Guide to Winning Poker Hands

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To win at poker, you need to know about the different poker hands and how to play them. In this article, we explore the winning poker hands from highest to lowest to help get you started.

Five of a kind

Five of a kind is any hand that contains five cards of the same rank. Although the hand ranks above a straight flush, it’s only achievable when using a wild card. As there are only four cards of each rank in the deck, collecting five of the same suit may seem impossible. However, the hand becomes possible when a joker is added to the deck as a wild card. In this case, the joker may act as a fifth ace. In some cases, wild card rules allow jokers to represent any card in the deck, making it possible to get five of a kind of any rank.

Straight flush

A straight flush contains five cards of sequential rank, all of the same suit. The hand ranks below five of a kind but above four of a kind. In most games, the ace can rank either high or low, but cannot rank both high and low simultaneously. For example, an ace cannot be used as a 1 and an 11. Under ace-to-six low rules, an ace always ranks low. Under deuce-to-seven rules, an ace always ranks high. Under ace-to-five low rules, straight flushes are impossible.

Four of a kind

Four of a kind, or quads, contains four cards of one rank and one card of another. The card of the other rank is known as the kicker. This hand ranks below a straight flush but above a full house. Each hand is ranked first by the rank of its quadruplet, and then by the rank of its kicker. If hands differ by suit alone, they’re of equal rank.

Full house

A full house, or full boat or full hand, contains three cards of one rank and two of another. The hand ranks below four of a kind but above a flush. A full house is ranked first by the rank of its triplet, followed by the rank of its pair. If hands differ by suit alone, they’re of equal rank.

Flush

A flush contains five cards all of the same suit but not all of sequential rank. The hand ranks below a full house but above a straight. Under certain rules, including ace-to-five low, flushes are not possible. A flush is ranked first by the rank of its highest-ranking card, followed by the rank of its fourth highest-ranking card, and finally by the rank of its lowest-ranking card. If hands differ by suit alone, they’re of equal rank.

Straight

A straight contains five cards of sequential rank, but not all of the same suit. The hand ranks below a flush but above three of a kind. Under high rules, an ace can be used as either a high or low card, but not both simultaneously. Under deuce-to-seven low rules, an ace has to rank high. Under ace-to-six low rules, an ace has to rank low. Under ace-to-five low rules, straights aren’t possible. A straight is ranked by the rank of its highest-ranking card. If hands differ by suit alone, they’re of equal rank.

Three of a kind

Three of a kind, or trips, contains three cards of one rank and two cards of two other ranks. The latter cards are known as the kickers. Three of a kind ranks below a straight but above two pair. Each hand is ranked first by the rank of its triplet, followed by the rank of its highest-ranking kicker, and finally by the rank of its lowest-ranking kicker. If hands differ by suit alone, they’re of equal rank.

Two pair

Two pair contains two cards of one rank, two cards of another rank, and one card of a third rank. The latter is known as the kicker. The hand ranks below three of a kind but above one pair. Two pair is ranked first by the rank of its highest-ranking pair, followed by the rank of its lowest ranking pair, and finally by the rank of its kicker. If hands differ by suit alone, they’re of equal rank.

One pair

One pair, or a pair, contains two cards of one rank and three cards of three other ranks. The latter three are known as the kickers. One pair ranks below two pair but above high card. One pair is ranked first by the rank of its pair, followed by the rank of its highest-ranking kicker, then by the rank of its second highest-ranking kicker, and finally by the rank of its lowest-ranking kicker. If hands differ by suit alone, they’re of equal rank.

High card

High card, or nothing, is a hand that doesn’t fall into another category. Under rules where straights, flushes, and straight flushes are not possible, such hands are high card hands instead. High card ranks below one pair. High card is ranked first by the rank of its highest-ranking card, then by the rank of its second, then by the rank of its third, then finally by the rank of its lowest-ranking card. If hands differ by suit alone, they’re of equal rank.

In Summary

To win at poker, you need to form a better hand than your opponents. To a certain extent, this is luck based; however, a good knowledge of the winning poker hands will ensure you don’t make a silly mistake.

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