Hands of Poker: Understanding Poker Hands and Their Rankings

Whether you’re a beginner looking to learn the basics or a seasoned player who, after a massive bad beat, forgot the hand rankings, understanding the hierarchy of hands of poker is essential. 

In this post, I will teach you or remind you the rankings of poker hands.

Even after more than 10 years of playing poker, I still make mistakes and sometimes misread my hand.

If you’re short on time and can’t read the entire article for a comprehensive understanding of poker hand rankings, here’s a quick summary for you.

*At the end of this article, you’ll find a link to download a free PDF cheat sheet on hand rankings.

Quick Summary
Poker Hand Rankings, Starting from the Best Hand
 
  1. Royal Flush: A K Q J T – The highest possible hand in poker, composed of the Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and Ten, all in the same suit. Here, it’s showcased in diamonds.
  2. Straight Flush: 9♣ 8♣ 7♣ 6♣ 5♣ – A sequence of five cards in the same suit that isn’t topped by an Ace. This example features a 9-high straight flush in clubs.
  3. Four of a Kind: 7 7 7 7♣ 5♠ – Four cards of identical numerical value or face value. Here, it’s four 7s.
  4. Full House: Q♠ Q♦ Q♣ 6♠ 6 – A combination of three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank. This hand is three Queens and two 6s.
  5. Flush: K Q 8 5 3 – Any five cards of the same suit, not in sequence. The example given is a flush in hearts.
  6. Straight: 8♠ 7 6 5♣ 4♠ – Five consecutive cards of any suits. An 8-high straight is presented here.
  7. Three of a Kind: 10♠ 10 10 3♣ 2♣ – Three cards with the same rank. In this case, three 10s.
  8. Two Pair: 9 9♣ 4 4♠ J – A hand with two different pairs. Here, it consists of a pair of 9s and a pair of 4s.
  9. One Pair: K♣ K♠ 8 5 2♠ – A pair of cards with the same rank. This example shows a pair of Kings.
  10. High Card: Q♣ J 9♠ 4♣ 2 – When no other poker hand is achieved, the highest card plays. In this hand, the Queen is the highest card.
 

Understanding the rankings of poker hands

In poker, the strength of your hand is determined by its ranking.

Each hand falls into a specific category, and within that category, the individual cards’ ranks differentiate the hands.

It’s crucial to familiarize yourself with these hand rankings to make informed decisions during gameplay.

Even the best players in the world make mistakes and misread their hands!

Take a look at this epic moment when Phil Ivey, undeniably one of the poker giants, gets his hand all mixed up during the WSOP.

That’s why it is extremely important to know the strength of your hand.

Let’s take a closer look at each hand category:

High Card: The Lowest-Ranking Hand

High Card - Poker hand rankings , Ace high

The high card is the lowest-ranking hand in poker. It consists of five unrelated cards with different ranks.

In High Card hands, you compare the highest cards of each hand to determine the winner.

The hand with the highest top card wins.

If the highest cards are the same, you compare the next highest, and so on, until a winner is found.


Hand Examples (from the strongest hand to the weakest)

  1. A 9♠ 8♣ 5 3♠
    This is the best High Card hand among these examples because it has an Ace (A), which is the highest single card in poker. The other hands below don’t have an Ace.
  2. K♣ Q♠ J 6♥ 2♠
    This hand’s highest card is a King (K♣). It’s a good high card but is outranked by an Ace. The King is the second-highest card in poker, strong but not the strongest.
  3. Q J♠ 10♣ 7 3
    With a Queen (Q♦) as the highest card, this hand ranks below those with a King or an Ace. The Queen is high, but two cards, the Ace and King, can beat it in High Card situations.
  4. J 10 9 5♣ 2
    Here, the highest card is a Jack (J). Jacks are considered high cards, but they are weaker than Queens (Q), Kings (K), and Aces (A).
  5. J♣ 10♠ 5 3♣ 2
    The highest card in this hand is also a Jack (J♣), the same as in the previous example (J). The second-highest card in this hand is a ten (10♠), which is also equal to the second card from the previous hand. However, the third card a 5 (5) is lower than 9 (9).

