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Poker Hand Rankings

The first thing to remember in the rules of poker is the poker hand rankings that are compared during showdown to determine the winner. In this article, you will find descriptions of all poker hand rankings with pictures and clear examples for Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and other variations of this card game. Let’s start with the highest combination and describe them in descending order.

Descending order of poker hand rankings

We can present poker hand rankings in descending order as the following sequence:

Royal Flush > Straight Flush > Four of a Kind > Full House > Flush > Straight > Three of a Kind > Two Pairs > One Pair > High Card

Sometimes players’ card combinations match — then the victory is determined by the rank of the cards involved in the combination. Each combination is formed by five cards and can be assembled from either the player’s hand and the community cards on the table or solely from the community cards on the table.

Royal Flush is the strongest combination in poker hand rankings

Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and Ten of the same suit. There is a viewpoint that this combination represents the highest straight flush. However, most representatives of the poker community still consider the Royal Flush as a separate combination — the strongest and rarest in poker. The Royal Flush can only be assembled by one player in a hand or solely from the community cards on the table.

Straight Flush

Any five cards in sequence of rank and of the same suit. This combination includes consecutive cards of the same suit, increasing in rank, except for the sequence from ten to ace. If two players have a Straight Flush, the hand with the highest straight wins. A Straight Flush can start with an Ace or end with it — in the latter case, it forms a new combination — a Royal Flush.

Four of a Kind

Four cards of the same rank. Two players can only have the same Four of a Kind from the community cards. If two players have the same Four of a Kind, the winner is the one with the higher kicker — the fifth card not used in creating the combination. For example: on the table, there are 8,8,8,8,7, and both players have Four of a Kind. One has K2, the other has Q6. The first player wins — their combination will be 8,8,8,8,K. However, if both players’ kickers are lower than the fifth card on the table, the pot will be split.

If players have different Four of a Kind, the winner is the one with the higher-ranking cards.

Full House

Three cards of the same rank and any pair. If both players have a Full House, the one with the higher set of three cards wins. If the sets of three cards are equal, the pairs are compared, and the one with the higher pair wins. If the Full Houses are identical or the combination is formed solely by community cards on the table, the pot is split.

When announcing a Full House, the rank of the set of three cards is always mentioned first in the plural form, followed by the pair. For example, a Full House with KKK99 would be read as “Full House Kings Nines.”

Flush

Five cards of the same suit. In a flush, the cards are not consecutive, meaning they do not form a sequence by rank. If multiple players have a flush, the one with the highest card of the corresponding suit wins. If the highest card of the flush is shared, then the next highest card is compared. If all the shared cards forming the flush outrank the cards of the players of the same suit, or if the combination is formed solely by shared cards, then the pot is split.

Ace-high Straight

Five cards in sequence of rank with an ace. If the ace is the highest card in the combination, it forms the strongest straight: A, K, Q, J, T. If the ace is the lowest card, it forms the weakest straight: A, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Straight

Five cards of different suits in sequence of rank. If players have a Straight, the one with the highest final card in their combination wins. In this case, the Ace can be considered both the highest and the lowest card in the combination. The highest straight is A, K, Q, J, T. The lowest straight, also known as the “wheel,” is A, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Three of a Kind

Three cards of the same rank. The combination consists of three cards of the same rank and two kickers. You can form it in two ways:

  • A three-of-a-kind formed from a pocket pair (a pair in a player’s hand) and one community card.
  • A three-of-a-kind formed from one card in a player’s hand and a pair of community cards.

The method of forming the three-of-a-kind does not affect the strength of the combination when comparing hands, but it has different probabilities of occurrence.

If two players have the same three-of-a-kind, the one with the higher kicker wins. If the community cards outrank the kickers of both players, then the pot is split.

Two pairs

Two cards of one rank and two cards of another rank. In this case, it’s two Aces and two Kings. If both players have a Two Pair combination, the one with the higher pair wins. If the highest pairs are the same — for example, if there are 88 on the table, and the players have 22 and 55 — then the one with the higher second pair wins. If both pairs are the same, then the one with the higher kicker wins.

