As part of Poker.org’s cards chart and poker hands series, we bring you a full rundown of the full house, including its definition, probability, ranking, hands that beat it, and some examples.
The full house explained
A full house is a five card hand containing a three-of-a-kind and a pair. It can also be called “a full boat,” more commonly shortened to just “a boat.”
Where two full boats are up against each other, the rank of the three-of-a-kind settles the difference. For example, 5♠5♥5♦6♠6♦ beats 4♠4♥4♦K♠K♣.
When playing with a standard deck, there are only four cards of each rank. So there will never be a draw between two full houses, except in games where cards are shared (mostly flop games like hold’em). In these cases, the pair breaks ties where possible.
Full house rankings
The full house is the third-highest hand in the standard poker hand rankings (fourth if you count royal flushes as a separate hand from other straight flushes).
The full house marks a transition between the more common hands and the rarer “monster” hands. It is just above a flush in value, and just below four-of-a-kind.
What beats a full house?
The hands that beat a full house are, in order:
- a royal flush — ace, king, queen, jack, ten all in the same suit, which beats:
- all other straight flushes — five consecutive cards in the same suit, which beats:
- four of a kind — four cards of one rank plus a kicker of any other rank, which, in turn, beats:
- a full house.
What does a full house beat?
A full house beats:
- a flush — five cards of the same suit, which beats:
- a straight — a run of five consecutive cards, which beats:
- three-of-a-kind — three cards of the same rank, plus two others of differing ranks, which beats:
- a pair — two cards of the same rank, plus three other cards, which beats:
- high card — five cards of differing ranks in at least two suits.
The probabilities of a full house
The odds of being dealt a full house off the top of a shuffled deck is 0.1441%.
This is because in a standard 52-card deck there are 3,744 combinations that make a full house out of a total 2,598,960 possible hands. This is equivalent to odds of 693-to-1.
For comparison, the odds of getting a royal flush are 0.000154%, a straight 0.3925%, and a high hand 50.112%.
Examples of full houses
K♠K♣K♦Q♠Q♥, 9♠9♥9♦J♥J♣, 2♠2♥2♣A♠A♥, are all examples of full houses. Here they are ordered from the highest rank to the lowest rank.
2♠2♥2♣A♠A♥ is described at showdown as “a full house, twos over aces.” You may hear this elided as: “a boat, deuces of aces.”
How to play a full house in hold’em
The relative strength of full house, like all hands, depends on the board (in flop games) or your opponent’s visible cards (in stud games). In hold’em sometimes a full house can be the nuts (i.e. the best possible hand) in others it can be worth peanuts.
In general, though, full houses are strong hands and are worth playing aggressively.
Because a full house requires the board to contain at least one pair, you must be cautious in particular of competing full houses and fours-of-a-kind. The paired board will also clue opponents into the possibility of your hand, so you may need to disguise the strength of your hand by making slow plays like checks and calls.