Poker Hand Combinations Explained. Poker hands fall into one of ten categories. The highest is a royal flush, followed by a straight flush, then four of a kind, a full house, a flush, a straight. This means that a pair of Aces is higher than a pair of Kings and a three of a kind of Jacks will beat a three of a kind of 7s. Poker Hand Order. Are you nto sure on what beats what in poker, the image above can be of great value to you. The image shows there are ten kind of combinations you can make in Texas Hold’em Poker. Poker Hands Basics. Most standard poker games like Texas Holdem make use of five card hands that rank in terms of strength. Each hand’s strength is, in turn, determined by how rare they are. Simply put, the harder a poker hand is to come by, the higher it ranks. There are 10 possible hands in most standard games of poker. WHAT BEATS WHAT IN POKER. Poker Hand Rankings. Strategy Guides. What Beats What. Poker Players Forum. Easy Tells in Beginner Level Games 11 Write a comment. Poker Strategy for Garage Games 13 Write a comment. BE AN EXCLUSIVE WHAT BEATS.
If you’re a beginning poker player and want to learn not only
which hands beat which hands, but how to read the board and
possible hands while playing Texas holdem, you’ve found the best
page available to help.
While it’s important to understand how each hand ranks in
comparison to others hands it’s equally important to understand
how to read the board of community cards, how to read possible
draws, and how to read what hands your opponents may be holding.
Each of these subjects is covered below.
New players should make sure to read each section in order
below. But if you already know how to play poker and are
familiar with the rank of poker hands you can skip to the
sections following the hand rankings section. But it’s never a
bad idea to refresh your knowledge and it only takes a couple
minutes to read the extra sections.
Texas Holdem Hand Rankings
The following list is ranked from highest five card hand to
lowest five card hand. Start reading from the top down and the
first hand you find that a player holds is the winning hand. See
how to break ties below the hand rankings.
Remember that you always make your best five card hand out of
the two hole cards and five community cards. You can use both of
your hole cards and three community cards, one hole card and
four community cards, or just the five community cards, but you
always use exactly five cards to make a hand.
- Royal Flush
A royal flush consists of an ace, king,
queen, jack, and ten of all the same suit. In other words,
an ace high straight that’s also a flush is a royal flush.
An example of a royal flush is the ace of clubs, king of
clubs, queen of clubs, jack of clubs, and ten of clubs.
- Straight Flush
A straight flush is a straight and a
flush that isn’t ace high. Straight flushes can be anywhere
from king high down to five high. Two examples of straight
flushes are king of spades, queen of spades, jack of spades,
ten of spades, and nine of spades or the five of hearts,
four of hearts, three of hearts, two of hearts, and ace of
hearts. In the case of the second example, the ace is
counted as a one, or the lowest card in the deck. So if a
straight using an ace as a one is in a tie the ace is always
used as a low card for tie purposes, not high.
- Four of a Kind
A four of a kind includes all four
cards of the same rank in the deck. The fifth card doesn’t
matter. An example of four of a kind is eight of spades,
eight of hearts, eight of clubs, and eight of diamonds.
- Full House
A full house consists of three of a kind
and two of a kind. An example of a full house is the jack of
clubs, jack of diamonds, jack of spades, seven of hearts,
and seven of spades.
A flush has all five cards the same suit. The
rank of the cards doesn’t matter as long as all five cards
are the same suit. Any five hearts is a flush or any five
A straight has five cards in sequential
order. The suits don’t matter in a straight.
- Three of a Kind
Three of a kind consists of three
cards of the same rank. Example of three of a kind hands
include a hand with three jacks or a hand with three sevens.
Other names for three of a kind include trips or a set. When
the word set is used it usually means a hand with a pocket
pair and one matching card on the board making three of a
- Two Pair
Two pair consists of two different pairs of
matching ranks. Two sixes and two eights is an example of a
two pair hand.
