Poker Hand Ranking Chart – How to Evaluate Your Cards
Playing poker is great and if you win, you can take home large amounts of money. But before you start winning, you must master the basics. That means you need to know which hands beat which other hands.
Here’s a simple poker hand ranking chart to bring you up to speed:
- Royal flush: Ten, jack, queen, king, and ace, all of the same suit
- Straight flush: Any five-card sequence of cards, all of the same suit: 9-8-7-6-5
- Four of a kind: Four cards of the same rank: 9-9-9-9
- Full house: Three of a kind plus a pair: T-T-T-4-4
- Flush: Five cards of the same suit
- Straight: A five-card sequence of mixed suits: 3-4-5-6-7
- Three of a kind: Three cards of the same rank: 4-4-4
- Two pairs: Two pairs of different ranks: J-J-7-7
- Pair: Two cards of the same rank: A-A or 3-3
- High card: Whatever your highest card is
This poker hands list may seem simple – and it is. You need to understand a lot more if you want to increase your poker winnings. At the very least, you should be able to estimate the odds of completing a straight, flush, or full house based on the cards in your hand and the other cards you have seen in play.
The History of Poker
Before we discuss the strength of different poker hands, let’s look at how poker became one of the most popular games in the world.
A bluffing card game called “Pochen” was popular in Germany as early as the sixteenth century. The game spread throughout Europe, eventually giving birth to a French version called “Poque.” Playing cards and poker scoring traveled with French settlers to a Canadian province called Acadia.
Some of the settlers transplanted themselves to the American colony of Louisiana, where they were called “Acadians.” Their descendants are still called that today, but in the local patois the word is pronounced and spelled “Cajun.”
Poque was like poker, but it took a long time for the modern game to develop. For example, it wasn’t until after the California Gold Rush in the middle of the 19th century that the flush was developed. The straight was added during the Civil War. Card hands weren’t always the same as the ones we use in the modern version of the game.
Poker gained more popularity in the 20th century. In the 1950s, Hollywood’s Rat Pack glamorized the poker tables of Las Vegas. James Bond was a high roller in books and on screen.
The popularity of friendly poker games among middle class men was illustrated in movies and television programs like The Odd Couple. In the 1980s, poker made it to the final frontier when it was featured in at least 10 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. We can’t be sure that the poker hands chart we know today was still in use on the Enterprise.
Poker’s popularity got a big boost in recent years as high-stakes tournaments have been live-streamed or turned into television programs. The World Series of Poker made millions dream of capturing a big pot.
Then, the internet and online gambling sites took poker to the next level.
Playing Poker Online
The internet has democratized poker. You don’t have to travel to Vegas anymore. You don’t need a big bankroll. In the internet age, poker is for everyone. If you’re searching “how poker hands are ranked” on Google, chances are you’re planning to play poker online.
One of the best things about online poker is that it doesn’t matter how much experience you have. You can play casually for virtual money, or you can play in an online casino with actual money. Most online poker sites come with high-quality graphics and online chat features that let you talk to other players at the table – just like being in Vegas.
Online casinos accept lots of payment options, so depositing funds shouldn’t be tough.
Basics of Poker
There’s no point discussing poker hands if you don’t know the basic rules of the game. So, before we start discussing different hands, let’s take a few seconds to look at some of the general rules of poker.
First, you should know that there’s no such game as poker. “Poker” is a descriptive term for a selection of games with names like five-card stud, Texas hold ’em, Omaha hi-low, and seven-card draw. All of these games have some things in common. For example, they use the same ranked arrangement of hands to determine who wins. But the rules also vary quite a bit.
Every game in the poker hierarchy requires at least two players and a standard deck of cards without jokers. No matter what poker variant you’re playing, you need poker chips or something else to represent your stake and indicate how much you are betting.
Once you start, all the players at the table are dealt the same number of cards. They then assess their hands and wager their chips accordingly. The first round of betting usually happens before players have been dealt all their cards, which provides an element of chance during betting.
High bets are generally placed by players who have strong hands or believe they have a good chance of putting together winning poker hands by the time the final cards are dealt.
Sometimes players with poor hands make high bets to trick other players into believing their hands are strong. This is known as buckling.
The player who bids the most chips is the winner of the hand unless another player matches bet. The first player may raise the bet, giving other players a chance to match the higher bet. And on and on.
Finally, if there are still multiple players in the running and no one is increasing the bet anymore, all players show their cards and the hand that ranks highest on the poker hand ranking chart wins the pot.
About Poker Hands
Let’s take a look at all of the hands you might encounter while playing poker. We’ll start with the lowest and move toward the highest value, the best hand. Note that each hand is made of five cards. Although you are dealt more than five cards in some games, hands are usually ranked according to the best five cards.
