A quick guide to hand rankings
We’re kicking off a series of articles focusing on poker basics! If you’re looking to learn the foundations of the game, this is a great place to start. This week’s post is all about hand hierarchy and the odds of getting one of those choice hands. Take a look at Chasetheriver’s breakdown below, and note that any words in bold can be found in our Help Center’s poker glossary (A-L, M-Z). Without further ado, let’s begin!
The Dealer will declare a hand’s pot winner based on the strength (ranking) of the hand each player has made using the community cards along with their hole cards. A good rule of thumb? The lower the probability of these hands being made, the more likely it will be a winning hand. For example, got a royal flush? You can be assured that no one else does, and it’s the winner (also called the nut). Remember, no card suit ranks higher than any other suit in traditional poker!
An ace-high straight flush such as A♠ K♠ Q♠ J♠ 10♠ is known as a royal flush and is the highest-ranking standard poker hand. If you’ve see one outside of Royal Hold’em, count yourself lucky!
A straight flush is a hand that contains five cards all of the same suit and in sequence, such as 4♥ 5♥ 6♥ 7♥ 8♥ — in other words, a hand that meets the requirements of both a straight and a flush.
Four of a Kind
Four of a kind, also known as quads, is a poker hand such as 9♣ 9♠ 9♦ 9♥ J♥, that contains all four cards of one rank and any other (unmatched) card. Hands with higher-ranking cards defeat lower-ranking ones. In community-card games (such as Texas Hold’em), it’s possible for two players to obtain quads. When this happens, the higher ranked quad hand wins the pot. It’s also possible that two players may have the same hand. When the players have different 5th cards, known as a kicker, the player with the higher-ranked kicker wins the pot. On rare occasions, two players may have identically-ranked cards, such as when the board contains quads – 7♣ 7♠ 7♦ 7♥ A♥ and 7♣ 7♠ 7♦ 7♥ A♣. If two players have the same kicker, as in this case, they tie and the pot is split with each player winning an equal share of the pot.
A full house, also known as a full boat, is a hand such as Q♣ Q♥ Q♠ K♦ K♠, that contains three matching cards of one rank and two matching cards of another rank. Between two full houses, the one with the higher-ranking three cards wins, so 7♠ 7♥ 7♦ 4♠ 4♣ defeats 6♠ 6♥ 6♦ A♠ A♣. If two hands have the same three cards (which is possible in wild card and community card games), the hand with the higher pair wins, so 5♥ 5♦ 5♠ Q♥ Q♣ defeats 5♣ 5♦ 5♠ J♠ J♦.
A flush is a poker hand such as Q♦ 10♦ 6♦ 5♦ 2♦, where all five cards are of the same suit, but not in sequence. Two flushes are compared as if they were high card hands, so the highest-ranking card of each is compared to determine the winner. If both hands have the same highest card, then the second highest-ranking card is compared, and so on until a difference is found. If the two flushes contain the same five ranks of cards, they are tied and split the pot. Suits aren’t used to rank the hands.
A straight is a poker hand, such as 7♠ 6♦ 5♠ 4♣ 3♥, that contains five cards of sequential rank. Two straights are ranked by comparing the highest card of each. Two straights with the same high card are of equal value. Suits aren’t used to separate these, either.
Three of a Kind
Three of a kind, also called trips or a set, is a poker hand such as 5♣ 5♥ 5♠ K♠ 6♥ that contains three cards of the same rank, plus two cards which are not of this rank nor the same as each other. (Fun fact, there’s a difference between trips and a set! Trips occur when you have one of the three cards in your hand and the other two are on the board. A set occurs when you have two of the three cards in your hand and one on the board.)
A poker hand such as 7♥ 7♠ 3♦ 3♣ 9♥, that contains two cards of the same rank, plus two cards of another rank (that match each other but not the first pair), plus any card not of either rank, is called two pair. To rank two hands both containing two pair, the higher-ranking pair of each is first compared, and the higher pair wins (so 10♠ 10♣ 8♥ 8♣ 4♠ defeats 8♥ 8♣ 4♠ 4♣ 10♠). If both hands have the same top pair, then the second pair of each is compared, such that 10♠ 10♣ 8♥ 8♣ 4♠ defeats 10♠ 10♣ 4♠ 4♥ 8♥. If both hands have the same two pairs, the kicker determines the winner, so 10♠ 10♣ 8♥ 8♣ A♦ beats 10♠ 10♣ 8♥ 8♣ 4♠.
One pair is a poker hand such as K♠ K♥ 4♠ 10♦ 5♠, that contains two cards of one rank, plus three cards which are not of this rank nor the same as each other. Higher-ranking pairs defeat lower-ranking pairs, so if two hands have the same pair, the non-paired cards (the kickers) are compared in descending order to determine the winner.
A high-card or no-pair hand is a poker hand such as A♥ J♥ 8♣ 7♦ 4♠, made of any five cards not meeting any of the above requirements. Essentially, no hand is made, and the only thing of any potential meaning in the hand is the highest card. Nevertheless, they sometimes win a pot if the other players fold or have lower-ranked cards at a showdown. Two high-card hands are ranked by comparing the highest-ranking card. If those are equal, then the next highest-ranking card from each hand is compared, and so on until a difference is found.
As mentioned, the more valuable (and likely to win) the hand, the harder it is to make!
Although it’s nice to complete a strong hand like a flush or a full house, the strength of your hand against the hands of the other players in the pot is the most important consideration. A single pair can be enough to comfortably win a nice pot, but incorrectly chasing a flush can be an expensive mistake!