Understanding Hole Cards

Two playing cards face down on a green felt table.

During a game of online poker, hole cards are received by the dealer at the start of each round. For example, in a Texas Hold’em poker game, you’ll be dealt two cards at the beginning of each round – these are your hole cards. They work in conjunction with the five community cards placed face up by the dealer. It’s crucial to keep your hole cards a secret.

Theoretically, a player with the strongest five-card combination will win the round. However, with strategies such as bluffing and semi-bluffing, it’s not that easy. Overall, there are 1,326 different combinations of hole cards and 169 starting hand combinations. In this blog, we talk about the best hole cards a player can receive and provide some great poker tournament tips.

Why are hole cards important?

Judging from their positioning on the table, combined with the betting behavior of opponents, professional poker players have a selection of pre-arranged hole card combinations that will influence their next move. The later your positioning, the higher the probability a player on your left is holding a strong hand. Because of this, experienced players will often slow play when dealt strong hands so as not to make it obvious.

Due to the long duration of online poker tournaments, understanding your hole cards is crucial to success. It allows you to play when the time is right and not rush into a game. Let your opponents make the early mistakes, so you’re in a stronger position heading into the business end of the game.

Ultimately, hole cards are there to be used in conjunction with the five community cards. The stronger your hole card, the higher probability you have of holding the strongest hand and therefore winning. However, you must remember that the strength of your hole cards at the end of a round is reliant on the community cards placed down.

What are the best hole cards?

When playing with a live dealer in an online casino game, each round is quick, requiring players to think fast. Understanding the best hole cards is a great way to stay ahead of your time limit. The speed of turns is important in maintaining a perception of unpredictability. During a round, if you’re taking long on each turn, it may suggest that you have a medium-strength hand and are deliberating whether to proceed or not. Once an opponent can read your betting behavior, it’s pretty much game over.

Additionally, online poker players rely on knowing the win probability of hole card combinations when they’re playing multiple tables at once, as it helps with game management. However, there is a limit to how many tables you should play at the same time.

A hand showing two aces on a red felt table with red and black betting chips.

From strongest to weakest, the list below showcases 15 hole card combinations:

1. A pair of aces

2. A pair of kings

3. A pair of queens

4. An ace and a king of the same suit (hearts, clubs, diamonds or spades)

5. A pair of jacks

6. An ace and a queen of the same suit

7. A pair of queens

8. A king and a queen of the same suit

9. An ace and a jack of the same suit

10.  A king and a jack of the same suit

11.  A pair of 10s

12.  An ace and a king

13.  An ace and a 10 of the same suit

14.  A queen and a jack of the same suit

15.  A king and a 10 of the same suit

As a beginner, playing online poker on a USA platform is highly competitive due to the number of players participating. But getting to grips with elements of the game, like hole cards, allows you to understand the game better. By realizing the strength of certain hole card combinations, you can manage your game better and know when you’re holding a strong hand.

Hole card terms

To impress others when playing online poker tournaments with your friends, it’s not a bad idea to communicate using the lingo.

If you have a pair, it is called a “pocket pair.” Whereas if your hole cards aren’t the same, it is an “offsuit.” Lastly, a pair of face cards (king, queen, jack) that share the same suit is known as being “suited.”

Hole cards in different types of poker games

A hand showing an ace in the hole for four aces in Texas Hold-em, on a green felt table with betting chips.

There are numerous variations of poker to play, each with its own set of rules. However, they all utilize hole cards – some more than others. Here is a list of different poker games and the number of hole cards you will receive.

Texas Hold’em

If you’re playing a game of Texas Hold’em, you’ll be dealt two hole cards at the beginning. The dealer will then place down five community cards by the end of the round.


A game of Omaha poker includes four hole cards as well as five community cards from the dealer. It incorporates the same rounds and rules as Texas Hold’em. Another similarity is the aim to have the strongest five-card combination.

7-card stud

Contrary to the first two games mentioned, 7-card stud doesn’t include any community cards. A player is dealt seven cards with three facing down and four up. The three facing down are your hole cards.

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