By Consumer Dummies

Seven-Card Stud and Texas Hold’em are the two most popular forms of Poker in which the highest ranking hand wins. These games are played with a 52-card deck — there is no joker — composed of four suits: spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs.

Each suit is equal in value, and there are 13 ranks in each suit. The ace is the highest ranking card in a suit, followed by king, queen, jack, and 10 through 2 (or deuce), in descending order. An ace may also be used as the lowest ranking card in a 5-high straight (5-4-3-2-A), which is also called a wheel or bicycle.

Although Stud and Hold’em are played with seven cards, the best hand refers to the best five-card hand. Hand rankings are a function of probability. The rarer the hand, the more valuable it is. See the figure for an at-a-glance look at hand ranking in descending value.

cards-hand-ranking
Poker hands in descending value, with royal flush as the best hand.

Royal flush; straight flush

A royal flush is simply an ace-high straight flush and is the best possible hand in Poker. There are only four of them: Ace through ten of each suit.

A straight flush is any five cards of the same suit in sequence, such as the 9 through 5 of hearts or the queen through 8 of diamonds.

Four-of-a-kind

Four-of-a-kind, or quads, is a five-card hand composed of all the cards of one rank, plus one unrelated card. The higher the rank, the better the hand. For example, four kings beats four jacks.

Full house

Three cards of one rank and a pair of another make a full house. The rank of the full house is determined by the three-card grouping, not the pair. A hand like three 9s and two 5s is referred to as “nines full of fives.”

Flush

A flush is any five cards of the same suit. The cards are not in sequence. If they were in sequence, it would be a straight flush. If there is more than one flush, the winning hand is determined by the rank order of the highest card, or cards, in the flush. A flush composed of the ace, queen, jack, and 6 and 5 of hearts is higher than an ace, queen, jack, and 4 and 3 of spades.

Straight

Five sequenced cards, not all of the same suit, compose a straight. If more than one straight is present, the highest card in the sequence determines the winning hand. A jack-high straight of the jack through 7 of diamonds will beat a 9 through 5 of spades nine-high straight.

Three-of-a-kind

Three cards of the same rank, along with two unrelated cards is called three-of-a-kind. This hand is also referred to as trips, or a set. If you held three 8s, a king, and a 4 you could refer to it as “trip 8s” or “a set of 8s.”

Two pair

Two cards of one rank along with two cards of another rank and one unrelated card composes two pair. The higher rank determines which two pair is superior. If two players hold two pair and each has the same high pair, then the rank of the second pair determines the winner. If both players hold the same two pair, then the rank of the unrelated side card determines the winning hand. If the hand is identical, then the players split the pot. For example, queens and 8s is superior to queens and 5s.

One pair

One pair is simply two cards of one rank and three unrelated cards. If two players hold the same pair, then the value of the unrelated side cards determines the winning hand.

No pair

No pair consists of five unrelated cards. When no player has a pair, then the rank order of the unrelated cards determines the winning hand. For example, if Harry has A-Q-9-6-3 and Adrien has A-J-10-3-2, then Harry wins because A-Q ranks higher than A-J.

Low hands

In split-pot games, like Omaha/8, the best low hand composed of five unrelated cards with the rank of 8 or lower, captures half the pot. A hand like 7-6-4-3-A beats 7-6-5-3-A, but will lose to 7-4-3-2-A.

Determining the best low hand takes a bit of practice, but if you always begin with the highest of the low cards and continue in descending order, you can’t go wrong.