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We began our own Juicy Stakes poker review last week with a tutorial. We're sure that new AND experienced poker players will get a lot from these insights.

Is the Ace Always the Highest Card?

An ace can count as a one or as the highest card in the suit.  The only time you would count an ace as a one is when you have a straight starting with the ace.  In every other hand, the ace is the highest card in your hand.  If you have two aces, they are equal in value but together they are the highest card in your hand. 

It is very important to respect the aces in your hand but it is equally important to realize that even aces may not be enough to win the hand. If you have two aces and three of another card, you then have a full house in which the other card is the supreme card but the aces are still the highest cards in your hand!

If you and an opponent both have two aces and three of another card, the higher of the other card will win the hand!  So while aces are almost always the highest card in your hand, they may not be enough to win a hand.   

The Hierarchy of Hands

So much of what we talk about in the basics of the basics seems like such obvious stuff that many experienced players might tune us out.  The hierarchy of hands is one of those things.

All poker players have to react to the hierarchy of hands in the same way that drivers react to red lights, stop signs, and other signals that tell them how to drive.  Yes, the hierarchy of hands is vitally important.  It is so important that always knowing the relative value of every hand has to be automatic.

In addition to knowing the ranks of all the hands in poker, it is necessary to know what hand you are most likely to end up with from the present point in the game.

The Relative Frequency of Hands is Not Linear

Before the cards are dealt, the chances that you won’t get so much as a pair are very good, about once in every two hands.  A pair occurs in about four times in every ten hands.  The jump in frequency between one pair and two pair is quite big: one pair occurs in about 42 % of hands while two pair occur in only about 5% of all hands. 

The next hand in the hierarchy is three of a kind which occurs in only about 2% of all hands and then there is another big jump to straights which occur in only 0.4% of all hands.  Most players know that straights are good hands but most players, especially new poker players, don’t realize just how much stronger a flush is than a straight since it is bettered by only a full house, four of a kind or a straight flush.  The highest straight flush is, of course, the rare Royal Flush.

A flush is only half a likely as a straight but a full house is almost as likely as a flush! 

Adding a Sixth and Seventh Card Changes the Frequency but not the Relative Frequency

There are more good hands when a sixth and seventh card are added to the standard five cards.  However, the frequency relative to all other hands remains the same.  Thus a flush is still almost as frequent as a full house.  Many players lose with a flush to a full house!

Getting a Good Hand and Staying Deadpan

The term poker face came about because players very early on realized that the way they reacted to their cards gave their opponents a lot of important information.  If they acted happily at their cards, it would signal to the opponents that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to bet into that hand.

A player’s reaction to the cards dealt has become part of the overall strategy of poker in which players try to misdirect opponents by “telegraphing” either a good hand or a poor hand.  However, when a player finds himself or herself in a relatively high stakes game, it is necessary to see a card that may help the player win by showing no reaction at all.

It is very hard to read an opponent and we should always make our opponents do all of the mental analysis without any help from us.

Mastering One Variation of Poker

At the most basic level of poker, new players, and probably more than a few players who have been playing for a while, should strive to master just one of the many variations that a player can play online. 

This does not mean that a player should never enter a game in another variation.  It means that if your mastery of one type of poker allows you to play for somewhat high stakes, if you join a different poker game, you should enter for much lower stakes.

It also points to the very basic idea that you should never play for stakes that attract players with more experience and stronger skills than you.  If you work diligently to improve your poker game, you will certainly get to the point where you can play for higher stakes.

The challenge of playing for higher stakes, assuming that you can afford to lose your bankroll and that you’ll stop playing if that catastrophe does happen, elevates many poker players.  It is a good thing to strive to get good enough to play competitively with very good players.  You simply need to be patient about getting there.

The All Important Element of Patience

Being patient in poker is so important that we will leave it for the start of the next article in this long march through the basics of poker.   Patience is the guiding light for many very good players and it is the downfall of many players who have the basic skills except for this one exception - patience!


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