- One Pair
One pair is simply two cards of the same
rank. Two nines or two aces are examples of a pair.
- High Card
A high card hand is one that doesn’t have
any of the hands listed above. The highest ranked card is
designated as the high card for the hand. If the highest
card you have is a king you have a king high hand.
How to Break Ties
When two or more hands are tied for the highest hand one of
two things must happen. The first thing is you must decide if
one hand is actually higher than the other / s based on a few
simple rules that we cover next.
Moving from the top of the hand rankings above down, in a
Texas holdem game it’s impossible for more than one player to
have a royal flush unless the royal flush has all five cards on
the board. If all five cards on the board are used in this way
by every player remaining in the hand, all of the players tie.
It’s possible for two players to have straight flushes. In
the case of two or more straight flushes, straights, or flushes,
the player with the highest card in her straight or flush has
the highest hand. If one player has a queen high straight and
another has a nine high straight, the player with the queen high
In the event of two or more players holding a full house, the
player with the highest three of a kind has the better hand. If
two or more players hold two pair hands, the player with the
highest pair wins. If each player has the same high pair the
player with the highest second pair wins.
When two or more players have the same high hand of a pair,
or three of a kind, or something similar, the rest of each
player’s hand is considered.
Two players each have a pair of aces for their high hand.
Player A has A A K J 5 and player B has A A J 7 4. Player A wins
the hand because her next highest card after the tied pair of
aces is a king and player B only has a jack. In the event the
third card is the same you then compare the fourth card.
If two or more hands have the exact same five card hand then
the pot is split between the winning hands. The suits all have
the same rank as far as value is concerned. Hearts is not worth
more or less than spades, etc.
How to Read the Board
When you start playing Texas holdem it’s important to learn
how to read the board not only to determine what you hold but
also what your opponent could possibly have. This is important
because you don’t want to be caught by surprise when you think
you have the best hand and commit a large amount of money to the
pot when another player actually has a better hand.
You start the hand with the ace of clubs and the jack of
clubs and the flop has the queen of clubs, nine of clubs, and
ace of diamonds. This looks like a good flop for you because you
have a pair of aces and a chance to hit an ace high flush. The
turn is the two of clubs, completing the best possible flush.
The river is the queen of hearts.
While you still have the best possible flush, when the board
paired on the river it means you no longer have the best
possible hand. Whenever the board pairs it means there’s a
possibility that one of your opponents may have a full house.
In the example we just used a player starting the hand with
an ace and queen would have hit the full house on the river. The
same is true for a player starting with pocket nines.
Most of the time in Texas holdem you’ll still have the best
hand with a flush in these situations, but you always need to
know what the best possible hand is before deciding how much to
risk in the pot.
Other hands to watch out for include possible straights and
boards that have a high likelihood of having two pair.
Good starting hands often have two high cards, so any flop
that holds two or three high cards has a chance to create pairs
or straight possibilities for your opponents who hold high card
Even flops with middle and smaller cards may offer straight
possibilities, especially in unraised pots. In an unraised pot
the blinds get to see the flop for free or a half bet, so even
on a flop with lower cards they may have hit two pair or a
One of the best ways to practice reading the board is by
dealing out hands at home and figuring out every possible hand.
Then start dealing pocket cards for multiple players and play
each one independently in your mind. This way you see many
different pocket cards in combination with the board cards.
If you’re still struggling to see all of the possibilities
and hands ask a more experienced player to work with you as you
practice to point out things you may be missing.
How to Read Draws
Reading draws kind of goes hand in hand with the last section
about reading the board, but you also need to learn how to
factor in the chances of hitting your draws.
If you have four cards to a straight after the turn there’s
only a few cards left in the deck that can complete your
straight. If your straight draw is open ended, meaning you can
hit a card on either end to complete it, you have eight cards
left in the deck that can help you.
