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Poker Hand Rankings

Poker Hands and Rankings

Introduction to Poker - How to Play Basics

by Shirley Rosario
How to Play Poker

Poker Hands

Understanding how poker hands are ranked is the most fundamental concept in poker and should be the first thing you learn. Most casino poker games use a standard 52 card deck. There are some exceptions to this, as there are games that use a deck with a joker added or a deck that has cards stripped away.

The Deck

A standard fifty-two card deck consists of thirteen sequential cards in four different suits.

2♣ 3♣ 4♣ 5♣ 6♣ 7♣ 8♣ 9♣ 10♣ J♣ Q♣ K♣ A♣
2♦ 3♦ 4♦ 5♦ 6♦ 7♦ 8♦ 9♦ 10♦ J♦ Q♦ K♦ A♦
2♥ 3♥ 4♥ 5♥ 6♥ 7♥ 8♥ 9♥ 10♥ J♥ Q♥ K♥ A♥
2♠ 3♠ 4♠ 5♠ 6♠ 7♠ 8♠ 9♠ 10♠ J♠ Q♠ K♠ A♠

Depending on the type of poker game, the aces (A♣ A♦ A♥ A♠) can play as a high card (sequentially higher than the king {K}), a low card (sequentially lower than the 2), or most commonly, either.

In some card games there is a natural ranking of the suits, which is, from low to high, clubs ♣ diamonds ♦ hearts ♥ spades ♠. An easy way to remember this is that the first letter of each suit is in alphabetical order from low to high. Now that you know this, forget it. Generally, in casino poker games, this ranking is not used; the suits are all considered of equal value. Four players making exactly the same hand, each in a different suit, would each receive an equal share of the pot.

Poker Hands

Standard poker hands consists of five cards. There are many different types of poker games, with various numbers of cards dealt out, but ultimately you will be considering your best five cards in most games. This means that at the end of the hand, you will play the highest ranking five card combination possible from the cards you have been dealt. The player with the most highly ranked hand, relative to those of their opponents, will be awarded the pot (pool of wagers). In the event of a tie, the pot will be split equally.

Now we will rank the five card poker hands from low to high. Hands are counted from the top down.

High Cards Only – These are poker hands that contain no pair, no straight, and no flush. It is the worst poker hand. If you were dealt seven cards: K♠ J♥ 10♦ 9♦ 4♣ 3♣ 2♠, your best five card hand would be “king high” (K♠ J♥ 10♦ 9♦ 4♣).

One Pair – This is a hand that contains one pair only, with no straight or flush. The higher the pair, the higher the hand ranks. If two hands have the same pair, the other high cards are considered for ranking purposes. Any one pair hand beats any high card only hand.

Question: If player “A” is dealt J♠ J♣ K♠ 5♦ 4♦ 3♥ 2♦, and player “B” is dealt J♦ J♥ K♣ 10♠ 8♠ 7♣ 5♥, who has the winning hand?

Answer: Player “A” has a five card hand of J♠ J♣ K♠ 5♦ 4♦ and player “B” has J♦ J♥ K♣ 10♠ 8♠. Both players have a pair of Jacks, so we go to the next highest card for a tie breaker. They both have a king as their next highest card, so we have to go to the next highest card for a tie breaker. Player “B” has a ten and player “A” has a five. Ten is ranked higher than five, so player “B” wins. This is what is counting the hand from the top down means.

Two Pair – This is a hand that contains two pairs of different rankings, but no straight or flush. Any two pair hand beats any one pair hand. Remember that hands are counted from the top down.

Question: Who has the winning hand in each of the following three scenarios?

Scenario 1: Player “A” is dealt J♠ J♣ 10♣ 10♦ 4♦ 3♥ 2♦, player “B” is dealt J♦ J♥ 9♦ 9♣ A♠ Q♣ 8♠.

Scenario 2: Player “A” is dealt J♠ J♣ 10♣ 10♦ A♥ 3♥ 2♦, player “B” is dealt J♦ J♥ 10♥ 10♠ K♠ Q♣ 8♠.

Scenario 3: Player “A” is dealt 10♥ 10♠ 2♣ 2♦ Q♥ 4♥ 5♥, player “B” is dealt 9♦ 9♣ 8♠ 8♣ A♥ Q♣ 7♠.

Answer:

Scenario 1: Player “A” has jacks and tens with a four. Player “B” has jacks and nines with an ace. Because they both have the same high pair, we go to the second pair for a tie breaker. Player “A” has tens and player “B” has nines. Player “A” wins.