One pair

Two cards of the same rank. In the example shown in the picture, the pair consists of two Aces. If both players have a Pair, they are compared by the rank of the pair. If the Pair is the same, the winner is determined by the rank of each kicker. If the identical pairs are pocket pairs (in the players’ hands), or if all other community cards on the table outrank both players’ kickers, then the pot is split.

High card is the weakest combination in a poker hand rankings

Any five cards that do not form any of the combinations described above. When players encounter each other without any other combinations, the one with the highest card wins. If the players have the same highest card, then the second, third, fourth, and even fifth cards are compared. If all cards are equal, then the players split the pot.

Examples of poker hand rankings

To help you remember these simple rules more easily, we’ve provided several examples that vividly illustrate how combinations are formed and how players’ cards are compared. An important point to note is that each combination is made up of cards in each player’s hand and community cards on the table — each combination involves a total of five cards.

Pair

You: K♥️ 7♠️

Opponent: Q♣️8♦️

Community cards: A♦️ 5♣️ K♠️ 2♠️ Q♥️

In this situation, your combination is a Pair of Kings, while your opponent’s combination is a Pair of Queens. You win because your two Kings are higher than your opponent’s two Queens. Since your pair is higher, kickers are not compared. The older the pair, the stronger it is.

Two Pair

You: 7♠️ 4♠️

Opponent: 5♥️ 6♥️

Community cards: 7♣️ 5♦️ 4♦️ 6♠️ J♥️

Here, both of you have two pairs: you have 77 and 44, while your opponent has 66 and 55. To determine the winner, compare the ranks of the highest pairs — your 77 and your opponent’s 66. Since your highest pair has a higher rank than your opponent’s, you win.

Three of a Kind

You: K♥️ K♠️

Opponent: J♣️ J♦️

Community cards: 9♦️ K♦️ J♠️ A♥️ 4♣️

On this board, you have Three of a Kind Kings, and your opponent has Three of a Kind Jacks. Since Kings are higher than Jacks in rank, you win in this example.

Straight

You: 9♠️ J♦️

Opponent: 9♥️ 10♣️

Community cards: 5♥️ 6♥️ 7♠️ 8♦️ 10♠️

Here, both of you have straights. Your straight consists of 7, 8, 9, 10, and Jack, while your opponent’s straight consists of 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. Since the lowest card (7) and the highest card (Jack) in your straight are higher than those of your opponent (6 and 10, respectively), your straight is stronger, and therefore you win.

Flush

You: A♣️ 2♣️

Opponent: K♣️ Q♣️

Community cards: 2♥️ 5♣️ J♣️ 9♦️ 3♣️

Both of you have a flush — your highest card in the flush is an Ace, while your opponent’s is a King. Since an Ace is higher than a King, your flush is stronger relative to your opponent’s flush, so you win the hand.

Full House

You: 9♥️ 9♦️

Opponent: 6♠️ 6♣️

Community cards: 5♦️ 5♠️ 5♣️ K♥️ 7♥️

Both players have a Full House with a shared set of threes — 555. As mentioned earlier, in this case, the winner is determined by comparing pairs — and yours is higher (99 > 66). However, more often than not, Full Houses have different sets of threes, and the winner is determined by comparing the ranks of each player’s sets or trips. For example: AAA99 is stronger than KKKQQ.

Four of a Kind

You: 7♣️ 7♦️

Opponent: K♥️ K♣️

Community cards: 7♥️ K♦️ 4♠️ 9♣️ 7♠️

Here, you have Four of a Kind with sevens, while your opponent has a Full House with Kings and Sevens. Because Four of a Kind is stronger than a Full House, you win this hand.

Straight Flush

You: 10♥️ J♥️

Opponent: 6♥️ 5♥️

Community cards: 2♥️ 7♥️ 8♥️ 9♥️ K♥️

In this hand, your Straight Flush starts from 7 and ends with Jack, while your opponent’s Straight Flush consists of a sequence from 5 to 9. In such a comparison, the winner is always the one with the highest closing card. Since your Straight Flush is higher here, you win.

