Poker Hands Explained

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 Learn exactly what you’re holding and how your chances might play out with our complete guide to poker hands.

From the very best poker hands to those that are only good for a bluff, we’ll talk you through the full ranking of poker combinations, including what beats what when the chips are down.

Whether you’re playing classic Texas Hold’em or switching things up with a game of Omaha Hi-Lo, this guide will cover everything you need to know for a range of different games.

Understanding your cards and the odds of getting them will help you pick up the rules and develop your strategy. With that knowledge behind you, you’ll be a poker ace in no time.

Poker Hands Ranked – What Beats What?

This complete list gives you the full rundown of possible hands in order – from the strongest to the weakest. Starting with the best poker hands, we’ll explain what each looks like and which other hands they beat.

Royal Flush

Royal Flush

What is a royal flush?

Sitting at the very top of the poker hierarchy, you’ll find the royal flush. The strongest poker hand of all is a type of straight flush where you have A-K-Q-J-10 – all in the same suit.

What does it beat?

As the highest poker hand, a royal flush beats every other hand your opponents might hold.

Read more about royal flush hand

Straight Flush


Straight Flush

What is a straight flush?

A straight flush is made up of five consecutive cards, all in the same suit. For example, 9-8-7-6-5 all in diamonds.

What does it beat?

This beats all other poker hands, except for a higher straight flush. 

Read more about straight flush hand.

Four-of-a-Kind


Four-of-a-Kind

What is four of a kind?

A four of a kind in poker is simply four cards of the same value. So if you end up with 7-7-7-7-4 in your five-card hand, congratulations, you’ve got ‘quads’!

What does it beat?

This is very often a winning poker hand, beating anything other than a straight/royal flush. If another player also has a four of a kind, the rank of the four cards will determine who wins. For example, J-J-J-J-4 beats A-7-7-7-7.

Read more about four of a kind hand.

Full House


Full House

What is a full house?

A full house poker hand is made up of a matching three of a kind together with a pair of a different value. For example, 10-10-10-8-8 – which is known as a ‘tens full of eights’.

Does a full house beat a straight?

Yes – a full house beats a poker straight. The only hands which can beat a full house are four of a kind, straight flush or royal flush. When two people have a full house, the highest three of a kind wins. If that rank happens to be the same, the one with the highest matching pair wins the hand. 

Read more about full house hand.

Flush


Flush

What is a flush?

A flush in poker consists of five cards which are all part of the same suit, but not in a consecutive order, such as A-K-8-7-3 in hearts.

Does a flush beat a full house?

No, a flush does not beat a full house – but it does beat a straight. In the case of a flush vs another flush, the hand with the highest card in the flush wins (e.g. A-10-7-4-3 of diamonds beats K-10-7-4-3 of diamonds).

 Read more about flush hand.

Straight


Straight

What is a poker straight?

If you have a straight, you’ll hold five consecutive cards which are not all the same suit. For example, 8-7-6-5-4 in different suits. The highest possible straight sequence is A-K-Q-J-10.

What does it beat?

A poker straight always beats a 3 of a kind, two pair or a single pair. It does not beat a flush or better.

Read more about straight hand.

Three-of-a-Kind


Three-of-a-Kind

What is 3 of a kind?

Just like its four card counterpart, a 3 of a kind consists of three cards of the same rank – for instance, your five-card hand contains 8-8-8-5-2.

What does it beat?

While it might not be one of the highest poker hands, 3 of a kind still beats two pairs, one pair and high card.

Read more about 3 of a kind hand.

Two Pair


Two Pair

What is two pair?

Two pair is exactly what it says on the tin – two pairs, each being a different rank. For example, 8-8-5-5-3 would be two pairs.

What does it beat?

Two pairs are better than one, so you’re sure to beat one pair.

Read more about two pair hand.

One Pair


One Pair

What is one pair?

One pair is simply two cards of the same value, such as having two kings in your hand.

What does it beat?

One pair can only beat a high card or a lower value pair. But if you bluff hard enough, it could still be a winning poker hand.

Read more about one pair hand.

High Card


High Card

What is a high card?

High card is the lowest possible hand, made up of five cards which do not produce any of the above.

What does it beat?

If you end up with a high card, you need to hope your opponents have this too, as even a pair beats it. When your opponents also lack so much as a pair, the highest value card wins.

Read more about high card hand.

