A guide to poker hands

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Poker is about many things: confidence, bluffing, psychology and patience included. But ultimately, it’s all about the hand. That’s the set of five cards you find yourself holding when it comes to the showdown. Of course, a huge range of different combinations are possible, but under regular poker rules in a game such as Texas Hold ‘em, there are nine categories of hand that one might have.


Every card has a rank and, as a result, every hand has a rank, too. Just as there are different types of gambling, there are different styles of poker. Usually, the highest ranked hand wins, but in variations like Razz, the lowest-ranking hand is the winner. There are also high-low split games, where both the highest-ranking and lowest-ranking hands win, but according to different criteria.

The usual ranking of cards, high to low, is ace, king, queen, jack, and then the numbered cards, 10-2. Ace can be the highest or lowest card depending on the rules being played. Suits are not ranked. Whether playing face to face or at an NJ online casino, big money can be with the right poker hand, so it’s worth looking carefully at the cards you’re holding.

Straight Flush

With a standard deck and playing by standard rules, this is the highest-ranking hand. It is made up of five cards in sequence, of the same suit: e.g., a queen, a jack, a ten, a nine and an eight. It is very rare to get this hand, and in the even more unlikely event of two straight flushes going up against each other, the highest-ranking cards of each hand are judged against each other. If these are the same, it goes to the second highest, and so on.

Four of a kind

This is the next highest-ranking hand and consists of four matching cards, e.g., all the fives, or all the kings. The fifth non-matching card is known as the kicker. A five of a kind hand is only possible if playing with one or more wild cards, and beats any other hand, including a straight flush. Again, if two four-of-a-kind hands meet, the highest-ranking number wins: e.g., four sixes beat four fours.

Full House

A full house consists of three of one and two of another – for instance, three sixes and two fours. In the case of two full houses, the value of the triplet in each hand is judged first, and only if they are equal is the value of the pair compared. Also known as a Full Boat.

Flush / Straight

A Flush is any five cards of the same suit. It outranks a Straight, which is five cards in sequence, but from any suit. In both cases, the highest cards are compared in any matching hands, then the second-highest if the highest cards are equal, and so on.

Three of a kind and pairs

Three of a kind consists of three matching cards, e.g., three sevens, plus two kickers. It is judged in the same way as four of a kind. A “Two Pair” consists of two matching pairs; the next ranking down is a “One Pair.” The higher the numerical value of a pair or triplet, the better a hand it is. As pairs and threes are fairly common, the value of the kicker or kickers should also be considered.

Any other hand is called a High Card and is judged according to its highest-ranking card. While this is the lowest ranking hand, it may just prove a winner in the early stages of a tournament, especially if you have an ace. Play your hands wisely!