What is a Full House in Poker? Everything You Need to Know

Full House in Poker
Jon Pill
Posted on: March 13, 2021 07:01 PST

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, ranking, hands that beat it, hands that it beats, probability, and some examples.

To be successful at poker, you must learn the poker hierarchy of hands. If you don’t understand the different potential hands and their rankings, you could misplay your own hand and lose a critical pot. 

A full house in poker is a solid, yet unique card hand that combines three-of-a-kind and a pair. Considered one of the best hands in poker, a full house is still not the best hand on the felt. You can beat it with a four-of-a-kind and all the straight flushes, including a royal flush

One of the most memorable full houses in poker history is the final hand of the 2003 WSOP Main Event. With a J♠5♠4♣ flop, Chris Moneymaker flopped two-pair while holding 5♦️4♠ versus Sammy Farha’s top pair as he held J♥10♦️. After they went all-in post-flop, the dealer turned the 8♦️ and rivered the 5♥, completing Moneymaker’s winning full house that ultimately changed poker forever.

What is a Full House?

A full house in poker 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.” A full house is considered a very strong hand in poker and it is often a winning poker hand. Although this unique hand outranks many common poker hands, a full house is not unbeatable.

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 in Poker?

A full house is one of the best hands in poker, but it can still be beaten. One of the most memorable losses by a full house in poker history was an unbelievable hand between poker superstars Daniel Negreanu and Gus Hansen.

In one hand during Season 2 of the popular television show High Stakes Poker, Negreanu was dealt 6♠6♥, while Hansen was dealt 5♦️5♣. When the dealer flopped 9♣6♦️5♥, both players had hit a set (or three-of-a-kind).

Negreanu had a stranglehold on the hand as Hansen was drawing all but dead to one card. But when the miracle 5♠ fell on the turn, Hansen catapulted into the lead and would clinch the hand when the 8♠ fell on the river. After they were all-in, Hansen would win a $575,700 pot, which was the largest in High Stakes Poker history to that point.

The hands that beat a full house are, in order:

  • 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: Full House

What Poker Hands Does a Full House Beat?

If you’re dealt a full house, you can rest easy that you’ll win the pot more often than not. The three-and-two card mix of the full house in poker beats many common and plenty of more typical hands, as seen below. 

In certain poker games, you must meet specific criteria to have this hand as a possible outcome.  For example, in no-limit hold’em, a player cannot have a full house unless there’s at least a pair on the board. As for seven-card stud games, since three cards are face down, full houses can be hidden, which is extremely powerful and dangerous.

A full house beats:

  • Flush — five cards of the same suit that are not consecutive, which beats:
  • Straight — a run of five consecutive cards in at least two suits, which beats:
  • Three-of-a-kind — three cards of the same rank, plus two other cards of differing and non-matching ranks, which beats:
  • Pair — two cards of the same rank, plus three other cards of differing and non-matching, which beats:
  • High card — five cards of differing ranks in at least two suits.

Who Wins if Both Players Have a Full House?

In rare instances, two opponents could both have full houses, often resulting in an extremely large pot. When two very good poker hands are up against each other in the same hand like this, we typically call it a “cooler.” 

Where two full houses are up against each other, the rank of the three-of-a-kind settles the difference. For example, 5♠55♦️6♠6♦️ beats 4♠44♦️K♠K♣.

When playing with a standard deck, there are only four cards of each rank. This means there will never be a draw between two full houses, except in games where cards are shared (mostly flop games like hold’em) or wild cards are utilized. In these cases, the pair breaks ties where possible.

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 of 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♠22♣A♠A , are all examples of full houses. Here they are ordered from the highest rank to the lowest rank, as the rank of the three-of-a-kind is prioritized.

2♠22♣A♠A is described at showdown as “a full house, twos (or deuces) over aces.” You may hear this elided as: “a boat, deuces of aces.”

How to Play a Full House in Texas Hold’em

The relative strength of a 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), while other times it can be worth peanuts.

In general, though, full houses are one of the best hands in poker 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 for 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. Fully understanding poker strategy will let you maximize your pots and winnings.

Featured image source: Flickr by Poker Photos used under  CC license