Poker Hand Rankings: What Beats What in Poker

Poker Hands

Those of you who have been playing poker for a while will no doubt be aware of which Texas hold’em hands beat others, but not everyone is well-versed in poker hand rankings.

Players new to the game of Texas hold’em often struggle, at least at first, with what the best poker hands are. Once they have read this easy-to-digest guide that will no longer be the case.

The aim of Texas hold’em is to make the best five-card poker hand at showdown. Of course, you can win without having to show your cards if you force someone to fold before the river. Nonetheless, for the purpose of this article we’ll pretend that we’ve gone to showdown and need to know what beats what in poker.

Winning Poker Hands: What Are The Best Hands In Poker?

First up is the weakest possible holding you can make in poker, a hand that can still win you the pot, although the likelihood of that happening decreases in a pot involving multiple players.

We are of course talking about high card. As the name suggests, you don’t even hold a pair here and instead are using the highest card among the five you are playing. Say you have {q-Hearts}{10-Spades} and the board has come {7-Clubs}{6-Clubs}{2-Hearts}{9-Diamonds}{5-Clubs}. Your best five-card hand would be {q-Hearts}{10-Spades}{9-Diamonds}{6-Clubs}{5-Clubs} where you would hold queen-high.

Next up is one pair, one of the more common Texas hold’em hands and one that will win you plenty of pots. Say you have {a-Spades}{k-Spades} and the board comes {a-Diamonds}{8-Clubs}{5-Spades}{3-Hearts}{2-Clubs}. Your five-card hand is {a-Spades}{a-Diamonds}{k-Spades}{8-Clubs}{5-Spades} — you have a pair of aces. Nice poker hand!

One place higher up on the poker hands chart is two pair. Say you have {10-Diamonds}{9-Spades} and the five community cards are {10-Clubs}{9-Diamonds}{5-Clubs}{a-Diamonds}{3-Clubs}. Your best five-card hand at showdown is {10-Diamonds}{10-Clubs}{9-Spades}{9-Diamonds}{a-Diamonds} or two pair, tens and nines. If you are verbally declaring your hand, try to announce the higher pair first as to help avoid confusion.

Let’s Talk About [I]Really[/I] Good Poker Hands

Now we’re getting into the realm of the best poker hands because once you make three of a kind (sometimes called a set or trips), you are much more likely to win the pot than with any of the previously mentioned hands.

Say your five-card hand is {k-Clubs}{k-Diamonds}{k-Hearts}{j-Clubs}{7-Diamonds} — you have three-of-a-kind kings, often a very powerful hand in hold’em.

To beat three-of-a-kind you’re going to need at least a straight. A straight is five consecutive cards where at least one of them is a different suit from the others. Should your hand read {6-Spades}{5-Clubs}{4-Diamonds}{3-Hearts}{2-Spades} you would hold a six-high straight. If someone held a seven-high straight, then that player would win the hand.

There are two straights that have nicknames that are worth remembering. A wheel is a straight that runs from ace-to-five, and a Broadway straight — the strongest straight — runs from ten-to-ace.

A flush is one of the most powerful Texas hold’em hands because it is only beaten by a handful of others. Any hand that that has five cards of the same suit is a flush. Aces are always high when it comes to flushes, which means a hand such as {a-Hearts}{q-Hearts}{7-Hearts}{4-Hearts}{2-Hearts} beats {k-Hearts}{q-Hearts}{7-Hearts}{4-Hearts}{2-Hearts}.

There are few hands that can beat a flush — one that does is a full house. Also called a “boat,” a full house is when your five-card hand is made up of three of a kind plus a pair.

With {k-Spades}{k-Diamonds}{k-Clubs}{2-Hearts}{2-Clubs} you have kings full of deuces, while {5-Clubs}{5-Diamonds}{5-Hearts}{q-Spades}{q-Hearts} is fives full of queens. When it comes to full houses, the higher three of a kind determines which hand wins, so in this case “kings full” would beat “fives full.”

What’s The Best Hand In Poker?

The next three holdings are so rare that if you hold them, you can almost guarantee that they are winning poker hands.

Four of a kind is the minimum holding you’ll need to beat someone with a full house. Again, as the name suggests, four of a kind means having four cards of the same rank. {10-Spades}{10-Diamonds}{10-Hearts}{10-Clubs}{7-Diamonds} is four-of-a-kind tens and an extremely powerful holding.

Your only way to beat four of a kind, or “quads” as they are often called, is to hold either a straight flush or a Royal Flush.

The former is five consecutive cards all of the same suit, so {8-Clubs}{7-Clubs}{6-Clubs}{5-Clubs}{4-Clubs} would be an eight-high straight flush and practically unbeatable. If you manage to make {a-Hearts}{k-Hearts}{q-Hearts}{10-Hearts}{j-Hearts} (or the same holding in any of the other three suits), you have a Royal Flush and the only way to lose the hand would be to fold by accident!

Texas Hold’em Hands FAQ

Can you make three pairs?

Although it is possible to hold a pair in your hand and then have another two pair appear among the five community cards, you can only use a total of five cards to make your poker hand, so you don’t win anything for three pairs.

Which is better, a set or trips?

They are both essentially the same hand because they are both three of a kind. The terminology “set” is used when you have a pair as your hole cards and then catch another one of those cards on the board.

“Trips” is when there is a pair on the board and you have another of those cards as one of your hole cards. Sets are easier to disguise than trips so many consider them to be a better hand, although they both rank the same.

What is a chopped or split pot?

If you and an opponent have the same five-card poker hand, then the pot is divided equally between you. Say you have {a-Diamonds}{j-Clubs} and your opponent has {a-Spades}{j-Diamonds}, and the board comes {a-Clubs}{8-Diamonds}{2-Clubs}{3-Hearts}{10-Hearts}. You both would be playing the same five-card hands in terms of their value (A-J-T-8-3), and so would split the pot.

If there is four of a kind on the board, who wins?

Because the aim is to make a five-card poker hand, whoever has the highest fifth card in this case wins. If the board reads {7-Clubs}{7-Spades}{7-Diamonds}{7-Hearts}{3-Clubs} and you have {a-Spades}{q-Spades} in your hand and your opponent has {k-Clubs}{q-Clubs}, then you win because you hand is 7-7-7-7-A and your opponent’s is 7-7-7-7-K. You would also win even if your opponent holding was {k-Clubs}{k-Spades} in this example.

Are the suits ranked in Texas hold’em?

No, they are not. Some poker variants have different ranks for suits, but hold’em is not one of them.

Why did my 4-4-4-T-T lose to my opponent’s 7-7-7-8-8?

As mentioned earlier, it is the three-of-a-kind element of a full house that dictates the winner.

If you’re new to the game and want a reference of all of the Texas hold’em hands, you can keep this page open or you could always download and print our poker hands ranking chart and keep it next to you while you’re playing poker.

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