Now you know the basics about each hand, why not go the extra mile and learn the different nicknames for each one? They can be useful to know if you’re following the game, and fun to use when chatting or competing against other players. Check out our guide for all the poker hand nicknames.

Poker Hands Odds

The chances of ending up with each of the various poker hands varies. Usually, the better the hand, the rarer the chance of getting it – and the longer the odds.

Royal flush odds

While the royal flush might be the king of the poker hierarchy, it’s also the rarest hand in the game. The odds of getting a royal flush in Texas Hold’em are about 1 in 30,940. However, in 5-card stud poker the odds of being dealt a royal flush in your first five cards are an incredible 1 in 649,740.

Read more about Royal flush odds.

Straight flush odds

Your chances of being dealt a straight flush in the first five cards of 5-card stud poker are 1 in 64,974. In Texas Hold’em, the odds are slightly more in your favour – as you have twohole cards and five community cards on the board. Here, your chances of making a straight flush are 1 in 3,590.

Read more about Straight flush odds.

Four of a kind odds

The chances of getting a four of a kind in classic 5-card stud poker are around 1 in 4,164. Your Texas Hold’em hands have a 1 in 594 probability of making ‘quads’.

Read more about Four of a kind odds.

Full house odds

Your odds are a little better when it comes to a full house. In 5-card stud, your chances of being dealt a ‘boat’ are 1 in 693, while the odds of making a full house in Texas Hold’em are about 1 in 38.

Read more about Full house odds.

Flush odds

Looking for a flush? Your chances are 1 in 508 in stud. If you start with two suited cards in Hold’em, however, the chance of flopping a flush is 1 in 118. At this point, you’re more likely to get a flush draw (1 in 8) which usually then has a 19% chance of making a flush on the turn or river.

Read more about Flush odds.

Straight odds

The odds of making a straight in stud poker are 1 in 254. However, in Hold’em your chances are 1 in 21.

If you start with two connected cards (i.e. a connector between 54 and JT) in your Texas hold’em hand, the odds of flopping a straight are 1.29%.

Read more about Straight odds.

3 of a kind odds

In 5-card stud, there’s a 1 in 46 chance that you’ll be dealt ‘trips’. If you’re playing Hold’em, the odds are 1 in 19 for any given hand. This improves if you start with a pair, where the chance of flopping three of a kind is about 1 in 7.

Read more about 3 of a kind odds.

Two pair odds

When it comes to two pairs, the chances of being dealt this hand in your first five cards are 1 in 20 in stud. If you start with two unpaired cards in Texas Hold’em, there’s a 2% probability you’ll get two pairs on the flop.

Read more about Two pair odds.

One pair odds

If you start with two unpaired hole cards in Texas Hold’em, there’s around a 1 in 3 chance that you’ll end up with a pair from the flop. By the river, your chance of a pair increases to about 2 in 5.

Read more about One pair odds.

Want to learn more about poker odds? Check out our additional guide to pot odds and start figuring your chances with our poker odds calculator.

Types of Poker Hands

It’s important to remember that poker hands don’t always remain constant. Depending on the game, they can evolve and change as each round develops.

This not only builds excitement, but makes you consider your strategy at every stage.

Starting poker hands

From two ‘hole cards’ in Texas hold’em to four in Pot Limit Omaha (PLO), starting poker hands are an essential part of your game strategy, as they differ from game to game.

Below is a list of some of the main types of poker and their starting hands:

Each type of poker has a different aim, so the best starting hands vary. For example, while high starting cards are extremely valuable in Texas Hold’em or seven card stud, low-ranking cards offer a strong starting position in Omaha Hi-Lo poker.

Similarly, in Short Deck, the value of cards shift as there are no 2s, 3s, 4s or 5s.

You can find out more about Texas Hold’em starting hands here.

Drawing poker hands

After the flop, you might find yourself with an incomplete hand – but one that could become valuable by the turn or river if a certain card (known as an ‘out’) is drawn. This is what’s called a drawing hand.

The two most common types of draws are flush draws and straight draws. A flush draw is when you need a card of a specific suit to complete your flush hand, while a straight draw includes:

  • Open-ended straight-draws (OESD) – where a card can go at the top or bottom to make a straight – for example 4-5-6-7, needing an 8 or 3.
  • “Gutshot” straight draws – where you need to draw a specific card in the middle of your run – for example, 3-4-6-7, needing a 5.

