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A Beginner’s Guide to Poker Hand Ranks

Poker hand rankings


  • A Royal Flush is the strongest hand possible in most forms of poker

  • Memorize what beats what in poker using this handy guide

The vast majority of the free poker strategy articles here at PokerNews assume that the reader has some experience of playing this amazing game. But what if the reader is completely new to poker, having never played the game before and is sat asking themselves “How can I learn what beats what in poker?” If this describes you or someone you know, point them in the direction of this article.

Do you want to know the best poker hands to win with in Omaha, Hold’em, 5-Card Draw, and 7-Card Stud games? The good news is that in this quartet of poker games, the hand rankings are the same. The aim of each of these games is to ultimately have a five-card poker hand, so if you learn them in your spare time you can memorize what beats what in poker.

The weakest hand you can make is High-Card. This is means that you don’t even hand a pair. An example of such a hand would be {J-Hearts}{8-Diamonds}{6-Clubs}{3-Hearts}{2-Spades}. Here you would have jack-high, which is a very weak hand for the most part.

Next up the ladder is One Pair, which as the name suggests means you have a solitary pair of cards. If your five-card poker hand reads {A-Spades}{A-Diamonds}{6-Clubs}{5-Spades}{2-Diamonds} then you would hold a pair of aces.

Better than One Pair is of course Two Pair. Finishing the hand with {A-Spades}{A-Diamonds}{K-Clubs}{K-Hearts}{5-Clubs} would mean you have two pair, aces and kings – you always declare your strongest pair first to help avoid confusion.

As we’re trying to make a five-card poker hand, you can’t hold three pair, but you can make Three-of-a-Kind. Your {A-Spades}{A-Diamonds}{A-Hearts}{8-Clubs}{2-Diamonds} would be three-of-a-kind aces, a very powerful hand despite it only being the fourth strongest poker hand rank.

After a three-of-a-kind comes a Straight, which is five consecutive cards with at least one of a those cards being different from the rest of them. {5-Spades}{6-Clubs}{7-Diamonds}{8-Spades}{9-Hearts} would be a nine-high straight, while there are two other straights that have special nicknames. Aces can be both high and low for straights, so {A-Spades}{2-Spades}{3-Diamonds}{4-Clubs}{5-Hearts} would be a five-high straight – also known as a Wheel – with {10-Clubs}{j-Diamonds}{q-Spades}{k-Hearts}{a-Clubs} being an ace-high straight, otherwise known as a Broadway Straight.

Stronger that a straight is a Flush, or five cards of the same suit. Aces are always high for flushes so {A-Spades}{Q-Spades}{7-Spades}{4-Spades}{2-Spades} would beat {K-Spades}{J-Spades}{10-Spades}{5-Spades}{3-Spades}. As not many other poker hands beat a flush, you’re often confident about holding the best hand if you complete one.

One of the few hands that can beat a flush is a Full House, which is three-of-a-kind and a pair together. {A-Spades}{A-Diamonds}{A-Clubs}{3-Hearts}{3-Diamonds} would be a full house, or Boat. In this example, the hand would also be referred to as aces full of threes whereas {6-Clubs}{6-Diamonds}{6-Hearts}{Q-Spades}{Q-Hearts} would be sixes full of queens.

The second strongest poker hand you can make in the aforementioned games four-of-a-kind, which is exactly as it sounds, all four cards of the same rank and often called Quads. {A-Spades}{A-Diamonds}{A-Hearts}{A-Clubs}{5-Spades} would be four-of-a-kind aces, an almost unbeatable hand.

Sat proudly at the top of the poker hand ranks is a Straight Flush, which is five consecutive cards all of the same suit. A {6-Spades}{7-Spades}{8-Spades}{9-Spades}{10-Spades} hand would be a ten-high straight flush, with the very best hand being {10-Spades}{J-Spades}{Q-Spades}{K-Spades}{A-Spades} also known as a Royal Flush, hold this and the only way you can lose is by accidentally folding!

The best poker hands wins prizes and we all get to have a great time, and who does want to have a great time and prizes? We know we do! Memorize what beats what in poker and see if you can hit each of the different poker hands at some point in your poker career.

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