Knowing poker hands probability is an essential part of the game. It can be the difference between formulating a good poker strategy and winning consistently.
While there is a small element of luck in poker, a lot of the game is based around statistics and odds. As a result, there are a lot of possible hand variations in poker and the probability of different hands may seem confusing at first, particularly for beginner players.
However, understanding the basics of poker hands probability can increase a player’s chance of winning drastically. By knowing a few hands to gamble on beginners can put themselves in a good position in a match. Alternatively, certain hands are extremely unlikely to pay off in poker.
How many combinations of poker hands are there?
Statistics have a big role in the probability of poker hands. Although there are 52 cards in every pack of cards, each card and its combination with another card, is not equal. Overall, there are 169 different combinations of hole cards players could receive in poker (or 1,326 if you rank suits as distinct cards!)
Certain poker hands and combinations have better equity (a better statistical chance of winning) compared to others. For example, a player who is dealt K-A is more likely to beat a player who is dealt 2-9.
How do you find the probability of poker hands?
Recognizing a good starting hand is key to success at any level of poker. But, players can gain even more of an advantage by calculating their chances and probability in real-time. To be successful at calculating hand odds in poker, understanding ‘outs’ is essential.
‘Outs’ are the cards that can improve poker hands if they come up in each round. By knowing the number of outs from the unseen cards, players can work out their odds of winning. Below is an example of calculating outs and determining their odds of winning.
- Your hole cards are K-J (both spades).
- A (spades), 6 (spades), and 8 (hearts) are dealt in the flop.
- There are 13 cards of each suit and four spades on the table. 13-4= 9 so you would have 9 outs.
- Then use the number of unseen cards in the deck against your out cards to determine the odds of winning. For example, 52 cards are in the deck, two are in your hand, three are on the table and your opponent has two. 2+3+2= 7 and 52-7=45.
- Out of the 45 unseen cards, 9 could be winners. Therefore, your odds of winning in this scenario are 45:9 (narrowed down to 5:1 or 20%).
The above can be applied to any poker hand but takes time to practice. The numbers will also change depending on the number of players in the game. For example, pocket aces begin with nearly an 85% chance of winning with two players. But this reduces to just over 50% with four players.
It is also worth remembering that not all winning poker hands are the result of statistical decisions. The best players combine game management, bluffing, knowledge of their opponent, and use their position at the table to get the best results.
What hands should I play?
Calculating the probabilities of pokers hands can increase your chances of winning. But it can also help you to understand the value of starting hands and which ones to play.
Below are the hands that are the hole cards that are statistically most likely to win a hand in poker. But it’s worth remembering that these cards can easily lose their equity by the community cards dealt in the following rounds.
- Pocket Aces
- Pocket Kings
- Pocket Queens
- Suite Ace-King
- Suited Ace-Queen
While pocket cards generally have a stronger chance of winning, suited Ace-King and suited Ace-Queen can still lose out depending on your opponent’s cards.
What poker hands should you not play?
Alternatively, several hands should force you to fold in poker. Receiving bad hole cards is not uncommon in poker and some can present an opportunity to win a hand.
However, below are the worst hole cards to receive in poker. The reasons for this are similar for each combination. For each starting poker hand below, the best a player can hope to make is a pair that is unlikely to win a hand. Furthermore, chances of straights and flushes are out of reach, leaving little option but to fold.
- Unsuited 2 and 7
- Unsuited 2 and 8
- Unsuited 3 and 8
- Unsuited 2 and 9
- Unsuited 2 and 6
Game management is also important to consider if you are dealt poor hole cards. They can be used to a player’s advantage if they can bluff effectively and force their opponents to fold. Also, it is not impossible to make four of a kind with either a 2 or a 7, for example. But statistically, it is a very unlikely poker hand.
What is equity in poker?
Equity is the statistical chance a player has of winning in poker. A player who holds the best hole cards will have the best equity. However, this advantage can increase or decrease depending on the community cards dealt in each round.
What is an ‘out’ in poker?
Outs in poker are the cards you need to make a potentially winning poker hand from combined hole cards and community cards.
How many different hands are possible in Texas Hold’em?
In Texas Hold’em poker, there are 169 combinations of hole cards players can receive. If all suits and numbers are classified in their value, then 1,326 combinations are possible.
Why do the odds of winning decrease with more players?
The more players are at a poker table, the less likely an individual player is to win the hand outright. With more players involved, it is more likely they hold a card of better or similar value, making the pot hard to win. However, a player can still calculate their odds of winning by calculating their number of ‘outs’ first.