A Guide On What Poker Hands to Play In Different Situations

Poker is a complex game with a lot for players to learn. At the same time, it is incredibly simple to learn the basics. You just need to learn the hand values and the basic rules of the game to get started. That being said, you will not be a successful player long term unless you familiarize yourself with poker strategy. If that is a goal of yours, you might not know where to start. The first thing you should learn is what poker hands to play. This might not sound overly complex, but there is a lot more to consider than you might think. You will not play every hand in every situation. Your position at the table matters, and what other players have done before you will impact the hands you play. Here we will take you through the basics to try to teach you what poker hands and when to play them.

Understanding Hand Descriptions

Before you can start to learn what casino poker hands to play, you are going to need to understand hand descriptions. When you are studying hand charts, there are going to be annotations that refer to certain hands. Notably, every hand will have an "s" or an "o" next to it. An "s" means that it is a suited hand. This is a hand with two cards of the same suit. An "o" refers to off-suit cards. You might also see a "+" next to hands. That would indicate that every hand ranked above the stated hand is included. For example, if you see "55+" it includes pair of fives and better.

Familiarize Yourself with Seating Position

Advanced players understand that there is nothing more important in poker than your seating position. It affects how you play, which hands you play, and when you make your bets. A standard poker table has nine seats, each of which has a name. There is the player that is designated as the dealer for each hand. They are the final person to act in post-flop play, and as a result, it is the best position to be in. This position is called "The Button" and every position is related to this one.

Let's go through the name of each position in order to the right of the button. The player directly to the right of the button is in the cutoff followed by the high jack, the low jack, middle position, under the gun +1, under the gun, the big blind, and the small blind. If you are at a 10 player table, you simply add an extra middle position player.

Pocket Pairs

Pocket pairs are the most aesthetically pleasing hands in poker, but all of them are not equally strong. A big problem with new players is that they play too many of their small pocket pairs. When we are discussing small pocket pairs, we are talking about pairs up to 6s. If you are in middle position, late position, or the blinds, you are better off limping rather than raising in most situations. However, if there has been a single raise, you will be better of folding in most situations. These hands will only perform well post-flop if you hit a set, which will not happen very often. You can sometimes call if there is a single raise and multiple limpers. If that happens you are getting good odds to call.

Pairs from 7s to Js are considered middle pairs. These pairs should be played in similar ways to low pairs. However, you can get away with playing them post-flop a little more because they have more equity when they do not improve.

Finally, QQ, KK, and AA are premium pairs. These hands will rarely come up, but when they do, you will be working with one of the best hands in the game. You should use these hands to raise, three bet, four bet, and shove. Do not be afraid to throw your money around pre-flop when you have these hands.

Suited Connectors

Suited hands are hands like 98s, 87s, and T9s. These hands are connected while suited, giving you a decent chance of hitting straights and flushes. You should be raising most of your suited connectors when you are in late position. If you are in middle position you should be calling with these hands. You should be folding when you are in an early position and against all re-raises.

You should note that these betting, calling, and folding rules do not necessarily apply when you have suited broadways. Suited broadways refer to suited connectors of jacks and higher. You can play these hands more frequently and be more aggressive because hitting a pair is more valuable with these hands.

Learning which poker hands to play can be incredibly difficult. Some hands are easy to figure out like your premium pairs. Those hands you play almost 100 percent of the time, raising your opponents. However, newer players may struggle with assessing the value of small pairs, suited connectors, and some off-suit hands. The key to becoming a strategic poker player is learning when to raise these hands, and when to lay them down. Remember, you do not make your money with aces. Aces are the easiest hand to play. Instead, you make your money by playing middling hands well, knowing when to play them aggressively and when to lay them down.