Monthly Archives: September 2013

Poker Hand Rankings

Welcome to the free poker school. The first lesson discusses what cards make up the various hands, the ranking of cards and hands, and then how to play the game of Texas Hold’em.

Five cards make up a typical poker hand. Individual cards have a rank, an ace is the highest valued card and a two is the lowest valued card (exception: an ace can be a low card in straights). Every hand (5 cards together) has a rank and a higher ranked hand beats a lower ranked one.  Table 1 shows the hand rankings from highest ranked to the lowest ranked. If you want to play poker, you must memorize hand rankings, because you need to know the rank of your hand instantly upon inspection.

Table 1: Poker Hand Rankings

Hand Name


Notes and Explanation

Straight Flush All cards in consecutive order and of the same suit A “royal flush” consists of ace, king, queen, jack, ten of the same suit. It is the highest hand in poker.
Four of a Kind 4 cards of the same value 4 aces beat 4 kings, etc
Full House 3 cards of the same value and another 2  cards of the same value The 3 card base gives the rank of the hand, so a “boat” of 3 kings “full” of twos, beats 3 queens with 2 aces.
Flush All cards of the same suit An ace high flush beats a king high flush
Straight 5 consecutive cards of any suit Such as Ace, King, queen, jack and ten. This is referred to as an “ace high straight”. An ace can be a low card when it is used to form a straight or straight flush (A, 2, 3, 4, 5 makes the lowest possible straight)
Three of a kind 3 cards of the same value Also known as a set
Two Pair 4 cards containing 2 pairs Such as two aces and two kings
Pair 2 cards of equal value Such as two aces
High Card Highest card i.e. an ace beats king 2 is low, Ace is high


Texas Hold’em has three table positions that rotate clockwise as the hands are played. The positions: dealer, little blind, and big blind (in that clockwise order) set the order of betting. The blinds are antes (up-front payment) by two players sitting at the table. The little blind is half the amount of the big blind. If you continue to attend the free poker school you will learn a lot more about the positions and strategy for each position.

Each player receives two cards face down from one deck of 52 cards. Each player then looks at their cards and puts them back face down on the table. Betting starts before any other cards are dealt with the player sitting to the immediate left of the big blind. The bet must at least match the amount of the big blind, so if the player does not like the prospects then the player folds. In “no limit” Texas Hold’em a bettor can put all his chips into play at any time. In “limit” Hold’em a player can only bet up to the value of the pot, which is the sum of the blind amounts for the first bettor when no cards have been seen.

The players sequentially either bet or fold as the opportunity to bet proceeds clockwise until it is betting time for the player sitting at the big blind position. The player posting the big blind can either match a higher bet, check (i.e. neither bet nor fold) if no player raised, or fold if there is no desire to match a raise.

The dealer then lays three cards face up on the table. These three cards are known as the flop and they can be used by any player to form a hand.  The betting now starts with the little blind and continues with each player remaining in the hand until the dealer (the last player in the betting rotation) has had an opportunity to raise, check, or fold. A fourth card (known as the turn) is dealt, followed by a round of betting. The fifth and final card (the river) follows the turn and the players make their final bets.  The player with the highest 5 card hand formed from the two cards dealt initially and the five common cards on the table wins the chips in the pot for that game. In case of a tie, the players with the same hands split the pot. On completion of the game the dealer, little blind and big blind positions rotate clockwise by one position.

Your homework is to memorize the hand rankings and the mechanics of Texas Hold’em. The free poker school will talk about the strategy of on-line Hold’em when class convenes again.

How to Win at Poker

Too many beginners at poker think of the nuts and bolts of the game, such as which hand beats another hand or is a low-ranking straight or pair worth achieving.

If you are set on playing poker, especially with money involved, you should already know all about winning hand combinations. The mental approach to the game is what sets the professionals apart from the rest.

The following are five tips to winning poker, and you will be surprised that most of them deal with the psychological aspects of the game and the ability to play alongside your competition with confidence and the right attitude.

