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StrategyFixed Limit

What can you hit on the flop?

What have you hit?

In this article
  • Three types of hands
  • Two pair or better hands are 'monsters'
  • We call incomplete/unfinished hand draws

You entered the pot with a good hand according to the starting hands chart, or perhaps you were in the big blind and did not have to invest any more money to see the flop. So far, so good. Now the first three community cards, also known as the flop, are dealt. The first question is: what hand do I have?

There are basically three types of hands - hands which are good from the start, hands which could potentially become good depending the cards that hit the table, and worthless hands. We call these 'made hands', 'draws' (or incomplete hands) and 'trash' respectively.

  • Made hands

    We give this name to hands which are already very strong and most likely the strongest starting hand on the table. A three of a kind, for example, is almost certainly the strongest at the moment and will not need to improve to win, but pairs fall into this category. Pairs do not necessarily have much of a chance to improve.

  • Unfinished hands / draws

    These are hands which have yet to improve, but are still good hands. Suppose, for example, you have two spades and even though you do not hit a pair or something better on the flop, two of the flop cards are spades. If either the turn or the river is a spade, you will have a flush. We call this hand a flush draw.

  • Hands with little value / trash

    Trash hands are neither good made hands, nor do they have much chance of improving to become winning hands. You will rarely win a showdown with such hands, but you may still win with a bluff.

The following chapters will show you the various possible card combinations. These will ultimately decide how you play, so it's in your best interest to memorise them.

Video: Fixed Limit - Your hand on the flop
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You can also watch the content of this article in video format.  Simply click the picture to open the video.

You should still read the article to ensure that you have completely understood the strategy. Your bankroll will be grateful.

What are made hands?


  • Two-pair
  • Trips
  • Straight
  • Flush
  • Full House
  • Four of a kind
  • Straight flush
  • Royal flush

You already know most hands from the articles on the rules of Texas Hold'em: to the article.

In the case of a two-pair, a three of a kind, a straight, a flush or better, we call the hand a monster, since it is usually the best hand on the table. If played correctly these could potentially win you lots of money.

Single pairs also fall into the category of made hands. There are nevertheless only two very good types of single pairs, which is explained below in detail. These two are Top pairs and Overpairs.


If you have a pair which is made up of one of your two starting cards and the highest community card, then you have top pair.

You may have the top pair on the flop, but then the turn or river brings a higher card. For example, you have a pair of jacks on the flop and the turn is a king. You no longer have top pair - anyone with a king would now have it.



This is when your two starting cards form a pair, and this pair is higher than any community card. There is no ‘top pair' hand that is better.

NOTE: Having two pairs is different to having two-pair

When we refer to having "two pair", we mean that both of your pairs are made up by using one of your starting cards (hole cards). This needs to be differentiated from when you simply have two pairs, due to there already being a pair on the board (meaning one of the pairs is part of the community cards, so everyone has that pair). In the latter, your opponents might already have three of a kind or a full house.

Two pair

  Two pairs -easily mistakable for two pair

What are unfinished hands / draws?

Draws are those hands which are not good made hands, but that can develop into made hands if a helpful community card is dealt. There are strong and weak draws, depending on the number of helpful cards which would improve your hand. If you have a flush draw, there are 9 cards which could complete it. If you have a pair, there are only two cards that can make it improve to a three of a kind.


If your two cards, combined with the community cards, contain 4 cards of consecutive rank, then you have an OESD. This is short for 'open ended straight draw'. You do not currently have a straight as this would require 5 consecutive cards, however an extra card at the top or bottom end would complete your straight. In the example below, there are 8 cards which could complete your straight: any ace and any 9.


If you have four cards of the same suit, you have a flushdraw. An extra community card of that suit will give you a flush.


A monster draw is a flush draw and a straight draw combined. There are potential cards that give you a flush and others that give you a straight. With 9 cards (or 'outs') that would complete the flush and 6 outs for the straight, you have a total of 15 outs to complete a strong made hand.


