5 Tips for Mastering Basic Poker Hands

Okay, if you want to be a force to be reckoned with in a poker game, as well as enjoy yourself, then you’ll have to accomplish 3 basic things:

  1. understand the rules of Poker
  2. memorise the 9 hands possible
  3. learn to use strategy during a game

Applying good strategy is only really possible once the rules and poker hands have become fast reflex, second nature (meaning you don’t waste time trying to remember anything while playing).

1. How to Remember Poker Hands

The perplexing aspect of remembering the 9 hands of Poker is that each hand is a bundle of facts rather than just a word (otherwise a mnemonic device could do the trick for you). In online poker you must win against opponents with a hand that contains one of these:

  • Royal Flush: 5 cards ranked 10 to Ace, same suit (nothing beats this hand)
  • Straight Flush: 5 consecutive cards, same suit
  • Four of a Kind: 4 cards, same rank
  • Full House: 1 pair plus 3 of a kind
  • Flush: 5 cards, same suit
  • Straight: 5 consecutive cards (un­suited)
  • Three­of­a­Kind: 3 cards, same rank
  • Two Pair: 2 pairs of the same cards
  • Pair: 1 pair of the same cards

So, you’ll have to come up with your own creative way to remember them, which could include rote memorisation, some mnemonic devices and perhaps your own unique bit of association.

Discover How You Learn

The best advice is to take a moment to find out which senses help you learn things best: sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste? If you’re mainly visual, for example, then draw a chart or ‘mind map’ of the hands.

Once you have a handle on hands, don’t keep banging your head on the dry information — decide on your learner’s budget and just jump into some live games. Then the facts will gel with experiences.

2. Most Common Hands

A smart thing to do is to break up the list above into 2 or more categories, including the lowest or most common hands in poker. Remember: the reason a Royal Flush wins over anything else is that it is the rarest hand, the most difficult to assemble.

So, the weakest hands are the last 3 or 4 above: a Pair, a Two Pair, a Three of a Kind and maybe a Straight. Notice that they are the simplest to understand — you could perhaps associate simple with poorest, least winning.

3. Rarest Hands

As you now know, the rarest hands, therefore the most difficult to gather into your grip, are the most valuable. In poker, a Royal Flush can beat anybody else’s best hand. As for the other good hands, it is a simple hierarchy of value.

Strategy Tip: When two players have the same hand, it just means that the one with higher value cards will win.

So, once again, you have a group of 4 hands (excluding the top hand, Royal Flush, which deserves to be in a league of its own): Straight Flush, Four of a Kind, Full House and Flush. (Hmm, there are a lot of ‘F’s in those names. Use that to remember them!)

The Most Human Aspects of Poker

Maybe a big reason Poker is so popular and even fascinating to people is that it contains both facts and rules, and strategy, but also a couple softer qualities (but no less important) like bluffing and keeping your ‘poker face’. In other words, poker also is a very psychological game.

4. The Bluffed Hand

The truth is, that when players make their hands, there are enough of them that nobody quite knows how one’s hand will compare unless holding a Royal Flush. Because of that, some people will fold just because they lack confidence in their hands, or lack courage, or, another player has psyched them out.

Clever players can use this twist of psychology to win by acting like they have a winning hand (as you know, called a bluff), forcing others to fold. This will only succeed if a bluffer has observed less confident opponents. But a wise player will never try to bluff without accurate diagnoses of other players’ psychology, you see!

5. Role of a Poker Face

Part and parcel with bluffing (or the opposite, of luring other players to build up the pot when holding a Royal Flush) is not letting your facial expressions give away your position in the round.

Another way to put this is that you must contain or even mask your feelings and emotions when you know the relative quality of your hand, and, you have a strategy of what to do with it. You could practice this in a mirror, but the best practice is just through experience in actual games.

Keep It Simple

And that is about it. Since Poker is a bit complex, and involves skill, the best overall strategy is to know the rules and develop strategy with direct experience rather than thinking too much (or loading your memory with things you could forget).

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