stub Learning and Mastering Poker Hands (July 2024)
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Poker Hands Rankings (Weakest to Strongest)

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Introduction to Poker Hands

Poker is a game that relies on skill, strategy and lots of anticipation. A common saying about poker is that you “play the people and not the cards”. Whilst it will work tremendously in your favour to pick up small cues and read how your opponents play, at the end of the day, the cards will settle the business. That is why it is hugely important to know all the different poker hands through and through. This will help you gauge how good your cards are, and hopefully, make well-informed decisions. You may still be playing the people and not the cards, but at least you have all the know-how to back up your game and therefore, you have a better chance at winning.

Poker Hands

Most poker variations have the same types of poker hands that rank in the same order unless otherwise stated. After playing a lot of poker, these hands, and their ranking order, will come as second nature. However, it is better to fully master these before jumping into any game. Learning through trial and error can be frustrating, and costly, and it is not even necessary. By reading through this brief guide, you will have a better understanding of the hands and can start playing with more confidence. These are all the hands, from lowest ranking to highest:

  1. High Card
  2. Pair
  3. Two Pair
  4. Three of a Kind
  5. Straight
  6. Flush
  7. Full House
  8. Four of a Kind
  9. Straight Flush
  10. Royal Flush

Highest Card

If there are no matching cards, straights or flushes between your hole cards and the communal cards, then your hand will be determined by your highest hole card. The cards are ranked from 2 to Ace, with Ace being the highest. If your highest card is of equal value to your opponent, then your second card will determine which player wins.

For example, if you have a King and your opponent has a Jack, you win. If your opponent also has a King, then the winner will be determined by the next highest card. Should your second card be a 7 and your opponent has a 6, you win. In the event that you both have 7s, then the round is tied and you split the pot.

In the case of 5-card hand poker, the following applies:

  • Count: 1,302,540
  • Probability: 0.5011774

The count is the number of possibilities that can be drawn, and the probability is how likely it is to be drawn.

Pair

If there are two matching cards between your 2 hole cards and the 5 communal cards, this is a pair. Your two hole cards may be a pair, or simply you have a pair between one of your hole cards and one of the 5 communal cards. If the pair is within the communal cards, then everyone at the table has made two pairs, so the round will be determined by who has the high card.

  • Count: 1,098,240
  • Probability: 0.4225690

Two Pair

Two pairs beat one pair. If there are two sets of matching pairs between your hole cards and the communal cards, then this is considered two pairs. If both pairs are within the 5 communal cards, then they are not counted as all players have two pairs. The round is determined by which player has a pair outside of these two, and then by who has the high card.

  • Count: 123,552
  • Probability: 0.0475390

Three of a Kind

Three of a Kind is when there are three cards of the same value. This can be three 7s or three Ks. The best Three of a Kind is when you hold two of the cards in your hole cards. If you only hold one, then you will still have Three of a Kind, but there is a stronger chance that another player will also have a matching card. The worst case scenario is in which the communal cards make Three of a Kind, as then this is shared by all members at the table.

  • Count: 54,912
  • Probability: 0.0211285

Straight

A straight is a group of 5 sequential cards. The cards do not have to be of the same suit. For example, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 make a straight. It does not matter if the straight starts from low or from high, as long as there are 5 cards in a sequence.

  • Count: 10,200
  • Probability: 0.0039246

Flush

This is when you have 5 cards of the same suit between the communal and your hole cards. These can be high ranking cards or low, it does not matter. For example, you can have 3, King, 6, Jack and 8 of clubs.

  • Count: 5,108
  • Probability: 0.0019654

Full House

A full house is one pair and one three of a kind. For example, it could be a pair of 5s and three 7s.

  • Count: 3,744
  • Probability: 0.0014406

Four of a Kind

It is truly rare, but if you have four matching cards between your hole cards and the 5 communal cards, you have four of a kind. For example, this can be 9 of hearts, 9 of diamonds, 9 of spades and 9 of clubs.

  • Count: 624
  • Probability: 0.0002401

Straight Flush

This is a combination of a straight and a flush. Basically, it requires 5 sequential cards of the same suit. For example, you can have 8, 9, 10, Jack and Queen all of clubs.

  • Count: 36
  • Probability: 0.0000139

Royal Flush

The rarest, and strongest, hand of them all is the Royal Flush. It is a straight flush that comprises the highest ranking cards: 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace. There are only 4 Royal Flushes that can be formed in a round: of hearts, spades, diamonds and clubs.

  • Count: 4
  • Probability: 0.0000015

Practice Learning the Hands

Probabilities and chance aside, the first thing you should keep an eye on when playing is how strong your hand is. After the flop, turn and river, the dynamic of the game can change drastically. Anticipation is everything, and when you know the different hands in and out, you have a better chance of guessing what your opponent has in their hole cards. Here are some scenarios to help you learn the poker hands with.

