Poker Hands Explained

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Poker Hands Explained

Whatever the poker game type you wager on, all hand rules and rankings are the same. Understanding all poker hand rankings can help you plan a working strategy to win big cash prizes. This guide is crucial if you want to begin playing at the poker table. With the principles of betting at the tables, knowing which hand to aim for can allow you to play comfortably on any online poker game type with less stress. 

In this in-depth guide, we offer relevant information on the origins/foundation of the poker hands chart, poker hand rankings, and different variations. 

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Foundation of Poker Hands

Every gambler at a poker table is playing to win. However, getting the best poker hand to beat the house out of the five cards dealt is the only way to achieve this aim. One important feature to note with poker is that rare hands are often highly valued, and more commonly occurring hands present a less valuable payout. 

With the poker hand ranking, you can immediately know whether the hand you were dealt offers a good chance of winning and which hand to aim for if the opposite happens. To give you a good understanding of what moves to make, here are some general tips:

  • An ace card has two values; it can be low or high. 
  • For community card poker, e.g., Omaha, Texas Hold’em, Short Deck, etc., no suit has any weight. Each of them has the same value. 
  • The kicker becomes the determining factor if there is a tie. 

Why Hands Dealt Differ Depending on Position

While we will discuss which hand to play at different sections of a poker game round, it is essential to highlight why it’s not recommended for certain hands from general positions. Generally, the last player to act has the most significant advantage over the table. This is because they have the chance to see what everyone else is going to play and can either bet or hold when it gets to their turn. 

Being the last to play offers information on the position of other players’ hands at the table. 

Poker Hands List

Here’s a breakdown of all hands used in a game of poker. It’s important to note that this list is used by all poker variations. Even some other card casino games use the same approach, although you may find a few adjustments to the makeup. 

Royal Flush 

The royal flush is the first on the table and probably the most substantial hand any poker player can wish for. Mathematically, it is the rarest occurring hand drawn from a regular 52-card deck. While there are four ways to make up a royal flush hand, the most probable option is an ace, king, queen, jack, and 10 straight with all hands in the same suit. 

Other ways include A, K, Q, J, and T in four positions according to the number of suits available. If you remember the tips mentioned earlier, the ace can be played in two different positions, depending on which hand you have generated. An ace can be the highest card present for an ace, king, queen, jack, and 10 royal flush makeup, and the lowest card for the ace, king, queen, jack, and five straight flush, which follows after a royal flush. 

When the cards are dealt, the chances of landing a royal flush hand are so rare that players could play for hours with no single royal flush in sight. 

When it comes to a royal flush, no other hand may be able to beat it, especially in poker game types using the conventional hand ranking. That means games like Texas Hold’em, Short Deck Hold’em, Stud, Pot-Limit Omaha Hi, etc. 

Instances where a royal flush could be second to another hand could be in a hi-low split. Other games using rules of this variation are the Stud Eight or Better, Omaha Eight or Better, etc. 

Games like Texas Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha restricts players from creating a royal flush using their hole cards. 

Probability of Occurrence of Royal Flush:

In a regular poker deck of 52 cards, you can draw a royal flush by chance. Multiply this chance by the four suits available, giving the whole four possible ways royal flush can be created. In total, the chance of drawing a royal flush from a pack of 52 random cards is 0.000154%. 

If you want to characterize it in terms of odds, making a royal flush is 649,739:1. 

For community poker titles, you have seven random cards to make the five-card royal flush (this includes the hole cards and five community cards). A peculiar example is the Texas Hold’em, where the odds are 30,939:1. 

Our poker experts suggest that trying to raise a royal flush usually ends in regrets. If you only have one to three of the cards needed to raise this hand, lowering your expectations is best. You can attempt going for the last card, however, if you have four already in your cluster. Your odds here are now reduced to 47:1. 

Players with a royal flush can bet everything in their budgets. Currently, there is nothing that can beat this hand. So, play and grab the wins! 

Straight Flush

A straight flush comes second to the royal flush of all poker hands. It is another strong hand since you can only lose to a royal flush. Like the royal flush, it is made up of five ranking cards belonging to the same suit. 

