Most poker variants use the same system of standard five-card poker hand rankings. Knowing how all of the best poker hands stack up against each other is crucial to a poker players’ success at the poker table.
No-Limit Hold’em, Pot-Limit Omaha, and many other poker games use the same standard poker hand order. The royal flush stands as the best hand possible in the rankings, while the high card hand ranks as the weakest.
The more rarely a hand occurs, the higher it stands in the poker hand rankings. The odds against a royal flush, for example, are nearly 31,000-to-1, making it the rarest and strongest hand in poker.
When two hands of the same strength go head-to-head, the winner is determined by which hand holds the stronger kicker. In a battle of ace-high hands, for instance, ace-king beats out ace-queen, as the king kicker outranks the queen.
A thorough understanding of the starting hands chart makes a critical part of a winning poker strategy.
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A royal flush is the strongest possible five-card hand according to standard poker hand rankings. Making a ten-to-ace straight with all five cards of the same suit gives you a royal flush. The royal flush is the rarest of hands, with the odds against making a royal flush in Texas Hold’em at 30,939-to-1. Even if you spend many hours playing poker, you might not ever make a royal flush. The four different suits produce four different possible royal flush combinations for a five-card hand.
A straight flush makes the second-strongest five-card hand, trailing only the royal flush in the poker hand rankings. A straight flush is made with any five consecutive ranking cards of the same suit. The king-high version represents the strongest possible straight flush, as an ace-high straight flush qualifies as a royal flush. The odds against making a straight flush in Texas Hold’em are 3,589-to-1, making it a very rare holding.
Four of a Kind
Holding four of the same ranking card (like four aces or four kings) gives you four of a kind. Four of a kind represents one of the strongest hands in poker and only loses to a straight flush or a royal flush. Also known as “quads,” four of a kind doesn’t happen often in a game of poker. You have a 594-to-1 chance of making quads in a game of Texas Hold’em. This hand often plays well as a trapping hand, as your opponents will find it unlikely that you hold quads.
A full house is made by holding three of the same ranking card with two of another rank. A five-card hand with three aces and two kings, for example, makes a full house. That hand would be known as aces full of kings, or just aces full. Other names for a full house include a “full boat,” or simply a boat.
A flush is represented by any five cards of the same suit. Unlike the straight and royal flush, the sequence of the cards doesn’t matter, as long as all five cards are the same suit. The highest card of the five determines the strength of the flush. For example, an ace-high flush beats a ten-high flush. A flush is only possible in Texas Hold’em when at least three cards of the same suit hit the board.
Five consecutive-ranking cards make a straight. For example, putting together 2-3-4-5-6 in a five-card hand gives you a straight. The ten-to-ace straight (T-J-Q-K-A) is also known as a “broadway straight” and is the strongest possible version of a straight. The ace can also be used as the low end of an ace-to-five straight, aka “wheel straight” (A-2-3-4-5).
Three of a Kind
Any hand with three of the same ranking card qualifies as three-of-a-kind. This hand is also known as “trips” or a “set,” but the meaning of these two nicknames differ when applied to Texas Hold’em. A “set” is made when you hold a pocket pair (like a pair of aces) in Texas Hold’em and another of that same cars hits the board. “Trips” refers to holding one of a particular ranking card and seeing two more of that same card come out on the board.
Two pair refers to holding two distinct pairs in the same five-card hand. For instance, a hand like A-A-K-K-2 makes two pair, aces, and kings. The higher of the two pair determines the hand’s strength if it’s pitted against another two pair hand. For example, Q-Q-5-5-2 beats J-J-T-T-5 because queens outrank jacks in the order of cards. Two pair makes a strong hand in Texas Hold’em, and is often a hand that can win a big pot.
Making a pair requires holding two of the same ranking card. Hands like A-A-T-7-5 and J-J-T-7-2 represent pairs in a five-card hand. When two pairs of the same strength play against each other, the winner is determined by the next-highest card (aka the kicker). When your two hole cards in Texas Hold’em make a pair, you hold a “pocket pair.” “Pocket aces,” for example, refers to getting a pair of aces as your hole cards. In a battle of pair versus pair, the highest pair wins.
Any five-card hand that doesn’t qualify in any of the above categories is known as a high-card hand. Holdings like A-J-8-4-5 (ace-high) and J-8-6-3-2 (jack-high) represent high-card hands. In a battle of high card hands, the hand with the strongest kicker wins. For instance, the ace-high hand would beat the jack-high hand in this example.
Most Commonly Asked Poker Questions
Not sure what beats a full house or what a straight can beat? Here are the answers to the most commonly-asked poker questions this side of the Strip.
Does a flush beat a full house?
No. A full house beats a flush in the standard poker hand rankings. The odds against making a full house in a game of Texas Hold’em are about 36-to-1, while the odds against making a flush are 32-to-1. The full house is a more rare hand and beats a flush.
Does a flush beat a straight?
Yes. Using the standard poker hand rankings, a flush beats a straight, regardless of the strength of the straight. The odds against making a straight in Texas Hold’em are about 21-to-1, making it a more common hand than a flush (32-to-1 odds against).
