There are (52 × 51)/2 = 1,326 distinct possible combinations of two hole cards from a standard 52-card deck in hold ’em, but since suits have no relative value in poker, many of these hands are identical in value before the flop. For example, A♣J♣ and A♥J♥ are identical, because each is a hand consisting of an ace and a jack of the same suit. There are 169 nonequivalent starting hands in hold ’em (13 pocket pairs, 13 × 12 / 2 = 78 suited hands and 78 unsuited hands; 13 + 78 + 78 = 13 × 13 = 169). These 169 hands are not equally likely. Hold ’em hands are sometimes classified as having one of three “shapes”:
- Pairs, (or “pocket pairs”), which consist of two cards of the same rank (e.g. 9♠9♣). One hand in 17 will be a pair, each occurring with individual probability 1/221 (P(pair) = 3/51 = 1/17).
- Suited hands, which contain two cards of the same suit (e.g. A♠6♠). Four hands out of 17 will be suited, and each suited configuration occurs with probability 2/663 (P(suited) = 12/51 = 4/17).
- Offsuit hands, which contain two cards of different suit and rank (e.g. K♠J♥). Twelve out of 17 hands will be nonpair, offsuit hands, each of which occurs with probability 2/221 (P(offsuit non-pair) = 3*(13-1)/51 = 12/17).
It is typical to abbreviate suited hands in hold ’em by affixing an “s” to the hand, as well as to abbreviate non-suited hands with an “o” (for offsuit). That is,
- QQ represents any pair of queens,
- AK (or, sometimes, AKo) represents any ace and king of different suits, and
- JTs represents any jack and ten of the same suit.