Poker Lesson 11

Why do good starting hands beat worse starting hands?
The above is, for poker professionals, a question with a self-evident answer; but it still deserves a lesson of its own, in order to convey a very important insight.

Good starting hands can hardly be overrated, regardless of what form of poker you play. It is a question of "who gets the first punch in, just like in a boxing match", as it has been phrased by the former World Champion Walter Pearson.

Amateur players all too often employ the following reasoning: if you don't have a good hand to begin with, you may always be lucky and improve to one later. The two starting cards you receive in hold'em are just the beginning, right? A full five more cards will hit the table eventually, anything can happen...

What can happen, if you have a better starting hand than your opponent – let us for simplicity's sake assume that you have K-K and your opponent 5-5 – is in principle one of the following cases, once the flop or four cards or all five cards ("the board") are on the table:

(1) Neither one of you hits (is helped by the cards on the table): YOU WIN
(2) He/she hits but you do not: HE/SHE WINS
(3) You hit, but he/she does not: YOU WIN
(4) You both hit, for example if both K and 5 appears on the table: YOU WIN

As you can see, you will win in three out of these four principal cases. In order for your opponent to beat you in a hand of Texas hold'em starting with cards which are worse than yours, he/she has to hit while you do not, or hit better if you both hit. If you for example have K-K and your opponent has 5-5, you will lose also when the board is K-2-3-4-6, giving your opponent a straight on the last card to beat your trips – but this is a rare occurence.

So now you know why you would rather have a better starting hand than your opponents: there are simply more possibilities for you to win the pot. ”The best hand going in is usually the best hand coming out”, as the saying goes in the USA, the homeland of poker.

And never forget that the same principal reasoning applies to ALL forms of poker, whether Omaha, Seven Card Stud or any other. The best hand at the start is, in the long run, also the best hand once the last card has hit the table. Keep this in mind.