Sports & Games

Learn to Play Poker: List of Poker Hand Rankings Explained

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 22, 2019 • 5 min read

From its inception in the early nineteenth century to the cultural force it is today, the game of poker has splintered over time to comprise of several different variants both in tournaments and in online poker—Seven-Card Stud, Omaha Hi-Lo and, most famously, Texas Hold’em poker. While each poker variant typically follows a different set of rules, most have one thing in common: the objective of the poker game is to form the best five-card combination, or hand, possible.

While there are over 2.5 million different five-card hands, there are nine different categories of hands. They are called hand ranks because you can think of them as a hierarchy—in most poker variants, if your set of five cards has the highest ranking cards, you win the pot.

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9. High card

Example: A♥️4♦️6♠️T♦️K♣️
Odds of drawing: 1 in 2

This is the very bottom of the ladder. A high card hand, also known as a no pair hand, is one where all five cards have different card ranks (such as), do not share the same suit, and are not sequential. This seems like a lot to remember but the basic idea here is simple: a high card hand is the least coordinated of our hand ranks, and therefore has the lowest value since it is weaker than every one of the other nine hand ranks.

How can you determine a winner if two players both have high hands? Compare their highest-ranking card to determine a winner: if someone holds an Ace as in the example above, while their opponent’s highest card is a Queen, the first person wins with what we call “Ace high”. Should this end up in a draw, move on to compare their next highest card, and so on until a winner can be determined. Should both hands be identical, no winner is declared and the pot is split between the players.

8. One pair

Example: 6♠️8♣️8♦️J♣️K♥️
Odds of drawing: 1 in 2

Next is the one pair hand. One pair hands comprise a single pair and three other unpaired cards, such as, and make up 42% of all possible hand combinations. As before, should both players hold one pair in a showdown, the winner is the hand with the higher pair, or the highest non-paired card should both hands contain the same pair.

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7. Two pair

Example: 2♥️2♣️J♠️J♦️A♦️
Odds of drawing: 1 in 21

What beats one pair? Why two pairs, of course. The winning two pair hand is the one with the higher pair, so our example hand would beat 9♠️9♥️T♠️T♣️Q♦️ in a showdown. In poker parlance, the first hand is commonly referred to as “Jacks Up”, which in our example beats “Tens Up”.

6. Three of a kind

Example: A♥️A♠️A♣️5♠️6♦️
Odds of drawing: 1 in 47

Now we’re getting into the realm of relatively uncommon hands. A three of a kind, drawn at random from a regular deck, occurs only once every 47 times. You may have guessed that these hands comprise three cards of the same rank, along with two other unpaired cards—our example hand is commonly called “trip Aces” or “a set of Aces”), and it beats Q♣️Q♠️Q♥️K♣️9♦️ (“trip Queens” or “a set of Queens”) because Aces hold a higher rank than Queens. It is important to remember that the other two cards in the hand must be unpaired, because if they are, the hand turns into a full house.

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5. Straight

Example: 3♠️4♣️5♠️6♥️7♥️
Odds of drawing: 1 in 132

Straights are our first combination of hands that require the use of all five cards. A hand makes a straight when all five cards are different and consecutive in rank, the caveat here being that they can’t also belong to the same suit. In our example, the hand can be described as “a straight to the 7”. The worst possible straight is A♥️2♠️3♠️4♣️5♦️, a straight to the 5 also known as “the wheel”, while the best possible straight is T♦️J♠️Q♦️K♣️A♦️, a straight to the Ace also known as “Broadway”. Remember: Aces can only be a part of a straight if they act as a bookend in the hand—wrap-around straights such as K♠️Q♠️A♦️2♣️3♦️ are invalid in poker. Here’s a fun fact: if you removed all 5’s and T’s from a deck, it becomes impossible to form a straight with the remaining cards!

4. Flush

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Example: A♦️5♦️2♦️9♦️J♦️
Odds of drawing: 1 in 509

Much like the straight, a flush is a five-card combination where every card belongs to the same suit, but does not also form a straight. Our example depicts an Ace-high flush, while Q♣️J♣️T♣️7♣️2♣️ would be a Queen-high flush.

3. Full house

Example: K♥️K♠️K♣️9♠️9♦️
Odds of drawing: 1 in 694

A full house, also known as a full boat, is a hand that comprises a three of a kind and a pair. “Full house, Kings full of 9s” is a common way of describing our example hand. Much like the ranking rubric for two pair hands, the full house with the higher-ranking three of a kind always beats that with the lower-ranking three of a kind, regardless the rank of the paired component, so our example hand beats in Q♥️Q♦️Q♠️A♦️A♣️ a showdown.

2. Four of a kind

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Example: 2♦️2♥️2♠️2♣️9♥️
Odds of drawing: 1 in 4,167

You don’t expect to see these final two hand types very often, as they are exceedingly rare. With just four of each card rank in a deck, the odds of pulling a four of a kind in a 5-card draw sits at 0.026%. Our example hand, often called “quad deuces”, beats every hand in poker except higher four of a kind hands and, of course…

1. Straight flush

Example: 4♥️5♥️6♥️7♥️8♥️
Odds of drawing: 1 in 64,767

The straight flush is a legendary poker hand that occurs far more often in movies and literature than it does in real life. Many poker players have gone their entire careers without ever seeing this. It is fairly self-explanatory: for a hand to qualify as a straight flush, it needs to be both a straight and a flush, as the example illustrates. Right at the top of the poker food chain is the royal flush, which is a straight flush to an Ace (such as T♠️J♠️Q♠️K♠️A♠️). If you find yourself holding a royal flush, rest assured in the knowledge that no other hand beats yours, and bet away!

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