Scenario 2: Player “A” has jacks and tens with an ace. Player “B” has jacks and tens with a king. Because the both have the same high two pair we must go to the fifth card for a tiebreaker. Player “A” has an ace, and player “B” has a king. Player A wins.

Scenario 3: Player “A” has tens and deuces (twos) with a queen. Player “B” has eights and nines with an ace. Remember, we count from the top down until we have a winner. Player “A” has tens as the highest pair of the two pair. Player “B” has nines as the highest pair of the two pair. Tens beat nines, so we do not have to go any further. Player “A” wins.

Three of a kind – This is a hand that contains three cards of the same rank, but no straight or flush. Any three of a kind hand beats any two pair hand.

Question: If player “A” is dealt 5♣ 5♠ 5♦ K♠ Q♣ 8♠ 2♣ and player “B” is dealt A♠ A♦ K♥ K♦ Q♥ Q♦ 5♥, who has the winning hand?

Answer: Player “A” has three fives with a king, queen. Remember that we may only play our best five cards. Player “B” has aces and kings with a queen. Player “A” wins.

Straight – This is a poker hand that contains five sequentially ranked cards, but no flush. Any straight beats any three of a kind.

Question: If player “A” is dealt 5♣ 4♣ 3♠ 2♥ A♥ A♦ A♣ and player “B” is dealt A♠ K♣ Q♥ J♦ 10♥ 9♣ 8♠, who has the winning hand?

Answer: Player “A” has a five high straight. In this case, the ace plays as a low card, below the two, to start the string of five sequential cards needed for a straight. Notice that the hand also contains three aces, but they do not play. A straight beats three of a kind, so the best five card hand for player “A” is 5♣ 4♣ 3♠ 2♥ A♥. Player “B” has seven sequential cards. The highest five sequenced cards will play, which are A♠ K♣ Q♥ J♦ 10♥, or an ace high straight. Notice that in the case of a straight, the ace can play as either the highest ranking card or the lowest ranking card, depending on the situation. Player “B” wins.

Flush – This is a hand that contains five cards of the same suit. Any flush beats any straight.

Question: If player “A” is dealt A♠ 8♠ 4♠ 3♠ 2♠ 5♥ 4♥ and player “B” is dealt K♣ J♣ 10♣ 6♣ 4♣ 3♣ 2♣, who has the winning hand?

Answer: Notice that player “A” has both a five high straight and a flush. Because we must play our best five cards, and a flush beats a straight, player “A” plays the flush. Furthermore, because the ace has the option to be played as a high card, it is always counted as high when used in a flush (except in the case of a five high straight flush). Player “A” has A♠ 8♠ 4♠ 3♠ 2♠, an ace high flush. Player “B” also has a flush and must play the best five flush cards, K♣ J♣ 10♣ 6♣ 4♣, a king high flush. Player “A” wins.

Full House – This is a five card hand that contains three of a kind plus a pair. Any full house beats any flush, except a straight flush.

Question: If player “A” is dealt 7♣ 7♠ 7♥ A♥ A♦ K♦ K♥, and player “B” is dealt Q♠ Q♣ Q♥ 2♠ 2♥ 5♥ 3♦, who has the winning hand?

Answer: Again, we count from the top down. Player “A” has 7♣ 7♠ 7♥ A♥ A♦, player “B” has Q♠ Q♣ Q♥ 2♠ 2♥. Queens are higher than sevens, so we can stop right there. Player “B” wins.

Four of a Kind – This hand contains all four cards of the same rank. Any four of a kind beats any full house. An example of a four of a kind hand would be 2♣ 2♠ 2♦ 2♥ A♥ K♦ Q♥, or four deuces with an ace.

Straight Flush – This hand contains five sequential suited cards. Any straight flush beats any four of a kind.

Question: If player “A” is dealt 5♣ 4♣ 3♣ 2♣ A♣ 7♠ 6♠, and player “B” is dealt 6♥ 5♥ 4♥ 3♥ 2♥ 9♦ 8♦, who has the winning hand?

Answer: Player “A” has a five high straight flush. The ace must play for low in this situation. Player “B” has a six high straight flush. Player “B” wins.

Royal Flush – This hand consists of an ace high straight flush. It is the highest possible hand in a game with no wild cards (in a game with wild cards five of a kind beats a royal flush). A royal flush in clubs would be A♣ K♣ Q♣ J♣ 10♣.

Now that you have familiarized yourself with the deck and the poker hand rankings order, you can begin learning how to play the different types of poker games. A good place to start is by learning the basics of Limit Holdem, which is one of the simpler, more popular games.

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(c) Shirley Rosario

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