Poker is the collective name for a multitude of games. However, regardless of whether you are a keen player, a beginner or an expert, or whether you play Texas Hold'em or five card stud, the possible combinations of poker cards remain the same.
A "hand" is a combination of five cards, this holds true whatever the variant of poker. However this hand may include either (or both) private cards (which can be used only by the player to whom they are dealt) and common cards, (which can be used by any player in the game). It depends on the type of poker being played.
For example, in Texas Hold'em you can make a hand out of 0-2 private (or hole) cards and 3-5 community cards. Thus, you can make your hand using the best possible combination of the 5 cards dealt face up on the table plus the 2 dealt face down only to you.
In poker, the goal is to win the other players' chips, that is to say win the pot. There are only two ways to do this, one is to have the best hand and the other is to convince your opponents that you do, i.e. to bluff.
Before analysing the ranking of the various possible poker combinations, we need to study the strength of each card.
The strength of poker cards
The hierarchy of poker cards, from the strongest to the weakest.
The Ace comes first, followed by the King, the Queen and the Jack. This quartet makes up the royal (or court) cards. Then comes the 10 the 9 down to the 2 and then back to the Ace.
Note that the Ace can be used as the highest and lowest card.
Finally, please note that there is no hierarchy of suits in poker, a spade is not stronger than a club.
According to statistical calculations, there are 2,598,960 possible combinations of the five cards which form a poker hand. Let us study the ranking of these combinations, including the winning hands which appear only very rarely.
Combinations of poker cards
Winning hands from the best to the weakest
The Royal Flush
Five so-called "royal" cards of the same suit (spades, clubs, diamonds or hearts).
Example of royal flush
This is the best possible hand. The dream which (almost) never comes true for any player!
Five cards of the same suit (spades, clubs, diamonds or hearts) in sequential rank.
Example of straight flush
Four of kind
Four cards of the same rank.
Example of four of kind
Four Aces is the best possible set of Four of kind.
The Full House
Three cards of the same rank plus two cards of the same rank.
Example of full house
Five cards of the same suit of any rank.
Example of flush
A series of five cards of mixed suits.
Example of straight
Three of a kind
Three cards of the same value.
Example three of kind
A set is when a player has two hole cards of the same rank and there is one common card of that rank. Trips is when a player has one hole card of any rank and there are two common cards of the same rank.
Two cards of the same rank associated with another pair of two cards of the same rank.
Example of two pair
Two cards of the same rank.
Example of pair
The High card
When you have no hand at all, your highest card is all you can play.
Note that if two players have the same hand, the rank of the five cards decides who is the winner. If two players have "nothing", the winner is the one with the highest card. If there is still a tie, the second-highest card is used, possibly the third-highest...
The nature of your game will depending on your position relative to the other players and the stage of the game. Here are some tips to make the strongest starting hands.
If you're a beginner, choose the best hands such as the following pairs: Ace-Ace, King-King, Queen-Queen, Jack-Jack and 10-10, plus Ace-King and Ace-Queen. So you'll be more effective at showdown.
Once you become more experienced, you can develop a strategy which takes into account your position and when you have to act during the betting round. For example, if you are among the first to bet, you are in early position: raise if you have big pairs like ACES, KING and QUEENS..
In early position, play very few hands. As you move into the middle and then late positions, adjust your strategy to raise, fold or call, taking into consideration the actions of the previous players.
One last piece of advice, do not play cards that do not make a pair or have some sort of other connection between them.