What is a High Card in poker?
In poker, a High Card hand is one where you don’t have any of the recognized hand combinations like pairs or straights. Your hand’s value is just the highest card you have.

Why is the High Card considered the lowest-ranking hand?
It’s considered the lowest-ranking hand because it doesn’t form any of the standard poker hand combinations. It’s simply the highest card you hold, with no other cards supporting it.

How do you resolve ties when multiple players have High Card hands?
If players have the same High Card, the next highest card in each hand is compared. This continues with the third, fourth, or fifth highest cards as needed until the tie is broken.

What are the odds of ending up with a High Card hand on a river in a game of Texas Hold’em?
In Texas Hold’em, the odds of ending up with a High Card hand by the river (assuming you stay in the hand until the river) are approximately 17-20%. This estimate accounts for the likelihood that, out of seven cards (two hole cards and five community cards), you won’t be able to make a pair or better. Keep in mind that actual gameplay factors like the number of players and their actions can influence these odds.

Pair: Two Cards of the Same Rank

A pair consists of two cards of the same rank, accompanied by three unrelated cards.

The pair with the highest rank wins if multiple players have pairs.

If two players have the same pair, you have to compare the highest-ranking of the unrelated cards.

Pairs can vary in strength depending on their rank. For example, a pair of Aces (A♠ A) is stronger than a pair of Kings (K K♣).

Examples of one Pair hands (from the strongest to weakest):

  •     Pair of Aces: AA♠ 9♣ 5♣ 2 – The strongest pair, with two Aces. The other cards don’t form any higher hand.
  •     Pair of Kings: K♣ K♥ J♠ 7 3♣ – The second strongest pair. It’s strong, but a pair of Aces outranks it.
  •     Pair of Queens: Q♠ Q 8♣ 6♣ 4♠ – A solid pair, but lower than pairs of Kings and Aces.
  •     Pair of Jacks: J J♣ 10♠ 7♣ 5 – A decent pair, but not as strong as Queens, Kings, or Aces.
  •     Pair of Tens: 10 10♠ 9 6 3♠ – A fair pair, but weaker than Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces.

What is a ‘One Pair’ Hand in Poker?
A ‘One Pair’ hand consists of two cards of the same rank, with the other three cards being unrelated. Example: 9♣ 9 J♠ 6 2♣.

How Do You Rank Different ‘One Pair’ Hands in Poker?
‘One Pair’ hands are ranked by the rank of the pair. A pair of Aces is the highest, followed by Kings, Queens, and so on down to twos.

What Happens When Two Players Have the Same ‘One Pair’?
If two players have the same pair, the winner is determined by the highest of the three remaining cards (the ‘kickers’).

What’s the Difference Between a ‘One Pair’ Hand and a ‘Two Pair’ Hand?
A ‘One Pair’ has only one pair of matching rank cards, while a ‘Two Pair’ hand consists of two different pairs of cards.

Two Pairs: Two Sets of Pairs

Two Pairs: Two Sets of Pairs​ - poker hand rankings

As the name suggests, a two pair refers to the combination of two sets of pairs.

This hand is stronger than a single pair and provides more opportunities to win.

Two-pair hands are ranked by the higher-ranked pair, followed by the lower-ranked pair, and finally, the fifth card, also known as the “kicker.”

For instance, a hand consisting of two pairs, a pair of kings, and a pair of queens, with an ace as the kicker (K♣ K♠ Q♣ Q A ), would outrank a hand with two pairs of tens and eights, with a jack as the kicker (10♣ 10♠ 8♣ 8♠ J).

Examples of Two Sets of Pairs

K♣ K♠ Q♣ Q♠ A > 10♣ 10♠ 8♣ 8♠ J – The higher-ranked pair (K♣ K♠) is stronger than the higher-ranked pair of the second hand (10♣ 10♠).

K♣ K♠ Q♣ Q♠ A > K♣ K♠ 10♣ 10♠ J – The lower-ranked pair of the first hand (Q♣ Q♠) is stronger than the lower-ranked pair of the second hand (10♣ 10♠).

K♣ K♠ Q♣ Q♠ A > K♣ K♠ Q♣ Q♠ J – If two players have the same two pairs (KK, QQ), the fifth card becomes crucial in determining the winner (A is stronger than J).

