Texas Hold'em Reading Hands
There are many elements to successful Texas Hold'em play, including a variety Texas Holdem strategy variations and tactics you can use to overcome the luck factor and tilt the odds in your favour. However, you have to crawl before you can walk, and that means knowing the rules inside and out before you sit down to a game. The first element of the rules that you need to understand is the strength of hands.
Hand Strengths in Texas Hold'em
As in all poker, hand strengths in Texas holdem are based on five cards, and run as follows:
High card, meaning the highest card in your hand, is first, with the strongest card being an ace and the weakest a two, or "deuce."
Any hand with a pair, or two cards of the same rank, beats any high card hand. The higher the pair, the better the hand is. For example, two threes beats ace high, but a pair of fives beats that pair of threes.
Following this is two pair, meaning two pairs in your hand, such as a pair of tens and a pair of kings. If two players have two pair, the player with the higher pair wins. If they have the same high pair, the lower pair determines the winner, and if both pairs are the same, the fifth card, or "kicker," is the decider.
After two pair comes three of a kind, three cards of the same rank.
Next is a straight, five cards in consecutive order. "Wraparound straights" such as jack, queen, king, ace, two are not permitted. The highest straight is ten, jack, queen, king, ace, and the lowest is ace, two, three, four, five.
Following the straight is the flush, or five cards of the same suit. No one suit is more valuable than any other is, if two players have flushes, the highest card (or next highest card if the two highest cards are the same) determines which is stronger.
After a flush comes a full house, which is three of a kind (or trips) plus a pair, with the rank of the trips dominant.
Next is four of a kind, and finally a straight flush, which is five cards in sequence and of the same suit. The strongest possible hand is ten, jack, queen, king, ace of one suit, which is referred to as a royal flush.
Reading Hands in Texas Hold'em
Remember that your Texas hold'em hand is determined by making your best five cards using the two in your hand (called your "pocket" or "hole" cards) plus the five on the board. This may mean that one or both of your hole cards may not play.
For example, let's say you hold A5 and your opponent holds AK.
On a board of 9 9 7 7 T, who wins? If you said AK, you would be mistaken. This is actually a split or "chopped" pot. Both players use the two pair on the board plus their ace for a five card hand of 9 9 7 7 A, and the K and 5 do not factor in anywhere. For this reason, you should practice reading hands before getting involved in a real hold'em game. In an online Texas holdem game, the computer will determine the best hand automatically, but in a live game, you risk mucking a winning or tying hand if your hand reading skills are not sharp.
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