The Essence of Poker Hand and Card Rankings
The term poker rankings can refer to the many hands that can be made in poker and it can also refer to the ranking of cards. Let’s take a look at poker card rankings first.
Juicy Stakes Poker is committed to helping players get better at poker - that's why we publish these articles. This article may seem overly simplistic to some but it is in keeping with our desire to create a growing group of excellent poker players.
Is the Ace a High Card or a Low Card?
The ace is usually considered a high card. However, in low-hand games such as Omaha Hi-Lo the ace can be a low-ranking card. In fact, in Omaha Hi-Lo, the ace can be a high-ranking card for the high hand and a low-ranking card for the low hand.
In Texas Hold’em, an ace can make a powerful straight as a low card as well as a better straight as a high card.
The Ace Can Take on Strange Properties in Blackjack
In blackjack, the ace can be worth one point or eleven points. When a player gets two aces, they split them and count them as 11 points, hoping to get two blackjacks!
However, if one of the hands gets a five, the player will count the ace as worth only one point since a hand of 16 points is the worst hand a blackjack player can get.
In some blackjack variations, the dealer hits with a soft 17, meaning a hand worth 17 points with an ace. In other variations, the dealer stands with soft 17. This is considered the better rule for players so many players only play blackjack games in which the dealer stands on soft 17!
The Ten-point Cards are Different in Blackjack and in Poker
In poker, a 10 is a 10, a jack is a jack, and so on. In blackjack, all ten-point cards are considered the same. Thus, a player can split a holding of king and queen. By the way, all analysts of blackjack strategy say not to split tens! That rule applies even when the dealer is showing a six, a very bad holding for the house.
Hand Rankings are as Easy as the ABC’s
We might venture to say that every kid in a Western country knows the standard hand rankings in poker. Kids don’t know, however, the statistical likelihood of any hand.
When math mavens talk about the probability of a hand in poker, they often lose average people in the first sentence! They use terms like binomial coefficient, multiplication principle, and permutation! As if the average poker player knows what those terms mean!
So, let’s look at the likelihood of hands in poker from a simpler point of view.
What are the Chances of Being Dealt a Royal Flush?
Everyone knows that this is the highest hand in poker. It comes about roughly once in 40,000 hands. So, a poker professional who plays a lot of poker will see a couple to a few Royal Flushes over the course of his or her career.
The opposite of a Royal Flush is a hand with not so much as a pair! This hand comes about in 50% of all hands.
What about the Community Cards in Texas Hold’em?
The community cards make every hand slightly more likely. The comparative likelihood of all hands is still the same. It is rare for a high card hand to win a pot in Texas Hold’em but it does happen!
More likely is for players to fold with such poor hands and the bettor, who is bluffing, wins the pot by default!
The Single Most Amazing Statistic in Poker
Let’s assume that we are talking about five-card hands. There are 2,598,960 possible hands in any deal of five cards. In draw poker, such as the poker in video poker, all five cards are dealt at the same time. In stud, the cards are dealt individually.
This means that a hand with an ace high might be strong if the ace is dealt early and an opponent is likely to fold the hand if the ace was destined to be dealt as the fifth card.
The amazing statistic we referred to above is that on any deal of five cards, EVERY HAND IS EQUALLY LIKELY!
But the Royal Flush is Supposed to be Rare!
A Royal Flush is indeed rare! There are only 4 Royal Flushes in any standard deck of cards. There are a lot more hands with no pair at all. The odds of getting a hand with not so much as a pair is very high. As we said, about 50% of all hands dealt will not have a single pair.
What about a Hand with a Pair?
About 42% of all hands have a pair. Here we have to consider the rank of the pair. Obviously, a pair of aces on the deal in Texas Hold’em is a strong hand. But how strong is a pair of twos? The fact is that if a player in early position raises the big blind before the flop and a player betting later has only a small pair, he or she would best be served by folding!
A pair may actually be weaker than a hand with no pairs! That can happen when the hand with no pair has high cards. It could have four to an outside straight. In that case, it is a lot more likely to catch a pair or make the straight and would overwhelm a hand with a low pair.
What are Hand Ranks in Games with a Wild Card
Most poker games with a wild card will have at least four wild cards. In Texas Hold’em tournaments, there are no wild cards. These games are played for the most part in friendly games with pals. In that case, it is always a good idea to set table rules for games with wild cards.
Statistically, it is more likely to get a Royal Flush in deuces wild than it is to get five of a kind! That would set five of a kind as the highest hand. However, a lot of players feel that a Royal Flush should retain its honored place as the highest hand even when it is no longer the least likely hand!
One proviso that is often agreed upon in friendly games is that a Royal Flush with a wild card is less valuable than a “pure” Royal Flush!
The Bottom Line on Poker Rankings
Players should be experts in the rankings of hands in any poker variation they are going to play. Players should also be aware that on many hands, the second highest card might determine the outcome of the hand.
This card is called the “kicker”. If you have a high pair with a high kicker, you will likely win most hands if you choose to stay in the hand. Always keep in mind that a player with a weak hand might bluff and if he or she does, even a pair of aces might seem too weak to stay in the hand with!
Online Poker at Juicy Stakes Gives Gamers Oodles of Experience
It costs no money to “travel” to Juicy Stakes Poker. It does cost money to travel to any land-based poker room unless the player lives within walking distance of the room.
So, online poker has an immediate advantage over on-land poker. Online games are faster which gives players more hands to analyze after the session. Online poker is conducive to frequent, short poker sessions while at a land-based poker room, players have the incentive to play on and on.
Overly long poker sessions actually cost players experience and lengthen the learning curve in poker!