Two pairs can be a formidable hand, but it’s important to remain cautious and assess the potential for stronger hands on the table.

A full house or four of a kind can easily trump a two-pair, so always consider the community cards, your opponents’ actions, and the overall dynamics of the game before committing too much to this hand.

What are the Odds of making two pairs In Texas Hold’em on the flop?
The odds of making two pairs on the flop in Texas Hold’em, starting with no pair in your hand, are about 2%. This means that you’ll make two pairs on the flop approximately once in every 50 times you see a flop under these conditions.

What are the Odds of making two pairs In Texas Hold’em on the turn?
The odds of making two pairs by the turn in Texas Hold’em, assuming you started with no pair pre-flop and did not make two pairs on the flop, are about 4.3%. This calculation takes into account the additional card on the turn, giving you another opportunity to pair up with one of your hole cards or a card on the flop.

What are the Odds of making two pairs In Texas Hold’em on the river?
The odds of making two pairs by the river in Texas Hold’em, assuming you started with no pair and did not make two pairs on the flop or the turn, are approximately 8.4%. This includes the chance of pairing up with the final river card, after accounting for the flop and turn cards.

What is a Two Pair hand in Texas Hold’em?
A Two Pair hand in Texas Hold’em is a poker hand where a player has two different pairs of cards, along with any fifth card. For example, having a hand with two 7s and two Kings.

How strong is a Two Pair hand?
A Two Pair is a strong hand but not the strongest. It beats one pair and high card hands but is beaten by three of a kind, straights, flushes, full houses, four of a kind, straight flushes, and royal flushes.

Should I always bet aggressively with Two Pair?
It depends on the game situation. Two Pair is a strong hand, but not invincible. Consider other players’ actions, the board texture, and your position before deciding on your betting strategy. Aggressive play is almost always a good idea when holding a premium hand against loose opponents.

How does a Two Pair rank against other hands in a showdown?
In a showdown, Two Pair beats any one pair or high card hand but loses to hands like three of a kind, straights, flushes, full houses, and higher.

What’s the best strategy when I have Two Pair?
Your strategy should be based on the strength of your pairs, the community cards, and your read on other players. Generally, it’s a hand worth betting on, but be cautious of stronger possible hands.

How do I play Two Pair in early positions?
In early positions, play Two Pair cautiously. The strength of your hand may not be clear until you see how other players act.

What are common mistakes when playing Two Pair?
Overvaluing the hand and not considering the potential for opponents to hold stronger hands are common mistakes.

How should I adjust my play with Two Pair on a risky board?
On a risky board with potential straights or flushes, play more cautiously. Consider the possibility of opponents having a stronger hand and adjust your play accordingly. Never be afraid to fold – FOLD is GOLD!

Three of a Kind: Three Cards of the Same Rank

three of a kind, poker hand rankings, 3 aces

A three-of-a-kind is a powerful hand that consists of three cards of the same rank, accompanied by two unrelated cards (i.e. 8♠ 8 8♣ K♣ Q ).

This hand is commonly referred to as a “set” or “trips” and holds significant value in poker.

It ranks higher than a pair or two pairs, but it can still be vulnerable to stronger combinations.

The strength of a three-of-a-kind is determined by the rank of the cards involved.

For example, three aces (A♠ A A♣ K♣ Q) would be the highest possible three-of-a-kind, known as “trip aces.”

On the other hand, three twos would be the lowest possible three of a kind (2♠ 2 2♣ K♣ J).

When possessing a three of a kind, it’s important to consider the possibility of opponents having higher-ranked combinations, such as a straight or a flush.

While a three of a kind is a formidable hand, it’s not invincible, and understanding the likelihood of stronger hands is crucial for making strategic decisions.

Examples from the strongest to the weakest:

  1. Set of eights – 8♠ 8 8♣ K♣ Q

        This is the strongest Three of a Kind hand listed. It has three 8s, which is the highest value among the sets of triples here. The higher the number on the triples, the stronger the hand.

  1. Set of sevens – 7♠ 7 7♣ 10♣ 9

        Next in strength is the hand with three 7s. While strong, it’s not as strong as three 8s. In poker, 8 is a higher number than 7, so three 8s beat three 7s.

