The game of poker, or rather Texas Hold’em, has become incredibly popular over the last couple of decades, with millions of players worldwide taking up the game and playing it in one form or another.
Yet, out of the massive number of players who enjoy playing Texas Hold’em, the vast majority are not very skilled at the game, and they often lack even the most fundamental understanding.
If you are new to poker, there is no shame in admitting you need some help getting started.
In fact, it would be silly to assume you already know how to play the game you never really learned.
For that reason, I decided to create a comprehensive poker cheat sheet that will take you from an absolute poker novice to an intermediate player with a solid understanding of the basic concepts of the game.
I’ll start with the basics like hand rankings and the top ten hands, and take you into some slightly more advanced concepts such as position, odds, and more.
If you are familiar with one part of this Texas Hold’em cheat sheet, you may want to skip to the area you want to learn the most.
Table of content:
Poker Hand Cheat Sheet – Know The Rankings
The game of Texas Hold’em Poker is played with each player being dealt two hole cards and five community cards being spread across the table.
Each player has to try and make the best possible poker hand, according to the premade poker hand rankings, or try to win the hand by “bluffing.”
A poker hand is made up of only five cards in total, out of the seven you can possibly use to make that hand. At showdown, only the strongest combination of five cards is taken into consideration.
Here is the poker cheat sheet with the possible poker hands you can make, from strongest to weakest.
If you are completely new to poker, you may not know what any of these mean, so I am going to briefly explain each of the possible poker hands you could make.
A royal flush is the strongest possible hand in most forms of poker and certainly, in Texas Hold’em Poker.
To make a royal flush, you will need to have all five of the highest-ranked cards of a particular suit. For example, you will need to have a Ten, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace, all in spades.
If you have a royal flush, you cannot be beaten, and your hand will always be the winner. The only thing you will need to worry about is how to get your opponents to pay you up.
Any other five sequential cards of a single suit are called a straight flush, and in almost every scenario in poker, this hand will win the pot.
A straight flush could be made up of a Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine of clubs, or any other five cards in a row in a single suit.
This is a massive, powerful hand, and it often wins massive pots against Ace-high flushes that most players consider to be the nuts (best possible hand) on boards with three cards of the same suit.
Four of a Kind (Quads)
Four of a kind are sometimes also called “Poker,” and they make for another extremely powerful poker hand.
If a straight or royal flush is not possible, four of a kind is the nuts, meaning it will win the pot with 100% certainty.
Four of a kind means having all four cards of a certain ranking, such as four Aces, four Nines, or four Deuces. As always, you can use any combination of your hole cards and the community cards to make four of a kind.
A full house is a poker hand made up of three cards of one ranking and two cards of another, or rather three of a kind + one pair.
For example, you could hold AAA99 and have a full house, Aces over Nines. Full houses are very strong poker hands and win the pot more often than not.
The most common way to lose with a full house is to a better full house, so make sure to be careful when you are holding lower ends of full houses on certain boards.
A flush in poker is any combination of five cards of the same suit that are not sequential (not a straight flush).
For example, holding Deuce, Five, Eight, Nine, King, all in spades would be considered a King-high flush in spades.
On unpaired boards, flushes are extremely strong and always the winners. Keep in mind that multiple players can have a flush in a single poker hand, so make sure your flush is high enough before committing too many chips to the pot.
Coming just under flushes, straights are hands that can also be very strong but lose their strength when three or more cards of the same suit hit the felt.
A straight is any combination of five sequential cards that are not in the same suit, such as Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, in various suits.
A straight is good enough to beat any set or two pair but will lose to flushes and full houses, which can make it both a very good and a very problematic hand in poker.
Three of a Kind (Trips, Set)
Next up, we have three of a kind, a hand that’s made up of any three cards of the same ranking, such as three Eights or three Aces.
There are technically two ways to make three of a kind in Texas Hold’em. Three of a kind made with two hole cards and one community card are called “set,” while three of a kind made up of two community cards and one hole card are called “trips.”
In either case, this hand will be good enough to beat any two pair but will lose to all straights and flushes. Sets, in particular, are considered very strong as they can be the nuts on some board textures and can turn into powerful full houses when the board pairs.
A poker hand that contains two separate pairs of cards is called “two pair.” For example, if you hold a pair of aces and a pair of nines, you will have two pair. The fifth best card at your disposal will be considered your “kicker.”
Your kicker will come into play when another player has the same two pair as you, which is common in Texas Hold’em, as some of the community cards must be used to make two-pair hands.
