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This here article is aimed at complete newbies, so if you’re a seasoned poker player, don’t bother reading on. If you’re a rookie though, by all means do read it all, and learn it all by heart, too. What’s the use of reading all those advanced articles teaching you about check-raises and semi-bluffs, when your knowledge of the very basics is lacking enormously? Here’s a crash course in online poker for all you beginners out there, complete with hand rankings and a few recommendations about how different hands could or should be played. While the list is compiled from a Holdem perspective, these hand rankings are valid for most other poker variants too (like Omaha and Stud) except for those that value low hands over high ones or feature different standards (check our poker variants list for more information on such games).

A High Card – This hand is the weakest possible hand you can make in Texas Holdem. You’ll have a high card even if nothing hits you.
In this hand: 3s, 4d, Jc,10h, 8s the high card is obviously the J. While this hand beats 3s, 4d, 9c,10h, 8s, it loses to 3s, 4d, Qc,10h, 8s where the Q is the high card.
Do not play a hand like this in full games. You’re almost guaranteed to lose on it. In Short-handed or Heads-up games though, its value increases, and yes there are indeed pots taken down on high cards. In that case at least make sure yours is an A.

One Pair – A pair is like having almost nothing in a full ring game. It still beats high-cards though.
Here’s an example of a pair: Ks, Js, Kh, 2c, 5h. In this case, you have a pair of kings. This hand beats Qs, Js, Qh, 2c, 5h, but loses to As, Js, Ah, 2c, 5h.
Despite being one of the weakest hands, a pair (especially a top one – when one of your hole-cards pairs up with the highest card off the board) is playable under a variety of circumstances. Pay keen attention to board texture when playing a pair though, and try to make accurate reads on your opponents.
Getting a pair in the pocket is always a good start, but it isn’t much more. Do not play all pocket pairs you get blindly. Pocket rockets are indeed the best starting hand, but act aggressive on them so you restrict the number of drawing hands you go up against. There are but a few outs that are actually going to improve it later in the hand.

Two Pairs – This is where the list of decent poker hands begins. If you get two pairs of equal value cards in your hand, (like: 5c,5s, 8h, 10s, 10c) you’ll probably trap someone acting on a top pair, which means there’s good value in playing such a hand. If, in the given example, your pocket hand is 5c, 10s, the value of your two pairs sky-rockets because it will be an impossible read for your opponents.
5c,5s, 8h, 10s, 10c beats both 4c,4s, 8h, 10s, 10c, and 5c,5s, 8h, 9s, 9c, but loses to 5c,5s, 8h, Js, Jc, and 6c,6s, 8h, 10s, 10c.
If make two pairs in heads-up, you got yourself a monster. If you make them in a short handed game, still you’re OK. In a full ring game the value of your two pairs drops, but it’s still a reasonable hand.

Three of a kind (aka Trips) – When there are three cards of equal value in your hand, it means you happened upon trips, and you’re about to make some money. Trips are indeed a VERY reasonable hand in poker. Here’s an example:
This hand is actually the worst three of a kind you can get. It doesn’t beat any other trips, it loses to 3c, 3s, 3h, Jh, Qc. Always count the kicker in too. (forgot to mention that in the previous descriptions), because 3c, 3s, 3h, Jh, Qc loses to 3d, 3s, 3h, 8h, Kc, and believe me there are few things out there worse than losing on account of a kicker.
A three of as kind is an extremely powerful poker hand, and because of that it needs to be treated extra-carefully. Because trips compel you to act, you may end up losing big on them for they are vulnerable to straights and flushes (and other higher ranked hands too).
When you put your opponent on a hand, pay extra attention to the board-texture, and don’t hesitate to fold your trips if you put him on a straight or a flush.

