Although understanding **poker hands** isn’t rocket science, it comes pretty close to that for people with no poker knowledge whatsoever.

The great thing about poker hands — and, by extension, poker hand rankings — is that some practice is all that is required before a baseline understanding can be achieved.

Whether it is a matter of keeping a **poker hands** ranking list or a poker hand rankings **FAQ** by your side while playing a poker game, it won’t take long to nail down how poker hands work.

In this post, we’ll take care of explaining everything that has to do with poker hands, including poker hand rankings, how poker hands compete with one another and the probability of making each poker hand.

Our goal is to help you identify a winning poker hand when you see one; thus mastering the art of winning the pot.

**POKER HAND RANKINGS**

Poker hands can be made up of just one to five cards. To do this, either or both of the two hole cards must be used, as well as the five community cards.

The goal in **Texas hold’em** is to form the strongest poker hand depending on the cards dealt, but this concept is inverted in lowball poker games.

Here’s where things get somewhat tricky for beginners: a specific combination of cards are needed to form the different poker hands.

Have a look at the traditional poker hand rankings below (listed from strongest to weakest) and how they can be made.

**ROYAL FLUSH**

Consisting of the five consecutive cards **A-K-Q-J-10** of the same suit, a royal flush is the best poker hand. A royal flush beats all the other hands, and it can only tie with another royal flush.

**STRAIGHT FLUSH**

A straight flush — consisting of five consecutive cards of the same suit — is the second-best poker hand. A straight flush beats all the other hands except for a royal flush and a higher straight flush.

**FOUR OF A KIND (QUADS)**

A four of a kind, also referred to as **quads**, features four cards of the same rank, such as four nines. This hand beats all the other hands, except for a royal flush, a straight flush or another four of a kind of a better rank. For example, a four of a kind made up of four jacks will beat another four of a kind made up of four nines.

**FULL HOUSE**

A **full house** is made up of a three of a kind combined with a pair of a different rank. For example, three eights and two aces would make a full house.

Only a royal flush, a straight flush and a four of a kind can beat a full house. If two players have a full house, the one with the highest card rankings will win.

The best way to make a full house is when a pocket pair is dealt. Pocket pairs complement a full house pretty well, since other players won’t stand the same chance of making an identical full house that way.

Pocket aces, pocket Kings, pocket Queens, pocket Jacks and pocket tens are very desired hands for this very reason. Such hands can form a wide range of poker combinations, so try to make the most out of them if you’re lucky enough to have them dealt to you.

**FLUSH**

A flush consists of five cards of the same suit, but they must not be consecutive cards. For example, 10, eight, five, three and two of diamonds would make a flush.

Although desirable, a flush is far from the most powerful hand in the game since it can be beaten by a royal flush, a straight flush, a four of a kind and a full house. Having said that, a flush can beat a straight, a three of a kind, a two pair, a pair and a high card.

**STRAIGHT**

A **straight** consists of five consecutive cards of different suits. For example, a K-Q-J-10-9 of different suits would make a straight flush. Should they be of the same suit, those cards would make a straight flush.

Straights beat a three of a kind, a two pair, a pair and a high card. A straight of a higher rank or any hand better than that will beat a straight.

You might come across the phrase ‘Broadway straight’, which refers to the best possible straight hand of 10 through ace.

**THREE OF A KIND**

Three cards of the same rank are required to make a **three of a kind**, which only beats three other hands: a two pair, a pair and a high card.

**TWO PAIRS**

A **two pair** consists of one pair of the same rank and another pair of another rank. For example, two jacks and two queens. A two pair beats any one pair as well as high cards.

**ONE PAIR**

A pair simply consists of two cards of the same rank, such as two queens. A one pair beats a high card and, at most, a one pair of a lower rank.

**HIGH CARD**

A **high card** is the worst poker hand possible. It is made up of five cards that don’t form any of the hands listed above. A high card won’t beat any made hands except for another high card of a lower rank.

**POKER TIES AND KICKERS**

Ties can be quite frequent in poker games, so it’s important to know what happens in the event that your poker hand ties.

In poker, ties are settled by what are known as kickers or high cards. The kicker refers to the cards in a poker hand that don’t contribute to the made hand.