Two pair can be a strong hand in poker, but it is never the nuts as any three of a kind will beat it. For that reason, it is a hand to be played with caution.
While there are many hands on poker hand rankings for Texas Hold’em, the truth of the matter is that you will end up with one pair or worse in most hands.
One pair is a very simple poker hand, made up of two cards of the same ranking and three unrelated cards.
You will win many hands with a single pair, but don’t expect to win the biggest pots with it. Keep in mind that one pair hands can be very powerful in poker tournaments where stacks are shallow, and pots can grow big even with marginal holdings.
The lowest possible rank of poker hand you could have is “high card,” which simply means you have no pairs and no made hands.
If both you and the other players in the hand have no pair, then the highest card will decide who wins the pot.
When two players have the same high card, the second-highest card will decide the winner. This goes on until one player has a higher card than the others.
Texas Holdem Poker Cheat Sheet for Top 10 Hands
If you have come this far in my poker cheat sheet, you should be well aware of the basic concepts of the game and ready to play some hands of Texas Hold’em.
However, this is where the real questions begin. What hole cards are good and which ones should you play, and which should you fold?
According to one of the all-time greats of Texas Hold’em, Phil Hellmuth, novice players will do well by playing only the top 10 starting hands in the game.
Since there is a total of 169 starting hand combinations you can have in the game, this may seem like a very small percentage to play, but it’s actually not a bad plan if you are just starting out.
I am going to go over all the top 10 hands and talk briefly about their strengths and weaknesses.
#1. AA – Pocket Aces (American Airlines)
A pair of Aces is by far the strongest hand in Texas Hold’em and one that you should always play for all your chips if you possibly can.
No matter what your opponent may be holding, you will be about an 80% or better favorite to win the hand by showdown.
Pocket aces should always be played aggressively, trying to get as many chips into the pot as you can as early as possible.
You should be careful, however, if a lot of money does not go into the pot before the flop, as many hands can beat American Airlines once another five cards are dealt on the table.
#2. KK – Pocket Kings (The Cowboys)
Holding a pair of Cowboys is guaranteed to get any poker player’s juices running, as this is the second-best hand in Texas Hold’em.
Pocket Kings are better than every other hand in poker (except Aces), and they are usually good for all the chips you have on the table, especially in tournaments.
Like pocket Aces, Kings should be played aggressively from any position, and you should be happy to get all your money in with them if at all possible.
One of the great fears that most players have when holding Kings is that an Ace is going to hit the board. You should not be afraid of this, though, as your opponents are not guaranteed to be holding an Ace every time you have a pair of Kings.
#3. QQ – Pocket Queens (The Ladies)
A pair of Queens is another extremely powerful poker hand, although not nearly as strong as pocket Kings or Aces, simply because they are only a slight favorite against AK, another strong poker hand that players tend to play for a lot of money.
Nevertheless, pocket Queens are usually the best hand before the flop is dealt. You should be trying to get your opponents to commit a lot of money as early as possible when you hold this hand.
Pocket Queens don’t always look as attractive once the flop comes off, as any Ace or King on the board will turn them into a medium holding and often just a bluff-catcher.
#4. JJ – Pocket Jacks (Fish Hooks)
Pocker Jacks are a very powerful hand, but one that’s often dreaded by many poker players, especially those who play tournament poker.
While a pair of Jacks is a favorite against the vast majority of poker hands, it will often be behind or flipping coins when all the chips go in.
You should not be folding pocket Jacks in most cases, other than to extreme aggression from tight players. It’s certainly a hand that can be played in more ways than one, and one that you should be careful with at times.
#5. AKs – Ace-King Suited (The Big Slick)
Holding an Ace and a King of the same suit makes for a very powerful holding, although it is not a made hand to start with.
If you make a pair with this hand, it will always be the top pair on the board. If you make two pair, it will be the top two pair. Any flush you get will also be the nut flush, making AKs quite the monster.
The one thing that needs to be said about the Big Slick is that if you don’t make a hand on the flop, you should be willing to let it go and move on to the next hand.
#6. TT – Pocket Tens (Dimes)
Pocket tens are hand similar to pocket Jacks in many ways and one that’s not always too strong unless you can flop a set.
However, it’s still one that you will have to put your chips in with when the stacks are shallow and one that is not necessarily going to be the best in such scenarios.
While pocket Tens do belong in the top tend poker hands column, they are not a hand you should fall in love with too much, and you should be able to let them go after the flop if the wrong cards appear on the table.
