What is the High Card Hand in Poker?

The high card hand, contrary to its namesake, is actually not a hand you want to find yourself having to play in poker. The best hand, as most people understand, is a royal flush, which features a run of matching suit picture cards. Then, we have the straight flush, which is a matching suit run of non-picture cards. Then we have four of a kind, which features all four of the same card in each suit. Full house is the next best hand, with three of one card and two of another – of course, each of these hands can be outranked by higher full houses e.g. 222-33 will be beaten by AAA-KK. Then we have the flush, with features five cards of the same suit. Then we have the straight, which features five consecutive numbered cards of any suit. Three of a kind comes next with three of the same card and two random cards, then two pair – which is the most common winning hand – and simply features two pairs of cards. Then we have one pair, which features just one pair and three miscellaneous cards, and then the high card hand, which consists of cards that don’t form any pairs or sequences.

So the high card hand is only worth playing should your opponents not have any of the above hands – which is less likely than you’d expect. The high card hand is based on the highest card in your hand. So, Ace High is the best for a game such as Texas Hold ‘Em poker. It’s difficult to attain a winning hand with high card moving down past the picture cards.

Winning with a High Card Hand

Despite the high card being the lowest of most hands, it is of course possible to win with a high card hand, especially as your opponent pool grows slimmer. There are 1326 possible combinations of two hole cards in Texas Hold ‘Em. After eliminating the fact that several have the same pre-flop value, this number lowers to 169.

Comprising this are 13 pocket pairs, 78 suited hands, and 78 unsuited hands. Your starting hand is important when it comes to your poker strategy as this hand will give you the best chance to get ahead as the game progresses and can be the difference between winning and losing. It comes down to bluffing at this point in order to masquerade that your hand is stronger than it is. In poker, a starting hand can determine how strong you are going into the flop. The weakest starting hand is 3-2 and the strongest is A-A. Understanding how poker works means you are able to determine how well your pre-flop hand will survive as the game progresses and how much work you will need to put in to stay in the game. Some starting hands have a higher chance of turning into a winning hand than others. These hands include the pocket pairs, which means you start with two of the same card. Then we have the Broadway cards, which are any card of value 10 or higher, even better if they are the same suit. The best hand for many when it comes to the pre-flop is a connector card pair – any two consecutive numbers – which makes it easier to achieve a straight later on. The best of these include suited connectors. Suited cards are also a strong possibility, as they enable you to make a flush. Then we have gappers, which are two cards separated by one number.  The pre-flop probability of winning with a high card hand is 50.13%, while this figure increases in the flop to 67.7% based on non-paired unsuited hole cards. The turn amount increases further to 87.23%, while the river rises to 86.96%. Therefore, victory is possible with a high card hand, especially in Texas Hold ‘Em.

What to Do If You Have a High Card Hand?

While a high card hand might not be ideal, it isn’t the end of the world when it comes to playing poker – and indeed can sometimes lead to victory, if you play your cards right. Initially, you can use bluffing at the flop stages in order to ascertain how your hand might play out. If each new card is showing that you in fact are unable to make a hand greater than a high card hand, this is the best option for you to play. Indeed, the high card hand could end up being decisive, especially if it includes an Ace, and especially if nobody else in the game has been able to make a hand. The best course of action in all variants of poker is simply to ensure that you are playing the best hand possible and implying to others that your hand is even better than this. Consecutive high card hands are unlikely to win any games but they can be played just right in order to ensure you are in the game long enough to attempt another hand or to achieve a different victory.

Poker strategy is vastly important when it comes to being a good poker player and learning the hands and how to play them forms the basis of this strategy. High card hands might almost be the worst possible hand to receive in poker, but they can be played to your advantage as part of a wider poker strategy, especially one that takes into account the other strategies involved in poker, such as bluffing and monitoring your opponents. While a high card hand might not be ideal and may end up in forcing you into a position you’d rather not be in, it by no means signals your departure from the game.