What is High hand?

High hand → 1.  High hand is in the case of no player making a pair or better, the winner is determined by the player who holds the highest card/s. This is referred to as a “high hand”.

Example usage → “Both players missed their draw: the player in position took down the pot with his King-high”

Explanation

High hand – When no player at the table has a made hand (pair or better), then the pot is awarded to the player who holds the best “high hand”. 

For example in Hold’em

Board: J9423

Hand 1: AK
Hand 2: KQ

Neither player makes a pair here, so the player with the highest ranked hole-card wins the pot. Ace is high in this context meaning hand 1 wins this matchup. If both players share the same high card, then the second high-card is consulted to see who wins the pot. In the above example hand 1 is referred to as “Ace high” while hand 2 is referred to as “King-high”. 

Let’s change the example so that both players share the same high-card.

Board: J9423

Hand 1: AK
Hand 2: AQ

Both players now share the same high card, but that does not mean the pot is chopped. When considering the second hole-card we see that hand 1 is “Ace-King high” while hand 2 is “Ace-Queen high”. Hand 2 hence wins the pot. Let’s see one final example

Board: J9422

Hand 1: A7
Hand 2: A8

It’s important to remember that in Hold’em we must always use five cards when constructing a hand. Understanding this rule will help us to make sense of the following example. 

Firstly note that both hand 1 and hand 2 are not technically high-card hands. There is a pair on the board meaning that both players have a pair of twos. However, it’s worth noting that since neither player makes a pair using their hole-cards, the hand strength is often colloquially referred to as “Ace-high” even though it is technically a pair of twos. So now who wins in this line-up?

It’s easy to assume that hand 2 wins here since it has the higher side-card. However, this is where we learn the importance of considering the full five-card hand when establishing the winner. 

Hand 1: 22AJ9
Hand 2: 22AJ9

We can see clearly that this is spot is in fact a tie. Both players have a pair of twos with an Ace, Jack and Nine on the side. Since the pair is on the board, it’s common to hear that “both players chop with Ace-high”.

Strategy Application 

High card hands are not typically worth much in Hold’em and worth even less in other variants such as Omaha.

The exact value of a high-card hand will be closely related to the board texture. On dry board textures (especially when there are pairs, trips, or quads on board), the value of high-cards goes up. On drawy board textures where there are possible straights and flushes, high-cards lose most if not all of their value.

See Also 

Pair, Two Pair, Three of a Kind, Straight, Flush, Full House, Quads, Straight Flush, Royal Flush, Hand Rankings

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