Poker Lesson 02

The ranking of the poker hands
It is time to list the accepted ranking order among the various possible hands, which applies to over 99% of all forms of poker; and also to list the existing tie-breaking rules.

Once again I remind you that a poker hand by definition consists of five cards, no more, no less. (OK, there are a few rare exceptions among odd forms of poker.) In some forms of poker you will start with fewer than five cards and you will at the end have more than five cards, but even so you must choose the five cards among these which will make up your poker hand – the other cards then play no part. Remember that all four suits rank equally in correct poker! Here is the ranking order, from bottom to top:

Any five cards
This "nothing" hand does not contain any pair, nor are the cards in numerical sequence or all of the same suit. An example would be J-9-7-4-2 in at least two different suits. This hand you would call "Jack high only". The individual ranking of the cards is the usual one, meaning Ace is the highest and 2 is the lowest. Such a hand is ranked according to its highest card. If another player also has a "nothing" hand with the same highest card as you, you compare the second highest cards, and so on down. A hand consisting of J-9-7-4-2 would thus beat a hand consisting of J-9-5-4-3.
One pair
A hand like Q-Q-10-A-5 is called "a pair of Queens". Should two players both have a pair, the higher pair wins. If the two players have the same pair, the higher kicker (card in the hand besides the pair) wins. Thus, the hand J-J-Q-3-2 beats J-J-7-6-4. If the two players have equally high kickers, the next highest card decides, and so on. Thus, for example, the hand K-K-Q-8-3 beats K-K-Q-7-6.

Two pairs
A hand like 10-10-4-4-K is called "two pair, tens high" or "two pair, tens and fours" or sometimes just "tens up". If two players have a two-pair each, the higher pair wins; the hand K-K-4-4-2 thus beats Q-Q-J-J-10. If the high pairs are the same, the higher of the lower pairs wins; and if both pairs are the same for the two players, the kicker decides. Thus, for example, the hand J-J-9-9-A beats J-J-9-9-K.

Trips (three of a kind)
Three cards of the same rank. A hand like 8-8-8-Q-4 is called "trip Eights" or "three Eights". If two players both have trips, the higher one wins. If the two players have the same three of a kind (which is possible in for example Texas hold'em with the community cards), the player with the higher kicker wins, just like above.

Five cards in numerical sequence. The hand Q-J-10-9-8 is called "a straight, Queen high". If two players both have a straight, the higher one wins. The Queen-high straight above thus beats for example J-10-9-8-7 but loses against K-Q-J-10-9. In a straight, the Ace may count as the lowest card; the lowest possible straight thus is A-2-3-4-5 (called a wheel), while the highest possible straight is 10-J-Q-K-A (called a Broadway). A round-the-corner-straight, for example Q-K-A-2-3, is however not allowed in ordinary poker! The Ace counts low or high, but not both.

Five cards which are all in the same suit, for example K-J-10-6-3 in diamonds. This sample hand is called "a flush, King high". Note again that all for suits are equal in poker! If two players both have a flush, the one with the highest card wins. The flush A-8-6-5-2 thus beats the flush K-Q-J-10-5, irregardless of suit. If the highest cards are equal in rank, the second highest cards are compared, and so on.

Full house
Three of a kind, plus one pair. The hand 7-7-7-K-K is called "a full house with Sevens" or "Sevens over Kings". If two players have a full house each, the higher three of a kind wins; the hand 5-5-5-2-2 thus beats A-A-4-4-4. If the two players have the same three of a kind (which is possible in Texas hold'em and some other forms of poker due to the community cards), the higher pair decides.

Four of a kind (quads)
Four cards of the same rank. The hand 9-9-9-9-5 for example is called "four Nines" or "quad Nines". If two players both have four of a kind, the higher of course wins.

Straight flush
Five cards in numerical sequence AND in the same suit, for example 5-6-7-8-9 in spades. Here too the Ace may count as the lowest card, below a Two; thus A-2-3-4-5 in the same suit is the lowest possible straight flush. If another player has a higher straight flush than you have, in the same deal, it is time to reach for your revolver – two such hands at the same time is an extremely rare occurence, but as always the higher straight flush beats the lower.

Royal straight flush (royal flush or sometimes just a royal)
The unbeatable poker hand, 10-J-Q-K-A in the same suit. Few poker players ever receive such a hand. The chance of getting one in Texas hold'em, where you have seven cards to choose from, is approximately 1 in 124.000 – just so you know it...

And what happens if two players at the end do have exactly equally high hands, for example K-K-9-9-J? Then the pot is split equally between them. If the pot cannot be split equally, the extra chip goes to the player closest clockwise after the dealer button