  • The basics: Know when to hold them and fold them. Professional players play only one-third of their starting hands because they want to remove the luck element. Either you have a good start or you don’t. Do not try to become an odds-beater because the odds always win in the end. And if you decide to continue, refrain from calling a bet too many times or being oblivious to the players’ actions around you. Folding your hand does not mean you are not a good player. It means you are smart.
  • Being smart extends to the next tip: Make sure you are not at a table with professionals, unless you are one. You should always play at a table with equal or less skill than you possess. The smaller the betting limits, the weaker the competition. Choose to play with the less skillful players. Furthermore, study your opponents’ tendencies, especially after you have folded. Observe how they bet and when they call in relation to their hand.
  • If you decide to keep your starting hand, try to gain as much information as possible about the likelihood of your opponents’ hand. This is what poker players call being defensive. Defend your hand by making a strong enough bet to keep the opponents guessing. Raising again will likely scare most of them into folding. Question your opponents based on your actions. One of the more important questions to ask: Why did the opponent call in the earlier round?
  • Bluffing is overused by beginners, so be very careful when trying this mind game. Professionals rarely bluff because they know their opponents are prepared for that tactic. They use the bluff as a surprise tactic, maybe one hand a session. If you bluff every other hand, the opponents will realize you do not have a legitimate hand. Being unpredictable should be your objective. On the one hand, you do not always want to fold with lower value starting hands, and on the other hand, you do not want to always bluff or play against the odds. Be loose.
  • Understanding your position is the key to your success. The best position is the dealer because he or she gets to see all the calls, raises and re-raises. If a round is re-raised, the dealer should fold if he or she has a low-ranking pair. If a round is called with only one raise, the dealer should stay in the round with a low-ranking pair. Studying the game through experience, your own notes or articles by people who know all the intricacies of the game will prove to be very valuable.

Here are starting hands you should fold or go for the pot (you should fold if you do not have any of these combinations):

Weaker starting hands but playable:

  • Pair of eights
  • Jack-9, 10-9 same suit
  • Pair of sevens
  • 9-8, 8-7 same suit
  • An ace with any other same suit
  • King-Jack, Queen-Jack, Jack-10 different suit
  • Any low pair
  • Corresponding cards in the same suit (for example 8-7, 6-5, 4-3, etc.)
  • Ace-10, King-10, Queen-10 different suit
  • King-9, Jack-8 same suit

Stronger starting hands:

  • Pair of aces
  • Pair of Kings
  • Ace-King same suit
  • Pair of Queens
  • Pair of Jacks
  • Ace-Queen, Ace-Jack and Ace-10 same suit
  • Ace-King different suit
  • Pair of Tens
  • Ace-10, King-Jack, Queen-Jack, Jack-10 same suit
  • Ace-Queen, Ace-Jack different suit
  • Pair of Nines
  • King-Queen same suit and different suit
  • King-10, Queen-10 same suit

Three Card Poker Strategy

Like poker but do not want to spend the time learning everything about all those five- or seven-card stud or draw games?

Are you not interested in trying to remember what ranks higher – does a flush beat a straight or vice-versa? – and want to play a simple, yet fun poker game? More importantly, do you want to play a poker game in which you have better odds than most games to beat the house?

Three-Card Poker is for you.

Here are some of the more interesting features about Three-Card Poker:

  • You play against the dealer, not other players.
  • You are dealt only three cards against the dealer’s three cards.
  • The dealer does not qualify to play if he or she does not have at least a Queen.
  • You can win a bonus bet even if the dealer has a better hand than yours.
  • If you make a side bet, called the “Pair Plus,” before your hand is dealt, you can win additional money if you are dealt at least a pair.

The only strategy involved is deciding whether to play your hand or folding. Poker strategists suggest mimicking the dealer, meaning only play if you show a Queen or higher, or else fold. Some gambling aficionados have gone so far as to recommend playing only a hand that has a Queen-Six-Four or higher.

