What is a Straight in Poker? Everything You Need to Know

Poker Straight
Poker writer Geoff Fisk profile photo
Geoff Fisk
Posted on: March 10, 2021 07:00 PST

Poker.org’s continuing series on poker hand rankings describes each possible made hand on the poker hand rankings chart. The following article takes a look at the straight, including the math behind making a straight in a game of poker.

Examples of straights include hands like A♥K♣Q♥J♠T♦️ and 6♠5♥4♦️3♣2♥.

How do straights work in poker?

A straight consists of five sequential cards in the same hand. The suits don’t matter when it comes to making a straight, and the highest card in the straight determines the strength of the hand.

The ace can act as both the low end of an ace-to-five straight (5♥4♦️3♣2♥A♠) as well as the high end of a ten-to-ace straight (A♥K♣Q♥J♠T♦️). Ace-to-five makes the lowest possible straight, while ten-to-ace is the highest possible straight.

All other straights in between the low and high ends use the highest-ranking card to determine the hand’s strength. A ten-high straight, for example (T♠9♥8♦️7♣6♥), beats a seven-high straight (7♥6♦️5♣4♥3♠).

The straight hand explained 

Any five-card hand that includes five sequential cards qualifies as a straight. The suits of the cards don’t matter, as any mix of suits can be used to make a straight.

The highest card in the straight determines the hand’s strength. If two straights go head-to-head, the hand with the highest-ranking top card wins.

An ace can be used as the low card in a five-high straight (aka the wheel) or the high card in an ace-high straight (aka broadway).

Wrap-around straights using the ace as a bridge don’t qualify as a straight. For example, Q♥K♣A♠2♦️3♥ is just an ace-high hand, not counting as a straight.

How does a straight hand rank?

A straight represents a strong hand, often good enough to win the pot in many poker games. The straight ranks as the sixth-best hand you can make according to the poker hand rankings. An ace-high straight (ten-to-ace) beats all other straights in a head-to-head battle.

The higher the top card in the straight, the better the likelihood of winning the hand with that straight. And holding two cards to a straight with the other three on the board is more likely to win. That’s because it’s less likely that the other player also holds two to make a straight.

Be aware of the possible straights from using the community cards, especially when you’re using four of them. If your hole cards complete a straight on the lower end, consider the possible hands. Also think about the betting patterns of the other players. They may have made the straight on the high end. 

What beats a straight in poker?

A straight makes a strong holding, but it loses to the five hands above it on the Poker.org poker hand rankings chart. Royal flushes, straight flushes, four-of-a-kind, full houses, and flushes all beat straights. The strength of a straight doesn’t matter when it goes up against one of these superior hands.

Even so, a straight is a strong hand, especially in short-handed play, like four-handed or six-handed action. The probability of making a straight is more than double that of making a flush, which is the next-highest hand.

You can combine that probability with  pot odds to present prime betting opportunities, especially on a dry board. A straight, or even a straight draw, can be profitable if you bet optimally. Be careful of opponents who may be closing in on a straight flush, though the odds they’ll get there are slim. Balance all of the odds in those situations.

What can a straight hand beat?

A straight beats all made hands that sit below it in the poker hand rankings. Straights beat three-of-a-kind, two pair, one pair, and high-card hands. A straight loses to a flush, as well as all other hands above in on the poker hand rankings chart.

There’s a key to using a straight to beat other hands. Just consider your opponent’s betting on all streets. Then think about their odds of hitting a better hand than a straight. If an opponent appears to have made trips or two pair, they would not beat a straight. That can be an ideal cue to maximize the betting and the pot size. 

A straight will beat many more hands than it will lose to. It all depends on the texture of the board, possible opponent poker card combinations, and the betting pattern of that opponent. 

Poker Suit Order

In most poker games, all four suits in a deck are equal in value. None of them will rank higher than another. Tournaments like the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour don’t include suit order in their written rules of poker.

Some poker rooms will use the suits as a tiebreaker in cash games, particularly if two players make identical straights. Others may use poker suit order to determine the bring-in in Stud or Razz. These situations are rare, but when they occur, U.S. card rooms usually rank spades as the highest, followed by hearts, diamonds, and then clubs. 

How to play a straight in Texas hold ‘em

A straight in  Texas Hold’ Em is not always a winning hand, but it can be if played correctly. A player will get more betting opportunities (and better odds) if their two hole cards match with two cards on the board — to make the straight draw or the actual straight. In that situation, it’s less likely that any opponent will also draw a straight or make one with two hole cards.

The two most common types of straight draws are the open-ended straight draw and the inside straight draw. A player is more likely to hit an open-ender with eight outs (one at each end), as an inside straight only provides four outs. In that case it can be more profitable to bet.

When playing a straight draw, be mindful of opponents who may draw to flushes or full houses. It’s easy to get excited about making a straight in cards and lose sight of another player’s possible draws. 

Probability of a straight hand

When drawing five cards randomly from a standard 52-card deck, you have a 0.3925% chance of making a straight. This probability equates to 253.8-to-1 odds against drawing a straight.

The deck yields 10 distinct ways to draw a straight. The suits don’t factor into that calculation, as for example 7♥6♦️5♣4♥3♠ and 7♠6♥5♦️4♣3♥ are both the same distinct straight.

Factoring in different combinations of suits, you have 10,200 total ways to draw a straight from a 52-card deck.

In Texas Hold’em, you’re tasked with making the strongest possible five-card hand out of seven total cards. If all five community cards are on the board, you have a 4.62% chance of making a straight (20.6-to-1 odds against)

Examples of straight hands

Hands like A♥K♣Q♥J♠T♦️, Q♥J♦️T♣9♥8♠, T♠9♥8♦️7♣6♥, and 5♥4♦️3♣2♥A♠ all mark examples of a made straight. Note that the ace can act as the low card of a five-high straight or the high-card of an ace-high straight. In a battle between two straights, the hand with the strongest high card wins.

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