A hand of seven, eight, nine, ten will complete with any six
or jack. You’ve seen your two hole cards and four board cards,
so the deck still has 46 unseen cards. Eight of these cards
complete your straight and 38 of them don’t. So the odds of you
completing your straight are 38 to 8. This reduces to 4.75 to 1.
In more simple terms this means that on average if you played
the exact same situation 46 times you’d complete your straight
eight times and miss it 38 times.
Of course the actual deck of remaining cards doesn’t have 46
cards because the other players have cards, but you haven’t seen
them so you have to include them as unseen cards in the deck for
You use the odds in combination with your possible draws to
determine if it’s profitable to bet, raise, check, or fold.
This can become somewhat complicated when you have multiple
ways to make a hand. Usually each possible draw has a different
chance of winning if you hit it. In the example above you stand
a good chance of winning the hand when you hit your straight,
but if you miss your straight but pair one of your cards on the
river you’ll have a pair, but the odds of it being good are
Learn how to read all of your possible draws and how to
determine the odds of each draw being successful and winning if
you hit it. This will help you win more often playing Texas
Reading Your Opponents Possible Hands
Continuing the discussion from the last two sections, once
you learn all there is to know about your possible hands and
draws and the odds you can start using the same things to
determine what hands your opponents can possibly hold and their
chance of completing hands that may be able to beat your hand.
You’ll need to learn what hands your opponents like to play
and which ones they don’t play if you want to get the best
possible reads, but even if you don’t know anything about your
opponents you can still make educated guesses based on the
board, what you hold, and the betting action throughout the
Remember in an earlier section we mentioned that many good
starting hands have high cards. Other popular starting hands
include pocket pairs and suited hands including an ace. As the
level of competition improves the starting hand possibilities
tend to change. Staring hands with an ace and suited small card
are more likely at the lower levels than at the higher levels of
Look at the list of good starting hands included in the next
section and then compare them with the current board. Which
hands fit with the way your opponent is playing the hand? Don’t
forget that not every player will follow the guidelines listed
Some players, especially at the lower levels, play any ace or
any hand with an ace and any card the same suit as the ace.
At lower levels you’ll often see hands where a player with an
ace and a small off card hit two pair and beat a hand with a
pair of aces and a large second hole card that doesn’t pair up.
This may seem like playing better starting hands doesn’t pay
off, but in the long run the player starting with ace queen is
going to win more hands than the player starting with ace three.
It’s also important to always consider the players in the
blinds. If they get in for free or half a bet they could have
any two cards. Even for a small raise many players won’t fold
anything from the blinds because they’re already invested in the
You need to consider a wide range of things when trying to
guess what your opponents hold, but with practice you can start
narrowing down their possible hands quickly. As you gain more
experience you can get to the point where you’ll often have a
good idea where your opponents stand in a hand. You’ll still be
surprised sometimes because players do all kinds of crazy things
at the holdem table, but the more you know the better you’ll be
in the long run.
Another big part of reading your opponent’s possible hands is
watching them play, even when you aren’t in the hand, and
remembering everything they do. If they have a big pocket pair
do they always raise before the flop? Do they ever bet into a
draw or do they always check and call? Thinking about these
questions and learning the answers to them and others will make
your play more profitable over time.
Best Starting Hands
Here’s a list of the best starting hands in Texas holdem. The
list is roughly listed from best to worst, but hand values
change somewhat based on the level of competition, the makeup of
the game, and your ability to play well after the flop.
Not all of these hands can be played from every position or
in every game. But if a hand isn’t listed here you should avoid
playing it in any Texas holdem game.
Two card hands followed by a small “s” means suited. For
888 poker free play bonus video poker. example, K Q s means a king and queen of the same suit.
As you become a long term profitable Texas Holdem player
you’ll find situations where you may be able to play a few hands
profitably that aren’t on the list. You may be able to play 10 9
s or 4 4 from late position profitably in a few games, but don’t
even think about trying it until you’re already a profitable
On the other hand you’ll find many games where hands like K J
and below on the list can’t be played profitably. As a rule of
thumb, while you’re learning how to be a better player, it’s
always better to be tight than loose. So only play the best
hands while learning how to play.
