Determine the Winning Hand

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When starting out at Poker, there seems to be so much to remember, from antes and blinds to betting order and what makes a winning hand. Does a ten-high flush beat an Ace-high straight, or is it the other way around? To determine the winner of a Poker hand, one must memorize how the various hands rank. It is also necessary to know how to determine the winning hand when two hands are of the same rank.

  • Royal Flush – A “Royal” is the A-K-Q-J-10 of the same suit, and it beats all other hands. If two players each have a Royal, it is a tie, and they split the pot.
  • Straight Flush – This is a sequence of five cards, all in the same suit, such as the Q-J-10-9-8 of hearts or the 7-6-5-4-3 of clubs. No gaps may occur in the sequence. It beats all hands except a Royal Flush. If two players each have a Straight Flush, the one headed by the highest ranking card wins.
  • Four of a Kind – This hand beats every hand except the Straight Flush and Royal Flush. It contains four cards of the same rank, one in each of the four suits, such as K-K-K-K or 6-6-6-6. The fifth card is called “the kicker” and does not count toward the value of the hand. If two players each have Four of a Kind, the one consisting of the four higher ranking cards wins. Note: When playing with wild cards, if both hands have the same four-of-a-kind, the hand with the higher kicker wins.
  • Full House – This hand has three cards of one rank (a “set” or “trips”) and two of cards of another rank (a “pair”), such as K-K-K-7-7 or 9-9-9-2-2. It beats all hands other than the three mentioned above. If two players each have a Full House, the one with the higher ranking three cards wins. Note: When playing with wild cards, if both hands have the same three-of-a-kind, the hand with the higher pair wins.
  • Flush – This hand is made up of any five cards of the same suit, such as the Q-10-6-4-3 of spades or K-J-8-3-2 of diamonds. The cards need not be in sequence. A Flush beats a Straight and any hand ranked below it. If two players each have a Flush, the one headed by the highest ranking card wins. If those two cards tie, then the next highest ranking card determines the winner. If those cards also tie, then the third ranking card decides the winner, and so on.
  • Straight – This hand is made up of any five unsuited cards in sequence, such as a hand containing Q-J-10-9-8. It beats Three of a Kind and any lower ranking hand. If two players each have a Straight, the one headed by the highest ranking card wins. The highest possible straight is the A-K-Q-J-10; the lowest is the 5-4-3-2-A, also known as “the wheel.”
  • Three of a Kind – This is a hand containing three cards of the same rank, such as J-J-J or 3-3-3. The other two cards are “kickers” and they do not affect the hand. Three of a Kind beats Two Pair, One Pair or any High Card hand. If two players each have Three of a Kind, the one with the higher ranking three cards wins. Note: When playing with wild cards, if both hands have the same three-of-a-kind, the hand with the higher kicker wins; if the highest kickers are the same, the hand with the highest second kicker wins.
  • Two Pair – This hand contains two matching cards of a higher rank and two of a lower rank, such as A-A-8-8 or 10-10-5-5. It beats One Pair or a High Card hand. If two players each have Two Pair, the one with the higher ranking pair wins. If the higher pairs are of the same value, the hand with the higher ranking low pair wins. The fifth card, or “kicker,” is used only to settle ties when both hands are otherwise identical.
  • One Pair – This hand features two cards of the same rank and three unrelated cards, such as Q-Q-9-5-2 or K-10-6-6-4. It beats a High Card only hand. If two players each have a single Pair, the one with the higher ranking pair wins. If the pairs are the same, the hand with the highest ranking “kicker” wins; if the highest kickers are the same, the hand with the highest second kicker wins, and so on.
  • High Card – This is any five unmatched cards, such as the unsuited A-J-8-6-2. Roughly one in every two deals results in such a hand. If two players each have a high-card-only hand with no pairs or better, then the hand headed by the highest ranking card wins. If those cards are identical, then the second highest card is used to break the tie, and so on.

Note that any time hands are identical in all respects, it results in a tie and there is no winner. In standard Poker, the suit of which the hand is composed never makes any difference. This is true of all types of flushes as well as kickers used in breaking a tie. A standard Poker hand must be made up exactly five cards and no cards outside those five may be used in determining the winner.

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