  1. Set of sixes – 6♠ 6 6♣ J♣ 10

        This hand has three 6s. It’s a good hand, but it ranks below three 7s and three 8s. The rule is simple: the higher the number of your triples, the better.

What Are the Odds of Getting Three of a Kind in a Poker, on the flop?

The odds of hitting ‘Three of a Kind’ on the flop in Texas Hold’em poker, starting with no pair in your hand, are about 1.35%. This means you’ll make ‘Three of a Kind’ on the flop roughly once in every 74 flops you see under these conditions.

What Are the Odds of Getting ‘Three of a Kind’ in a Poker on turn?

The odds of hitting ‘Three of a Kind’ by the turn in Texas Hold’em, starting with no pair in your hand and not achieving ‘Three of a Kind’ on the flop, are approximately 4.9%. This calculation includes the additional opportunity provided by the fourth community card (the turn) to make ‘Three of a Kind’.

What Are the Odds of Getting ‘Three of a Kind’ in a Poker on river?

The odds of hitting ‘Three of a Kind’ by the river in Texas Hold’em, assuming you started with no pair and did not achieve ‘Three of a Kind’ on the flop or the turn, are about 8.7%. This percentage reflects the cumulative chance of making ‘Three of a Kind’ with the addition of the fifth community card (the river).

How Do You Rank a ‘Three of a Kind’ Hand in Poker?

‘Three of a Kind’ hands are ranked by the value of the three matching cards. For example, three Kings beat three Queens. If two players have the same ‘Three of a Kind,’ the remaining highest cards in their hands are compared.

What Beats ‘Three of a Kind’ in Poker?

In poker, a ‘Straight’ (five cards in sequence), a ‘Flush’ (five cards of the same suit), a ‘Full House’ (three of a kind plus a pair), ‘Four of a Kind,’ a ‘Straight Flush,’ and a ‘Royal Flush’ all beat ‘Three of a Kind.’

Can You Win with ‘Three of a Kind’ in Texas Hold’em?

Yes, you can win with ‘Three of a Kind’ if it’s the highest-ranked hand when all players reveal their cards at the showdown.

How Rare Is ‘Three of a Kind’ in Poker?

‘Three of a Kind’ is not extremely rare but it’s also not common. It’s a strong hand that often has a good chance of winning the pot.

Is ‘Three of a Kind’ a Strong Hand in Poker?

Yes, it’s a strong hand, but its strength can vary depending on the game situation and what other players might have.

How Should You Play ‘Three of a Kind’ in Different Poker Variants?

How aggressively you should play ‘Three of a Kind’ depends on the poker variant and the betting action. It’s generally a strong hand, but be mindful of higher-ranked hands that could be in play, especially full hauses.

What Are the Chances of Another Player Having a Better ‘Three of a Kind’?

The chances are generally low, but they increase with more players in the hand or if the community cards show potential for higher hands.

In a general scenario, without specific card distributions and player counts, it’s challenging to assign an accurate percentage. However, in a full table game (9 to 10 players), if you hold a lower ‘Three of a Kind’, the chances of another player having a better ‘Three of a Kind’ can be significant, especially if the board pairs with a high card. This probability can be anywhere from a few percent to over 10%, depending on the situation.

How Does ‘Three of a Kind’ Compare to a Flush or a Straight?

A ‘Flush’ or a ‘Straight’ both outrank ‘Three of a Kind.’ While ‘Three of a Kind’ is strong, a ‘Flush’ (all cards of the same suit) and a ‘Straight’ (sequential cards) are stronger hand rankings in poker.

Straight: Five sequential cards

straight - hand rankings

A straight is a hand that consists of five cards in sequential order, regardless of their suit. This hand ranks higher than a three of a kind and can be a powerful weapon to have in your arsenal.

The highest-ranking straight is the ace-high straight, also known as a “broadway” or “royal straight” (A♠ K Q♣ J 10♠).

It’s important to note that an ace can be used as both a high card (above a king) and a low card (below a two) in a straight.

PROT TIP: It’s vital to remain aware of the possibility of higher-ranked combinations, such as a flush or a full house.

