Poker Hand Ratings

Every poker site needs a page listing the way hands are ranked. If you already know the hand rankings, skip this post as it is here purely for reference.

Hands of a better type beat all hands of a lesser type, so for example any three of a kind (#7) beats any two pair (#8). If both hands are of the same type, the one with the highest value cards in the most important part of the hand is the winner, then the hand with the highest value cards within lesser parts of the hand. If both hands are identical except for suits, the hands are tied.

Hand types are ranked according to how likely hands of that type are to occur if you deal a player five cards from the deck at random. No matter how many cards or wild cards people use, the hand rankings are always the same. The one variation, described at the bottom, is when the worst hand is considered the winner. If you have access to more than five cards, you choose the best combination of five cards and ignore the rest.

1.       Five of a Kind

Occasionally a game will be played with wild cards. In addition to scrambling the likelihoods of various hands (but not how they are ranked), wild cards allow an otherwise impossible hand: Five of a kind, such as five Aces, which is the best possible hand. Without a joker, of course, this hand is impossible.

2.       Straight Flush

A straight flush is five sequential cards of the same suit. For example, 45678 of Hearts is Straight Flush, as is 9TJQK of clubs, which is called “Straight Flush, King High.” The best possible Straight Flush is AKQJT of the same suit, which is also called a Royal Flush, and the lowest is A2345 of the same suit, as the Ace can be considered either high or low for the purpose a straight or straight flush. The hand with the highest cards wins, with the ace considered low if you use it as the lowest card.

3.       Four of a Kind

Four cards of the same rank, such as KKKK5, which is called “Four Kings with the Five Kicker.” Four of a higher rank beats four of a lower rank, so Four Aces is the best four of a kind and Four Twos is the worst four of a kind. If both players have the same four of a kind, which can happen when their cards overlap, the higher fifth card determines the winner.

4.       Full House

A full house is three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank; the higher ranked three of a kind determines who has the better full house. Three aces and two twos beats three Kings and two Queens. The best possible full house is AAAKK, or “Aces full of Kings” followed by AAAQQ or “Aces full of Queens,” while the lowest is 22233, Twos full of Threes.

5.       Flush

A flush is five cards of the same suit, such as T8532 of spades. The highest card determines who has the highest flush, followed by the second highest card and so on; A6543 is higher than KQJ98, and AK432 is higher than AQJT9.

6.       Straight

A straight is five sequential cards. If they are also of the same suit they are a Straight Flush, if they include at least two different suits they are a Straight. AKQJT is the highest Straight, called an Ace-High Straight or Broadway. The lowest straight is 5432A, also known as The Wheel.

7.       Three of a Kind

Three cards of the same rank and two unpaired cards that are called kickers. The highest ranked three of a kind determines which hand is higher, so AAA23, which is Three Aces with a Three Kicker, beats KKKQJ which is Three Kings with a Queen Kicker. If both three of a kinds are of the same rank, then the higher kicker card is checked first to see which hand is higher. If those are also tied the second kicker comes last.

8.       Two Pair

Two cards of one rank and two cards of another rank plus an additional card of a third rank called a kicker. The highest pair determines which two pair is highest, so AA223, Aces over Twos with a Three kicker, is higher than KKQQJ, which is Kings over Queens with a Jack kicker. If both pairs match, the kicker determines which hand is higher.

9.       One Pair

One pair of the same rank and three other cards called kickers of various ranks. The higher ranking pair determines the higher hand, followed by the highest kicker card, then the highest second kicker, then the highest third kicker. QQ643 is a Pair of Queens with a six kicker.

10.   No Pair (High Card)

If you don’t have any other type of hand you have no pair, or a high card hand, referred to by its highest card or cards: Thus, KJ642 is King High or King-Jack High. The highest card determines which hand is higher, followed by the second highest card and so on.

Note on Wild Cards:

Wild card games will have rules for what a wild card can and cannot represent. They can be quirky, so make sure to check.

Note on Razz, or Worst Hand Wins:

In games where the worst hand wins, the usual convention is that straights and flushes are ignored but pairs are not. On occasion however straights and flushes do count, so verify the variation you are playing. Some variations require that an Ace be high, but most consider it low. Under the usual rules the lowest hand is 5432A, but if straights count this becomes 6432A and if the ace is also high this becomes 75432.

Absolute versus Relative Ranking:

Remember that the absolute rank of your hand is irrelevant. What matters is whether or not you have the best hand. If a hand is best, it is also said to be good, whereas a hand that is beaten is no good. There will be times when having any pair at all is very strong, there will be times when you have a full house and know it isn’t any good. There will even be times when the second best possible hand is no different from having nothing at all. These effects can all happen in the same game on consecutive hands, and players will frequently make the mistake of not sufficiently adjusting the value of their hand for the situation. The betting will often tell you that another player is likely to have a better hand or even the best possible hand, any cards all players have access to can radically alter what hands are likely to be best, and the number of players in the game and who chose to stay in the hand are all crucial.

Most crucial of all is the nature of the game you are in. In a hand of the most popular game, Texas Hold ‘Em, it is common for a player with a pair or even only a high card to have the best hand. In Omaha, where players are given four cards instead of two, anything but the best possible hand requires caution.

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