As the name implies, a straight flush makes up a flush and straight at the same time. These two could be hard to make, and loading them with a straight flush is difficult. A total of five cards within the same suit, in the same rank, must be made to pull up a straight flush.

In this poker hand type, what determines the final ranking is the highest number present and not the suit. If all players load a straight flush tie, the determining factor for a winner will be the hand with a high straight value. Example:a 10-high straight flush beats a 9-high straight flush (assuming both hands are of the same or different suits when compared). 

Additionally, an ace, 2, 3, 4, 5 is the lowest occurring straight flush (a five-high), and the king, queen, jack, ten, 9 is the highest occurring (king-high). 

As previously stated, only a royal flush can beat the straight flush. 

Probability of Occurrence for Straight Flush:

When it comes to a straight flush, there are nine ways it can be generated for each suit present in poker. This does not include the royal flush sequence. It is possible to raise it in up to 36 different ways using the four suits in a 52-card deck. 

The probability of a straight flush occurring is 36 to 2,598,960 as there are a total of 2,598,960 possible hands in a standard poker game. In percentages, the possibility of raising a straight flush is 0.000139% minus the royal flush chances. 

Four-of-a-Kind

Also referred to as a “quad,” four-of-a-kind means four cards out of five belong to one rank in one suit. For quad aces, as an example, it consists of either the ace of clubs, ace of spades, ace of diamonds, or ace of hearts. 

However, this poker hand type can be beaten, even when it is regarded as a winning hand. Most poker game variants like Texas Hold’em can offer a higher payout when you have two of the four required cards, and your chances of making a quad is high, too. 

Usually, a poker hand requires five winning cards. Because there are only four available suits, you can’t find a five-of-a-kind. The fifth differentiating card (kicker) is not a member of the quads, yet it is the deciding factor when comparing 4-of-a-kind sequences. 

Suppose a player has two nines to make a quad with a hand of A, 2, 9, 9, and 5. The kicker, in this hand, will be the ace. For community poker, the kicker becomes the decider if all cards making up a 4-of-a-kind are community types. As you may expect, 4-of-a-kind follows closely the straight and royal flush hands. 

Probability of Occurrence for Four-of-a-Kind

The chances of landing a quad are 4,164:1. When expressed in percentage, your chance of landing this offer is 0.0256%. There are only 13 known quad sets in a regular 52-card deck. Yet, you can make up to 624 combinations and 156 different hands. 

Here’s the reason:

You will find that there are presently 12 possible kickers for every known quad set. Also, since five cards make up the poker hand, it also means there are 12 known hands for each quad set. Multiply these numbers, and you will get 156 possible hands for a standard poker deck. In four separate suits, these possible hands equal the 624 combinations that are likely in a 52-card deck. 

Full House

A full house is another well-respected hand available to players. It is the fourth most valuable in the poker hands list. It consists of a regular hand setup with three-of-a-kind cards, i.e., the same ranking and a pair of other ranks. While it may sound simple, it is not easy to figure out which is which from the name. 

However, the best full house poker hand sequence is an aces and king combination (A, A, A, K, and K). Here, the suits can differ and do not matter much in the final decision. This hand type is also known as a “ boat.” 

Other examples of this hand include a J, J, J, A, and A; K, K, K, Q, and Q; Q, Q, Q, 7, and 7. The suits are also different here in each of these combinations. While it is a strong hand, a full house can still be beaten.

If there is a full house tie, it could result in a large wager pot. We refer to this situation as a “cooler.” This tie can be settled with the ranking from the three-of-a-kind. For example, a 5, 5, 5, 6, and 6 will comfortably beat a 4, 4, 4, K, and K. 

For each rank, there are only four cards available for each. This means you won’t find any full house draw for the same ranking, except in poker game variants where wild cards are introduced or shared (e.g., Texas Hold’em). In these situations, a pair becomes the best option to decide the winner. 

Probability of Occurrence for a Full House

On a 52-card deck, the odds of landing a full house from freshly dealt cards is 0.1441%. The reason is that there are 3,744 possible combinations that can occur to make a full house out of 2,598,960 total chances available. When you calculate this option, you will see that the odds now become 693:1. 