You also need to understand how position relative to the
dealer button changes the value of starting hands and what you
can and can’t play for a profit. We have an entire page
dedicated to position so you should study it to make sure you
completely understand how to use it.
Even experienced Texas holdem players make mistakes when it
comes to reading the board of community cards and trying to
determine what their opponents hold. Once you learn what beats
what, you still have a great deal to learn if you want to be a
Start by making sure you know the ranking of all of the
possible hands, and then learn how to read the board. Use your
hole cards with the board to determine not only the best hand
you can form, but also the best hand your opponents could
The next step is learning the odds of you hitting your hands
and using this information to determine the best way to play the
rest of the hand. Finally, you can start using all of the things
you’ve learned to start making educated guesses about what your
opponents have and are drawing to.
Winning Texas holdem players use all of these things and more
on every hand to give themselves the best chance to win. But
don’t panic if this seems like a lot to take in at once. You
don’t have to learn it all in one sitting. Bookmark or print out
this page and go over it often while you’re learning to be a
practice for free or start at the low levels so you don’t risk
much money while you’re learning.
This page describes the ranking of poker hands. This applies not only in the game of poker itself, but also in certain other card games such as Chinese Poker, Chicago, Poker Menteur and Pai Gow Poker.
- Low Poker Ranking: A-5, 2-7, A-6
- Hand probabilities and multiple decks - probability tables
Standard Poker Hand Ranking
There are 52 cards in the pack, and the ranking of the individual cards, from high to low, is ace, king, queen, jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. In standard poker - that is to say in the formal casino and tournament game played internationally and the home game as normally played in North America - there is no ranking between the suits for the purpose of comparing hands - so for example the king of hearts and the king of spades are equal. (Note however that suit ranking is sometimes used for other purposes such as allocating seats, deciding who bets first, and allocating the odd chip when splitting a pot that can't be equally divided. See ranking of suits for details.)
A poker hand consists of five cards. The categories of hand, from highest to lowest, are listed below. Any hand in a higher category beats any hand in a lower category (so for example any three of a kind beats any two pairs). Between hands in the same category the rank of the individual cards decides which is better, as described in more detail below.
In games where a player has more than five cards and selects five to form a poker hand, the remaining cards do not play any part in the ranking. Poker ranks are always based on five cards only, and if these cards are equal the hands are equal, irrespective of the ranks of any unused cards.
Some readers may wonder why one would ever need to compare (say) two threes of a kind of equal rank. This obviously cannot arise in basic draw poker, but such comparisons are needed in poker games using shared (community) cards, such as Texas Hold'em, in poker games with wild cards, and in other card games using poker combinations.
1. Straight Flush
If there are no wild cards, this is the highest type of poker hand: five cards of the same suit in sequence - such as J-10-9-8-7. Between two straight flushes, the one containing the higher top card is higher. An ace can be counted as low, so 5-4-3-2-A is a straight flush, but its top card is the five, not the ace, so it is the lowest type of straight flush. The highest type of straight flush, A-K-Q-J-10 of a suit, is known as a Royal Flush. The cards in a straight flush cannot 'turn the corner': 4-3-2-A-K is not valid.
2. Four of a kind
Four cards of the same rank - such as four queens. The fifth card, known as the kicker, can be anything. This combination is sometimes known as 'quads', and in some parts of Europe it is called a 'poker', though this term for it is unknown in English. Between two fours of a kind, the one with the higher set of four cards is higher - so 3-3-3-3-A is beaten by 4-4-4-4-2. If two or more players have four of a kind of the same rank, the rank of the kicker decides. For example in Texas Hold'em with J-J-J-J-9 on the table (available to all players), a player holding K-7 beats a player holding Q-10 since the king beats the queen. If one player holds 8-2 and another holds 6-5 they split the pot, since the 9 kicker makes the best hand for both of them. If one player holds A-2 and another holds A-K they also split the pot because both have an ace kicker.
