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What Is a Hole Card in Poker?

In any game of online, live, or real casino poker, there are two types of cards: hole cards and community cards. The poker hole card refers to each player’s personal cards, which are kept hidden throughout the game. Nearly all poker variations use hole cards, which are private cards later used with other cards to form the best poker hand. The goal of any poker game at an online casino UK is to use a combination of hole cards and community cards to form the strongest poker hand in the game. If you want to learn more about the poker hole card and how to use these cards, this guide is for you. We’ll give you all the best hole card poker tips and hole card techniques in poker to help you sharpen and improve your poker games strategy.

The Meaning of Hole Cards in Poker

What is a hole card in poker? Let’s take a closer look at the hole poker meaning and how these cards are used. This is a term you’ll come across very often when playing nearly any type of online poker game because they’re always used in a video poker game. Hole cards are used at the start of a hole card poker game. The cards are shuffled, and the dealer deals them face down. Each player gets two of these cards in most games, although there are variants where players get four. For example, in Pot Limit Omaha, four hole cards are dealt to the players, but more on that later. Whether you’re playing poker in person or online, the next step is to evaluate your cards and determine your strategy. Remember, these cards should be kept hidden because they’re your personal cards and because revealing them will immediately give away the strength of your hand to other players. Sometimes, these cards may be voluntarily revealed to the other players at the table as a strategic move when you have a strong starting hand. The only other scenario when these cards may be shown is during a showdown.

Tips for Using Hole Cards in Your Poker Strategy

hole card poker strategies

Now that we’ve answered the question, ‘ What is a hole card in poker?’ and explained how they’re used in the game, it’s time to delve deeper into how you can use hole carding poker as part of your strategy in the game. Understanding how to use these cards effectively can make or break your poker game, so we’ve provided our expert tips for building a solid hole card poker strategy in the following sections.

Assess the Strength of Your Cards

The most important strategy to play effective poker is to assess the strength of your cards. This is an important tip when playing any of the best casino games that use card rankings like blackjack or baccarat because they’re not always the same. If you’re unsure which poker hole card odds are the strongest, you can refer to the card rankings to determine the strength of your starting hand.

Understand When to Bluff

Bluffing is a well-known and potentially effective strategy for using your hole cards as part of your poker strategy. However, it’s only effective if used wisely, and it can take some time to master. For example, bluffing when you have a weak starting hand can be used to your advantage if you get your opponents to fold because they think you have a stronger hand. The art of bluffing is usually assumed to be a technique that can be employed when playing poker in a land-based casino, but it also applies to online and live dealer poker. It’s not just about maintaining a poker face; it’s also about the bets you make, which indicate what kind of hand you want other players to think you have. A good tip to remember about bluffing is that it’s harder to pull it off when several players are at the table. For this reason, if you try out this strategy, it’s better to do it when there are two or fewer players at the table. Bluffing with two weak hole cards can also be a highly risky move because if it backfires, it can put a serious dent in your bankroll. So, our advice is to practice when to bluff and always consider the associated risks.

Look at the Pot Odds

Related to the tip above, the pot size should also be considered when forming your hole card poker strategy. You should look at the size of the pot but also at how much it will cost you to play your hand.

Remember Your Position on the Table

A common mistake that many new poker players make is failing to consider their position on the table. This is a critical factor to consider when you get your first two cards because your advantage in the game is different depending on your position. The later your position in the game, the bigger your advantage because you can gather more information about your opponents by observing their actions.

Manage Your Bankroll Effectively

Bankroll management is a vital tip that applies to most casino games, but it’s particularly relevant to poker. It’s crucial to avoid overbetting to make up previous losses and, more importantly, avoid betting big for a quick profit. It’s better to be patient and aim for smaller wins rather than take a high-risk approach. Naturally, even if you lower the risk by placing small bets, you won’t be able to guarantee consistent wins, but you’ll be able to make your bankroll last longer.

The Best Hole Card Hand Combinations in Poker

As mentioned above, one of the key skills required to play poker with the best odds of winning is knowing which hands to play and which to fold. To do so, you’ll need to understand the value of each card in poker and the strength of different hole card combinations. Remember, if you have a weak starting hand, it’s better to fold your hands and wait for better cards in the next round. We suggest familiarising yourself with the poker hand card rankings, so you can make quick decisions and know immediately when you have a solid hand worth playing or two weak hole cards that won’t give you good chances. If you’re playing in a real casino or a live casino, decision time will be limited, so it’s important to be able to choose quickly. Starting from the strongest hole card combinations, these are the top 10 hole card hands in poker:

  • Ace – Ace: A pair of Aces, also referred to as 'pocket Aces', is always the strongest starting hand in the game, but keep an eye on the flop because you can still lose if someone has two pairs of any other cards.
  • King – King: The second strongest hand is a pair of Kings, also referred to as the 'pocket kings'. Watch out for an Ace during the flop.
  • Queen – Queen: Another strong pair is two Queens, but it can be easily beaten with an Ace or a King in the flop.
  • Ace – King (suited): An Ace and a King with the same suit is a relatively strong hand, but it all depends on what comes out on the flop.
  • Jack – Jack: Not everyone agrees that a pair of Jacks is the fifth-strongest hand because it can be beaten by any pair of Aces, Kings, and Queens, but it’s still a solid hand.
  • Ace – Queen (suited): Some poker players consider this combination stronger than the pair of Jacks because it gives you a chance to create a flush, royal flush, or high pair on the flop.
  • King – Queen (suited): This is another good hand that gives you a good chance of winning the pot, but it’s also one of the trickiest to play.
  • Ace – Jack (suited): An Ace and a Jack with the same suit is also a good hand because it gives you the chance of getting a flush, nut flush, royal flush, or straight flush.
  • Ace – King (not suited): An unsuited pair consisting of an Ace and a King is the only unsuited pair considered a good starting hand to raise with.
  • 10 – 10: Many players also agree that a pair of tens is a good starting hand in poker, although not as strong as the face cards.

The Differences Between ‘Hole Cards’ and ‘Community Cards’ in Poker

person holding cards

There is a clear difference between hole cards and community cards in video poker, which we’ll take a closer look at in this section. As we explained, a hole card is a private card that should only be seen by the player it belongs to, whereas community cards are visible to all the players sitting at the table. Both types of cards have specific functions in the game, and they’re used in different ways to determine the winner in the round. If you’re playing poker in a real casino, keeping your poker hole cards cards private is important. These cards are dealt face down and remain so throughout the game. On the other hand, community cards are dealt face up at the centre of the table because these are shared cards. Unlike your hole cards, these cards can be used by any of the players at the table to construct the best hole card combinations. In most poker games, players must create the best poker hand with two hole cards and three community cards. The table below highlights both the similarities and differences between hole cards and community cards to keep in mind when learning how to play hole card poker games at Britain Play:

Hole Cards Community Cards
Only the player they're dealt to can use these cards. Every player at the table has access to these cards.
No one at the table should be able to see these cards. These cards can be seen and used by all the players.
These cards must be used to form your poker hand. Community cards are also meant to be used to create your final poker hand.
Hole cards are face down cards. Community cards are dealt face up.

The Hole Cards in Texas Hold’em

Although every poker game uses a hole card system, the way these cards work in  poker game variations is also different.

Hole Card Rules

The Texas Holdem hole card rule is that players get two hole cards at the beginning of the game. You have the option to use just one hole card or both in this game to make your hands, as the rules in this game are quite flexible. The rules also allow you to use none when forming your hand if that’s better for your hand.

Community Cards

In this game, five community cards are dealt face up to form what is known as the ‘board’. Players can use any or all these cards to make their hand.

The Hole Cards in Omaha

The Omaha hole cards rules are much less flexible than the rules described in the game variant above, which is something you’ll want to keep in mind if you want to improve your poker game.

Hole Cards Rule

Players get four hole cards in this game, but you can’t use all of these cards when forming your poker hand. Only two of them can be used according to the rules.

Community Cards

Omaha Poker also uses five cards, three of which must be combined with the private cards.

The Hole Cards in Stud

Stud Poker differs from the other poker game variants regarding the Stud hole card rules. Let’s take a closer look at how this poker game works.

Hole Cards Rules

Players get a total of seven cards in Seven Card Stud, three of which are down cards because they remain hidden. These three cards are kept hidden and represent hole cards. The other four cards are also personal cards because they can’t be used by other players at the table. The only difference is that these are dealt facing up, so they can be seen by everyone at the table.

Community Cards

No community cards are used in Stud Poker, meaning you must use your own seven cards to form your hand. You can use any five of the face-down or face-up cards to construct your poker hand.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hole Cards in Poker

What is a Hole Card in Poker?

A hole card in poker is one of the cards personal to each player and hidden from the other players at the table. Most poker games use two hole cards, although some variants use four. Other players at the table can't use these cards and must be combined with community cards to form a five-card poker hand.

What are the Two Hole Cards in Poker?

The two hole cards in poker make up your starting hand in the game. These cards belong to you only and must be hidden from your opponents if you’re playing in a land-based casino. You don’t have to worry about hiding your hole cards with online or live casino poker.

Which are the Best Hole Cards to Play?

According to the poker hole card rankings, the best hole cards you can get are a pair of Aces, Kings, or Queens. These are the top three hole cards to play, but other good hole card combinations include a suited Ace and King, suited Ace and Queen, or a pair of Jacks.

Do You Have to Use Both Hole Cards in Poker?

This depends on the rules of the poker game you’re playing, as the rules for using your hole cards vary. For example, in Texas Hold’em, you can use one, both, or none of these cards. On the other hand, in Omaha poker, you receive four hole cards and must use exactly two of them.

How Do You Know if Your Poker Hand is Good?

All you need to do to know if your poker hand is good is to look at your cards and determine their value by using the poker card rankings. A Royal Flush is the best possible hand you can have in poker, followed by a Straight Flush, a Four of a Kind, and so on.  

All values (Bet Levels, Maximum Wins etc.) mentioned in relation to any game are subject to change at any time.

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