Flush

In a flush, the suit makes up the difference. You can get a flush when all of the five cards in your hand belong to the same suit. This hand is easily recognizable. The most potent flush hand combination is an A, J, 10, 3, 2, all of the same suit. 

Simply put, a flush can be made when you have four cards of the same suit and require one more card to complete the equation. It is also commonly referred to as a “flush draw.” Two critical factors determine how you get a strong flush hand:

  • What is the highest card in your hand combination? It is possible to make a flush and still lose to a wider variety, as we’ve described in the other poker hand types. This is why a flush is still beatable, even though it is a pretty good option. 
  • If you hit a flush, is there still a higher possible combination? Is it possible to get a higher flush draw after you have completed yours? An opponent can always call your bluff, even if they do not have a flush or higher. 

Here, the sequence or ranking does not matter in raising a flush, except for the suits. To determine the highest flush hand, the top card in the combination becomes the decider. 

Remember, the cards do not need to have a consecutive ranking in a flush poker hand. If they did, you’d be looking at either a royal flush or straight flush hand. 

Straight

A straight hand consists of five cards in sequential ranking order. You can get a good idea of what card combination forms this hand from the name. Since all the cards need to be in sequence, it’s reasonably easy to identify such a hand. 

The best straight hand is an ace, king, queen, jack, and ten. This combination is also referred to as a “broadway,” as it has the top cards in a poker game in one hand at the same time. The lowest or smallest combination is ace, 2, 3, 4, and 5. This is also known as a  “bicycle” or “the wheel.” While a straight does not rank among the best poker hands, you can still get a good payout from it. 

One basic fact you should understand for this poker hand is that suits are irrelevant or determine a winner, like the straight flush, full house, or even 3-of-a-kind. Here, the top card determines how strong your straight hand is. 

As expected, an ace is usually a determinant for any straight hand combination. The ace can be the low card for a bicycle (five-high) combination. It can also serve as the high card for a broadway (ace-high straight). 

The following are some of the straight hands that can be formed:

K, Q, J, 10, 9

Q, J, 10, 9, 8

9, 8, 7, 6, 5

7, 6, 5, 4, 3

10, 9, 8, 7, 6

Probability of Occurrence for Straight Poker Hand

The chances of drawing a straight hand from a randomly dealt 52-card deck are 0.3925%. This equals a probability of 253.8:1 of making a straight hand. 

There are 10 unexpected ways to make a straight from such a deck, especially as suits do not matter in the decision-making. When you take in possibilities from various suit combinations, there are a total of 10,200 ways to make a straight hand. 

Three-of-a-Kind

Another name this poker hand is known by is “trips” or “set.” This combination comprises up to three cards with the same rank and a pair of other ranks. The suit type does not matter here, and community cards can also be involved, depending on the poker game type you’re betting on. Also, it could include hands that are to be shared among players. 

To be clear, sets and trips may mean different card clusters, depending on which poker game type you’re playing. These variants are when you have hole or community cards on the table. 

Set: a set consists of a pair that matches one of the cards on the board. Example: a pair of jacks in your hand combination and a jack card on the board refers to a set.

Trips: trips is the opposite of sets. Here, the matching pair is on the board, which matches with one card issued to you. It is a trip if you have a king in your hand and a pair of kings on the board. 

Here’s how a three-of-a-kind looks: 

K, K, K, A, J

10, 10, 10, 3, 2

Q, Q, Q, A, J

Q, Q, Q, A, 10

Like a straight poker hand, there are different possibilities for a three-of-a-kind hand, and only a kicker will decide which is higher than the other. 

Probability of Occurrence for a Three-of-a-Kind Poker Hand

The chance of landing such a card combination is high. A likely probability of getting this hand when dealt is 2.1128%. While this percentage looks good, remember that it is not limited to just you, as other players have the same chance. 

If you’re wagering on the regular 52-card deck, there are up to 54,912 possible ways to come up with a three-of-a-kind hand. This also factors in the different suits’ makeup. 

While most players downplay the importance of a three-of-a-kind hand, it still has its benefits. If you receive such a hand when being dealt cards, your chances of drawing a better card combination—like the full house or even the four-of-a-kind—are higher. 