Sometimes, even after rounds of betting and dealing, a player is unable to make any of the multiple-card combinations that are listed on the poker hands chart. In that scenario, that player’s hand is valued according to the highest card they have. For example, if you have a king of clubs but no pairs and no other hand type of winning hand, your hand is described as “king high.”
It is rare but not unheard of for such a hand to win the pot. Your king high hand beats 10 high and seven high. But even the lowest pair, a pair of twos, outranks you. If all you’ve got is high card, you should probably fold or bluff. If you make it to the showdown, where all players reveal their hands, you will probably lose.
You’re probably wondering what beats what in poker when two or more players have the same high card. In that event, it’s the second-highest card that determines the winner. For example, if both you and another player have a queen but your opponent’s second-highest card is a 10 and yours is an eight, your opponent wins.
If everyone at the showdown has the same highest and second-highest card, then the third-highest card determines the winner.
The next hand as we climb the standard hierarchy of all poker hands is one pair. This hand is made up of two cards of the same rank. That means that if you’re holding a 10 of spades and a 10 of diamonds, you have one pair. That specific hand would be called “one pair of 10s” or just “pair of 10s.”
In Texas Hold ’em and similar poker games, one of the cards making up a pair can be in your hand, while the other is face-up on the board. If you have a seven in your hand and a seven is dealt to the board, you have a pair of sevens.
It’s important to remember to look at all cards on the board when determining your poker hand strength. If you’re holding the queen of diamonds and the 3 of spades in your hand but the five of hearts and five of clubs are on the board, you have a pair of fives. In this case, so does everyone else at the table. If multiple players have one pair, it’s the rank of the pair that determines the winner. A pair of kings beats a pair of queens and so on.
If you and another player both have a pair of kings, you don’t split the pot. You determine the poker hands order by assessing the rest of the hand. If you have Q-9-6 and your opponent has J-8-7, you win. Your queen is higher than your opponent’s jack.
Next on the list? Two pairs. It consists of just what you think: a pair of cards and a second pair of cards. For example, two kings and two fives. Remember, if you’re playing a game in which some cards are dealt to the board and shared by all players, those cards can be parts of pairs.
While this hand is eighth on the poker hand strength chart, it’s one of the most common winning hands in Texas Hold ’em and other popular poker games.
A two pairs hand of aces and kings beats a two pairs hand of kings and queens, and so on. In case of a tie, it’s kickers – the extra cards in your hand – that determine the winner.
Three of a Kind
Three of a kind is the seventh-strongest hand in the poker hierarchy. The name of this hand should immediately have you thinking of three cards of the same rank. If you have a two of hearts, a two of diamonds, and a two of spades, a glimpse at your poker hands cheat sheet will reveal that you have three of a kind.
Poker insiders may refer to three of a kind hands with different jargon. A “set” is when you have a pair in your hand, and you match it with a card on the board. A “trip” is when there’s a pair on the board and you match it with a single card in your hand.
Using these terms may help you feel like a poker insider, but the simple fact is that there is no difference between these hands according to poker rules.
When comparing three of a kind hands, the rank determines who the winner is. Three 10s beat three eights.
The next hand on our list is the straight. As you might guess from the name, this hand is made up of five cards in a straight line or a row. There are many possible straights, ranging from A-2-3-4-5 (which is nicknamed the “wheel” or “bicycle”) to 10-J-Q-K-A, which is called “Broadway” at high-roller tables.
Straights have cards of mixed suits, and except for that, the poker suits are irrelevant. They don’t play a role when determining the strength of a straight hand.
Straight hands are scored according to rank. In other words, if you have a 10-J-Q-K-A straight and another player has a 5-6-7-8-9 straight, you win the round. Straight hands are usually referred to by the highest card in the straight. This means that if you have a 5-6-7-8-9 straight, you can say that you have a nine-high straight.
The next hand in the gaming world’s ascending order of poker hands is the flush. A flush is any five cards of the same suit: five hearts, five clubs, five spades, or five diamonds.
The flush is a strong hand in poker. The best you can get is ace-high flush. Like straights, flush hands are referred to according to the highest card. If you have king, jack, five, three, and two of spades, you have a king-high flush.
As with pairs and straights, the winner in a flush showdown is the one whose hand includes a card of the highest rank. The hand described above is a king high flush.
Don’t be confused if your poker hand guide refers to hands with names like straight flush and royal flush. Those are different poker hands, and we will discuss them by and by.
A full house consists of three cards of one rank and two cards of another. It’s when your five cards make up a pair and three of a kind. For example, your full house might consist of three 10s and a pair of queens or three nines and a pair of fives.
The full house is a very strong hand according to the poker hand strength chart. There aren’t many hands that can beat it.
You can build a full house out of any combination of cards in your hand and on the board in games that include shared cards dealt to the board. If two players have full houses, the winner is determined by comparing the three of a kind components. Three nines and two deuces beat three eights and two kings.
