Since around 2002, the most popular poker game has been the no-limit variation of Texas hold’em. The game exploded in popularity because of various media outlets for no-limit hold’em tournaments like the World Poker Tour on the Travel Channel and the World Series of Poker on ESPN. It’s an easy game to learn and seems simple because each player only has two cards to worry about. It’s this level of seeming simple that has drawn thousands of new players to the game, most of which have no idea how complex the game really is. All these players see are the two cards in front of their face, and even if they do think about what their opponents might have, they’re not very good at it. Understanding and being able to use holdem hand combinations is a key part of improving at this popular game and learning how to generate money from the players who aren’t so studious.
Now imagine you have a pocket pair. How many different ways can you have that pocket pair? Let’s take pocket Aces for an example. You can have the Ace of Hearts with the Ace of Spades, the Ace of Hearts with the Ace of Clubs, the Ace of Hearts with the Ace of Diamonds, the Ace of Spades with the Ace of Clubs, the Ace of Spades with the Ace of Diamonds, and the Ace of Diamonds with the Ace of Clubs. That’s six different ways you can have that hand. Keep in mind that having the Ace of Spades with the Ace of Diamonds is the same thing as having the Ace of Diamonds with the Ace of Spades, so the order we’re dealt the two cards doesn’t matter. So now we know there are six possible combinations of pocket Aces (and any individual pocket pair) in Texas holdem. If you work out unpaired hands like Ace-King in a similar fashion, you’ll quickly discover that there are sixteen ways to have an unpaired hand, and four ways to have a suited hand (which makes sense because there are only four suits).
So what happens if you’re playing pre-flop and you think your opponent either has a big pair (pocket Queens or higher) or Ace-King? You’ll know that there are six ways he can have pocket Queens, six ways he can have pocket Kings, and six ways he can have pocket Aces. That’s a total of eighteen ways he can have a big pair. Now you’ll also know that there are sixteen ways he can have Ace-King, so even though he can have three different starting hands that are big pocket pairs, it’s only less than a 50% chance he has Ace-King. This is the power of using Texas holdem hand combinations to analyze what your opponents might be holding.