How To Play Poker

Unveiling the Power of Poker Hand Rankings

Illustration of a hand holding a fan of playing cards with heart suits, depicted in orange outlines against a pink background.

Published: February 27, 2024
Written by Global Poker

The cardinal rule of poker: understanding what hand beats what. Of course, it takes a bit of groundwork, but that’s what we’re here for. We’ve got your back with this nifty cheat sheet — the best and worst poker hands ranked for your reading leisure. Keep this in mind, and you’re on track to snag the upper hand in any poker game.

The first thing you need to learn before playing poker is the hand rankings, which are the deciding factor between who wins and loses. The lowest are the most common, and the vast majority of your hands will come from the lower end of the scale. Poker has many variations, but most will use the standard rankings used in Texas hold'em and five-card draw.

Poker players should familiarize themselves with community cards, hands in poker, poker rules, and a list of poker hands to enhance their chances to win the pot and beat a straight flush in various poker games, including Texas Hold’em and five-card stud

Poker Suits Explained

A standard deck of 52 playing cards is divided into four suits, with 13 cards for each. They all have the same value in a poker game; one suit isn't superior, a king of clubs has the same value as a king of spades. Depending on the country, the color and image can differ, but the vast majority of casinos will use black clubs and spades, along with red diamonds and hearts. Suits are generally abbreviated as Hearts - H, Diamonds – D, Clubs – C and Spades -S. Some card games assign a hierarchy, but in poker, the suits don't matter and are only relevant for making flushes, straight flushes and a royal flush.

How to Resolve a Draw

The cards are ranked from lowest to highest 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace. When two players have the same hand, the next highest ranked card, called the kicker, is the deciding factor. If both hands are equal, and the kicker is also the same value, then it becomes a draw, and the pot is split equally between all the players involved in the round. If there is an uneven number of chips, the player closest to the dealer's left gets the remainder.   

Texas Hold’Em Draw Examples

Scenario One

Hand One—Ace, Queen

Hand Two—Ace, King

Board—Ace, Seven, Six, Four, Nine

Result: Hand Two wins. Both players have a pair of Aces, one in their hand, and one on the board, giving them a pair each. The round is resolved by using the queen and king kickers; they are the two highest ranked cards other than the pair; the king outranks queen, making Hand Two the winner.  

Scenario Two

Hand One—King, King

Hand Two—King, King

Board—Ace, Four, Three, Nine, Ten

Result: Split pot. Both hands have one pair each, and using the next three highest cards on the board results in the same hand for both players.

Scenario Three

Hand One—King, King

Hand Two—Queen, Queen

Board—Ace, Two, Three, Four, Five

Result: Split Pot. Both hands have a pair, but because there is a straight on the board, both players can use it to make their best five card hand, resulting in a split pot.

Poker Hands Ranked (Highest to Lowest)

There are ten possible five card hand combinations, ranging from a high card, which is the lowest possible hand, to a royal flush, which is the highest. Only five cards are used to make a hand in poker. 

Royal Flush

Rank: 1 out of 10, (Highest) 

Hand Description: The royal flush is the only unbeatable hand in poker, and also the rarest. It must consist of all the picture cards, a 10, jack, queen, king and ace of the same suit. A royal flush is a combination of a straight and a flush, with the added stipulation of being a high straight. It’s the hand that all players fantasize about and will probably never see. If you find yourself with a royal flush at any point, you can’t lose the hand, unless you fold. 

Example: 10 H, Jack H, Queen H, King H, Ace H 

Probability: 1 in 649,740

Possible Combinations: 4

Straight Flush

Rank: 2 out of 10, (Second Highest) 

Hand Description: Five cards in numerical sequence that are also all the same suit. A straight flush is a combination of a straight and a flush. It is the second strongest hand, and can only be beaten by a royal flush, or a straight flush with higher ranked cards. 

Example: 7 H, 8 H, 9 H, 10 H, Jack H 

Probability: 1 in 72,193

Possible Combinations: 36

Four of a Kind (Quads)

Rank: 3 out of 10

Hand Description: As the name suggests, four of a kind is a hand with four of the same card in it. Kickers and suits don’t matter. The only hands that can beat four of a kind are a straight flush, or a royal flush. 

Example: 10, 10, 10, 10, 9  

Probability: 1 in 4,164

Possible Combinations: 624

Full House (Full Book)

Rank: 4 out of 10

Hand Description: A full house is a combination hand, with three of a kind and a pair, three cards of the same denomination, and two of another. The suits don’t matter in a full house. The strength of a full house is determined by the three highest cards, 3, 3, 3, 8, 8 would beat 2, 2, 2, 9, 9. Unlike with a flush or straight, it’s impossible to have a draw with a full house. Kickers aren’t required because only the best five cards are counted toward the hand.

Example: King, King, King, Ace, Ace 

Probability: 1 in 693

Possible Combinations: 3,744


Rank: 5 out of 10

Hand Description: A flush is any five cards of the same suit, hearts, spades, clubs or diamonds; the numerical sequence doesn’t matter. The cards don’t have to be in order; however, it’s a straight flush if they are. The highest-ranked card determines the type of flush; 3 H, 7 H, 8 H, 9 H, queen H would be a queen-high flush.

