In poker, when you hear the word “hand,” this is referring to a set of 5 playing cards that each player will be dealt and maintain for the duration of the game. Each hand has a different rank and is compared to the ranks of the other hands at the table.
The hands are all revealed in what’s called the “showdown,” and based on which hand has the higher rank, this will determine who takes the pot.
The rank of each hand is determined by particular patterns within the cards that the player’s holding. Before you go play poker, you’ll still want to learn the basics of the game in further detail, but I’ll go through each hand in detail so that you’ll at least have that knowledge.
Poker is a fun game that can take up hours of your Saturday night with a group of friends, or can take you through the night and into the morning at the casino. Here are the seven hands that you’re going to need to understand when playing poker.
1- High Card
So when you’re playing poker and each player reveals their cards, and nobody has one of the qualifying hands below in this list, it’ll come down to who has the highest cards—we call this the “high card.”
The ranking of each card in order starts with an Ace (an Ace can sometimes be the highest or lowest card), followed by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King.
In most cases, a high card hand ends up losing—almost invariably, someone has something in their hand that’s higher than just high card—even if it’s just a pair. If you end up with a high-card hand, you should probably fold. It’s unlikely that you’re going home with any money on that pot.
One pair in poker is when a player has two of the same card. For example, when a player has two Kings, two Aces, two fives, etc.
The ranking of a pair is the same as when it comes to high card, except now it’s just who has the highest pair of the same card.
If players reveal their hands and a couple players have the same pair (for instance, if two players show their cards and they both have a pair of 3s), then the winner will be determined by which player has the highest kicker.
The kicker is the highest ranking card out of the three remaining cards in the player’s hand. Essentially, it’s the “high card” that’s left over after the two pairs are counted.
So if a player’s kicker is an Ace, and while the other player’s kicker is a King, than the player with the Ace kicker will win the hand.
Two pair might feel like a pretty strong hand, but it’s still low on the list. If you’ve got two pair, you better be pretty sure that your opponents only have a pair before you make a bet.
3- Three of a Kind
Three of a kind in poker is when a player has three of the same card. If a player has three 3s, three Jacks, three 10s etc., this would be three of a kind.
The ranking of three of a kind is the same as what has been explained so far. Three of a kind also comes down to the highest three cards that are revealed by the showdown, followed by the highest kicker in the hand.
Three of a kind is actually a pretty strong hand. If you’ve got three of a kind, you might want to consider making some bets.
That being said, if you’re playing Texas Hold ‘Em, you might want to think twice, especially if your three of a kind is made up of two community cards. In that case, it’s possible someone else has a pair and the other three of a kind—making a full house, which I’ll get to in a minute and which is a very strong hand—and you could end up losing big time.
A straight in poker is when a player has five cards in a sequential rank. For example, a straight could be having a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or it could be a 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace.
If two players both show a straight, then the winning hand will come down to whichever straight has the highest rank. So if a player has a straight with the high card being an Ace, that’s going to beat a hand with the high card being a King.
Having a straight that’s a 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace is known as a Broadway straight. Having a straight that’s a 5, 4, 3, 2, Ace is known as a Baby straight.
A straight is a powerful hand. It falls right in the middle of hand rankings, and it’s rare enough that it’s definitely worth playing. If you find that you’ve got a straight, consider playing it a little slow at first, then making some big bets at the end.
A flush in poker is having five cards that all have the same suit. A suit in poker is a heart, diamond, club, or spade. The cards don’t need to be in a sequential rank like a straight, just the same suit.
If two players have a both show a flush, whether that’s revealing a hand with five hearts, or five spades, then the winning hand is going to come down to which player has the highest and then second highest ranking card in their hand.
So if a player shows a 10, 2, 3, Jack, Ace (all cards with same suit), that will beat a flush with 5, Jack, 3, 7, 9 (all the same suit), with the Ace being the highest ranking card out of both flushes. Flush hands that differ by suit alone and have the same highest ranking card would be considered equal hands, no hand being higher ranked than the other.
This does happen from time to time, where players have equal hands and equal kickers. When that happens, the pot is split.
6- Full House
A full house, originally called a full hand, is a pretty amazing hand to be dealt in the game of poker. You’ll see players that are dealt this hand moving a lot of their chips into the betting pot, because this hand is a pretty hard hand to beat.
A full house consists of the combination of a pair and a three or a kind. This could be 3, 3, 3, Jack, Jack, or 7, 7, 7, 5, 5.
The determination of who would win if two players were to both reveal a full house first comes down to the highest ranking three of a kind, or “triple” followed by the highest ranking pair.
So in the example above, the highest ranking hand would be the hand with the triple 7’s. Full house hands that have a different suit but equally ranked cards would be considered equal hands.
7- Four of a Kind
Like a three of a kind, a four of a kind is four of the same ranking cards instead of three of the same ranking cards.
So Jack, Jack, Jack, Jack would be an example of a four of a kind.
If two players both show four of the same ranked cards, then the winning hand, like the rest of the poker hands listed, will come down to the highest ranked set of four cards. So four Jacks is going to beat a hand showing four 7s.
Four Kings is going to beat a hand of four Jacks. This is not a common hand to be dealt, but it’s quite the destructive hand if you play it slow.
8- Straight Flush
So this is a dirty hand right here. The legendary straight flush. A straight flush is pretty self-explanatory, consisting of five cards of the same suit all in a sequential order, just like the straight that has been explained above. Having a 5-high straight flush is known as “the steel wheel.”
Each straight flush in ranked by the highest ranking card of the sequential cards. So five clubs with a Queen being the highest ranked card is going to beat a hand containing five hearts with a 10 being the highest ranking card.
This is the rarest hand to be dealt in poker.
9- Five of a Kind
Taking the “Royal flush” out of the picture, this is the highest possible hand that a player could be dealt in a poker game.
Like the three of a kind of four of a king, the five of a kind is a hand of five of the same ranked card. If two players both show a five of a kind, then whoever has the highest ranked set of quintuplets will win the round.
This hand doesn’t come up very often because it requires a joker card or wild card. If you’re playing without wild cards, you won’t see this hand.
Poker is an amazing game with a variety of hand combinations. If you want to win big at real money online poker or in the casinos, you better have a solid understanding of the different possible hand combinations and how they work.
What’s your favorite poker hand? Tell me in the comments.