3. Full House
This combination, sometimes known as a boat, consists of three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank - for example three sevens and two tens (colloquially known as 'sevens full of tens' or 'sevens on tens'). When comparing full houses, the rank of the three cards determines which is higher. For example 9-9-9-4-4 beats 8-8-8-A-A. If the threes of a kind are equal, the rank of the pairs decides.
Five cards of the same suit. When comparing two flushes, the highest card determines which is higher. If the highest cards are equal then the second highest card is compared; if those are equal too, then the third highest card, and so on. For example K-J-9-3-2 beats K-J-7-6-5 because the nine beats the seven.If all five cards are equal, the flushes are equal.
Five cards of mixed suits in sequence - for example Q-J-10-9-8. When comparing two sequences, the one with the higher ranking top card is better. Ace can count high or low in a straight, but not both at once, so A-K-Q-J-10 and 5-4-3-2-A are valid straights, but 2-A-K-Q-J is not. 5-4-3-2-A, known as a wheel, is the lowest kind of straight, the top card being the five.
6. Three of a Kind
Three cards of the same rank plus two unequal cards. This combination is also known as Triplets or Trips. When comparing two threes of a kind the rank of the three equal cards determines which is higher. If the sets of three are of equal rank, then the higher of the two remaining cards in each hand are compared, and if those are equal, the lower odd card is compared.So for example 5-5-5-3-2 beats 4-4-4-K-5, which beats 4-4-4-Q-9, which beats 4-4-4-Q-8.
7. Two Pairs
A pair consists of two cards of equal rank. In a hand with two pairs, the two pairs are of different ranks (otherwise you would have four of a kind), and there is an odd card to make the hand up to five cards. When comparing hands with two pairs, the hand with the highest pair wins, irrespective of the rank of the other cards - so J-J-2-2-4 beats 10-10-9-9-8 because the jacks beat the tens. If the higher pairs are equal, the lower pairs are compared, so that for example 8-8-6-6-3 beats 8-8-5-5-K. Finally, if both pairs are the same, the odd cards are compared, so Q-Q-5-5-8 beats Q-Q-5-5-4.
A hand with two cards of equal rank and three cards which are different from these and from each other. When comparing two such hands, the hand with the higher pair is better - so for example 6-6-4-3-2 beats 5-5-A-K-Q. If the pairs are equal, compare the highest ranking odd cards from each hand; if these are equal compare the second highest odd card, and if these are equal too compare the lowest odd cards. So J-J-A-9-3 beats J-J-A-8-7 because the 9 beats the 8.
Five cards which do not form any of the combinations listed above. This combination is often called High Card and sometimes No Pair. The cards must all be of different ranks, not consecutive, and contain at least two different suits. When comparing two such hands, the one with the better highest card wins. If the highest cards are equal the second cards are compared; if they are equal too the third cards are compared, and so on. So A-J-9-5-3 beats A-10-9-6-4 because the jack beats the ten.
Hand Ranking in Low Poker
There are several poker variations in which the lowest hand wins: these are sometimes known as Lowball. There are also 'high-low' variants in which the pot is split between the highest and the lowest hand. A low hand with no combination is normally described by naming its highest card - for example 8-6-5-4-2 would be described as '8-down' or '8-low'.
It first sight it might be assumed that in low poker the hands rank in the reverse order to their ranking in normal (high) poker, but this is not quite the case. There are several different ways to rank low hands, depending on how aces are treated and whether straights and flushes are counted.