Straight – When you get 5 consecutive-value cards in your hand (of different suits) you have a straight.
Ac, 2h, 3d, 4h, 5c is such a straight. Note that the A acts as 1 in poker, but Kd, Ah, 2h, 3s, 4c doesn’t count as a straight. A straight beats all trips but loses to flushes and higher straights. Ac, 2h, 3d, 4h, 5c loses to 2h, 3d, 4h, 5c, 6d, because that is a higher straight. When you do make a straight, pay attention to the following factors: how many cards of the straight do you have hidden in your pocket? The more the better, because it’s that much more difficult for your opponent to put you on your actual hand. If you only have 1 card, and it’s the high end of the straight, you’re still OK. If you have the low end of it though, you’ll lose to the person who has the high end.

Flush – The flush is made up of 5 cards of the same suit. All flushes beat straights.
Ex: 6h, 2h, 9h, Jh, 4h. This one is called a J-high flush, and it beats 6h, 2h, 9h, 10h, 4h. It loses to 6h, 2h, 9h, Qh, 4h though.
If you make a flush, and have two cards of it in your pocket, you’re good. If you make a flush and have just 1 card of it in the hole, you might still be OK, or not.
Let’s say you’re holding a 2h in your pocket, there are 4 hearts on the board and you’re being re-raised. That means you probably already lost. If your opponent has a Heart in his pocket too, it’s bigger than your 2.
If you have an Ah though, you’ve already won. That’s the nut flush and ain’t nothing going to beat it.
If you have the 8h, it’s a 50-50 coin –toss. Why? There are 13 hearts in a deck. There are exactly 6 cards that will beat you and 6 that will lose to you. In such cases you can refine your odds by taking into account the hearts that are already on the table.

Full House – a Full House (aka a Boat) consists of a Three-of-a-kind plus a pair. Here’s an example:
4c, 4s, 4d, 9d, 9c. This hand is a true monster indeed. You’ll most probably win big on this hand most of the time, but the few times you lose on it, you’ll lose big.
The above hand is also referred to as: fours full of nines. It loses to 5c, 5s, 5d, 9d, 9c, or 4c, 4s, 4d, 10d, 10c.
It’s very unlikely that you’ll lose on a full house but it’s been known to happen. In the final hand of the 1998 WSOP Main Event, there was a full house on the board: 8,8,8,9,9. Kevin McBride called Scotty Nguyen’s all-in on it, rightfully believing that the pot would be split, even though the latter had cautioned him. At showdown, Nguyen produced a 9 which game him a 9,9,9,8,8 against McBride’s 8,8,8,9,9, and won the title.
The best possible full-house is Ac, Ah, As, Ks, Kd.

Four of a Kind (aka Quads) – This hand is a mega-monster. It consists of all four cards of the same value, plus a kicker.
7s, 7c, 7h, 7d, Ks is an example of such a hand. 7s, 7c, 7h, 7d, Ks loses to 8s, 8c, 8h, 8d, Ks, but also to 7s, 7c, 7h, 7d, As. At any rate, you’re not likely to lose on Quads, and if you do, Lady Luck must truly loathe you.
The bad beat jackpots that several online poker rooms feature, start at four eights. If you lose on four eights or better, you truly deserve to take down the jackpot and get rich.

Straight Flush – make one of these babies and it will be something you’ll remember forever, even if you play poker on a daily basis.
A Straight Flush consists of five cards of consecutive values (a straight) and of identical suits (flush).
5s, 6s, 7s ,8s, 9s is a straight flush. It beats 4s, 5s, 6s, 7s ,8s, but loses to 6s, 7s ,8s, 9s, 10s. I wouldn’t worry about losing on a straight flush though, if I were you. I don’t know what advice to give you here… I don’t deal with Straight Flushes that often…

Royal Flush – This is the best possible 5-card poker hand. It is a straight flush made with the highest 5 cards in the deck.
10d, Jd, Qd, Kd, Ad is the best possible hand in poker that loses to nothing. In Texas Holdem, there is no difference in value between two cards based on their suit. There are systems out there though that hold Diamonds the most valuable, followed by Hearts, Clubs and Spades. Regardless of that, in Holdem, a Royal Flush of one suit will never go up against a Royal Flush of a different suit.

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