Poker Hand Rankings
You were likely asked the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” countless times when you were a child. Depending on your age and where you grew up, your response may have been anything from “firefighter” or “race car driver” to “teacher” or “programmer.”
Since the poker boom occurred in the United States, one answer that has probably grown in popularity is “professional poker player.” At least, that answer may be more common among young adults who would prefer to forge their own path rather than get a more traditional job.
The Poker Boom
Beginning with the movie “Rounders,” which was released in 1998, poker has moved from smoke-filled back rooms into the forefront of America’s pop culture rather quickly. Telecasts of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) began in the same year “Rounders” was playing on the silver screen, and Planet Poker gained a loyal following of aspiring players when it launched.
Americans were captivated with poker when the “World Poker Tour” debuted on the Travel Channel in 2003. Poker became the stuff of dreams even more when amateur player and Tennessee accountant Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event in May of that year. Moneymaker’s trek to becoming the WSOP Main Event champion was the stuff of legends.
Moneymaker earned a seat in the Main Event by way of a satellite tournament he paid $86 to participate in on PokerStars’ website. After winning a seat in the Main Event, Moneymaker defeated 838 other competitors to take home a then-whopping prize of $2.5 million. When Moneymaker defeated Sam Farha heads up to win the Main Event, famed announcer Norman Chad exclaimed, “This is beyond fairy tale. It’s inconceivable!”
While Moneymaker’s win certainly was improbable — he had to outlast proven professionals like Farha, Phil Ivey, Johnny Chan, Phil Helmuth and Howard Lederer, among many others — what followed his victory is really what was inconceivable. And that was the poker boom, which led thousands and thousands of people to start to play poker with the hope of emulating Moneymaker’s good fortune.
In 2004, the number of players in the WSOP Main Event, which has a $10,000 entry fee, more than tripled from the year before. By 2006, the number of people playing in the Main Event swelled to 14 times the number that played in the tournament in 2002.
Poker Hands: What Beats What?
While the poker boom has faded for various reasons, poker is still a popular game across age groups and genders. Whether you want to try to walk the path of Chris Moneymaker and become an amateur champion, you would like to play poker professionally, or you simply want to play in a local home game, you cannot fulfill your dream without knowing the basics of the game. And it does not get any more basic than learning poker hand rankings.
When you look at a list of poker hands, you will see that the hands are normally presented from best to worst or worst to best. Before you sit down at a poker table, it is wise to memorize this list. If you skip this and sit down at a table with a poker hands cheat sheet, the other players will likely identify you as a fish unless you happen to be at a table with other people who know nothing about the game.
A fish is an obviously weak poker player. In general, fish become targets for more experienced players who are adept at capitalizing on a fish’s weaknesses. Even if other players know you are new to the game, there is no reason to broadcast it or reinforce their impressions by advertising your unfamiliarity with poker hand rankings. Learn how different hands rank so you can tell if you are holding a winning hand without having to refer to a cheat sheet or rely on the dealer.
Here are the poker hand rankings from highest to lowest:
1. Royal Flush
Although many variants of poker exist, there is a set of poker hand rankings that is almost universally accepted in most versions of the game. The poker hand that sits at the top of this list is the royal flush.
A royal flush is the best straight flush a player can get in poker. A royal flush consists of five suited cards that are ace, king, queen, jack and ten. Unless you are playing in a game that has wildcards or another player ends up with a royal flush, which is highly unlikely, you win the hand outright when you are holding a royal flush.
With a standard 52-card deck, there are only four hands that can result in a royal flush. This makes a royal flush the least likely hand you can hold at any given time. The probability that you will be dealt a royal flush in a game of Texas Hold’em with 10 players is just 0.000309.
2. Straight Flush
A straight flush is the second best hand you can get in a typical poker game. A straight flush includes five consecutive, suited cards. When it comes to a straight flush, an ace can be either the highest or lowest card. This means you can have a straight flush from an ace through a five or a hand that includes 10 through an ace. If you hold the latter hand, you will have a royal flush.