Odds are, if you have a Queen, you have a fighting chance to beat the dealer.

If you fold, you lose your ante. You can be brave and play a hand that is something like 10-4-3 and hope the dealer has anything less than a Queen, and you will be paid even money on your ante. This is not advisable because you have nothing to stand on if the dealer has a Queen or higher.

A single deck of 52 cards is used. Before the cards are dealt, you decide whether you want to wager against the dealer’s hand (Ante), or gamble that your hand will have at least a pair (Pair Plus).  You can also place both wagers on the table.

Here’s a brief rundown on each bet:

Ante: The cards are dealt face down. You look at them and decide to play or fold. If you play, you must make a bet equal to your ante in the “Play” betting spot.

If you fold, the dealer removes your cards and you lose your ante.

If you decided to play and you win with the dealer qualifying, you win even money on your ante and play bets. If you play and win without the dealer qualifying, you win even money on your ante, but push on your play bet (meaning you get the play bet money back).

If you play and the dealer wins, you lose both your ante and play bets.

A player can win an “Ante Bonus” even if his or her hand does not beat the dealer’s hand. If you have a straight, three-of-a-kind or a straight flush, you qualify for the bonus. The payouts are 5-to-1 for a straight flush, 4-1 for a three-of-a-kind and even money for a straight.

Pair Plus: With this bet, you win even money if your hand has at least a pair. The payouts for higher ranking hands than a pair are 40-1 for a straight flush, 30-1 for a three-of-a-kind, 6-1 for a straight, and 4-1 for a flush.

Straights rank higher than a flush because odds are greater that a flush will be achieved than a straight with only three cards.

The house edge on Three-Card Poker is between 2 and 3.4 percent – the highest favorable odds for a player other than Black Jack – depending on how you play your hand. If you play a hand that has at least a Queen-6-4, the house’s edge drops to 2 percent, according to gambling experts.

Texas Hold Em Tips

Texas Hold’em might seem like an easy game, but plenty of strategy and thought must go into executing a winning hand.

It’s OK to be daring at the poker table with a bluff, if you are playing five- or seven-card draw with your cards covered. The same can not be said for Texas Hold’em, considering five cards are showing from the three-card Flop, and two from the Turn and River (the last two dealt).

If you call to the end, consider that 71 percent of your hand (five out of seven cards) are showing. Why even try to bluff? To go that far with a growing pot, you must feel confident you have a winning hand. Trickery is out of the question with the amount you will be betting at that point.

The Flop (three cards shown face up after the opening round of two cards are dealt face down) is when the major decisions must be made.

If you continue after the Flop with an inferior hand, it is the most costly decision you will make. If the Flop does not fit your hand by giving you a top pair or a good shot at a straight or flush, you should fold.

If you have a small pair, say a pair of 3’s, and the Flop does not provide a three-of-a-kind, your best move is to fold. Chances are another player has a higher pair or even a set. However, if you are a thrill-seeker, you can stake your chances at another 3 will be dealt with Turn or River cards.

The odds are greatly against you in that scenario, however, and not worth losing additional bets until the last call.

Another rule of thumb for the rookie player: Do not fold after the opening two cards are dealt if you are positioned with the Big Blind (usually $2 already bet) or Small Blind ($1 bet). If you immediately fold, you have basically thrown $2 away if you are the Big Blind or $1 if you are the Small Blind.

Even if another player raises the bet $2, keep pace. You might as well make the most out of initial bet and fold if you have to if the Flop provides nothing to your hand.

If you are unsure about what hands to keep or fold after the Opening Round (if you do not have the Big Blind or Small Blind), the following paragraph includes suggestions. Just a note: The two or three players to the left of the Big Blind are in the early position, the next three are the middle position and the players after that are the late position.

If in the early position, raise if your beginning two cards include a pair of aces, kings or an ace and king of the same suit. Call if have an ace-king, ace-queen of the same suit, king-queen of the same suit, pair of queens, jacks or 10’s. Fold otherwise.

