Poker Hand Rankings Explained

Poker hand rankings determine the strength of your cards when playing any version of the classic card game. Whether your tastes run to Texas Hold’em, Omaha, or Caribbean Stud, online or in brick-and-mortar casinos, you’ll need to have a working knowledge of different poker hands. This guide will take you through the essentials, so you can make informed decisions on when to raise, call, fold, or bluff. Let’s get started.

Rankings

Poker Hand Values Explained

Running from the strongest to the weakest, here’s the list of poker hands in full.

  1. Royal flush
    The highest-ranked hand in poker, a royal flush features five cards of the same suit in sequential order from 10 to ace.
  2. Straight flush
    A straight flush features any five cards of the same suit in consecutive order. A royal flush or a higher-ranking straight flush are the only better hands.
  3. Four of a kind
    Four of a kind features the same ranking card in all four suits. The highest remaining eligible card completes this five-card poker hand.
  4. Full House
    A full house comprises three of a kind and a pair. The winner between two full house hands is the one with the highest-ranking three of a kind, e.g.K♣-K-K♠-2-2 will beat J♠-J♣-J-9♣-9.
  5. Flush
    A flush features five cards of the same suit, of any value and in any order. Of two flushes, the one with the highest-ranking single card will beat the other.
  6. Straight
    A straight comprises five cards of sequential value in any suit. An ace can rank as either higher than a king or lower than a two in a straight. However, the ace can’t play both roles, meaning a Q-K-A♠-2♠-3♣ hand is not a viable straight.
  7. Three of a kind
    Three of a kind features three cards of the same rank in different suits. The next two highest eligible cards complete the hand.
  8. Two pair
    This poker hand features two pairs of cards of matching rank. The highest-ranked eligible card completes the hand.
  9. Pair
    Two cards of the same rank in different suits. The rest of the hand is made up of the three highest-ranked eligible cards.
  10. High card
    As the name suggests, a high card is simply the highest card in a player’s hand. This is the lowest-ranked of all possible poker hands and is beaten by every other hand except a lower high card.

Poker Hands Chart

Hand Rankings in More Depth

The chart below gives examples of the different poker hands and how they rank. You can use this as a quick reference when you play online poker.

Rank Hand name Description Example Probability Combos
1 Royal flush 10, jack, queen, king, and ace, of the same suit 10♠J♠Q♠K♠A♠ 1 in 649,737 4
2 Straight flush Five sequential cards of the same suit 56789 1 in 72,193 36
3 Four of a kind The same card in each of the four suits 88♣88♠J 1 in 4,164 624
4 Full house Three of a kind plus a pair in the same hand Q♠Q♣Q4♠4 1 in 693 3,744
5 Flush Five cards of the same suit, not in sequential order 28J39 1 in 508 5,108
6 Straight Five cards in sequential order, not the same suit 6♠7♣89♣10♠ 1 in 253 10,200
7 Three of a kind The same card in three suits, and two other cards JJ♠J♣K2♣ 1 in 46 54,912
8 Two pairs Two pairs of same ranked cards in one hand 448♣8♠5♠ 1 in 20 123,552
9 Pair One pair of the same card 10♣10Q5♠7 1 in 1.36 1,098,240
10 High card The highest-ranked card in a hand with no matching cards KJ♣85♠4♣ 1 in 0.99 1,302,540

Suits

Understanding the Different Suits

The cards in a deck are made up of four different suits. There are two black suits, clubs and spades, and two red suits, hearts and diamonds. Each of the four card suits is of equal value in pretty much every poker variant.

This means if two or more players end up with hands of equal value, no suit outperforms another. The winner here is the player with the highest card which doesn’t form part of the ranking combination of cards – this card is known as the kicker. If all five cards match in two or more hands, the pot is split.

Black suit of cards depicted as a medieval weapon

Red suit of cards depicted as a heart shape. Red suit of cards depicted as a diamond shape

Black suit of cards depicted as a clover-like symbol

Ties and Kickers

What Happens in the Case of a Tie?

As mentioned above, when two players show the same hand in a poker showdown, the tie between the two players can be broken using the kicker. Let’s look at an example.

Imagine a Texas Hold’em showdown that has two players tied with a pair of jacks each. These are the complete hands at the showdown.

Player 1 has: JJK♣6♠3
Player 2 has: J♣JQ6♠3

Player 1 has a pair of jacks with a king kicker, which beats Player 2’s pair of jacks with a queen kicker. Remember that the kicker in this example is the highest card in a player’s hand that doesn’t form part of the pair.

Poker Game Variations

Get to Grips with the Different Game Types

Poker hand rankings can count in different ways, depending on the specific kind of in-person or online poker you’re playing. Let’s take a quick look at the three main variations.

  1. High-hand poker
    In high-hand or ‘Hi’ poker games, the best poker hand is whichever ranks highest in the list outlined above. A royal flush is the best possible hand, followed by a straight flush, and so on. Prominent examples of high-hand poker games include Seven Card Stud and the ever-popular Texas Hold’em.
  2. Low-hand poker
    The poker hand rankings are reversed in ‘Lo’, low-hand, or lowball poker games. In other words, the lowest possible hand is now the best hand of the game. Some versions don’t recognise straights or flushes, and the ace can only be high or low in others. Examples include Razz and Deuce-to-Seven Lowball.
  3. High-low split
    The third main way to play poker is with a high-low split. In this scenario, the winnings are split between the players with the highest and lowest hands. A popular example of this kind of poker is Omaha Hi-Lo.

FAQs

What are the different poker game types I can play?

There are a range of different poker games for you to play. You can try out classics like Texas Hold’em and Omaha, or you can try out faster versions of the game like Three Card Poker. You can even read up on the rules of Texas Hold’em, the most popular form of the game, using our dedicated guide page.