Most casual players, even if they don’t spend much time thinking about strategy away from the table, are probably confident in their knowledge of the rules of poker. Surely, determining which one is the winning a hand can’t be a challenge, right? Well, in some cases it certainly can for the inexperienced player.
Let’s start with an easy one, although for some beginners, it’s worth pointing out: if you have a pocket pair and you make a set on a paired board, you have a full house. Consider this hand for example:
Be careful not to misread this hand as “set of Aces beats set of 7’s”. As the percentages indicate, the pocket 7’s win with a full house – sevens full of Aces.
In general, whenever the board is paired it means that there is a possibility of a boat – so your nut flushes or nut straights are no longer the nuts, they actually lose to quite a lot of combinations of hands. Keep that in mind when you consider a bet or a call.
This also means that not all three of a kinds are created equal. If there’s a pair on the board and you’re holding a third card of the same rank – like AJ in our example here – you do have a set but:
- you could be outkicked
- you have a set on a paired board where full houses and quads are also available, hence your hand is not as strong.
Meanwhile if you have a pocket pair and you hit a set, it1s impossible for an opponent to have the same set with a better kicker since there’s only one card of the same rank left in the deck, and you have three of a kind on an unpaired board.
The next hand is a little trickier:
Here, our player on the left has top two, Tens and 9’s – yet they’re beaten by a pair of Jacks? No, actually they’re beaten by a better two pair, Jacks and 3’s. For two pairs, it’s always the higher pair that determines the winner. Players would usually announce their hands at showdown as “Jacks up”, in this case – which means they’re beating their opponent’s “Tens up”.
In both of these scenarios, the common mistake is the same – novice players can disregard the fact that it is the best 5 cards that count at showdown, and for those 5 cards a player can use the board, aka the “community cards” as well. Be careful not to miss out on a huge pot because of that like this gentleman did.