Four of a Kind
The next hand to consider is a very strong hand indeed, according to the poker hand ranking chart: four of a kind. The hand consists of four cards of the same rank. If you’re holding four sixes, you’ve got four of a kind. If you’ve got two sevens and there are two sevens on the board, you have four of a kind.
Four of a kind hands of higher ranks beat four of a kind hands of lower ranks. In casinos, where multiple decks are used, you could conceivably have two players with four of a kind hands of the same rank. The winner would be the player whose fifth card is higher in the poker rankings.
A straight flush is a very very good hand that will beat almost any other hand in the game. It’s a five-card straight – 3-4-5-6-7, for example – with all five cards of the same suit (diamonds, clubs, hearts, or spades). Professional poker players would call that particular hand a seven-high straight flush, and they would acknowledge that it would be very hard to beat.
One way to beat it would be with a straight flush with higher-ranked cards – a jack-high straight flush, for example. A straight flush is one of the best poker hands you can get.
Poker’s very top hand is the royal flush. It is the strongest hand in the game, and there is no combination that can beat it. The royal flush is an ace-high straight with all the cards of the same suit. It’s the 10-J-Q-K-A of hearts, spades, clubs, or diamonds.
Many professional poker high rollers have played their entire careers without ever once being dealt a royal flush. Statisticians say the odds of being dealt a natural royal flush are one in 649,739. Your odds are slightly better if there are cards on the board, or you can draw cards to improve your hand.
“What is the highest hand in poker?” you wonder. This is it. The royal flush.
Bluffing in Poker
The chart at the beginning of this article shows which hand wins if multiple hands are revealed at the showdown at the end of a round of poker. However, most rounds don’t end with showdowns. Players communicate the strength of their hands by betting and raising, and players with weaker hands drop out early to minimize their losses.
You can play an entire evening of poker without a single showdown.
That’s where bluffing comes in. It nullifies the predictable “what beats what in poker” factor.
Simply put, bluffing is a matter of persuading other players that your hand is stronger than it really is. If they believe your hand is stronger than theirs, they’ll drop out to minimize their losses. You win the pot even with a very weak hand. Remember – if you’re the last one betting, you don’t have to reveal your hand. You scoop up the pot without ever showing your cards.
So other players never know that you were bluffing.
Bluffing means that the winners in a poker game or tournament aren’t always the players with the winning poker hands. If they’re able to bluff successfully, they can make opponents fold or forfeit.
You can’t control the cards you are dealt, but you do have some influence over what other players believe about the cards you’re holding. And if you observe other players closely, you may pick up clues that indicate they are bluffing. It is the ability of top players to bluff and detect bluffing that makes it possible for some professionals to make a very good living at poker year after year.
The Bottom Line
We’ve reviewed all the hands in poker and explained how they rank in comparison to each other. There’s a poker hand ranking chart at the top of the page to refresh your memory. We’ve discussed general rules and strategies to help you get started on a profitable – or at least enjoyable – life of poker playing.
In a casual game among friends, no one is likely to mind if you consult the chart now and then, whenever you need some help. But if you want to participate in a more serious game of poker with higher stakes, you should know the chart well. In fact, having poker hands explained is not enough. You need experience with betting, bluffing, and interpreting other players’ actions.
The randomness of shuffling and dealing cards dictate that even practice doesn’t make for perfect poker playing. But even if practice doesn’t make perfect, it may make profitable.
What’s the best hand in poker?
The best hand is called a royal flush. It’s an ace high straight flush. The royal flush is the best hand you can get in any variant of poker that allows five cards. (There are a few three-card games.) Royal flushes are the best stud, draw, and Texas Hold ’em hands you can get.
What beats what in poker?
If you consult the chart at the top of this page, you’ll have a clear idea of which hands are stronger than the others in poker. Friends and family members might let you consult the chart when learning how to play poker. More experienced players probably will not, and if you plan to participate in a serious poker game, being aware of all the hands in poker and how they rank is a prerequisite. Here’s the full card hierarchy you should know:
1. Royal Flush
2. Straight Flush
3. Four of a Kind
4. Full House
7. Three of a Kind
8. Two pairs
9. One Pair
10. High Card
Is three pairs a poker hand?
Even in games like seven-card stud, each player’s hand is made up of the best five cards. This means that three pairs are not a legitimate poker hand. If you have three pairs, only the top two pairs are considered when determining the winner. If you take a look at the ranking of poker hands, you’ll see that three pairs aren’t listed.
What beats a full house in poker?
A full house is a good hand. It can be beaten only by four of a kind, a straight flush, or a royal flush.
Does a straight beat a flush?
If there is one part of hand ranking that confuses new players, this is it. A flush is a better hand than a straight.
If you need help determining what beats what in poker, make sure you take a look at the poker hand ranking chart at the top of this page.