If in the middle position, call with a pair of 9’s, 8’s, ace-jack of the same suit, ace-10 of the same suit, queen-jack of the same suit, ace-queen, and king-queen. Fold otherwise.

If in the late position, call with an ace combined with any card of the same suit, king-10 of the same suit, queen-10 of the same suit, jack-10 of the same suit, ace-jack, ace-10 and small pairs.

A trap to avoid: Playing any suited cards from any position or an ace with any small card (4’s, for example). Odds are these hands do not win at the end. Don’t take chances with your money.

The bottom line is to play smart, as you would in any game. Try to read your opponents and their tendencies and take educated guesses as to what hands they might have based on their raises or calls after a card is revealed.

Online Poker Strategies

In this day when gambling opportunities are branching beyond the casinos at an extreme rate, online poker has become one of the most popular interactive entertainment forms on the Internet.

An August article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution cites research from Christiansen Capital Advisers (a Maine-based consulting firm) that indicates revenue from online gambling will increase from $12 billion this year to $24.5 billion in 2010. Imagine these numbers if the production of online gambling sites was legal in the United States.

The popularity of online poker, sparked by live television shows, creates the desire among participants to know all the details and strategies of each game. Texas Hold’em and 5-Card Stud are the most popular poker games available online in part because of their simplicity. The following strategies must be followed to become a consistent winner.

Strategies for Texas Hold’em:

  • Play a hand only if given good starting cards. The strength of a hand is determined by the “hole’’ cards (the two cards dealt face down at the start). If the hole cards and the first one showing appear to be useless do not take chances and place bets. The odds of winning are strongly against you.
  • Study the cards that were dealt or not dealt to other players. If, for example, your hole cards are a pair of face cards, and you notice that minimal high-ranking cards were dealt face up, it is safe to assume other players might have good hole cards as well. Place the amount of your bet accordingly.
  • If you have a high-ranking pair, and the fourth and fifth dealt cards are useless, stay in the game. The sixth and seventh rounds give you a chance for another pair, a three-of-a-kind, or a remotely possible four-of-a-kind.
  • If you get three cards in the same suit (i.e., King, nine and a four), it is a good idea to stay in the game even if the fourth card dealt renders useless. You need only two more cards for a flush, with three more dealt cards to get them.
  • Three-of-a-kinds are obviously a keeper even if they are not high-ranking cards. You have four chances to get a pair to make a full house, or get another card for a four-of-a-kind. Stay in the game until the end.

Strategies for 5-Card Stud:

  • Like Texas Hold’em, it is essential to study your opponents’ cards. You should fold if another player’s exposed cards are very strong. You should also fold if another player’s exposed cards can beat your entire hand.
  • If the cards you need are visible in another player’s hand, assume that you will not attain them.
  • If you are trying to achieve a straight or flush, observe the other hands to see if one of the cards you need is showing. You should alter your strategy if this is the case, because the likelihood of getting a straight is much more difficult and the chance for a flush is impossible.

With 5-Card Stud and Texas Hold’em, the best way to play is with patience, confidence and a sense that you are in control even though your hand might be less than desirable. If you believe you can bluff your opponent to the last card dealt, think again. High stakes are in play, as is the case with most online games, and you don’t want to lose the bank with less than your best possible hand available.

The mass hysteria of online poker.

It seems that poker has become the latest big thing to be involved in, whether the online version, playing it in the flesh or simply watching it on the television. Sky have now even got an entire channel devoted solely to poker which makes it one of the most watched sports around. The phenomenon of online poker is absolutely huge as well, with seemingly hundreds of new poker rooms popping up here, there and everywhere. There are rooms that feature live dealers, rooms where you can pit your wits against celebrities like Nick Leeson, or rooms where you can get free chips simply for signing up.