Poker What Beats What Chart
Ace to Five
This seems to be the most popular system. Straights and flushes do not count, and Aces are always low. The best hand is therefore 5-4-3-2-A, even if the cards are all in one suit. Then comes 6-4-3-2-A, 6-5-3-2-A, 6-5-4-2-A, 6-5-4-3-A, 6-5-4-3-2, 7-4-3-2-A and so on. Note that when comparing hands, the highest card is compared first, just as in standard poker. So for example 6-5-4-3-2 is better than 7-4-3-2-A because the 6 is lower than the 7. The best hand containing a pair is A-A-4-3-2. This version is sometimes called 'California Lowball'.
When this form of low poker is played as part of a high-low split variant, there is sometimes a condition that a hand must be 'eight or better' to qualify to win the low part of the pot. In this case a hand must consist of five unequal cards, all 8 or lower, to qualify for low. The worst such hand is 8-7-6-5-4.
Deuce to Seven
The hands rank in almost the same order as in standard poker, with straights and flushes counting and the lowest hand wins. The difference from normal poker is that Aces are always high , so that A-2-3-4-5 is not a straight, but ranks between K-Q-J-10-8 and A-6-4-3-2. The best hand in this form is 7-5-4-3-2 in mixed suits, hence the name 'deuce to seven'. The next best is 7-6-4-3-2, then 7-6-5-3-2, 7-6-5-4-2, 8-5-4-3-2, 8-6-4-3-2, 8-6-5-3-2, 8-6-5-4-2, 8-6-5-4-3, 8-7-4-3-2, etc. The highest card is always compared first, so for example 8-6-5-4-3 is better than 8-7-4-3-2 even though the latter contains a 2, because the 6 is lower than the 7. The best hand containing a pair is 2-2-5-4-3, but this would be beaten by A-K-Q-J-9 - the worst 'high card' hand. This version is sometimes called 'Kansas City Lowball'.
Ace to Six
Many home poker players play that straights and flushes count, but that aces can be counted as low. In this version 5-4-3-2-A is a bad hand because it is a straight, so the best low hand is 6-4-3-2-A. There are a couple of issues around the treatment of aces in this variant.
- First, what about A-K-Q-J-10? Since aces are low, this should not count as a straight. It is a king-down, and is lower and therefore better than K-Q-J-10-2.
- Second, a pair of aces is the lowest and therefore the best pair, beating a pair of twos.
It is likely that some players would disagree with both the above rulings, preferring to count A-K-Q-J-10 as a straight and in some cases considering A-A to be the highest pair rather than the lowest. It would be wise to check that you agree on these details before playing ace-to-six low poker with unfamiliar opponents.
Selecting from more than five cards
Note that in games where more than five cards are available, the player is free to select whichever cards make the lowest hand. For example a player in Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo 8 or Better whose cards are 10-8-6-6-3-2-A can omit the 10 and one of the 6's to create a qualifying hand for low.
Poker Hand Ranking with Wild Cards
A wild card card that can be used to substitute for a card that the holder needs to make up a hand. In some variants one or more jokers are added to the pack to act as wild cards. In others, one or more cards of the 52-card pack may be designated as wild - for example all the twos ('deuces wild') or the jacks of hearts and spades ('one-eyed jacks wild', since these are the only two jacks shown in profile in Anglo-American decks).
The most usual rule is that a wild card can be used either
- to represent any card not already present in the hand, or
- to make the special combination of 'five of a kind'.
This approach is not entirely consistent, since five of a kind - five cards of equal rank - must necessarily include one duplicate card, since there are only four suits. The only practical effect of the rule against duplicates is to prevent the formation of a 'double ace flush'. So for example in the hand A-9-8-5-joker, the joker counts as a K, not a second ace, and this hand is therefore beaten by A-K-10-4-3, the 10 beating the 9.
Five of a Kind
When playing with wild cards, five of a kind becomes the highest type of hand, beating a royal flush. Between fives of a kind, the higher beats the lower, five aces being highest of all.
