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Learning To Understand Poker Hand Values

Oct 16, 2007
One of the most important skills you can acquire during your poker career is understanding poker hand values and how they vary at different stages of the game. Indeed it's this skill that separates the pros from the amateurs.

Let me explain in more detail.

When playing texas holdem you obviously have two cards dealt to you and you need to make a decision about what action to take next, based on your chances of winning the hand.

This decision is obviously determined largely by the strength of your two cards. A common mistake amateur players make, however, is that they understand what kinds of hands are strong and which are weak, but they don't alter this mindset at different stages of the game.

For example, a pair of 2's is a pretty average hand in a 10-seater game, and is not going to be a clear favourite to win the hand, but in a 2 or 3-seater game this suddenly becomes a much stronger hand and one that you can be more aggressive with.

It's always important to understand how your odds of winning with any hand can differ based on the number of players you are up against. This becomes increasingly important when you start playing heads-up games, or you start getting to the final stages of tournaments.

When there are just 2 or 3 of you left in, then you need to completely reassess the strength of your hand compared to say a 6 or 10-seater game you may be more familiar with.

Previously weak hands suddenly become slightly more playable, as you will often find 2 low, but live cards regularly overcome stronger hands.

Similarly, average or marginal hands suddenly become hands you can play with, and even raise with, depending on the circumstances.

Also, if you get a strong hand like a high pair in heads-up play, then this obviously becomes a monster hand and one you can be very aggressive with.

So to conclude, if you're serious about becoming a successful and profitable poker player, then you have to understand poker hand values and how they differ at different stages of the game. Try experimenting with poker odds calculators and you will see for yourself how the probabilities vary as you change the number of players.

After all it's no good taking part in tournaments, becoming good at reaching final tables, only to never emerge victorious because you haven't acquired the skills needed to master heads-up play.
About the Author
James Woolley is a regular poker player and the author of a poker blog which is a complete guide to internet poker, and contains the very latest internet poker tips to help you become a better poker player.
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