#7. AK – Ace-King Off Suit
Any Big Slick is a powerful hand, suited or not, but there is a massive difference in playability between the two variations.
Ace King in different suits is a hand that will win many pots, but one that will also turn into absolute trash on a bunch of flops.
I recommend some caution with any off-suit hand, including AK, but I would also make sure that you don’t underplay it or let people push you around when you hold this premium poker hand.
#8. AQs – Ace-Queen Suited (Anthony and Cleopatra)
AQs is a hand similar to AKs, but with a few key differences. The one is that a King hitting the board makes the hand much weaker in many ways. The other is the fact that making a pair of Aces does not give you top pair with top kicker.
For these reasons, AQs is a much weaker hand than AKs, but it’s still one that’s worth playing in practically all scenarios.
I would recommend playing AQs quite aggressively, especially if you are not extremely deep-stacked, and going for all the chips in most scenarios in poker tournaments.
#9. 99 – Pocket Nines (Wayne Gretzky)
Just like the other two (Tens and Jacks), pocket Nines is a strong hand that should be approached with caution.
If you’re on a short stack, it is usually good enough to play for stacks. However, in deeper stacks situations, you shouldn’t be going crazy with this hand, especially on the boards containing one or two overcards.
#10. AJ – Ace-Jack Suited
All the things I said for AKs also go for AJs, with the big difference being the fact that AJ does not make the top pair with the top kicker on Ace-high boards.
For this reason, AJs is definitely a hand that you can play more conservatively, but it still can flop many powerful draws and made hands.
There are also situations in which you can go for all the money with AJs, but the one thing you should definitely not be doing is folding it when you are the first player into the pot.
Poker Cheat Sheet: Maximize Your Winnings
My Texas Hold’em cheat sheet should be enough to give you a general idea on how to play, which hands to push the action with, and how to approach the game.
However, there is much more to poker than what we have discussed so far, and I am going to give you some more tips now that will help you develop your poker game.
Keep in mind that every one of these tips is a separate poker skill, and you should spend more time researching each of the concepts and getting good at it if you want to be a well-rounded Texas Hold’em player.
1. Learn the Odds and Math
Poker is a game ruled by mathematics. While some players try to play it strictly intuitively, it will not really work in the long run.
If you want to be a good poker player, you should understand the basic combinatorics of a deck of cards, immediate and implied odds, pot odds, and other mathematical concepts.
You should start by learning how many cards are in a deck, how to count your outs with various poker hands and draws, and how to translate this into odds or equity.
From here, you can take your mathematical knowledge up a notch and learn about implied odds and reversed implied odds, and more.
I would be lying if I said that you could learn all the math behind poker in a day, but if you spend some hours studying it, your results will dramatically improve.
2. Play a Tight and Aggressive Game & Use Your Position
I talked about the concept of the top ten hands in poker in this poker cheat sheet already. I would recommend adding some more poker hands into your arsenal as you gain more experience, but definitely not too many.
There is really no reason to play too many hands, especially if your opponents are not aware of what you are doing. A tight game will make you the favorite every time you do get involved in a pot.
However, while we are going to be playing tight and folding most of our cards, we want to be quite aggressive when we decide to get involved.
This means opening all pots for a raise instead of just calling the blind, and playing the flop, turn, and river just as aggressively.
One thing you should definitely steer clear of is calling too often and letting your opponents dictate the action, and that’s why you should always consider your position.
The concept of position is one of the most important things in the game of poker, even if so many players don’t actually understand it.
Playing too many hands from early positions and the blinds will get you into a ton of trouble, and there is really no need to allow yourself to get into such situations.
Instead, I would recommend playing very tight in early positions, going as far as folding some of the top ten hands in some scenarios.
On the other hand, you should be playing very aggressively and much wider on the button and the cutoff, the two positions that allow you to always play last after the flop is dealt out.
It may not seem like a big advantage to you right now, but I promise you that playing in position will make your life a lot easier in many ways.
3. Keep Emotions Out of It
One of the biggest downfalls of many poker players is that they get too emotional about the game of poker.
Poker is all about making sound and rational decisions in all situations, using mathematics and experience to decide what the best decision is.
Whether you like it or not, you will make many wrong decisions in poker, and making the right decision will sometimes also mean losing the pot.
You should not allow your emotions to play any part in the decision-making process if you want to become a good poker player.
You will need to keep a clear head and forget about past negative experiences you had. If you can consistently make mathematically profitable decisions, you are going to win at poker in the long run, guaranteed.
