Chapter 2View all chapters
The game of poker is played as a series of betting rounds that culminate with the best hand, or the last remaining hand, winning the pot. To understand what constitutes the best poker hand, one must understand the poker hands ranking system. In most versions of poker, the highest ranking hand wins. The exceptions to the rule are versions of poker which are structured specifically to allow the lowest ranking hand to win the pot, or at least part of it.
Poker games vary in the number of cards dealt to each player, and in the number of shared “community” cards. However, when it comes to poker hands ranking, the different versions of the game agree in the determination which is the strongest combination of cards. Players form their best possible poker hand by using some (or all) of their “pocket” cards, and some (or all) of the “community” cards. These rankings are good for Texas Hold'em and for Omaha Poker as well.
The starting hands in poker - the two hole cards seen only by each player - have earned popular poker hand nicknames. Check our colorful infographic below to see a full list of poker hands slang terms.
Abbreviations used in the examples below: Ace (A); King (K); Queen (Q); Jack (J); Spades (s); Hearts (h); Clubs (c); Diamonds (d). The hands are listed in rank from highest to lowest.
|Royal Flush: The highest possible poker hand is a Straight Flush from 10 up to the ace. Example of a Royal Flush: 10s, Js, Qs, Ks, As|
|Straight Flush: A Straight Flush is five cards in sequence all being of the same suit. In the case of two players holding a Straight Flush hand, the one with a higher top card would be ranked higher. Example: 7d, 8d, 9d, 10d, Jd. An ace can also be counted as a low card in a 5-4-3-2-A sequence, in which the five is considered the high card. This is the lowest possible Straight Flush.|
|Four of a Kind: Four cards of the same rank, with suit being irrelevant. Example: Jc, Jd, Jh, Js. If two players have Four of a Kind, also known as "quads", the higher one wins. If two players have the same Four of a Kind, the winner is determined by the "kicker", or 5th card in the hand. The higher "kicker" would determine the winner in that situation.|
|Full House: Three cards of one rank together with two cards of another rank. When more than one full house is present in a hand, the one with the highest ranking group of three wins. A Full House is also known as a "boat." Example: Qh, Qs, Kd, Kc, Kh. This hand in this example is said to be "kings over queens" or "kings full of queens".|
|Flush: Five cards of the same suit, but not consecutive. When more than one Flush is involved in a hand, the one with the highest card wins. Example: As, 5s, 7s, 9s, Js. The Flush in this example is "ace high" and it would beat a flush with the king of spades as its highest card. If both Flushes have the same highest card, then the second highest card is compared. If necessary, the third highest is compared, or the fourth-highest.|
|Straight: Five cards in sequence, but not of the same suit.. When more than one Straight is involved in a hand, the one with the highest card wins. Example: 8, 9, 10, J, Q; suit is irrelevant. An ace can be taken as either high or low (but not both high and low in the same hand). The lowest possible Straight is 5, 4, 3, 2, A, which is also known as the "wheel".|
|Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same rank, with two other unequal cards. Also known as "triplets" or "trips". Example: Kh, Kd, Kc. In the event of two hands with Three of a Kind, the higher Three of a Kind wins. If both hands have the same Three of a Kind, the hand with the highest side card, or if necessary, the second-highest side card wins.|
|Two Pair: Any two cards of a matching rank together with two cards of another matching rank. If two hands have Two Pairs each, the hand with the highest pair wins. When more than one hand has two pairs of the same rank, the hand with the highest card outside the paired cards (the "kicker") wins. Example: Jc, Jh, Qs, Qd|
|One Pair: Two cards of the same rank. In case two hands have One Pair, the highest pair wins. When more than one hand has a pair of the same rank, the hand with the highest card outside the pair wins. Example: 10c, 10s|
|High Card: When players have none of the above combinations, the hand with the highest card wins. The highest High Card is an ace. If two hands have the same High Card, the hand with the highest side card wins. If necessary, the third card in each is compared, and so on. Example: 4h, 6c, 8s, 10d, Qh. In this example, the High Card is the queen.|
The above table represents examples of standard poker hands ranking. If you’re playing a home game and throw in a wild card or two, you’ll have to come up with another poker hands ranking table. Does five of a kind beat a royal flush when you play with wild cards? The possibilities are endless. Let’s stick to standard poker play for now.
Many starting hands in poker have earned for themselves nicknames, however, no one sitting at the table is ever going to declare, "I just got pocket rockets" when the cards are dealt. The various card combinations have forged for themselves popular poker nicknames that have become part of the lingo of the game, even if the nicknames are only said out loud by commentators and spectators after a hand has finished. Take a look at poker infographic and our list of poker hands slang terms and let us know if we missed your favorites.
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