The Rank Of Hands In Texas Hold’em Poker

Most forms of share a common list of hand rankings. As we just noted, some poker hands are won simply because all but one player chooses to “fold.” When this is not the case, the winner is determined by who has the strongest hand according to the list below.

In no-limit hold'em specifically, we are always looking to make our best five-card hand from the seven total cards that are available to us: the five “board” or “community” cards dealt in the center of the table, and our two . We can use both our hole cards, one of them, or simply “play the board” if the five community cards gives us our strongest hand. We'll give some additional examples of such hands once we've described the rank of hands.

STRAIGHT FLUSH

The highest hand in hold'em is the straight flush. It consists of five cards all of the same suit that are consecutive in rank. For example:

is a straight flush.

The grand-daddy of all hold'em hands is the highest possible straight flush, known as a royal flush:

If two players both hold a straight flush, the winner is determined by the rank of the highest card. Thus the royal flush beats all other straight flushes.

Note that unlike some such as bridge, the suit of flushes and straight flushes does not matter in hold'em; that is, a royal flush in spades has the same value as a royal flush in hearts.

FOUR OF A KIND

Also known as “quads,” this hand is comprised of four cards of the same rank. For example:

is four or quad aces, and is the highest possible four-of-a-kind hand in no-limit hold'em. The rank of quads follows the standard rank of cards, so that quad kings is higher than quad queens, and so on.

FULL HOUSE

The full house is a combination of three of a kind and a pair. For example:

This oddly-named hand may have received its moniker by virtue of being the first full five-card hand, prior to the introduction of the straight flush. It's also called a “full boat” or simply “boat,” perhaps reflecting the fact that poker in the U.S. was initially played extensively on riverboats. Plus if you use your imagination and squint, two cards on top of three others looks a bit like a boat. The hand shown above is read as “sevens full of fours,” or simply “sevens full.”

The hand sometimes causes confusion with , particularly when two full houses are made. The point to remember is that it is the three-of-a-kind portion of the hand that determines its rank. Thus the 77744 shown above would beat 555AA, but lose to QQQ22.

FLUSH

The flush is comprised of five cards of the same suit, but not consecutive in rank since that would form a straight flush. For example:

When two flushes are made, the one with the highest top card wins. For example, suppose the final board (the five community cards: see the following section) is 9♥5♥2♥A♦6♦. One player holds the hole cards K♥T♥, whereas their opponent has the Q♥J♥. The player with the K♥T♥ wins the hand. In fact, their winning hand is precisely the one shown in the image above.

It takes a little experience to recognize what the best hand is. For this reason, we provide more examples at the end of the article, along with a quiz.

STRAIGHT

A straight is any five-card hand in which the cards are in consecutive rank, but not all of the same suit. For example:

As with the other hands already discussed, the highest card determines which straight wins when two are made. Thus the hand in the image would beat any straight with a top card T or lower, but lose to any straight headed by a Q, K or A. The highest possible straight is the AKQJT, and is referred to by various names including “broadway” and “treetop.”

THREE OF A KIND

As the name suggests, this hand is made from three cards of the same rank. For example:

This being poker, however, the story doesn't end there. If you hold a “pair in the hole” (your hole cards are of the same rank) and a third card of that rank appears on the board, you are said to have a “set.” However, if there is a pair on board and one of your hole cards is of the same rank, you hold “trips.”

In the latter case, it is possible for two players to hold the same trips. Who wins then? Consider the following scenario:

Kim's hole cards are the A♠K♦, while her opponent Jason holds A♣Q♥. The final board is 2♣5♦A♦A♥J♣. Both players have trip aces. To decide who wins, we look at the best five-card hand that each player can make using their hole cards and those on the board.

Kim's hand is: A♠A♦A♥K♦J♣

Jason's hand is: A♣A♦A♥Q♥J♣

Since both players have trip aces, we go to the next highest card to determine a winner. In this case, Kim's K♦ is higher than Jason's Q♣, so Kim wins the hand.

TWO PAIR

Two pair is comprised of two cards of the same rank (the first pair), along with another two cards of the same rank that differ in rank from the first pair (the second pair). For example:

Like the full house, it is the higher pair that determines the winning hand. Thus AA44 beats KKJJ. The two-pair hand shown in the image above is sometimes called either “queens and fours” or “queens up.”

PAIR

A pair is simply two cards of the same rank, with no other hand value given by the various categories listed above. For example:

is a pair of kings. When two players both have a pair, the winner is determined in the normal way by the rank of the paired cards. Thus AA beats every other one-pair hand.

HIGH CARD

If none of the above-named hands can be made by any player, the best hand is determined by high card. For example:

is an A-high, and would beat any hand not featuring an ace. If more than one player has A-high, the next highest card is used to determine the winner.

This hand-strength list does more than tell us “what beats what.” It also informs our decisions of whether to check, bet, call or when we are playing a real hand of no-limit hold'em. To understand how that works in practice, let's turn to the mechanics of playing a hand of hold'em.

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