4. Keep a Proper Bankroll
Bankroll management is one of the most overlooked skills in poker and one you will need to master if you are to stand any chance of winning in this game.
The size of the bankroll you need will depend on the size of the games you are trying to play in and the quality of the players you are playing against.
Regardless of how bad your opponents may be, going into games with just a few buyins will result in you losing quite a few times.
Instead, I recommend setting up a large poker bankroll that will keep you comfortable in your games during the bad runs. You should also keep it growing with a portion of your winnings when you are running well.
This way, you will always have a lot of money behind you, and you will not be worried about losing sessions that are inevitably going to come.
5. Use All the Resources
There are many resources you can make use of, from coaching programs to poker software, and I recommend using as many of them as you possibly can.
Each additional resource you make use of will give you an extra boost and increase your chances of coming out as a winner in the long run.
Poker can often be a game of small edges, and using every tool at your disposal will ensure that you are always giving yourself the best possible chance to win.
6. Find the Softest Games Around
Another major tip that I can give you from my years of experience with the game is that you should always be looking to play the softest games you can possibly find.
When I say soft games, I mean the weakest possible games. If you can possibly play against players who don’t really know the rules of the game, that would be ideal.
Of course, it is not a bad thing to occasionally challenge yourself and play against players who actually know what they are doing as well, but you should try to play against players worse than you as often as you can.
By playing against weaker players, you will give yourself an edge, decrease your variance, and be printing money at a much faster rate than you could against capable opponents.
Texas Holdem Cheat Sheet – Master The Basics
Now that we have covered the poker hands cheat sheet, we can move forward and think about how to actually play the game.
Simply knowing what hands beats what won’t be enough, as you need to learn how to act and what actions you can take.
To cover this, I am going to take you through a hand of Texas Hold’em Poker and explain exactly how the game works and what your options will be at every moment.
Every hand of poker starts with players sitting around the table and the dealer determining one player to act as provisional “dealer.” That player is assigned the dealer button.
The two players to the left of the dealer must then post “the small blind” and “the big blind.” These forced bets are used to drive the action, and they are predetermined and fixed.
Once the two blinds are posted, each player starting from the player left of the big blind, is given a turn to act on their two hole cards.
Each player can decide to:
- Fold: Throw your hole cards away, which excludes you from further action. Folding your cards will cost you nothing.
- Call: Call the value of the big blind. If no other player makes a raise, you will still be active on the next round, the flop.
- Raise: Increase the bet to any size you want, with your stack size being the limit. If you raise, all the other players must respond to the raise.
The action keeps going in a circle until it is closed and all the players have acted on their hands, and all the raises have been covered.
If all the players have folded their cards, but one, that player wins the pot. If more than one player is still active in the hand, the dealer will deal out the first community cards.
Community Cards and Betting Rounds
When all initial action is concluded and more than one player is still active, the dealer deals out three cards across the table. These three cards are known as the “flop.”
Once the flop is dealt out, all players now have five cards at their disposal, which is enough for a complete poker hand.
Once again, all active players are given a chance to act on their hands. Since there is no forced bet, every player can decide to “check,” giving the action to the next player or make a bet of the size of their choosing.
If one of the players bets, other players can fold their cards, call the bet, or raise the bet to any size, up to their entire stack.
Once all players call the active bet, or all players check their option, the next community card is dealt on the table. This card is called the “fourth street” or “the turn.”
On the turn, all players are given the same betting options as they are on the flop. When all action is closed, the final community card is dealt out. This card is called “the river.”
Once again, every active player in the hand is given the opportunity to act on their hand, and this is the final betting round.
If there is still more than one player remaining in the hand after all river betting has been completed, the hand will go to “showdown.”
Once the dealer announces showdown, the remaining players take turns flipping their hole cards over for everyone to see. The hands are compared according to the poker hand rankings, and the best hand takes down the pot.
In some cases, the pot is split between multiple players who have the exact same hand, and this is called a split pot.
Poker Cheat Sheet Quick Summary
This is all you need to know to get started with Texas Hold’em! Now that you know the rules of the game, hand rankings, and some fundamental strategies, you’re ready to sit down and play.
Don’t expect great results right off the bat, though. While this poker cheat sheet is meant to be a great resource for novice players, it’ll still take time and experience to master the game.
Don’t worry if things don’t go smoothly right from the get go. Keep to the advice from this Texas Hold’em guide, keep your calm, and never stop learning. Results will follow, guaranteed!