Are you new to poker? Do you want to improve your skills and win more in online poker tournaments or cash games? Well, a good place to start is with the most basic of concepts: hand rankings.
There is only one hand worse than a pair. If your cards fail to match any of the combinations on the ranking chart, you have a high card hand. But what does that mean? This guide to high-card poker hands is about to reveal all. What’s more, you’ll discover some strategy advice that’ll help you play these hands better and, hopefully, win more money.
What Is a High Card in Poker?
“High card” is the correct name for the lowest-ranked hand in poker. In short, the five cards in such a hand aren’t connected in any way. There is no pair, no flush, or anything worthwhile. This type of hand’s value is based on its highest-ranking card, hence the name.
Here are some examples of high card hands:
- Ace high: ace, queen, 10, 4, 2.
- Queen high: queen, jack, 10, 8, 6.
- 7-high: 7, 5, 4, 3, 2.
Of course, in all three examples, the cards must be at least two different suits. Otherwise, they would represent a flush, which is a significantly better hand.
Ace-high is the best-ranked of all high card hands. The worst-possible high card hand is 7-high, though it depends on the specific poker game in question. This is certainly true of Texas Hold’em games.
High Card Rule
Imagine that none of the players in a hold’em game manage to assemble at least a pair by the showdown. In that scenario, the high card rules kick in. Basically, the player holding the highest-ranked card wins the pot. For example, king high beats queen high.
There’s another scenario in which the highest ranking card matters that’s similar but not quite the same. If two or more players end up with the same hand, ties are broken by the highest remaining card. This is called a “kicker.”
Let’s say the final two players both hold a pair of aces. The first player also holds a queen, while the second has a jack. The first player wins since the queen kicker is higher than a jack. This isn’t a high card hand since both have a pair. But the logic behind the rule is the same.
If you’re still learning how to play Texas Hold’em, understanding some basic statistics and probabilities will help. Sure, it won’t exactly be enough to induct you directly into the Poker Hall of Fame. But it will certainly give you an edge over other beginners.
So, what are the chances that you end up with a high card hand postflop? On average, you can expect to see one around half of the time — odds of -100, to be exact. This is based on five cards selected randomly from a standard 52-card deck.
How about the odds of ending up just a high card hand on the river? These are significantly lower, at +474. And, since any other combination beats a high card, your opponent’s odds of having a better hand are obviously -474.
How To Play High Card Hands in Poker
As you can see, the chances of winning with a high card hand aren’t good. But does that mean that you can’t ever win? Not exactly — there are two scenarios where it’s possible.
Check Until Showdown
This won’t happen too often, especially when playing at an online casino where games tend to be less passive. But if the action is checked all the way to showdown, a high card hand is probably good. Especially if it’s ace high.
When the cards are flipped, if nobody has a pair or better, high card hands are good. In this scenario, the pot will likely be small, so a win won’t be especially rewarding.
The other scenario is when you only have a high card hand, but your bet or raise causes all opponents to fold. If you completely miss the flop and have nothing but trash, firing a bluff could still win the pot.
Depending on your hand, you could still improve on the turn or river. But if everyone folds, it’s academic, as the pot is yours, even with nothing but a high card hand. If you find callers and don’t improve by the river, you’re not likely to win. As previously mentioned, the odds of your opponent having a better hand are -474.
However, if your opponents have played passively during the hand, ace high could still be enough at showdown. This is especially true as you get close to the bubble in an online poker tournament when more people tend to play tight.
More About Bluffing
It’s important to consider the tendencies of your opponents before trying a bluff. If you know they play aggressively, calling and raising with a wide range of hands, you shouldn’t bluff with high card hands.
You must also consider your seat before a bluff. The best spots for bluffing are the button, the cutoff, or the hijack position. These give you more insight into what your opponents might have as more players act before you.
The last thing to note here is that successful bluffs don’t reveal much about the strength of your hand. Your opponents won’t know that you had nothing but a high card hand since you didn’t make it to showdown.
While it is possible to win with a high card hand, it’s not very likely. Bluffing might be successful from time to time. However, if your opponents call, you’re almost certain to be punished.
On top of that, winning with high card hands isn’t usually very rewarding since pots are often checked down.
In summary, you should always approach high card hands with caution and try not to risk too many chips. Your online poker session can quickly go awry if you get involved with such hands too often.
Aim High and Start Winning
Now that you understand the high card poker rules and some basic strategy, it’s time to put the theory into practice. Register with BetMGM now to enjoy cash games and poker tournaments. Not to mention a selection of online casino games, including blackjack, roulette, and craps.