A gutshot is OESD's little brother. You have a chance of hitting a straight but you are missing an internal card (the stomach if you like), hence the name gutshot or belly buster. In the example below, a jack is required to complete the straight, so there are only 4 cards in the deck that can complete our draw. A gutshot draw is therefore much weaker than an OESD.


There is a third type of straight draw which is more difficult to recognise. We call this a double gutshot (or double belly buster) and it is the combination of two gutshot draws. In the example below, the two gutshot draws are (ace, queen, jack, ten) and (queen, jack, ten, eight). As you can see, any king and any nine give us a straight, so there are 8 cards that complete our draw. This is the same number of outs as an OESD, so the two draws are of the same strength.


Suppose you don't have a made hand or none of the above draws, but both your cards are higher than any community cards. Then you have what are called overcards. This is admittedly not a strong draw, but if you hit a pair it will become a top pair.


You may have two weak draws, but together they form a strong draw. A classic example of such a combination is having overcards and a gutshot draw.


What are worthless hands / trash?

Hands other than those described above will rarely be able to win a showdown. They have little chance of improving and are not good made hands.



That was a lot of poker knowledge you just took in. Don't worry if there are card combinations which arise that you cannot immediately recognise and react effectively to. This is how we all started, and in time you will automatically recognise these situations and be able to decide what to do.

It is important that you note the three main types of hand:

  • Made hands
  • Unfinished hands / draws
  • Worthless hands / trash

You now know the main representations of these three types. Top pairs and overpairs are made hands; two pair or better are known as monsters and you know the most important types of draws: flush draws, monster draws, overcards and the three straight draws (OESD, gutshot and double gutshot).

The next step of your journey to becoming a successful player is to study the article about playing the flop. In the article Flop play you will learn how to play your hand after seeing the first three community cards. Further articles will teach you how to play the fourth card (the turn) and the fifth card (the river).

How to play before the flop

Comments (20)

#1 styc0, 15 Apr 08 18:32


#2 styc0, 15 Apr 08 18:32


#3 nezinomas, 25 May 08 11:03

made 3 mistakes

#4 washus, 26 May 08 15:39

Just two comments:
On the monsterdraw example, aren't the repeated outs , e.g. the ace of hearts, counted twice?
On question 10, shouldn't you add "without an ace". If I have AKQJ or A234 that doens't make an OESD, right? Those should be treated as gutshots, right?


#5 mouse89, 28 Sep 08 15:25


#6 badmambajama, 14 Apr 09 08:31

this is great stuff

#7 Carp5lei, 15 Apr 09 08:51

4 real

#8 theboydave, 17 Sep 09 10:25

good read thanks for chart

#9 zaliotas, 01 Dec 09 13:12


#10 mrclauss1990, 15 Jan 10 18:54

i like this stuff

#11 dzakup, 16 Feb 10 01:44

I have Question. Are there any special conditions for hands like pair, two pair or three of kind? Like:

Is one pair only top pair with good kicker or overpair?
Is two pairs only when i create them exacly from both hole cards, which are not paired (pocket pair)?
Is three of kind only when i have paired hole card (pocket pair) and hit third card?

Or it doesn't matter in fixed limit holdem?

#12 dzakup, 16 Feb 10 01:46

aaaaaah...sorry..stupid..its all in the article. :(

#13 ustababa, 22 Jun 10 20:02

A234 is named as wheel draw i has the same odds as gunshot straight draw so u can called them as gunshot draw

#14 Legion81, 16 Feb 11 15:10

only one mistake

#15 MikeTailor, 28 Mar 11 20:50


#16 dusicahetzel, 24 Jun 11 14:27


#17 mindbreaking, 19 Mar 13 02:12

thank you! if i won't understand it fully, then i read it again, if i still won't understand it i will read it over and over again lol :D

#18 Rthai, 01 Apr 13 04:42

Thank you. I am excited to learn how to play the flop =D

#19 Ntobek4Kwazi, 10 May 13 08:07

nice stuff :)

#20 Molly1514, 10 Sep 15 15:53


My rank

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