 

Straight examples:

1. Ace- High Straight: A♠ K Q♣ J♥ 10♠

This is the strongest straight because it starts with the highest card in poker, the Ace, making it unbeatable by any other straights.

2. Queen-High Straight: Q♣ J♠ 10 9♠ 8

 This straight is strong, but it ranks below the Broadway Straight because its highest card is a Queen, which is lower than an Ace.

3. Five High Straight  ‘Wheel or Bicycle’: 5♠ 4 3♣ 2 A♠

This is the weakest of the straights. Although it includes an Ace, the Ace is counted as 1 in this sequence, making 5 its highest card.

Why One straight is Stronger Than Another?

The strength of a straight is determined by the highest card in the sequence.

Higher cards are stronger in poker, so a straight with a higher top card (like the Ace in the Broadway Straight) is stronger than one with a lower top card (like the 5 in the Wheel).

What is a straight in poker?

A straight in poker is a hand of five consecutive cards, regardless of suit.

How does a straight compare to other poker hands?

A straight ranks higher than three of a kind but lower than a flush.

Can a straight have cards of different suits?

Yes, a straight can consist of cards with different suits.

What if two players have a straight? How is the winner determined?

In such cases, the player with the higher top card wins.

Is an Ace always high in a straight?

An Ace can be both the highest (A-K-Q-J-10) or the lowest (5-4-3-2-A) card in a straight.

What’s the probability of being dealt a straight in poker on flop?

The probability of being dealt a straight is about 0.39% in a five-card poker hand.

What’s the best way to play a straight in poker?

Consider raising to build the pot when you have a straight, but be cautious if community cards or opponent behavior suggest a stronger hand is possible.

Flush: Five Cards of the Same Suit

Flush poker hand rankings

A flush is a hand that consists of five cards of the same suit (K♠ J♠ 8♠ 6♠ 4♠), regardless of their ranks.

When comparing flush hands, the highest-ranking card determines the winner. If two players have the same highest card, the next highest cards are compared until a winner is determined.

A flush is a strong hand, but it can be beaten by higher-ranked hands like full houses, four-of-a-kind, straight flushes, and royal flushes.

Flushes can be difficult for opponents to spot, as they are not as obvious as other high-ranking hands. However, it’s important to consider the possibility of a higher-ranked flush or a straight flush on the table, as these hands can easily outshine a regular flush.

 

Examples

  • A Q 9 6 2: This is the strongest Flush on this list because an Ace is the highest card in poker. A Flush with an Ace as the highest card beats all other Flushes without an Ace.
  • K♠ J♠ 8♠ 6♠ 4♠: This Flush has a King as its highest card. It’s strong, but not as strong as a Flush with an Ace.
  • Q 10 7 5 3: This hand has a Queen as the highest card. It’s beaten by Flushes with a King or an Ace as their highest card.

Full house: Three of a kind and a pair

full house hand rankings poker

A full house is a hand that consists of three cards of the same rank, accompanied by a pair of cards of a different rank (i.e. A♣ A♠ A 8♣ 8).

Full house ranks higher than a flush and can be a game-changer in a poker game. It’s often referred to as a “boat” or “full boat” and is considered one of the strongest hands of poker.

The strength of a full house is determined by the rank of the three cards forming the three of a kind.

For example, a full house consisting of three kings and a pair of aces (K♣ K♠ K A♣ A♠ ) would outrank a full house consisting of three tens and a pair of kings (10♣ 10♠ 10 K♣ K♠).

When holding a full house, it’s crucial to assess the possibility of opponents having higher-ranked hands, such as four of a kind (A♣ A♠ A A♥ 10♠) or a straight flush (9♣ 8♣ 7♣ 6♣ 5♣).

While a full house is a powerful hand, it’s not invincible, and understanding the odds and dynamics of the game is essential for maximizing its potential.

Examples of a Full House

  1. A A A 8 8:
    • This is the strongest Full House here. It has three Aces, which are the highest-ranking cards in poker. Having three of them makes this hand extremely powerful.
  2. K K♠ K♥ 7♣ 7:
    • This hand has three Kings. While Kings are high cards, they are just below Aces. That’s why three Kings with a pair is not quite as strong as three Aces with a pair.
  3. Q♠ Q Q♣ 6♠ 6:
    • Here we have three Queens. It’s a very strong hand, but it ranks below three Kings or Aces. Queens are just a step below Kings in card ranking.