The difference between playing online and playing for real

Firstly, playing online is playing for real. Many poker rooms have made and will continue to make big money out of punters because most people don’t see that they’re losing real money. Just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s not real. In fact, the ease with which you can ‘withdraw’ money to play at the tables is so easy that you should probably treat playing online as though it is more real.

Strategically speaking, online poker is very different to playing in a real poker tournament and the first thing you should remember is to virtually forget the notion of bluffing. Poker is traditionally thought of as being a game of skill because you can bluff and you can call bluffs. Seeing and acting on bluffs is a highly skilful and courageous lesson you need to learn before you play in a real life poker game.

You will need to bluff on occasion, but your bluffs should be small and even then you should only be bluffing with a half decent hand. An unsuited 2 and 7 may win you the pot as last player standing when you play at the casino, but the very frightening reality of online poker is that your bluff will get called much more often. Tighten your game until it’s so tight that you’re only playing suited picture cards and you won’t go far wrong.

The reverse bluff

The reverse bluff is going to become your best friend. Learn to judge your opponents; if they’re loose players who will risk their whole stack on a low pair you may get frustrated at how many reasonable hands you have to fold, but don’t despair you can still use your opponents to your advantage.

Consider the player sat to your left who always plays after you; now consider that you notice when they’re one of the last couple to play and nobody is betting they will raise the pot by some way. There’s a good chance they don’t have a hand, but you’re playing tight so you can’t take the chance of calling their bluff. Now consider that they’ve posted the big blind so they will be the last to call or raise. You’ve landed a pair of pocket aces and you couldn’t be happier but you know from experience that on the occasion you actually have a hand and you raise on the back of it that everyone but the short stack in the corner is going to fold.

What should you do? You know you’ve got a hand that is going to win a showdown around 90% of the time but you want to make some money out of it apart from the posted blinds. Try calling the bet without raising. The predictable chap next to you will undoubtedly raise because he doesn’t know how to play tight. The next couple of players fold but one more player decides to raise and go all in because they’ve only got a few chips left and they’ve had to take a chance that they’ve got a half reasonable hand that would normally win.

You know that at this point you’ve got the best hand or at worst you’ve got the same best hand as one of your opponents. You have two options; you could raise and risk the loose player folding or you could call again. You decide to raise and, sure enough, the heat has got a little too much and your opponent folds leaving you and the all in to show your hands and await your fate. If you’d called then one of two things would happen, the next player would have called and you’d have both seen the flop or he would have raised a ridiculous amount of chips. I’m willing to bet he would have raised everything trying to scare you out of the hand, and you would have excitedly called.

When you called you’d probably see the all in turn over a pair of Queens (crossed fingers that another Queen doesn’t turn up, but in a 6 player hand that’s not likely at all) or even a suited King Ace, and you’d have seen your friend run a mile when he turned over an 8 of spades and a King of clubs. Odds dictate at this point that you’re going to be walking away with a lot more money than you had two minutes earlier and you’d have the feeling of satisfaction that comes with a brilliantly bet hand.

If you play tight and reverse bluff your decent hands, you will be one of very few who are playing the pot odds in your favour. By only playing hands that should statistically win you already have an edge over your opponents that will see you gradually building your chips up until you have a reasonable size stack.

A final word of warning

When you’re browsing the tables to find one you like try to ignore any tables that have players with a ridiculously large pot of chips because that’s a sure fire indication that they’re playing the same way as you. It’s much easier to have a profitable night if you’re the only one. Also treat with respect any table that has more than one person from the same location. Instant messaging and working together means they are increasing their chances of winning more hands. Watch a couple of games and if there’s only ever one of them left in a hand after the initial round of betting, avoid them.

This concludes our course on internet poker strategies, brought to you by the online poker school. We hope you have enjoyed every minute of this course in our school, and all we hope for is that you leave the poker strategy school wishing every school course could be as fun and interesting as this. For more strategies, come visit us in the future because we will add more free information in the online poker strategy school.