind (aka "Trips" ie "Trip 7s", or a "Set")

These, and the hands below, will make up the meat and bones of your poker games. However, they are not to be scoffed at. While the above hands are very powerful, they are also hard to come by. Trips are given the odds of 46 to 1, but it is actually widely estimated that the proper odds are 1 in 8 games of getting Three Of A Kind, especially if you already have a pair in your private hands.

Most of the time, you will be playing against someone with a Pair at best, and so holding Trips is a good thing to have. Also, there are good opportunities to get a Full House or even Quads from a Set (hope you're keeping up with the jargon here swink.gif). Anyway, Trips are a bit more common, but still a good hand to have.

Trips are ranked first by their Three Of A Kind, then by kicker. Ie, 7-7-7-5-3 would beat 5-5-5-4-2, and 8-8-8-6-2 would beat 8-8-8-4-2.

#8 - A tricky one.

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Two Pair

Another quite common hand, two pair is simply two Pairs of cards and a kicker.

In the (quite likely) event that two people hold a Two Pair, then the person with the highest pair wins, ie K-K-J-J-10 beats Q-Q-J-J-10. If both people have the same high pair, then the highest second pair wins ie K-K-J-J-2 beats K-K-9-9-3. Finally, if both people have the same pairs, then the highest kicker wins ie Q-Q-J-J-A beats Q-Q-J-J-4.

Two pair is an okay hand to have. You can easily beat people with a pair of Aces, and you have a decent chance of getting a Full House, however be wary of people who may have Trips.

#9 - Common as muck.

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A Pair

You are pretty much likely to get at least a pair in most hands you play. Two people with pairs go by the highest pair, then down the kickers ie:

A-A-6-5-4 beats Q-Q-4-3-2
K-K-9-4-2 beats K-K-7-4-3
K-K-J-5-3 beats K-K-J-5-2


#10 - Unlucky for you.

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High Card (aka 'no pair')

In the unlikely event you do not even get a pair (which can happen, especially if you are trying to get a Straight), then you are pretty much beaten. If, however, your opponent also has High Card, or as I like to call it, 'nothing', then the highest card wins. A-6-4-3-2 beats Q-7-5-4-2, A-8-7-5-3 beats A-8-6-5-3, etc etc.


So that is the basic rule you need to know - the rankings of the five card 'hands' for normal No Limit Texas Hold 'Em poker play. Read them, learn them, and I'll see you next lesson.
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Jan 13 2007, 12:53 AM (Post #16)
Not Odd anymore
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Great ssmile.gif Thanks for clearing that up.
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