OESDs tend to be better than gutshot draws as there are more outs. In general, the more potential outs you have, the stronger the chance you have to complete your hand.

You can also hold both a flush draw and straight draw at the same time to create a combo-draw. This is most common in Omaha poker, due to the higher number of starting cards.

You can find out how to use drawing hands as part of your poker strategy in our guide to draws.

Winning poker hands

When you’ve reached the showdown, it’s time to reveal the winning hand.

At this point, remaining players must show their hole cards and the player with the strongest hand will win the entire pot. If multiple players have the same hand, then the pot is split equally between them.

While you might expect the higher-ranking hands to be the most common winners, these are of course rarer to have. Instead, it’s actually been found that Two Pairs take the pot almost a third of the time (31%) and a single Pair will win about 27% of games

Texas Hold’em Hands

As the most popular form of poker, Hold’em is a great way to start your journey – and understanding how its hands work is key to making the most of this thrilling game.

The best starting hands

In Hold’em poker, there are 169 different starting hand combinations for the two hole cards you are dealt pre-flop.

Each has its own ranking within the poker world, depending both on its initial strengths, and its potential to create draws.

The premium starting hands in Texas Hold’em include:

Having face cards, starting pairs and suited cards usually puts you in a stronger initial position. If you’re lucky enough to start with a high pair, you’re in a good position for future plays and should look to raise or re-raise with them.

Other combinations – such as Ace-Queen suited (AQs), Ace-Jack suited (AJs) and King-Queen suited (KQs) – also offer a strong start pre-flop.

Starting hands such as 7-8 suited are weak pre-flop, but have potential for straight or flush draws later on.

Legendary hands from history

Each game of Hold’em is completely unique, and its numerous possibilities has made for some truly memorable moments over the game’s history.

  • Doyle Brunson vs Jesse Alto – 1976 World Series of Poker Main Event

Alto opened pre-flop with a raise holding an unsuited ace-jack, which Brunson called with just a ten-two of spades. On an ace-jack-ten flop, Alto looked to be the favourite with his two pairs – but Brunson didn’t back down. He was rewarded with a two on the turn and a ten on the river, to secure a full house and the pot.

  • Chris Moneymaker vs Sammy Farha – 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event

On a nine-two-six flop, seasoned-pro Farha held a pair with his queen-nine, while a then unknown Moneymaker was falling behind with a king-seven. The eight turn gave Moneymaker the chance for an OESD or a flush draw, but the following three on the river didn’t quite help his cause. Using simple bluffing, Moneymaker was still able to secure the pot – a classic example of why you should never underestimate the underdog.

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FAQs

What are the best poker hands?

The highest hand in poker is the Royal Flush, which you get by holding A-K-Q-J-10 – with each of these five cards being the same suit. This is an unbeatable hand to hold in Texas Hold’em and Omaha. Straight Flushes and Four of a Kind are also extremely strong hands.

What is the worst starting hand in Hold’em?

In terms of winning potential, the worst starting hand in Hold’em is generally held to be 3-2 offsuit. However, 7-2 offsuit is commonly claimed to be the worst hand by many, because there is less potential to make a straight.

What is the order of winning hands in poker?

From top to bottom, the poker hierarchy in order of strength is:

  • Royal flush
  • Straight flush
  • Four of a kind
  • Full house
  • Flush
  • Straight
  • 3 of a kind
  • Two pair
  • One pair
  • High card

What is the rarest hand in poker?

The rarest hand in poker is a royal flush. The chances of getting a royal flush in a game of Texas Hold’em are about 1 in 30,940, and 1 in 649,740 in a game of 5-card stud.

How are poker hands made?

In most poker games, you make a five-card hand. In many of these games, however, you will actually have access to more than five cards – and must pick the best from those available to use in your final hand. For example, in Texas hold’em you have access to seven cards: two hole cards which you hold, and five community cards which anyone at the table can use.

How do you know if a poker hand is good?

The best way to know is to learn how poker hands are ranked, understand the odds, and apply this to your own games. This will boost your confidence while playing and allow you to adapt your strategy as you go.  

What poker hands should you fold?

The easiest way to decide which hands to fold is to use a starting hands chart. You can find one in our complete guide to folding. Using this chart can help you decide whether to fold your hand pre-flop, and also offers advice for post-flop situations.

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