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Poker Hand Rankings

Different Poker Hands Explained

The ability to win in poker is dependent based on how a player’s hand is ranked. In almost all poker games, the players make a five card hand. In games where more than five cards are used (like seven card stud) the players make a hand based on their “five best”.

There are ten types of hands, ranked here from lowest to highest:

**Please note that while all hands are made of five cards, not every winning hand actually uses all five cards (for example, a straight uses all five, whereas a pair or three of a kind would use two and three cards respectively, with the rest of the “five cards” being culled from the highest ranked remaining cards the player has. These remaining cards often use “high card” to break ties.)

  • High Card: Any hand that doesn’t qualify as one of the below hands. If no player has a pair or better, the highest card wins. In addition, “High Card” comes into play in regards to ties for the below hands. If two players hold a pair of aces, for example, the winner will be determined by the high card of the remaining three.
  • Pair: Two cards of the same rank, with three cards of different ranks. In the event of a tie, the highest card of the three remaining wins.
  • Two Pair: Two distinct pairs of cards. The highest ranked pair wins, regardless of the second pair (two jacks and two 2’s beats two 10’s and two 9’s.) In the event of a tie, the highest ranked leftover card in the hand wins. If that’s a tie, then the pot is split.
  • Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same rank. Highest ranked Three of a Kind wins in case of two players both having three of a kind (three 3’s beats three 2’s, etc.)
  • Straight: Five cards (of any suit) in numerical / value order, such as 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.  An Ace may be used as either a high or low card in this type of hand, going after a King card, or before a 2 card (but never both – Q,K,A,2,3 is not a straight).  In the event of a tie, the highest straight wins. If two hands have the same value, they split the pot.
  • Flush: A hand where all of the cards are of the same suit (such as five cards in a complete Club, Diamond, Heart or Spade set).  In the event of a tie, the player holding the highest overall card (after ties) wins.
  • Full House: This hand consists of three of a kind and a pair, such as three Kings and two Tens.  In the event of a tie, the winner is determined by the value of the three of a kind (highest wins).
  • Four of a Kind: Four of a Kind is simply four cards of the same rank (3,3,3,3 or K,K,K,K).  In games that have two or more players with Four of a Kind, the highest set wins.
  • Straight Flush: The best (and rarest) type of poker hand is the straight flush, which is five suited cards in progressive order (such as the 6,7,8,9,10 of hearts – in essence, it’s a straight and a flush combined). A “Royal Flush” is a straight flush that is an Ace high straight flush (suited 10,J,Q,K,A.) Please note that the Ace can be used as both the highest card in the deck (as 10,J,Q,K,A) or the lowest (A,2,3,4,5), but never both (Q,K,A,2,3 is not a straight. But if they were all the same suit, it would still be a flush.)

If you are counting, you’ll see that’s only nine hands, and we said there were ten. That’s because we did not include “five of a kind”, because it is only possible with wild cards or jokers. However, for those games that utilize wild cards, five of a kind is the highest ranked hand, even beating a royal flush.