What is a “Showdown” in Poker?

After all the rounds of betting have been completed in a poker hand, if two or more players still have cards, it’s time for a poker showdown!

While hearing this term might drum up some images of cowboys of the Wild West in your imagination. All a “showdown” really refers to is players turning over their cards and revealing what hand they have.  After this, a winning hand is determined, and that player wins the pot and whatever money it contains.

As a quick refresher, here are the ranks of the various poker hands that you can have at showdown for the game of Texas Hold’em Poker:

 

HAND NAME

DEFINITION / EXAMPLE

Royal Flush

A-K-Q-J-T (all of the same suit)

Straight Flush

8-7-6-5-4 (all of the same suit)

4-of-a-Kind

A-4-4-4-4

Full House (Boat)

A-A-A-J-J (three of one, two of the other)

Flush

A-J-8-4-2 (all of the same suit)

Straight

8-7-6-5-4 (of various suits)

3-of-a-Kind (Set/Trips)

A-K-5-5-5

Two Pair

A-A-J-J-2

One Pair

A-A-7-4-2

High Card

A-Q-9-6-3 (different suits, non-connected, unpaired)

 

In games, like No-Limit Hold’em, players will compile their best 5-card hand (as per the chart above) from any combination of their 2 hole cards and the 5 community cards. In some other games, though, such as Pot-Limit Omaha, players must use 2 of their 4 hole cards in combination with any 3 of the 5 community cards to make the best 5-card hand.

Rules of Showdown

Most players would rather not show their cards at showdown if they don’t have to (especially in such cases where they were trying to bluff and got called). Therefore, showdown “rules” have been created over the years to systematise the order in which each player’s cards should be revealed. As well as clarifying the correct showdown process, the addition of these rules has helped speed up the pace of the game.

showdown on poker table

 

  • Who Shows First: Who is supposed to show their cards first depends on whether there was any betting in the last betting round.
    • If there was no bet (and everyone just checked), players show their cards in the same order as they played in the last betting round. The player to the left of the button shows their cards first, and following players show their cards in a clockwise order around the table.
    • If there was a bet or a raise, then the onus is on the last aggressor (the person who bet or raised last) to show their cards first (regardless of where the button is). Remaining players then reveal their holdings in a clockwise direction around the table.
  • Both Cards Must Be Shown: Quite simply, to win a pot at showdown, both cards must be shown. (i.e. If there’s 4-to-a-straight on the board and you have a straight, you cannot only show the one card that makes the straight. Both hole cards must be revealed for the pot to be shipped your way.)
  • Card Speak: Even if a player’s hand has verbally been mis-declared at showdown, it is the cards that a player reveals that will dictate what the strength of their hand is. That said, it is very much an angle shoot and highly unethical to intentionally misrepresent your hand at showdown before revealing your cards face-up. (Sometimes, mischievous players will do this in an attempt to get other players to muck their hands before the mis-declared hand has been exposed.)
  • Mucking or Showing: After another player has already shown their hand during showdown, if you do not beat that player’s hand, you have two choices. Firstly, you can muck your hand (sliding or tossing your cards face-down towards the muck without revealing them to the rest of the table). Or, secondly, you can show your cards anyway – perhaps to try and get sympathy points from the rest of the table - especially in the case of a bad beat. If you’re a more inexperienced player, it’s recommended to always reveal your cards when you get to showdown and let the dealer determine the best poker hand, just in case you misread or mistook your hand.
  • Side Pots: In the event one player is all-in, and two other players are still in the hand, a “side pot” will be created for any additional betting that takes place. (The side pot can only be won by the players still in the hand but not yet all-in). At showdown, awarding the side pot will be done first, meaning remaining players in the hand (who are not all-in) should proceed accordingly in showing their cards. After this, the all-in player can show their cards and be awarded the main pot if their hand is better than the other players’ hands (specifically the player who won the side pot).

3 Things NOT to Do During Showdown

  1. Don’t wait for other players to open up first if it’s your turn to. If it’s your turn to show your hand, do so promptly and swiftly. Don’t stall in hopes  that other players will reveal their hands before you.

  1. Don’t slow roll. Slow rolling is a massive no-no in poker. By definition, it’s when you have a very strong hand – or at the least, a hand stronger than that of your opponents who have already shown their hole cards. You then intentionally take your time (and a good deal of it!) before turning over your cards, as if to give the other player false hope that you were going to muck and that they were going to win the pot.
A player sitting at a poker table with the stone nuts (

 

  1. Don’t ask the players who mucked what they had. If any player who lost the pot chooses to muck instead of showing their cards, respect their decision to muck and leave it at that. Don’t go asking them what they had, especially if it’s a big pot. Just stack your newfound chips and move on.

Poker Showdown: Live vs Online

Just as in live poker, players online can usually choose to muck or show their losing hands at showdown when it’s their turn to reveal their holding. (Check the appropriate options in the settings tab.) However, on most sites, embedded in the hand history is the contents of the losing player’s hand, regardless of whether they show. If you use the hand re-player within the poker app, you’ll be able to see your opponents’ mucked cards after the hand is over (only for the opponents who went to showdown); if you use a HUD, usually there is a setting to have these mucked cards displayed immediately after a hand is over.

Poker Showdown Summary

The above poker showdown rules have been established to help speed up and structure the process of showdown. If you’re ever in doubt as to when exactly you should show your hand at showdown, always do so immediately and don’t intentionally wait to try and get other players to show first.

Also, remember that you always need to show 2 cards to win a pot at showdown. (Don’t slowroll one and then the other, if you have a winning hand.)

Now start showing down those winners with pride and raking in those pots!

Good luck at the felts!

About the Author
By
Matthew Cluff is a poker player who specialises in 6-Max No Limit Hold’em games. He also periodically provides online poker content for various sites.
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