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Poker hand 101: What makes a winning hand?

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Poker hand 101: What makes a winning hand?

Poker hand 101: What makes a winning hand?

Thu Aug 25 2022 05:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Poker is easily one of the most popular games in the casino, mainly because it doesn’t rely on luck alone. To win the game, you need to strategise and more importantly, understand where you stand in the game by knowing the different poker hands. 


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Here at Bitcasino, we will show you a guide on which hands beat poker to help you get a good grasp of your game and practice poker! Discover what makes a winning hand below: 

Poker hand meaning: Down to the basics

Before you get familiar with what poker hand wins and loses, you must first understand what is a poker hand. It consists of five cards, two of which are your hole cards and three coming from the community cards. This should be the best card combination you can make out of the combined seven cards (two hole cards and five community cards) available to you.

Understanding the card ranking and poker hand sets

Not all poker hands are equal and most of the hand combinations here are based on the value of each card. The ranking itself is pretty straightforward, but there are some cards that can change position and value in the game. Take a look at the card ranking below arranged from highest to lowest card value: 

  • Ace 
  • King 
  • Queen 
  • Jack 
  • 10 
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2

As you might have noticed, there is no card value with 1 in poker. The reason for this is that the Ace can act as either 1 or a rank higher than the king. Its value depends on what would be most beneficial for you in the game. 

Winning hands: What beats what in poker?

There are different poker games in the world and each of them applies a unique mechanic that sets them apart from the others. However, no matter what type of poker you are playing one thing remains the same and that is the ranking of the winning hands. 

Take a look at the hands that can grant you a win on the table and which hands beat what right here at Bitcasino!

Royal flush 

royal flush is the highest-ranking card in poker and is considered to be the best hand you could have in the game. You are basically impossible to beat if you have this on your hand. 

What makes up this hand is five of the highest-ranking cards coming from the same suit: 10, jack, queen, king and ace. In some casinos, the card suit is also considered in determining the strength of the hand.  

Straight flush 

A straight flush can consist of any five sequential cards in the same suit that are not the royal flush. This hand can be a combination of consecutive cards starting from 2 to king. An example of a straight flush would be 5-6-7-8-9. 

Four of a kind 

A four of a kind hand has four cards of the same value but varying suits and another card of a different rank. The highest-ranking card in your hand completes the five-card hand. 

Full house 

A full house consists of three cards with the same value coming from different suits or a three of a kind and a separate pair with two similar ranking cards belonging to different suits. If more than one player has a full house on the poker table, the winning hand would be the one with the higher value three of a kind.  

Flush

Flush is a hand that consists of any five cards from the same suit with no particular sequence. If two or more players have a flush, the player with the hand featuring the highest valued card wins the game. 

Straight

A straight hand is made of five cards with sequential numerical values from more than one suit. An ace in this sequence can either be placed above a king or lower than a 2, but it shouldn’t appear in the same hand. 

Three of a kind 

To have a three of a kind hand, you need three cards of the same rank but of different suits and two of the highest value cards available. It doesn’t matter if the two cards have the same rank or suit. 

Two pair 

Two pairs are exactly what its name suggests. You should have two pairs of cards with the same value and any card to complete this hand. The highest-ranking card available becomes the fifth card. 

Pair 

In a pair hand, you should have a pair of similarly ranked cards from different suits. The highest-ranked cards available on your deck become the three remaining cards. 

High card 

A high card is considered the lowest-ranked hand of them all. What this means is that your ‘best hand’ would be the highest value card in your hands.  

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Best and worst starting hands in poker 

Before discussing the good and bad hands in poker, we must make it clear that every poker hand performs a different role and could be used to your advantage depending on the situation and how good you can make it work. 

However, the hands we have listed below can either be a nightmare at the beginning of your game or a sign that luck is entirely on your side. With that said, take a look at the best and worst starting hands in poker: 

Best starting hands 

Ace-Ace 

You are one lucky punter if you get this combination as your hole cards. The pair of aces also known as pocket rockets only appear once in every 221 hands on average. It’s one of the best pairs you can have since it grants you an 80% chance to win. It can only be beaten if any of your opponents has a stronger card in hand. 

King-King 

This card can win you the big pots if it lands in your hands. The pair of kings or King Kong has a 70% equity over any ace, which ensures that you would get your money preflop.

Queen-Queen

The two queens or the ladies, as they call it, is one of the best starting hands in poker. It is a powerful enough combination that can take down a pair of jacks and tens as well as any other cards below. This hand proves to have amazing preflop strength, but it can be difficult to play post-flop, especially if there are some overcards or cards that are ranked higher than any other card or pair. 

Ace-King (suited) 

The ace-king pair is among the premium hands in poker considered to be one of the strongest unpaired holdings. What makes this hand one of the best to start with is that it can win against almost all of the pocket pairs except the pocket aces and pocket kings. 

Jack-Jack 

Pocket jack or the hooks guarantees that you would win at least 20% of the time. It presents a 50-50 chance for you against any unpaired and would do well as a preflop hand against any lower pocket pair. 


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Worst starting hands 

2-7 (offsuit)

This hand is the worst you can start with in poker since it limits your options exponentially. You do not have any straight draw, no flush draw and you are unlikely to have the best hand even if you manage to get a pair of 7s and 2s. The only thing that can save these hands is if you hit the flop with a rare 7-7-2 hand, which only happens once in a blue moon. 