For example, **A-A-10-J-5** and **A-A-10-6-3** feature one pair of aces. The rest of the cards are the tie-breakers, that is, the kickers.

In this case, the former poker hand wins since its kicker (J) beats the other hand’s kicker (6).

If the high card is the same for both hands, the subsequent high card would then be the kicker.

For example, in a showdown between A-A-10-J-5 and A-A-10-6-3 the kicker wouldn’t be the Jack since both hands feature it.

The kicker would therefore be the best-ranking card after that, which would see the former hand win thanks to its kicker (J) that beats the other hand’s kicker (6).

In cases when all kickers are identical, the hands are considered full ties. Should this happen, the pot would be split in equal value.

This tends to happen when players’ poker hands are made up of five cards, since there are fewer kickers to act as tie-breakers.

On the other hand, kickers are more abundant when it comes to a one pair or a three of a kind.

**EXAMPLES OF WINNING POKER HANDS**

As a disclaimer, identifying the winning poker hand can still take quite a long time to get used to. Whether it is **online poker** or other poker games played in real life, you’ll need quite a lot of practice to get the hang of how poker hands rival each other.

To save you the hassle of consulting the list of poker hands every time you play a poker game, we’ve taken the time to write a few pointers about why exactly some hands beat others.

We’d advise new poker players to keep this post handy while playing, since it can really help you understand each poker hand ranking quickly.

**A ROYAL FLUSH BEATS ANY OTHER POKER HAND**

Simply put, the **royal flush** is the best poker hand. “Does a royal flush beat-” Yes, yes it does.

The reason why the royal flush is the best poker hand is that it is extremely rare.

We’ll delve into the exact probability of being dealt a royal flush later on, but just to paint a clear picture, we’ll say that some professional players fail to see a single royal flush once in their poker careers.

What happens if two royal flushes collide? The pot would simply be split.

If you’re lucky enough to be dealt a royal flush, do not bother slow playing it. It’s important to play aggressively and rack up as big of a pot as possible, since you definitely wouldn’t want your royal flush to go to waste!

**STRAIGHT FLUSH HANDS ARE THE SECOND-BEST POKER HAND**

The odds of making a straight flush are pretty low. Think about it: a straight flush is simply a royal flush with lower-ranking cards!

Does a straight flush beat a straight, a full house and the rest? The answer is yes. The only hand that beats a straight flush is a royal flush.

The odds of not only forming five cards of the same suit, but also of sequential order are extremely small — second-only to the odds of a royal flush.

**A FULL HOUSE BEATS A FLUSH, STRAIGHT AND BELOW**

A full house poker hand is thought of as one of the best hands in poker, but it can get beaten by three other hands: a **royal flush**, **straight flush** and **four of a kind**.

With that said, a full house still beats a large number of hands. A full house poker hand beats a straight, three of a kind, two pair, one pair and high card.

As a side note, the exact name of a full house depends on the cards used to form the poker hand.

For example, a full house consisting of J-J-J-5-5 would be called ‘Jacks full of fives’.

**A FLUSH BEATS HALF THE POKER HANDS AND LOSES TO THE OTHER HALF**

A flush in poker is quite an average-to-good hand, since it beats **five hands** and loses to the remaining four.

What exactly does a flush beat? A flush can beat a straight, three of a kind, two pair, one pair and a high card. However, it loses out to a royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind and full house.

As a side note, the exact name of a flush in poker depends on the cards used to form the poker hand.

For example, a flush consisting of A-J-10-5-3 would be called an ‘ace high flush’.

**DOES A FLUSH BEAT A FULL HOUSE?**

Although a flush wins against most hands, the same doesn’t hold for a stand-off against a full house.

When starting to **play poker**, the misconception that a flush is rarer than a full house can pop up, but this is not the case.

Despite being somewhat similar in terms of their probability of happening, a full house beats a flush since it comes by slightly less frequently than its counterpart.

**A STRAIGHT BEATS A THREE OF A KIND**

Why does a straight beat a three of a kind? The reason for it is that the outcome of combining five cards of sequential rank is lower than that of combining three cards of the same rank.

A three of a kind is often the winning poker hand, especially when there aren’t many other strong hand draws.

**A THREE OF A KIND VERSUS PAIR HANDS**

When it comes to misconceptions about poker hand rankings, we cannot avoid mentioning the assumption that forming two pairs is harder than forming a three of a kind.

