The Basics of Texas Hold’em
In simple terms, the aim of Texas Hold’em is to win the pot in one of two ways: make your opponent/s fold or have the best five-card hand at a showdown.
At the start of each round, players are dealt two cards only they can see (hole cards). From here, a round of (pre-flop) betting takes place. Those left in the hand after the first betting round get to see three community cards known as the flop. From here, another round of betting takes place before the fourth (the turn) and fifth (the river) community cards are dealt.
Whenever community cards are in play, you’re able to combine them with your hand to make a potentially winning combination. For example, you can use one hole card along with four community cards to make a five-card hand. If two or more players make it all the way to the river, a showdown takes place and a winner is determined based on the hand rankings.
They are, in order from best to worst:
- Royal Flush
- Straight Flush
- Full House
- A Pair
- A High Card
Hands v Hands: How Hands Affect Odds of Winning
Now we’ve established the basics of Texas Hold’em, how do hands affect your odds of winning? Well, based on your hole cards, the chances of making certain hands will change. What’s more, your starting cards will either make you a betting favourite or underdog. For example, if you take the best possible starting hand (A-A) and compare it to the worst (7-2), the former is an 87% favourite.
In practice, being a pre-flop favourite means you have the best shot at winning when both hands are turned over and the five community cards are dealt without interruption. However, that’s not the end of the story when it comes to Texas Hold’em. As we’ve said, you can make opponents fold at any stage. So, in theory, you never have to show your hole cards.
With that being the case, you can’t always wait for strong starting hands. Moreover, it’s impossible to be a 100% favourite pre-flop. Therefore, because there’s always a chance you can lose, you need to know how to play hands once the community cards are dealt.
Naturally, high ranked cards will always be better than lower ranked ones. However, once you delve into the nuances of the game, you’ll see that holdings such as 7-6 suited have a lot of value.
Because 'connected' cards have a greater chance of making things such as straights and flushes, you can use them to your advantage. Yes, they may not always make you a pre-flop favourite like aces. However, they could make you a favourite post-flop. This is where poker really starts to get interesting. Although it’s possible to get lucky and win with the best starting hand, this won’t always happen.
Because of that, you need to know how to play post-flop and, in turn, which hands have the most value. As a starting point, suited and connected cards are great. However, as you become more advanced, you’ll start to see that there’s value in other areas and that’s what makes poker exciting.