2-8 (offsuit)

The 2-8 hand is basically the same as the 2-7 hand. The only thing making it better is the fact that the other pair is 8 and not 7. This hand has no good option going forward and it would likely be better for you to drop out of the game before the betting starts. 

3-8 (offsuit)

A 3-8 hand in poker is unlikely to make you win the game. The only thing you can do here is to wait for a better hand in the game. 

2-9 (offsuit)

This hand is not the best, but it is slightly better than the ones above since the 9 gives you a chance to form a middle pair. Even then, it can still be beaten by a hand holding pocket 10s, jacks, queens, kings and aces. Even worse is that no straights can fill the gap between these cards. 

2-6 (offsuit)

Out of the 169 possible starting hands in poker, this card pair would probably be ranked 165th. While it's not the worst, it's still a hand you wouldn't want to wager on. Even if you got a miracle flop of either 3, 4 or 5 giving you a straight, you will still lose to a higher straight. 

Poker hand statistics: Calculating the poker odds

Calculating the odds in poker is a special skill most professional players have to ensure that they’d win money over the long run in the game. You could say that it is the first step you need to know to master the mathematical side of the poker strategy. Review the details below and learn how to calculate the odds of your game! 

What are poker odds?

Poker odds are known as the probability of a game being in your favour. In most cases, it can specify how often you need to have the best hand to call a bet. You should know that every raise, call or bet you make in poker has its own odds and understanding this would lead you to make the best decisions for your wager.

Why is it important to calculate the odds? 

Calculating the odds is how you assess your situation in poker. Having an understanding of where you stand when it comes to odds can help you make a profitable plan for your game. 

Odds of each poker hand appearing

The probabilities below are calculated based on a five-card stud or a five-card hand. See how often the winning card would appear in a game in the poker hand range chart below:

Hand 

Combinations 

Probabilities

Royal flush

4

0.00000154

Straight flush 

36

0.00001385

Four of a kind 

624

0.00024010

Full house 

3,744

0.00144058

Flush 

5,108

0.00196540

Straight 

10,200

0.00392465

Three of a kind 

54,912

0.02112845

Two pair 

123,552

0.04753902

Pair 

1,098,240

0.42256903

Nothing 

1,302,540

0.50117739


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Most controversial poker hands in history 

Now that you have an idea about the different poker hands and what beats what in poker, here’s a peek inside the most controversial hands played in the game according to history. Learn about the poker hand terms you’ll only hear in tournaments below:

  1. Estelle Denis and her pocket aces 

This story is one born out of misfortune and perhaps a mistake by both Estelle and the dealer. It all began with Estelle running short on the stack in the 2009 World Series of Poker with her opponent JC Tran making a raise to 32,000. Estelle got lucky that when she peeked down at her cards, she found a pocket ace. 

This prompted Estelle to push all her remaining chips in the middle. However, perhaps due to hurry, she forgot to protect her cards and it was swept by the dealer and put into a muck. 

Before Estelle even realised, it was already too late and the hand she had wasn’t easily retrievable. The floor decided that Estelle’s hand was dead and she had to put 32,000 chips to match JC. Truly an unfortunate event for Estelle. 

  1. Negreanu’s fortunate mis-click 

Having your chips mixed up is common in poker. Oftentimes, players put out a bet that is accidentally higher or lower than they intend to and that is exactly what happened to Daniel Negreanu in his match with Silverman on the European Poker Tour in 2013. 

Negreanu opens the button while holding a strong hand of ace-king. However, instead of making the standard 3x or 2.5x, Negreanu accidentally clicked 11x. Daniel laughed to let everyone know that it was only a misclick, which then put his opponent who has a king-jack in a tough spot despite having a strong hand against a button raise. 

In the end, Silverman decided to move all his chips in and pick up all the extra chips in the middle. Needless to say, Silverman wasn’t very pleased when he saw Negreanu’s cards that rendered any poker hand strategy useless. 

  1. Tony G vs Phil Hellmuth 

You can miss out on every controversial hand on this list, but this one is a tale for the legends. This legendary poker hand involves two of the best poker players in the world: Hellmuth and G. 

Hellmuth started the game by playing short stack which aggravated Tony who wants to get all of Phil’s chips and force him to either rebuy or leave the game. An opportunity presented itself to Tony when he looked down on an ace-king in the double straddle facing an open on Phil. 

Tony then decided to move all in, which gave Hellmuth a dilemma. Tony declared that he didn’t look at Hellmuth’s card before moving all in and everything came crumbling down when Phil took Tony’s word and made a call. 

Easy to say, Hellmuth lost the round and was shocked that Tony lied to him. Tony replied with the legendary ‘Of course I lied. It’s poker, Phil.’ It might not be the most honest move, but it highlights the lesson every poker player must know by now: never take a poker player’s words at face value. 

Have the upper hand in Bitcasino poker

See if luck would favour your gamble with a good hand! Play poker at Bitcasino after mastering poker hand meaning and beat your opponents with a winning hand! 

Words by: Ana Gabrielle A. Gundran


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Poker hand 101: What makes a winning hand?