Beginning players need to start their education in Texas hold em by knowing the order of winning poker hands and their ranking, from lowest to highest. This is a simple process of memorization, and as you become more familiar with poker hands through experience, you’ll be able to read the board in an instant.
All forms of poker share the same hand rankings, i.e. whether you’re playing Texas hold em, stud, Omaha, or five card draw, the available poker hands one can make and their relative ranking always remains the same.
One source of confusion for beginners is the number of cards in poker rankings. Poker hands always consist of five cards, even in games like Texas holdem or Omaha where the player can choose from more than five cards in building his/her hand. In Texas hold em, for example, you’re “holding” two personal cards and sharing five community cards with the other players at the table. That gives you a total of seven cards to choose from, in which to make your best five card hand.
If, in fact, another player also has ace-high, you’ll compare your next highest card (in this case the queen), to see who has the best hand. You continue in sequence down through all five cards to determine who has the best hand. If your five highest cards are exactly the same as the other player’s, you have a tie and split the pot.
The following poker hands chart illustrates the poker hand rankings in order, from the strongest possible winning hand to the weakest hand:
- Straight flush – five cards of the same suit in sequential order (e.g. 34567 all of hearts); in the exceedingly unlikely event that two players both have a straight flush, their rank is determined by the highest card in the straight, with an ace-high straight flush being the strongest possible hand in poker (called a royal flush).
- Four of a kind – four cards of the same rank (e.g. all four aces); note that even with four of a kind, since all poker hands are five card hands, there is fifth card that comes into play online poker, a kicker. In Texas hold em or Omaha this might become an issue if the community cards on board consist of four-of-a-kind; in that case, whichever player has the highest kicker (unpaired hole card) in their own hand will take down the pot.
- Full house – three of a kind plus a pair (e.g. KKK33); the rank of the full house is determined in the first instance by which player has the higher three of a kind and, if this is the same between two players, by which player has the higher pair to go along with it.
- Flush – five cards, all of the same suit.
- Straight – five cards, all in sequential order. The ace may be played low to make the lowest possible straight, A2345, or it may be played high to make the highest possible straight, 10JQKA (nicknamed Broadway).
- Three of a kind (a set) – three cards of the same rank.
- Two pair – two separate pairs of different rank; if multiple players have two pair, the winning hand is determined by the highest of the two pairs.
- One pair – two cards of the same rank, deuces being the lowest pair and aces the highest.
- High card – unpaired cards – the rank of an unpaired hand is determined in sequential order, starting from the highest card and descending through all five cards to determine which player has the best hand.
Now, all poker hands are five card hands. Even the poker hand with the lowest rank, called a “high card”, is in fact a five card hand. High card is when you have no pair, straight or flush: five mismatched cards of varying suits. If your hand consists of an ace, a queen, a ten, a five and a deuce, and they are not all the same suit, you have a “high card” ace. You’ll beat any other player that does not have an ace in their hand.