Poker offers a space for strategy, which means that it relies less on luck. This does not mean, however, that the cards do not have importance. For the beginner, an ample knowledge in poker basics such as poker hands would be the beginning of the creation of great poker strategies.
Perhaps the most basic unit in the game, a hand is a certain grouping of cards. Five cards constitute a hand. The ranking of cards are as follows, from lowest to highest: Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace. An Ace is considered high when part of a low straight like Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5.
One might ask what the use of suits in poker is: they have no significance except for creating certain hands.
The principle behind poker hand rankings is that there is a gradation of hands, and hands that have a higher grade beat those that are under it. Below is a list of poker hand rankings from the highest grade up to the lowest.
The straight flush, the highest ranking in poker, consists of five consecutive cards belonging to the same suit. Ace of Spades, King of Spades, Queen of Spades, Jack of Spades, 10 of Spades is an example of this.
A full house consists of three cards that are of the same rank, plus two cards of another rank. Jack, Jack, Jack, 10, 10 is an example of this.
A four-of-a-kind is a poker hand that consists of four cards of the same rank and an unmatched card. Queen, Queen, Queen, Queen, 6 is an example of this.
A flush consists of five cards that belong to the same suit and are not in sequence. For example: 2 of clubs, Queen of clubs, 6 of clubs, 5 of clubs, 9 of clubs.
A straight is made up of five consecutive ranking cards but do not belong to the same suit. 2 of spades, 3 of clubs, 4 of diamonds, 5 of clubs, 6 of spades is an example of this
A three-of-a-kind consists of three cards that have the same rank, plus two cards that have different ranks. 8, 8, 8, Jack, Ace is an example of this.
A two pair is a poker hand that is made up of two cards that have similar rankings, another two cards that have similar rankings, plus an unmatched card. Jack, Jack, 6, 6, 3 is an example of this.
A pair is made up of two cards of the same rank, plus three cards with different ranks. 5, 5, 3, 9, 10 is an example of this.
A high card, the hand with the lowest grade, is a poker hand in which any similar ranking cards are absent, the five cards are from different suits, and they are not consecutive. It is also called 'trash,' or 'junk' hand.
Poker hand rankings are always judged first by their grade, then by individual card rankings. This means that a straight will always beat a three-of-a-kind, even if the three of a kind holds three Aces.
For tied ranks, the highest card in the combination determines the winning hand. In hands with high cards, the ranking is determined by the highest card.
For the beginner, knowing the basic elements of poker would be the start of building a good strategy. Having a good grasp of the rules of the game and a good strategy, one would be on the way to winning the pot.