That is not the case. A three of a kind beats a two pair since it is a marginally rarer hand. Just because a hand requires more cards to be made doesn’t mean that it is rarer than hands with fewer cards.

The scenario we’ve described in this section perfectly sums this up; a two pair (consisting of four cards) is not rarer than a three of a kind (which consists of three cards), despite the fact that it requires one more card to be made.

**EVERY POKER HAND COMBINATION BEATS A HIGH CARD**

The high card is the worst poker hand, and there’s little you can do if you’re dealt one. Most high card hands tend to be folded before the river since they will lose out to any possible poker hand combination — even a pair beats a high card!

A high card is usually only worth keeping in the game if:

- you have a Jack or higher.
- you don’t need to call large bets.

Sinking money into a high card is rarely a good idea, which is why most players tend to fold this poker hand when faced with a bet or raise.

**POKER HANDS PROBABILITY**

People who hate math will most likely want to skip this part, but calculating the **probability** of a poker hand isn’t as mind-boggling as it sounds.

Think about it: understanding the probability of each poker hand will not only sate your curiosity, but it can help you understand why certain poker hands beat others.

Let’s start off with the basis: there are **52 cards in a deck**, and in the context of Texas hold’em, five cards are needed to form a poker hand.

To calculate the probability of a specific hand, we must count the number of ways said hand can occur and divide the figure by the total number of possible five-card draws — a figure that stands at 2,598,960.

Since we’re counting combinations (**C**), we’re looking for ** n** objects taken

**at a time, and this number of combinations can be expressed as**

*r***n! / r!(n – r)!**.

52C5 = 52! / 5!(52 – 5)! = 52! / 5!47! = **2,598,960**

This formula can be used to count the number of possible five-card hands and the number of ways a particular hand can be dealt. To find probability, we divide the latter by the former.

Below, you’ll find a breakdown of each hand probability, with a table compiling each nugget of information listed below.

**ROYAL FLUSH PROBABILITY**

There are only four ways to make a royal flush — through each of the four suits. In order to calculate the probability of a royal flush, we must divide four by 2,598,960, placing the exact probability at around 0.000154%, or in case you prefer odds, 649,739:1.

**STRAIGHT FLUSH PROBABILITY**

There are 36 possible ways to form a straight flush — nine times that of a royal flush. If we divide 36 by 2,598,960, we’ll get the exact probability to get a straight flush: 0.00139%, or 72,192.33:1.

**FOUR OF A KIND PROBABILITY**

Although you’ll find that forming a four of a kind is much more likely compared to the two hands we’ve mentioned above, this hand is still extremely rare. With 624 possible combinations for a four of a kind, the probability of coming across one is around 0.02401%, or 4,164:1.

**FULL HOUSE PROBABILITY**

There are 3,744 possible combinations to make a full house, putting the probability at 0.1441%, or 693.166 :1.

**FLUSH PROBABILITY**

There are 5,108 ways to make a flush (excluding a royal and a straight flush). This puts the probability of forming a flush at 0.1965%, or 508.8019:1.

**STRAIGHT PROBABILITY**

There are a good 10,200 ways to make a straight (excluding a royal flush and a straight flush). This puts the probability of forming a straight at 0.3925% or 253.8:1.

**THREE OF A KIND PROBABILITY**

As we move on from the rare hands, we’ll get to see how easier it is to form the more common hands. Having said that, the probability of landing one is still low, statistically speaking.

This is the case with the three of a kind, where there are 54,912 ways to form this hand, which puts the probability of forming one at 2.1128%, or 46.32955:1.

**TWO PAIRS PROBABILITY**

There are 123,552 ways to form two pairs, putting the probability of forming one at 4.7539%, or 20.03535:1.

**ONE PAIR PROBABILITY**

There always tends to be at least one player who forms one pair during a round of poker. The reason for that is because there are 1,098,240 ways to form one pair, putting the probability of forming one at 42.2569%, or 2.366477:1.

**HIGH CARD PROBABILITY**

There are 1,302,540 ways to form a high card in five-hand poker variants, putting the probability of forming one at 50.1177%, or 0.9953015:1.

The only reason this probability isn’t higher is that the probability of forming a winning combination takes up the rest of the odds.

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