Game 1

Preflop and Flop

  • Your cards: 8 of spades and 3 of spades
  • Opponent's cards: 5 of diamonds and 10 of clubs
  • Communal cards: 5 of hearts, 9 of spades and 8 of diamonds

You both have one pair. Yours is a pair of 8s and your opponent has a pair of 5s. Your opponent is leading with the 10 high card.

Turn and River

  • Turn: 5 of spades
  • River: 10 of spades

After the turn, your opponent has three of a kind with the 5s. When the river is dealt, you can form a flush with 3, 5, 8, 9 and 10 of spades. You win the round as flush is stronger than three of a kind.

Game 2

Preflop and Flop

  • Your cards: 9 of hearts and 10 of spades
  • Opponent's cards: Ace of diamonds and Jack of diamonds
  • Communal cards: 10 of hearts, 9 of diamonds and 2 of diamonds

You take the lead with two pairs. Your opponent does not have any matching cards.

Turn and River

  • Turn: 4 of diamonds
  • River: 9 of clubs

After the 4 of diamonds is dealt, your opponent has a flush, so at that point they take the lead. When the 9 of clubs is dealt, you have a pair pr 10s and three 9s, which makes a full house. As a full house beats a flush, you win the round.

Game 3 (Four Players)

When playing online, you will seldom play against only 1 opponent. Here are examples where you have to play against 3 other players. They will be named Player A, B and C.

Preflop and Flop

  • Your cards: 10 of clubs and 10 of hearts
  • Player A's cards: 5 of hearts and 5 of diamonds
  • Player B's cards: Ace of diamonds and 4 of clubs
  • Player C's cards: 8 of spades and 3 of spades
  • Communal cards: 10 of spades, 9 of diamonds and 2 of spades

You have a pair of 10s after the flop is dealt. Player A has a pair of 5s, B and C do not even have a pair. You are winning with the pair and then 10 high card.

Turn and River

  • Turn: 5 of spades
  • River: 9 of spades

Player A has three of a kind after the turn is dealt. You still only have a pair, whilst B and C still do not have anything. Once the 9 of spades is dealt, player C has a flush. The round ends and Player C wins with the flush.

Game 4 (Four Players)

Preflop and Flop

  • Your cards: 7 of spades and 10 of spades
  • Player A's cards: Queen of diamonds and 3 of hearts
  • Player B's cards: 8 of clubs and Jack of hearts
  • Player C's cards: 4 of clubs and 7 of hearts
  • Communal cards: 5 of hearts, 6 of spades and 3 of spades

Player A has a pair of 3s, B has nothing, C has a straight and you have nothing. So far, C is in the lead with the straight

Turn and River

  • Turn: Jack of diamonds
  • River: 9 of spades

After the turn is dealt, A still has the pair of 3s, B has a pair of Jacks and C has the straight. You do not even have a pair. After the 9 of spades is dealt, you can form a flush with 3, 6, 7, 9 and 10 of spades. You win as a flush beats a straight.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I can form a 6 card straight?

It is possible to form a 6-hand straight between the 5 communal cards and your 2 hole cards. However, this will not count as a “larger straight” or better than another straight. You can only form 5-card hands in standard games of poker.

What happens to the probability if there is more than one deck?

Generally, poker is a one-deck game. If you go to a casino and there are two decks at a table, this is because the dealer will change decks at some point. Unless stated, the game will be played with one deck and therefore all the probabilities are the same. There may be games in which two decks are used, but then the probabilities will be completely different.

Are the hands (and ranking) the same across all poker variants?

Yes, unless it is a special variant with different rules. You may find games in which certain cards are not included or there are special rules about specific hands. This will change the probabilities of each hand, so you should change your strategy accordingly. However, for the most part, the hands and their rankings are the same in standard poker games.

Does Omaha Poker also have 5-card hands?

In Omaha poker, you are dealt 4 hole cards instead of 2. The game still requires players to form the best 5-card hand, only they can use any 2 of the 4 cards they are dealt. You do not need to form 6 or 7-card hands.

Can I learn poker hands by playing video poker?

You may, but it is not recommended. Video poker is very different from poker as you are basically placing bets on what cards will be drawn by the dealer. Most video poker games incorporate poker hands. For example, there may be games which have large payouts for drawing a full house or royal flush. However, it is usually better to separate video poker from classic poker.

Conclusion

The best way to learn poker hands by heart is to either watch games or play them. They are not that difficult to pick up, and before long you should be able to recognise them. The hard part is factoring the different hands and probabilities into your game.

When starting out, it is always better to play free poker games, or those with extremely low stakes. Try to stay at one table for longer periods of time, as you can get to know your opponents better. It will not take long before you form your own strategies and then can enjoy playing in big tournaments against advanced players.

Lloyd is passionate about online gambling, he lives and breathes blackjack and other table games, and he enjoys sports betting.