In five-card stud poker, there are only 36 ways you can land a straight flush. Since a straight flush is the second-best hand in poker, it is not likely that you will have this hand often. In a 10-player game of Texas Hold’em, the probability that you will end up with a straight flush is 0.002547.
3. Four of a Kind
A four of a kind is exactly what the name of the hand implies — four cards of the same rank. Sometimes called "quads," a four of a kind can be four twos, four aces or four of any of the cards in between. If two players have four of a kind, the player with the highest ranked matching cards wins. This means four fives will beat a hand consisting of four threes, for example. If you are holding four aces, you have the best possible four of a kind.
If you are playing five-card stud, 624 combinations can yield a four of a kind. While that is certainly more promising than the number of combinations that can produce a royal or straight flush, it does not mean it is likely that you will see a four of a kind in your hand often. In a game of Texas Hold’em involving 10 players, the probability that you will have a four of a kind is only 0.014620.
4. Full House
In a game of five-card stud, you can end up with a full house 3,744 different ways. A full house consists of three cards of equal rank and two cards of the same rank. A full house might include three aces and two kings, three deuces and two queens or any other combination of three matching cards and two cards of the same rank. In a 10-player game of Texas Hold’em, the probability that you will end up with a full house is 0.152169.
A flush consists of five suited cards that are not in sequence. An ace, deuce, five, king and jack of the same suit can make up a flush. So can a suited six, seven, eight, queen and four. Any combination of five suited, non-sequential cards is a flush.
In five card stud, there are 5,108 combinations of cards that can produce a flush. The probability of this hand in this game is 0.00196540.
A straight consists of five sequential cards that are not all the same suit. If you have an ace and king of spades, a queen of hearts, a jack of diamonds and a ten of clubs, you have a straight. When you are holding an ace, two, three, four of clubs and a five of diamonds, you have a straight as well. In five card stud, there are 10,200 different ways you might end up with a straight.
If you watch poker on television, you may hear an announcer proclaim that a player is drawing to a straight. If a player is drawing to an inside straight, it means the person needs one card to complete the middle portion of his or her hand. A player in this position may need an eight to complete a straight that runs from six to 10, for example.
If a person is on an open-ended straight draw, the player needs a card for the beginning or end of a straight. A person holding six, seven, eight and nine would be on an open-ended straight draw because the player would need a five or a ten to complete or “make” their hand.
7. Three of a Kind
Like four of a kind, three of a kind is a hand that says it all with its name. A three of a kind is a hand that includes three cards of the same rank and two unrelated cards. Three tens, a jack and a king is an example of a three of a kind. For a three of a kind, it is the matching three cards that will be in play for the most part.
If you are playing with multiple decks and two players end up with the same three of a kind, the highest unrelated card will determine who wins. For example, if you have three tens, an ace and a five and an opponent ends up with three tens, a king and a four, you will win the hand. That is because your ace kicker outranks your competitor’s king. If your highest kicker is the same as your opponent’s kicker, your other hole card will be compared to your competitor’s to determine who wins.
In a game of five-card stud, there are more than 54,900 ways for you to get three of a kind.
8. Two Pair
There are over 123,550 combinations that can produce two pair in five-card stud. A hand consisting of two pairs includes two matching cards of one rank and two other cards of matching rank along with one unrelated card. If both of the pairs in your hand are the same, you have a four of a kind, not two pairs.
9. One Pair
In five-card stud, you can end up with one pair 1,098,240 different ways. If you are holding one pair, your hand will include two cards of the same rank and three unrelated cards. If your pair is the same as one of your competitor’s, the person holding the highest kicker will win the pot.
