Poker hand rankings are key to demystifying “when to hold’em when to fold’em”. These rankings chart the strength of the best poker hands you can play, allowing players both old and new to make vital in-game choices.
Many beginners in the world of poker find the hand ranking system difficult to grasp. Yet, as the entirety of the game is constructed around this system, it’s worth a dedicated examination. Once committed to memory, a poker beginner can use this knowledge to determine the strength of their current hand and thus, whether it’s the best to play. The ranking system outlined within this post is used across multiple poker variations like Texas Hold’em, Omaha and 3 card poker.
Read on to find out which hands to play, ranked best to worst!
- Royal flush
Top of our list is the most coveted hand in the deck - the royal flush! This hand isn’t easy to come by but if you’re holding it then there’s no question that you should raise big and play on. This hand consists of five consecutive cards of the same suit in the order of value from 10 through to ace. E.g ten, jack, queen, king, ace.
- Straight flush
A straight flush and a royal flush are similar but they have key differences. Like a royal flush, a straight flush is five cards of sequential value of the same suit. However, unlike a royal flush, this can be any five sequential cards, not just the ‘royal’ ones.
Four-of-a-kind doesn’t have the same power as the flushes but still packs a punch. This hand consists of matching numerical cards in all four suits.
- Full house
This hand is a combination of three-of-a-kind and a pair, all in the same hand. Should several players hold versions of this hand then the winner is the one with the higher value three-of-a-kind.
A flush is a decent medium-strength hand that you’ll often see in your games. It holds five cards of the same suit but with non-sequential numbered cards. This means they can be in any order without consequences as long as they’re in the same suit. If two players have a flush then the one with the highest valued card is the winner.
A straight is a hand with five cards in sequential order. This hand can be comprised of several suits.
Three-of-a-kind is similar to a straight as it’s made up of three numerically matching cards. Like a straight, it can also be made up of several suits. The two highest cards on the table accompanying the three-of-a-kind complete the hand.
- Two pairs
As the name suggests, two pairs is a hand holding two sets of numerically matching cards. The highest-ranked remaining card completes the hand.
One pair is a hand consisting of a pair of cards of the same rank in two different suits. The remainder of the hand is formed from the three highest-ranked cards available.
- High card
Alas, we’ve reached the lowest-ranked hand of them all. With this hand, the highest card in the hand is considered the soundest hand you can make - not the best hand to play in most scenarios.
While it’s useful to have a sound grip on the strength of these rankings, don’t let them solely determine how you play your game. It’s important to note that every game and every table is wildly different. Poker is a game of many elements and this is merely one. The strength of a hand (and whether you should play it) will vary from table to table. As your opponents change, you’ll need to adapt to their varied playing styles and consider the overall skill of the room.