Two Pair

The two pair hand consists of a pair of cards with the same rank and another pair with equal ranks. While it may look lower, this is the best hand for some poker variants, e.g., Texas Hold’em. In simple terms, the two pair hand has two pairs of the same rank in your card cluster. 

For example, 10, 10, 5, 5, 3

A, A, Q, Q, J

K, K, J, J, 10

K, K, J, J, 10

A, A, Q, Q, K

Q, Q, 10, 10, A

Since a two pair hand is common for most poker game types, there are always high chances of getting a tie here. If this occurs, then a kicker makes the difference. Thus, the best two pair card combinations include the aces and kings. Also, suits do not matter here. 

Probability of Occurrence for a Two Pair Poker Hand

There are up to 123,552 possible combinations for a two pair hand. In addition, you can have 858 special ranks for this hand alone. Each hand combination can be separated first by its top ranking pair, followed by the second, and finally the kicker. 

One Pair

The one pair hand is differentiated by the two pair hand that contains one pair. Either a J, J, or Q, Q. In total, you can find up to 1,098,240 possible ways to raise a one pair card combination. There are also 2,860 special ranks just for a one pair hand. For this poker hand, the first pair is considered, followed by the highest-valued kicker, and goes on down the row. This is important since you may come across players with this common hand. 

Here are a few examples of common one pair hands:

A, A, Q, 10, 8

K, K, A, J, 10

A, A, Q, J, 10

A, A, Q, J, 9

K, K, 10, 9, 5

Like the previously discussed hands, the suits denomination does not matter for this hand. 

High Card

As a player, this is the worst hand to get when playing poker games. There are no pairs or even other types of hands. You only have one high card. Usually, the ranking value is known. To recognize a high card hand, just search for hands without even one pair included, and all cards are not of the same suit. 

Here are some examples to help you understand:

A, Q, 9, 5, 3

K, 7, 5, 4, 2

J, 10, 7, 6, 2

9, 8, 7, 6, 4

The probability of landing a high card in most poker games is very high. When expressed as a percentage, it is 50.1177%. The odds of landing this hand (i.e., a high card) when you’re dealt your cards is 1:0.995. There are up to 1,302,540 ways to draw one hand, especially if you consider all suits.

Order of Poker Hands

Order of Poker Hands

Whether you play online or at a land-based casino, understanding the rank of poker hands is a valuable tool to build your relevance and winning options. Here’s a breakdown of which hand beats which in a poker game. 

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to memorize this order as it allows you to think of a strategy to use when facing a situation. The advantage is that these rankings apply to almost all poker game types, including popular variants like Seven Card Stud, Omaha, Texas Hold’em, etc. 

We will start with one of the well-known poker variants, Texas Hold’em, as it helps you learn what to hunt for. For gamblers new to the game of Hold’em, the significant aim here is to turn up the most substantial five card poker hand at the end of bets and draws. 

The good thing about this variant is if an opponent folds their cards before you, you may not need to show your hand. 

Brief Description of Kickers

While we may have touched on what kickers are in each hand section, we feel some of our readers may appreciate a separate section on it. A kicker plays a vital role in deciding a tie among hands. It is essential since, most times, it is what will define whether you win or lose a pot. 

In literal terms, a kicker is a spare card for almost all poker hands. If your kicker is strong, especially in a hand that occurs more often, it means you have a good chance of winning. 

Best Poker Hands

Here, we will start from the ground up with poker hand rankings for Hold’em. The weakest hand for Texas Hold’em is the high card.

High Card

In a game of Hold’em, you can win a payout with a high card hand. However, the chances of a player getting such wins depends on the number of gamblers at the table. Just as discussed, no pair is needed here. Just load up the highest card, which is the determinant. 

For example:

Suppose you have a set of cards on the board that includes 7, 6, 2, 9, and 5. If you have Q and 10 in your hand, you should set your five-card combination in the following: Q, 10, 9, 6, and 5. This is your best hand, as it is about creating a queen-high. 

If two or more players have this hand, the person with the highest card wins. Once this cannot separate the players, the second highest decides and it goes on from there. There are also instances where there is nothing to separate the high card hands of two players. In this case, the pot will be shared evenly between the two of them based on their bet sizes. 