10. High Card
A hand that consists of five unrelated cards is often referred to as a “busted hand.” In this scenario, the highest card you are holding is what will be in play. Even if you are holding an ace, you will lose the hand to a pair of deuces. The only way you can win a pot with a high card is if every other player at the table missed their hand and your high card is higher than everybody else’s.
While the poker hand rankings just discussed are accepted as the norm just about everywhere, there are occasions in which a hand can outrank a royal flush. If a poker game includes wildcards, meaning cards that can be assigned a value, a five of a kind will beat a royal flush.
Common Questions Regarding Poker Hand Rankings
You have probably heard the phrase “the only stupid questions are the ones that remain unasked” or a variant of it at some point. No matter what version you have heard, the saying certainly applies to poker. The only way you can truly master the game of poker is by learning from others, and that often involves asking questions.
Poker is often a game of nuances. It is also a highly social game in which players usually like to talk about their skills, accomplishments and failures. Bad beats, big wins, strategy and descriptions of players being on tilt are all common topics along the felt. You should feel free to ask other players questions but avoid doing so if they are involved in a hand. You should also refrain from asking questions about a hand that is in progress even when a given player is not active in the hand.
Here are some common questions involving poker hand rankings and the correct responses to them:
- Does a hand consisting of all red or all black cards beat anything? No, having a hand that includes cards that are the same color does not beat another hand as a function of the cards’ color. Holding a hand that consists of five suited cards makes a flush but having five unsuited cards that are all red or black is meaningless when it comes to determining the winner.
- Does the rank of flush cards matter? Yes, it does. The flush with the highest card will win if multiple players have a flush in the same round of play.
- Does the rank of straight cards matter? Yes. As it is with flushes, the player with the highest card in their straight will win when multiple players have a straight in the same hand, meaning an ace-high straight will beat a king-high straight.
- How do the suits rank in poker? They do not rank. Unlike some other card games in which suits have value, the suits are ranked equally in poker, meaning spades are not more valuable than diamonds and neither hearts nor clubs outrank either of the other suits in any way.
- Are the poker hand rankings the same in Three-Card Poker? Three-card poker is a table game that uses the same hand rankings with one significant exception. In three-card poker, a straight outranks a flush.
- What happens if I end up with three pairs? If you end up holding three pairs, you should simply play your highest two pairs. You cannot play all three pairs in poker, so go with your best two pairs.
- What is the difference between a set and trips? “Set” and “trips” both refer to hands in which a player holds three of a kind. You will make a set when your pocket pair matches a card on the board and you will have trips when one of your hole cards has the same rank as two of the cards on the board.
- Who wins when two players have a full house? When two players have a full house in the same round of play, the player with the highest three of a kind wins. If you have three aces and two deuces while your opponent is holding three kings and two aces, you will take the pot.
- Who takes the pot when the board shows four of a kind? You may think that everyone will win when there is a four of a kind on the board, but that is not the case. In this scenario, the player with the highest kicker will win.
- Can straights wrap around? No. While an ace can either be the highest or lowest card in a straight, a straight cannot wrap about a deck, meaning you cannot make a straight if you are holding a king, ace, two, three and four.
- What if there is a straight on the board? If no one can complete the straight with a higher hole card, all of the players remaining in the hand will split the pot. If the pot cannot be split evenly, the excess will be given to the active player who is located closest to the dealer button.
Play Poker at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino
Now that you know all about poker hand rankings and the answers to some common poker questions, it is time for you to join the action at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino. Our 18-table poker room is located on the upper level of our welcoming casino, and it is the site of non-stop play.
We invite you to try your hand at poker in our inviting poker room. From the moment you take a seat at the table, you will feel right at home among our friendly guests and staff members. If you have a question, all you have to do is ask.
If you have time, make plans to play over the course of several days. With an extended stay, you can accumulate rewards points to redeem for various things. Book a stay in our AAA 4 Diamond hotel and make plans to play in our fun-filled, action-packed casino today.
We look forward to having you as our guest at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino soon.