What Beats What in Poker?

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Dennis Graham-ClarkeSeptember 12, 2022 at 10:56 PM

The best poker hand is a royal flush, followed by a straight flush, four-of-a-kind, full house, flush, straight, three-of-a-kind, two pair, pair and high card.

The rules of all poker games are quite simple and the way the hands are arranged is straightforward and the same across all poker variants. There are 10 different poker hands you can have.

These poker hands are ranked from best to worst: royal flush, straight flush, four-of-a-kind, full house, flush, straight, three-of-a-kind, two pair, pair, high card, with the royal flush as the best hand and a high card as the worst hand. 

Continue reading to find out what beats what in poker.

All Cards Can be Used to Create a Poker Hand

In Texas Hold’em, the most popular form of poker, it doesn’t matter where the cards come from. You can form a hand with your two personal cards and three community cards, with one personal card and four community cards, or with all five community cards. Keep in mind that when you use all five community cards, your opponent has at least the same hand, and possibly a better hand. 

In Pot Limit Omaha, the rules are different. Here, you get dealt four personal poker cards, of which you can only use two. With the community cards on the table, you form a poker hand as per usual. 

Basic Ranking of the Poker Cards

Poker follows the same basic ranking system as that of many other card games. The ace is the highest card, followed by the king, queen, and jack. From there it goes down from 10 to two. This means that a pair of aces is higher than a pair of kings and that three jacks are better than three sevens. The ace can also be used as the lowest card under two to form a straight (A-2-3-4-5).

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Poker Hand Rankings From Highest to Lowest

The royal flush is the highest possible hand in poker. This poker hand is very rare, which makes it quite special for every player who has ever had it. The royal flush ranges from 10 to ace with all five cards of the same suit. It is impossible to have two different royal flushes in the same hand in Texas Hold’em and Omaha.

With Texas Hold’em, it is possible that the royal flush is formed completely by community cards. In this case, it will always be a split pot. In all other cases, you will be the only winner with this hand.

The straight flush is the second-best hand in poker. You have a straight flush when you have five cards in a row that are all of the same suit. Unlike the royal flush, multiple players can have a straight flush during a hand.

We speak of a four-of-a-kind when you have four cards of the same rank. This is a very strong hand and will almost always win. Note that the four-of-a-kind will be completed with a fifth card. 

Example: If the board is A-A-A-A-2, the player with the highest card wins. All players have four-of-a-kind aces, so the rank of the fifth card will decide who will win. If you have a king in your hand on this board you will always win or split the pot with someone else who has a king.

A full house consists of three cards with the same rank, plus two of the same cards with the same rank. The height of the three-card combination is the most important here. 

Example: you have Q-10 and your opponent has 10-9. The board is Q-Q-10-9-9. In this case, you win with Q-Q-Q-10-10 over your opponent’s 9-9-9-10-10.

A flush consists of five cards of the same suit. If both players have a flush, the highest card of the flush will determine who wins. If both players share the same highest-ranked card, the hand results in a split pot. 

A straight consists of five cards in a row. Again, the order of the poker cards is important. The highest straight wins. If you have 10-9, your opponent has 4-5, and the board is A-Q-6-7-8, you win with a straight of 6 to 10 versus your opponent’s straight of 4 to 8.

Three-of-a-kind, also called trips, is when you have three cards of the same value. The hand will be completed with two high cards.

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Two pair does what it says, and you have two different pairs. Although this is not the strongest hand, it will often be strong enough to beat your opponent.

A pair is very common in poker. The height of the pair is always very important. With a pair of fours, you often don’t get that far, while if you have kings you will regularly win the hand.

For high card, if you have not made any of the above combinations, you have a high card. It is better not to end up in high pots if you only have a high card.

The Strength of a Poker Hand

The highest poker hand combinations are much less common than the lower-hand combinations, so don’t think you need a straight flush to win a hand. A three-of-a-kind is generally a strong hand in poker. What is very important, however, is to take a good look at the board. If you have a three-of-a-kind, but there are four hearts on the table, there is a good chance that someone has a flush. The strength of your poker hand always depends on what’s on the table.

FAQ

What are pairs in poker?

In poker, pairs refer to sets of two cards of the same rank.

What are bad beats in poker?

We speak of a bad beat in poker when a player with a high-ranking poker hand is eventually beat by an even higher-ranking poker hand. 

What beats what in poker?

The 10 possible poker hand rankings from highest to lowest are: royal flush, straight flush, four-of-a-kind, full house, flush, straight, three-of-a-kind, two pair, pair, and high card, respectively. A royal flush beats all other hands, while a straight beats a three-of-a-kind, two pair, pair, and high card, but is beaten by a flush, full house, four-of-a-kind, straight flush and royal flush. 

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