Some games, especially five card draw, are often played with a bug. This is a joker added to the pack which acts as a limited wild card. It can either be used as an ace, or to complete a straight or a flush. Thus the highest hand is five aces (A-A-A-A-joker), but other fives of a kind are impossible - for example 6-6-6-6-joker would count as four sixes with an ace kicker and a straight flush would beat this hand. Also a hand like 8-8-5-5-joker counts as two pairs with the joker representing an ace, not as a full house.
Wild Cards in Low Poker
In Low Poker, a wild card can be used to represent a card of a rank not already present in the player's hand. It is then sometimes known as a 'fitter'. For example 6-5-4-2-joker would count as a pair of sixes in normal poker with the joker wild, but in ace-to-five low poker the joker could be used as an ace, and in deuce-to-seven low poker it could be used as a seven to complete a low hand.
Lowest Card Wild
Some home poker variants are played with the player's lowest card (or lowest concealed card) wild. In this case the rule applies to the lowest ranked card held at the time of the showdown, using the normal order ace (high) to two (low). Aces cannot be counted as low to make them wild.
Double Ace Flush
Some people play with the house rule that a wild card can represent any card, including a duplicate of a card already held. It then becomes possible to have a flush containing two or more aces. Flushes with more than one ace are not allowed unless specifically agreed as a house rule.
Natural versus Wild
Some play with the house rule that a natural hand beats an equal hand in which one or more of the cards are represented by wild cards. This can be extended to specify that a hand with more wild cards beats an otherwise equal hand with fewer wild cards. This must be agreed in advance: in the absence of any agreement, wild cards are as good as the natural cards they represent.
What Poker Hands Win
In some poker variants, such as No Peek, it is necessary to compare hands that have fewer than five cards. With fewer than five cards, you cannot have a straight, flush or full house. You can make a four of a kind or two pairs with only four cards, triplets with three cards, a pair with two cards and a 'high card' hand with just one card.
The process of comparing first the combination and then the kickers in descending order is the same as when comparing five-card hands. In hands with unequal numbers of cards any kicker that is present in the hand beats a missing kicker. So for example 8-8-K beats 8-8-6-2 because the king beats the 6, but 8-8-6-2 beats 8-8-6 because a 2 is better than a missing fourth card. Similarly a 10 by itself beats 9-5, which beats 9-3-2, which beats 9-3, which beats a 9 by itself.
Ranking of suits
In standard poker there is no ranking of suits for the purpose of comparing hands. If two hands are identical apart from the suits of the cards then they count as equal. In standard poker, if there are two highest equal hands in a showdown, the pot is split between them. Standard poker rules do, however, specify a hierarchy of suits: spades (highest), hearts, diamonds, clubs (lowest) (as in Contract Bridge), which is used to break ties for special purposes such as:
- drawing cards to allocate players to seats or tables;
- deciding who bets first in stud poker according to the highest or lowest upcard;
- allocating a chip that is left over when a pot cannot be shared exactly between two or more players.
I have, however, heard from several home poker players who play by house rules that use this same ranking of suits to break ties between otherwise equal hands. For some reason, players most often think of this as a way to break ties between royal flushes, which would be most relevant in a game with many wild cards, where such hands might become commonplace. However, if you want to introduce a suit ranking it is important also to agree how it will apply to other, lower types of hand. If one player A has 8-8-J-9-3 and player B has 8-8-J-9-3, who will win? Does player A win by having the highest card within the pair of eights, or does player B win because her highest single card, the jack, is in a higher suit? What about K-Q-7-6-2 against K-Q-7-6-2 ? So far as I know there is no universally accepted answer to these questions: this is non-standard poker, and your house rules are whatever you agree that they are. Three different rules that I have come across, when hands are equal apart from suit are:
- Compare the suit of the highest card in the hand.
- Compare the suit of the highest paired card - for example if two people have J-J-7-7-K the highest jack wins.