Royal Flush

You: A♠️ 2♠️

Opponent: 9♠️ 5♠️

Community cards: 3♠️ 10♠️ J♠️ Q♠️ K♠️

You have the strongest combination — a Royal Flush — and you win by showing 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace of the same suit. There’s nothing higher than this combination.

If players have no combinations at all, the one with the highest card wins. If the poker hand rankings combinations or all cards are identical, the pot is split between the players.

Common Mistakes (Less Obvious Things in Poker Hand Rankings)

Flush beats a straight! As we’ve already established, poker hands are ranked by their strength. Strength indicates the power of a hand, which is determined by how frequently it occurs. Put simply, the rarer a hand is, the stronger it is. Because of this, many beginners mistakenly believe that a straight should be stronger than a flush — after all, it’s harder to make a five-card sequence of different suits than it is to make five of the same suit.

Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that with a flush draw on the flop, we have 9 outs (expected cards on the next streets) to improve — while with an open-ended straight draw, we have only 8 cards. Obviously, it seems like it’s harder to make a straight, right? Wrong.

If we delve into the mathematics, you’ll see that two suited cards can improve to a flush draw on the flop in 10.9% of cases, while becoming a complete flush on the same street happens only in 0.8% of cases. On the other hand, the probabilities for a straight draw are different: a random hand can improve to an open-ended straight draw on the flop in 10.4% of cases, but becoming a straight on the flop can occur in 1.3% of cases.

When we compare these probabilities, it becomes clear — a straight is made more often than a flush, so a flush is indeed stronger than a straight.

By the kicker, I’ll take it! The kicker doesn’t come into play for all poker hands. For a Pair, Two Pair, Three of a Kind, and Four of a Kind (if the four of a kind is on the board), a high kicker like an ace or a king in hand can be invaluable. The kicker allows you to become the proud winner of the pot under equal conditions.

The kicker is a card that doesn’t contribute to making the combination but is considered when determining the winner if players at the table have the same hands. For example, if both players have a pair of Queens, the one with the highest card in hand wins. If the board shows 4, 6, Q, 9, 2, and one player has KQ while the other has JQ, the player with the King kicker wins.

Sometimes the kicker can be shared, and then the opponents simply split the pot. A classic example is a board with two pairs and an Ace. In general, try not to call raises from early positions with marginal hands like T3o.

In such cases, it’s better to re-raise and fold to aggression. (You’re welcome!)

Make sure to memorize poker hand rankings because without that, it will be very difficult for you to understand your position relative to other players’ hands.

How a Hand is Made

A poker hand is a set of 5 cards that form one of the combinations: high card, pair, two pairs, three of a kind, straight, flush, full house, four of a kind, straight flush, or royal flush.

All combinations in Texas Hold’em and Omaha consist of 5 cards. Both player cards and community cards on the table are used. The main rule is that only the cards that give the best possible combination in the hand are considered.

There are 3 ways to use cards when forming combinations in Hold’em:

  • 2 player cards + 3 cards on the table. For example, a player has QJ, and the board shows A8Q2J. The combination will be QJ for the player + QJA on the board.
  • 1 player card + 4 cards on the table. For example, a player has 85, and the board shows 8K7Q4. The “pair” combination will be 8 for the player + 8KQ7 on the board.
  • 0 player cards + 5 cards on the table. For example, a player has JQ, and the board shows 5,6,7,8,9. The “straight” combination will be solely from the cards on the board.

A low hand is a combination that has the lowest strength among all collected in the hand. If a player has A8 on the board A7542, then their low combination is 24578. Low combinations need to be collected in some types of poker, for example, in Omaha Hi-Lo.

A hand in poker is one fully played round at the table. Players often say “I played 500 hands today,” meaning 500 rounds.

Starting hands are the cards a player receives at the beginning of a deal and decides whether to play with them or not. In Texas Hold’em, these are 2 “starting” cards in hand.

Poker Hand Rankings. The ranking of cards in poker is not much different from the rules of other card games. The weakest card is 2, and the strongest is Ace. There are no trump cards. The suit doesn’t matter.

Card ranking in poker (from weakest to strongest):

2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace

Congratulations! Now you know all the poker hand rankings!