Everyone knows that poker
is a game that takes a minute to learn and a
life time to master. The main reason for
this is the fact that you start out with
only two cards, but then you have to
estimate their value combined with the flop,
turn and river, where the possibilities are
myriad and keep altering.
That's why playing after the flop is the key to real poker prowess and profit. So a successful player has to be confident in his reads and know when he is putting himself in too much danger. These don't come easily, so a good place to start is to get a feel for the possibilities which any hand of poker holds for you. After all, you need to be able to see the whole of the map to understand where you are on it. We will start with a simple run through the rankings of poker hands, but with some guidance on how strong you can expect each hand to be in certain situations.
Not much of a hand, and no hand at all in a multi-way pot. Remember that it may still be a winning hand at the river in a heads-up pot if there is little action after the flop - and be prepared to pick off a likely bluff. But don't take much heat with this one.
Depending on the quality of the pair and kicker, as well as the texture of the board, a top pair hand is often a winner on the flop and often behind by the river. Bet strong early on to find out where you stand. But be prepared to to release if your hand is weak and you get played back at on a flop with few draws or where many players are still in and the betting heats up. If you have A-K on a flop, such as A-10-2 off-suit, though, your hand is very strong, so be prepared to go all-in with it if the blinds are high in a tournament. In a deep stacked cash game or tournament, be cautious against experienced players, as this is a classic way of losing all your chips, usually to a set or two pair.
Flopping two pair when you did not start with one in the hole makes for a very strong and deceptive holding, but can still be in danger by the river because of straight, flush and better two-pair possibilities. And if the board pairs with a card you don't have, a low two pair can be ruined. Try to balance getting the most for the hand with turning up the heat before the board gets too dangerous.
Flopping trips from a pair in the hole is a deceptive, powerhouse hand, and one that's rarely beaten on the flop. But, as with two pair, you need to get the most for it as quickly as possible as straight and flush possibilities can still ruin it. Trips over trips is rare, but is a realistic worry in a very deep cash game. Making trips from a pair on the board is also a strong hand (though bear in mind your kicker if the action gets too big), but is harder to make much from as it's so obvious, so you should just try to milk whatever you can.
A well disguised straight can be a goldmine( for example, you have 9-7 and the board comes 8-J-6-5), but it suffers from being vulnerable to flushes and full houses. The best plan is to make the most of it before the board pairs or flushes, or be prepared to play it more modestly and lose a little value. Obviously straights - lets say you have A-10 and the board comes 6-7-8-9 - are of little value unless you are an aggressive bluffing player who can make it look like you are just trying to buy the pot.
A strong hand, but one that lacks disguise unless the flush comes backdoor. Lets say that you have A -7 and the board comes 10 -8 -4 -J -2 , and again benefits aggressive players who may just be bluffing. Four flushes in the board are likely to have hit someone, and are similar to four straights, but the rank of the suited card will determine who wins. If you don't have the Ace, play it passively and be prepared to check and call on the river in situations where you have a good chance of being ahead.
A virtually impregnable hand, and ideal for slow play, as higher hands are unlikely, and you need to let more cards come for your opponents to make a good second best hand. The only time to be cautious is when the stacks are very deep and bigger houses are possible : judge it wrong and you may have an early night.
Virtually unbeatable. Tales of quads losing to bigger quads or a straight flush are as likely as an A-lister doing a reality TV show! Sadly it is often hard to get paid with quads, as you have the board strangled. So give your opponents as many opportunities as possible to make a hand and try to milk them for whatever you can get.
With this hand you will be walking all the way to the bank!!