Does a straight beat a full house?
No. The odds against making a full house in Texas Hold’em are about 36-to-1, while the odds against making a straight are about 21-to-1. Both are strong five-card hands, but a full house occurs less often than a straight. A full house beats a straight in the poker hand rankings.
Does three of a kind beat two pair?
Yes. Both three of a kind and two pair can make a lot of money in poker, but three of a kind is the best hand when it goes head to head with two pair. The odds against making three of a kind in Texas Hold’em is about 20-to-1, while the odds against making two pair is about 3-to-1.
Does three of a kind beat a straight?
No. The odds of making both of these hands are very close in a game of Texas Hold’em. The odds against making a straight are 20.6-to-1, while the odds against making three of a kind are 19.7-to-1. The straight comes about slightly less often, making it the winner against three of a kind in the poker hand rankings.
Does a flush beat three of a kind?
Yes. The battle of strong hands between a flush and three of a kind sees the flush as the stronger hand. The odds against making a flush in Texas Hold’em are about 32-to-1, with odds against making three of a kind at around 20-to-1.
Does a straight beat two pair?
Yes. The poker hand rankings dictate that a straight is a stronger hand than two pair. The straight occurs with about 21-to-1 odds against in Texas Hold’em, while the odds against making two pair stand at about 3-to-1.
Does four of a kind beat a full house?
Yes. Both four of a kind and a full house are among the strongest poker hands, but four of a kind is a much rarer holding. Texas Hold’em odds against making four of a kind are 594-to-1, while you have about 36-to-1 odds against making a full house.
Does three of a kind beat a flush?
No. When the flush and three of a kind go head to head, the flush comes out as the best according to the poker hand rankings. The odds against making three of a kind sit around 20-to-1, with the odds against hitting a flush at 32-to-1.
Does a full house beat a straight in poker?
Yes. The full house comes in less often than a straight. In Texas Hold’em, the odds against drawing a full house are around 36-to-1, while the odds against making a straight are around 21-to-1.
Does a straight flush beat four of a kind?
Yes. Four of a kind is an exceedingly rare hand in poker, but the straight flush is an even more elusive five-card hand. The odds against making a straight flush in Texas Hold’em is about 3,590-to-1, much rarer than four of a kind (594-to-1 odds against)
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Best Texas Hold ‘Em Starting Hands
Each hand in Texas Hold’em begins with all players receiving two face-down cards. These cards, known as hole cards, are only visible to the player they’re dealt. Some of the best holdings on the starting hands chart include the following two-card hands:
Pocket aces (aka “Pocket Rockets” or “Bullets”) is the best Texas Hold’em starting hand. Looking down at two aces as your hole cards means you should get as much money in the pot as possible in the preflop betting round.
Pocket kings (aka “Cowboys”) mark the second possible starting hand available with two hole cards in Texas Hold’em. Like pocket aces, a pair of kings in the hole should be played aggressively preflop. Only pocket aces make a better starting hand than pocket kings.
Sometimes known as “Ladies”, a pair of queens as your hole cards marks the third-strongest starting hand in Texas Hold’em. Like pocket kings and pocket aces, the best way to play queens usually involves an aggressive raising strategy preflop.
Pocket jacks (aka “Hooks”) are a strong preflop holding in Texas Hold’em. A pair of jacks in the hole doesn’t quite stand up to the strength of the hands above it on this list, however. Pocket jacks should be played with a bit more caution than queens through aces, especially when facing big preflop raises.
Ace King Suited
Ace-King (aka Big Slick) comes in two different varieties: suited and offsuit. The suited version is made when your hole cards are an ace and a king of the same suit. Ace-king suited stands as the strongest of suited connector hands, and should be played aggressively preflop, much like pocket aces, kings, or queens.
Pocket tens fall into a similar category as pocket jacks. A pair of tens in the hole makes one of the stronger Texas Hold’em starting hands, but you want to use a less aggressive preflop strategy in most spots compared to your approach with pocket aces, kings, and queens, or ace-king.
Ace-King Off Suit
Both the offsuit and suited editions of ace-king are known as “Big Slick” in poker vernacular. The offsuit version of ace-king can be played slightly less aggressively than ace-king suited, but both are hands that often demand a big preflop pot. In any matchup against another pair of aces, ace-king wins with the highest kicker.
Ace-queen suited represents one of the strongest starting hands in Texas Hold’em, but it’s not quite a slam dunk all-in preflop kind of hand. Ace-queen suited can play very well postflop, and in most situations, you’ll want to continue past the preflop round with this hand. Ace-queen loses the kicker battle against ace-king, however.
Pocket nines make one of the better preflop starting hands, but a pair of nines in the hole should be played somewhat cautiously. This is a hand that can win some pots if you can get to showdown with it, but pocket nines are also vulnerable to an overcard (any ten through ace) showing up when the community cards hit the board.
Ace-jack suited makes a premium Texas Hold’em starting hand, which should be continued through to the flop in most cases. It’s not as strong as ace-queen or ace-king, however, and the jack makes an inferior kicker when you’re up against either.