One Pair

A one pair hand follows next in the ranking for Hold’em. It’s also another common hand where you can win huge pots, depending on the number of players at the table. 

For example: 

If you have a card combination with A and K. In the board pot, there is A, 8, 5, 3, and 2. You can create a winning combination with the result being A, A, K, 8, and 5. A pair of aces is involved, which is a great lineup. 

If two players have this hand, the best option is to use a kicker to decide. The next highest kicker can be used if the first is still the same, and it then goes on to the last kicker. 

Two Pair

Next on the list is two pair hand. It is possible to get some good payouts here with a strong pair. However, it still occurs more often and may not be the poker hand of your dreams. 

For example:

If you have the following pair in your hand: 10 and 9. Let’s suppose that in the community cards are the following: 10, 9, 5, A, and 3. 

The best possible hand to load here will be a 10, 10, 9, 9, A. There are now two strong pairs, nines and tens. You also have an A, which can be a strong kicker. 

Since the probability of a two pair occurring is high, you should be conscious and announce the highest pair first. Doing so will help to bring confusion to your opponents who are trying to guess your hand and make a decision. 

The house or dealer can use the highest pair here to decide who wins in case of a tie. If this doesn’t announce the winner, the next option is the second pair and the kicker.

Three-of-a-Kind

The three-of-a-kind hand is where it gets exciting. It ranks among the best poker hands to have, and it can win you a pot faster than the first two hands mentioned. It is ranked fourth in the poker hands order. 

For example:

If your five-card combination is made up of a cluster, like K, K, K, J, and 7, it means you have a three-of-a-kind, which is powerful enough. 

A player with the highest set or trips wins in case of a tie. It can move to the kickers if the first set does not separate them. All players will have to settle for pot sharing based on their wagers when the kicker does not do a perfect job of separation. 

Straight

Three-of-a-kind can be beaten by a straight. As its name states, get all five cards in successive ranking form this hand. For example, a six-high straight is formed when you land 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

For a straight hand, the top card determines the winner. From the example above, if a player gets a 7-high straight, that defeats it. As we have discussed, an ace-high is the best choice here. The chances of two or more players having the same straight hand with one top card are significantly reduced. 

Flush

A flush ranks higher than a straight and also defeats it. You can also say it is one of the best poker hands for Texas Hold’em as it can only be defeated by a few hands. The suits play a huge role in this.  If you get an ace here, your win is almost assured. 

The highest card wins the pot for you if there is no ace. In the absence of the following high card, the rules move to the second next highest ranking card to determine a winner, and so on. 

Full House

You have an excellent opportunity to win some big prizes with a full house. The “boat” is possible when there is a  three-of-a-kind and a pair in your card combination. For example, 5, 5, 5, Q, and Q makes up fives full of queens. The K, K, K, 2, and 2 is kings of deuces. 

A full house can be separated with the higher three-of-a-kind combination. If this does not produce a winner, the next choice will be one with the highest pair. In the example above, clearly, the hand with kings wins.

Each of the next hands almost guarantee sweet poker wins. 

Four-of-a-Kind

With a four-of-a-kind, you can comfortably beat the full house. This refers to a four-card combination of equal rank. For example, 10, 10, 10, 10, and 7 is a four-of-a-kind tens. It is also powerful and wins in almost all cases. 

In rare cases, a tie may occur, which can be separated by the value of the four-of-a-kind setup. A cluster like A, A, A, A, and 10 will comfortably win in the example above. 

Straight Flush

Using the straight flush or a royal flush, a four-of-a-kind hand is defeated. This particular hand ranks second in the poker hands order.  

Royal Flush

Get the royal flush and you automatically become the winner. It is often called the “fixed jackpot” of Texas Hold’em. Get an ace, king, queen, 10, and jack and you have a royal flush hand. 

In a game of Texas Hold’em, two or more players can get this poker hand since there is a provision for community cards. Only poker game types with a community card feature can see multiple players get a royal flush. If this happens, there is no decider. The game ends in a tie with the pot shared equally.

 

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