Unlocking the Power of Poker Hands: A Comprehensive Guide to Hand Rankings
Poker is a popular and strategic card game enjoyed by millions of players worldwide. One of the fundamental aspects of poker is the ranking of hands, which determines the hierarchy of winning combinations. These hand rankings are essential for understanding the game, making informed decisions, and ultimately winning at poker – even in an online casino. As many of you undoubtedly know, in poker, each player is dealt a set of cards, and the goal is to create the best possible hand according to a predetermined ranking system. This ranking system establishes the value and strength of different hand combinations, allowing players to assess their chances of winning in any given round. Knowing the various poker hand rankings is crucial for players to not only understand their own hand but also to assess the strength of their opponent’s hands. This knowledge is essential for making strategic decisions like betting, raising, or folding during a game.
Whether you’re a novice looking to learn the basics of poker or an experienced player seeking to refine your skills, this guide will provide a comprehensive overview of the different poker hand rankings, from the high-ranking royal flush to the lowly one pair. Understanding these hand rankings is a foundational step toward mastering the complexities of poker and increasing your chances of success at the card table. These rules are especially important in most casino poker games, such as video poker or even live poker variants like casino hold ’em. Having said that, the order of these rankings can change quite significantly from variant to variant. 3-card poker, where a straight is a better hand than a flush, is a good example. In this guide, we will take all these different variants apart, dive deep into the other hand rankings, and, in turn, give you the knowledge to greatly improve your enjoyment of playing online casino poker games.
In poker, a “high card” refers to a hand that does not form any standard poker hand combinations, such as a pair, two-pair, three-of-a-kind, etc. When a player has a high card hand, it means their high card is the highest-ranked card in their hand, called ace-high or king-high and so on. If two competing players have the same high card, consider their ‘kicker’ next – their next highest card – to see who wins.
Moving up in the ranks of online poker hands, we have one pair. This consists of two cards of the same rank, along with three unrelated or unpaired cards. The pair’s value is determined by the rank of the two matching cards, with a pair of aces being the highest and a pair of twos being the lowest. If two players have an identical pair, next consider the rank of their ‘kicker’. For example, a pair of queens with a ten kicker beats a pair of queens with a seven kicker.
A two-pair hand consists of two sets of pairs, which means two pairs of cards with the same rank, along with one unrelated or unpaired card. The ranks of the two pairs determine the value of the hand. If two players have two pairs, the one with the highest pair wins. If they both have the same high pair, the value of the second pair wins. If both pairs are the same, the value of the kicker, the fifth card, comes into play. Like all poker hand rankings, if more than one player has the same hand, the round is tied.
Three of a Kind
This specific hand is sometimes called “trips” or “a set” and happens when you can match three cards of the same rank. In the relatively unlikely event that more than one player has three-of-a-kind hands, the player with the higher-ranked set of three cards wins. If there is a tie on the rank of the three matching cards, the kickers come into play.
With a straight, you match five cards ranked sequentially. For example, a straight could consist of 5-6-7-8-9 of any suit.
Straights are ranked based on the highest card in the sequence. This means that the highest card in the straight determines its strength in comparison to other straights, so a king-high straight beats at queen-high straight and so on.
In most poker games, an ace can be high or low. So it can form an ace-high straight, consisting of 10-J-Q-K-A, or make up a 5-high straight (known as a wheel) of A-2-3-4-5.
A flush is a hand that consists of five cards of the same suit, regardless of their numerical order. For example, a flush could consist of 5-7-9-J-A, all of which are hearts.
Flushes, like many other poker hands, are ranked based on the highest card within the made hand. For example, the player with the ace-high flush in the hand in the paragraph above beats a player holding 5-7-9-10-K of hearts.
If two or more players have flushes with the same highest card of the same suit, the value of the second-highest card comes into play.
One of the most known card game terms, even among non-poker players, is the full house (often called a boat). This one’s a hand that is a combination of three of a kind and one pair
Full houses are strong poker hands and rank higher than most other common hand combinations, making it highly sought after in any round of poker.
The primary factor in comparing full houses is the rank of the three cards that make up the three of a kind. As an example, a Q-Q-Q-8-8 full house is better than 8-8-8-Q-Q.
Again, should multiple players share the same three-of-a-kind, the rank of the pair comes into play.
Four of a Kind
The four of a kind is a very strong hand that consists of four cards of the same rank, along with one unrelated card. You’ll often hear this hand described as quads.
The defining feature of a four-of-a-kind hand is having four cards of identical rank, such as four kings or four sevens.
When comparing two or more four-of-a-kind hands, the winner is determined by the rank of the four matching cards. For example, four kings would beat four tens. In a game like Texas Hold’em, if two players share the same four of a kind, the value of a kicker comes into play.
The key defining feature of a straight flush is that not only are the cards of the same suit, but they also form a numerical sequence without any gaps or interruptions. For example, a straight flush could be 5-6-7-8-9, all of which are hearts.
Straight flushes are extremely powerful and are ranked just below a royal flush.
When comparing straight flushes in poker, the rank of the highest card within the straight flush determines the strength.
The royal flush is the highest-ranked poker hand. It consists of 10-J-Q-K-A of the same suit, and in a game like Texas Hold’em, the odds of a player making a royal flush are 649,739-1.
Even though the hand is super rare, it often shows up in books and films!
Learning the poker hand rankings is essential to improve at any form of poker.
Whether you want to play games like Texas Hold’em or Omaha against other players or battle against the house in casino games like Casino Holdem and Caribbean Stud Poker, you must know what hand is worth playing and what you should ditch.
As Kenny Rogers famously sang, you need to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold’em.
Be aware that some of the casino card games, like 3-Card Poker, have slightly different rankings. In this case, a straight beats a flush.
Sign up with one of our recommended casinos, and you’ll like be able to play demo versions of casino poker games. This will help you become familiar with each game before playing with your own money.
You’ll pick up the poker hand rankings in no time.
Should you be interested in learning further techniques and intricate ways of playing poker online, check out the links below.