- Compare the suit of the highest unpaired card - for example if two people have K-K-7-5-4 compare the 7's.
Although the order spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs may seem natural to Bridge players and English speakers, other suit orders are common, especially in some European countries. Up to now, I have come across:
- spades (high), hearts, clubs, diamonds (low)
- spades (high), diamonds, clubs, hearts (low)
- hearts (high), spades, diamonds, clubs (low) (in Greece and in Turkey)
- hearts (high), diamonds, spades, clubs (low) (in Austria and in Sweden)
- hearts (high), diamonds, clubs, spades (low) (in Italy)
- diamonds (high), spades, hearts, clubs (low) (in Brazil)
- diamonds (high), hearts, spades, clubs (low) (in Brazil)
- clubs (high), spades, hearts, diamonds (low) (in Germany)
As with all house rules, it would be wise to make sure you have a common understanding before starting to play, especially when the group contains people with whom you have not played before.
In some places, especially in continental Europe, poker is sometimes played with a deck of less than 52 cards, the low cards being omitted. Italian Poker is an example. As the pack is reduced, a Flush becomes more difficult to make, and for this reason a Flush is sometimes ranked above a Full House in such games. In a stripped deck game, the ace is considered to be adjacent to the lowest card present in the deck, so for example when using a 36-card deck with 6's low, A-6-7-8-9 is a low straight.
Playing poker with fewer than 52 cards is not a new idea. In the first half of the 19th century, the earliest form of poker was played with just 20 cards - the ace, king, queen, jack and ten of each suit - with five cards dealt to each of four players. The only hand types recognised were, in descending order, four of a kind, full house, three of a kind, two pairs, one pair, no pair.
No Unbeatable Hand
In standard poker a Royal Flush (A-K-Q-J-10 of one suit) cannot be beaten. Even if you introduce suit ranking, the Royal Flush in the highest suit is unbeatable. In some regions, it is considered unsatisfactory to have any hand that is guaranteed to be unbeaten - there should always be a risk. There are several solutions to this.
In Italy this is achieved by the rule 'La minima batte la massima, la massima batte la media e la media batte la minima' ('the minimum beats the maximum, the maximum beats the medium and the medium beats the minimum'). A minimum straight flush is the lowest that can be made with the deck in use. Normally they play with a stripped deck so for example with 40 cards the minimum straight flush would be A-5-6-7-8 of a suit. A maximum straight flush is 10-J-Q-K-A of a suit. All other straight flushes are medium. If two players have medium straight flushes then the one with higher ranked cards wins as usual. Also as usual a maximum straight flush beats a medium one, and a medium straight flush beats a minimum one. But if a minimum straight flush comes up against a maximum straight flush, the minimum beats the maximum. In the very rare case where three players hold a straight flush, one minimum, one medium and one maximum, the pot is split between them. See for example Italian Poker.
In Greece, where hearts is the highest suit, A-K-Q-J-10 is called an Imperial Flush, and it is beaten only by four of a kind of the lowest rank in the deck - for example 6-6-6-6 if playing with 36 cards. Again, in very rare cases there could also be a hand in the showdown that beats the four of a kind but is lower than the Imperial Flush, in which case the pot would be split.
Hand probabilities and multiple decks
What Beats What In Poker Printable
The ranking order of poker hands corresponds to their probability of occurring in straight poker, where five cards are dealt from a 52-card deck, with no wild cards and no opportunity to use extra cards to improve a hand. The rarer a hand the higher it ranks.
This is neither an essential nor an original feature of poker, and it ceases to be true when wild cards are introduced. In fact, with a large number of wild cards, it is almost inevitable that the higher hand types will be the commoner, not rarer, since wild cards will be used to help make the most valuable type of hand from the available cards.
What Beats What Poker
Mark Brader has provided probability tables showing the frequency of each poker hand type when five cards are dealt from a 52-card deck, and also showing how these probabilities would change if multiple decks were used.