If two people have a flush, the player with the highest-ranked flush wins. Depending on the poker variant, it might not be possible for two players to have the same flush. However, In the event of a draw, it’s a split pot, kickers can’t be used because hands are ranked using the best five-card combination.  

Example: 7 H, 9 H, 6 H, 2H, 3H 

Probability: 1 in 508

Possible Combinations: 5,108


Rank: 6 out of 10 

Hand Description: A hand that has five cards in numerical order. A jack, queen, king, ace, 2 isn’t a straight, neither is king, ace, 2, 3, 4, a straight can’t cross over from high to low. Most of the time, the suits don’t matter, but if you do find yourself with cards that make a straight, and they are all the same suit, even better, that’s a straight flush and the second highest ranked hand in the game. 

Ace can be counted as a one in a low straight, ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, and also as the final piece in a high straight, ten, jack, queen, king, ace. It’s the only card that can be used both high, and low. If two players have a straight, the hand with the highest card wins, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 would beat 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. If two people win with the exact same straight, it’s a split pot. There is no room for kickers in a straight because only the best five cards are counted. 

Examples: Low Straight-Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5. High Straight- 10, jack, queen, king, ace 

Probability: 1 in 253

Possible Combinations: 10,200

Three of a Kind (Trips) 

Rank: 7 out of 10 

Hand Description: When a player has three of the exact same cards, it’s called three of a kind. The suits don’t matter. There will never be a draw with three of a kind, with only four cards of each type in the deck, it’s impossible. 

Example: Ace, Ace, Ace, 2, 4 

Probability: 1 in 46

Possible Combinations: 54,912

Two Pair

Rank: 8 out of 10 

Hand Description: Two pair is made using two sets of pairs. In the event of more than one player showing the same two pair, the highest kicker will decide who wins. The suits don’t matter. 

Example: Ace, Ace, King, King, 4 

Probability: 1 in 20

Possible Combinations: 123,552

A Pair 

Rank: 9 out of 10 

Hand Description: A pair is made using two cards of the exact same denomination. The highest-ranked pair wins, but a pair always beats a high card. If there is a draw, kickers are used to determine the winner. Suits don’t matter. 

Example: Ace, Ace, 7, 8, 3 

Probability: 1 in 1.36

Possible Combinations: 1,098,240

High Card

Rank: 10 of 10 (Lowest) 

Hand Description: No combinations. The hand is made using the highest ranked card. If no one at the table has made a pair or higher, and the game has reached the showdown phase, where everyone left in the round reveals their cards, the highest ranked card decides the winner. If two or more players have the same high card, then kickers are used to resolve the round. Suits don’t matter.

Example: Ace, 7, 2, 3, 10 

Probability: 1 in 0.99

Possible Combinations: 1,302,540

Poker Hand Rankings Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

What’s the Best Hand in Poker?

That depends on the variant, but in most poker formats, it’s the royal flush, or an ace high straight flush. The odds of getting it sit at around 1 in 649,740, which is why many casinos offer a bonus to any player who gets one. 

What’s the Best Starting Hand for Poker?

Generally the best starting hand in poker will have two or more aces. In Texas hold 'em, a pair of aces has the highest win percentage out of every other hand. Statistically you’ll only get dealt pocket aces on average once every 221 hands though, so use them wisely.

What Are the Odds of Getting a Royal Flush? 

The odds of getting a royal flush before the cards are dealt are 1 in 649,740. If you have a suited hand with a high card, like a jack, queen, king or ace, the odds improve to roughly 1 in 19,600. You will be lucky to see a royal flush in your lifetime, even if you play regularly.  

What's the Highest Suit in Poker?

All four of the card suits are ranked the same. A flush made using five hearts, isn’t superior to a flush made using spades. 

What’s the Worst Starting Hand in Texas Hold‘em? 

Most poker players will say 7, 2 with different suits, and it’s hard to argue. There are very few options available with a 2,7 off suit, there is no straight draw, no flush draw, and even if you end up with a two pair, it’s still likely to lose. 

Can a Straight Be Jack, Queen, King, Ace, 2?

No. Straights can only be in sequential order, for example 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. 

Are the Hand Rankings the Same in All Forms of Poker?

Most of the popular poker variants all follow the Texas Hold'em and five card draw hand rankings. If you only want to learn one set of hand rankings, focus on this one because it’s used in the majority of poker games.

Are Three Pairs a Good Hand? 

No. You can only use five cards to make a hand, which will be the two highest pairs, and a kicker. There is no such thing as a three pair. 

How Do I Beat a Straight? 

There are five hands that can beat a straight, a flush, full house, four of a kind, straight flush or a royal flush.

Should I Fold Most of My Hands While Playing Poker? 

Yes. Playing too many hands is always a bad thing and a sure fire way to lose in the long run. 

How Can I Beat a Full House? 

Full house is the fourth strongest hand in poker. The only way to beat it is with a four of a kind, straight flush or a royal flush.

What’s the Best Full House? 

The strength of a full house is determined by the three highest cards, so 3, 3, 3, 8, 8 would beat 2, 2, 2, ace, ace. The best possible full house would be ace, ace, ace, king, king. 

How Many Poker Hands Are There?

There are ten possible card combinations. The best is the royal flush, the worst is a high card. 

What to Do if the Best Five Card Combination is on the Board in Texas Hold'em

If every player has to use all of the community cards to make their best five card combination, then it will be a split pot between whoever is still in the hand.