Four of a kind: Four cards of the same rank

four of a kind poker hand rankings

A four-of-a-kind is a hand that consists of four cards of the same rank, accompanied by an unrelated fifth card, known as the “kicker.”

This hand ranks higher than a full house (Q♠ Q Q♣ 6♠ 6) and can be a rare and exciting occurrence in a poker game. It’s often referred to as “four of a kind.”

The strength of a four of a kind is determined by the rank of the four cards involved. For instance, four aces would be the highest possible four of a kind, while four twos would be the lowest possible four of a kind.

While a four of a kind is a powerful hand, it’s not unbeatable, and understanding the likelihood of stronger hands is essential for making strategic decisions.

 

Examples of Four of a kind

  • Four Jacks –  J J♣ J♠ J 8

This hand has four Jacks, which is very strong because Jacks are high-value cards in poker. The only way to beat this hand is with Four of a Kind of a higher rank, like Queens, Kings, or Aces.

  • Four Tens – 10 10♣ 10 10♠ 7

Here, you have four 10s. It’s a powerful hand, but not as strong as four Jacks, Queens, Kings, or Aces. However, it’s better than four 9s, 8s, 7s, and so on, because 10 is a higher card than these.

Straight flush: Five sequential cards of the same suit

A straight flush is a hand that consists of five cards in sequential order, all of the same suit.

This hand ranks higher than a four-of-a-kind and can be an exhilarating sight at the poker table.

It combines the strength of a straight and a flush, making it a formidable force.

When holding a straight flush, it’s important to remain aware of the possibility of other players having a higher-ranking straight flush.

Here are some examples, from the strongest Straight Flush to the weakest

    9 8 7 6 5: This is the strongest Straight Flush in this list because it has the highest top card (a 9). In poker, the higher the top card in a straight, the stronger the hand.

    8♣ 7♣ 6♣ 5♣ 4♣: This hand is strong but just a bit weaker than the first one because its top card is an 8, which is lower than the 9 in the previous hand.

    7♠ 6♠ 5♠ 4♠ 3♠: Here, the highest card is a 7. It’s a great hand, but not as good as having an 8 as the highest card.

Royal flush: The highest-ranking hand in poker

royal flush - Texas Holdem flush rules.

The highest-ranking straight flush is the ace-high straight flush, also known as the “royal flush.”

This hand consists of Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and Ten, all of the same suit.

It’s considered the holy grail of poker hands and can rarely be beaten.

This hand isn’t just about winning; it’s about making a statement at the table with unrivaled supremacy!

Here’s a glimpse into the regal world of Royal Flushes:

    Spades Royal Flush – A♠ K♠ Q♠ J♠ T♠

Often depicted in movies as the hand of fate, a Royal Flush in Spades is a symbol of classic poker elegance.

It’s the James Bond of poker hands – sophisticated and unbeaten.

    Hearts Royal Flush – A K Q J T 

When you have a Hearts Royal Flush, it’s like holding a bouquet of roses at the poker table – everyone stops and stares in awe.

    Diamonds Royal Flush – A K Q J T

It’s like unearthing a hidden treasure chest in a game of skill and strategy.

    Clubs Royal Flush – A♣ K♣ Q♣ J♣ T♣

The Clubs Royal Flush is a blend of power and mystery, reminiscent of a secret society where only the elite prevail.

 

In the realm of poker, all four suits are treated with equal honor.

Thus, each of these Royal Flushes, irrespective of suit, shares the throne with equal strength and glory.

The rarity of this hand makes it a mythical achievement for poker enthusiasts. When it graces your game, it’s not just a win; it’s a moment of triumph that etches itself in the annals of poker history.

Remember, while the Royal Flush is a dream hand, poker is a game of skill, psychology, and strategy. The pursuit of this royal wonder is thrilling, but it’s the journey of decision-making and risk-taking that truly defines the art of poker.

 

As promised, below you will find a link to download a complimentary poker hand rankings cheat sheet, complete with concise tips on how to play each hand effectively.

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