Poker Hand Rankings

  • January 7, 2023

For the uninitiated, poker can be a high-pressure (and highly complicated) game, with numerous possible hands and lots of rules to keep in mind. Perhaps one of the trickiest elements of the game for the beginner is remembering the combinations of cards that make up winning hands, and also how these hands rank against each other.

This is the first essential poker skill, once you have mastered hand rankings, you can automatically remember these and focus on improving other areas of your game in real time without distraction. Bookmark this page, so you can have easy access while you are playing online poker and learning the game.

The first basic fact to grasp is that poker hands consist of five cards. So, even if you’re playing a seven-card game, only the best five of those cards will play – which means you should always focus on making the best five-card hand you can.

It’s also critical to start thinking about what possible hands your opponents might have “made” using the community cards dealt by the dealer as this will give you an idea of the strength of your own hand.

High Card – What Does it Mean?

When you haven’t made any of the below hands, it’s the highest card you’re holding that counts. So, if nobody at the table has made a hand, the holder of the highest card wins. Cards must all be of different ranks, not consecutive, and contain at least two different suits (within a 5-card set) for this to apply.

Statistically, the more players left in a hand and the larger the table size (usually 6, 8 or 9 seats) then the more unlikely it is that High Card will be good enough. If you are up against a single opponent on the river, perhaps in a blind versus blind situation and the hand has been checked each time, this is one of the few spots where you could theoretically bet the High Card. It goes without saying – this is the worst poker hand within the rankings so play it carefully.

Ace High or King High on the river (the last community card to be dealt), especially if you are in position and the opponent checked, might either shut down the hand without showing your cards (denying information to the table) or perhaps get a call from a weaker high card to gain a little extra value. This is also the easiest hand for you to fold against almost any bet if the situation is reversed as your opponent might be tempted to bet/call or raise even with a weak Pair.

A Pair – What Is It and How Do You Play It?

The simple but effective Pair is one of the most common hands in poker. This is when you have two cards of the same rank, and the higher the Pair, the stronger your position. How you play a Pair depends on the strength of the two cards, the position you have on the table and whether you held it before or after the flop (where the first three community cards are dealt).

Before the flop (known as pre-flop) your odds of holding what is known as a ‘Pocket Pair’ is 0.045% or, to make it more understandable, a massive 221-1 against on any specific Pair such as the best possible poker starting hand – Ace + Ace (known as bullets). However, it drops to 16-1 for any of the Pairs you can make. Betting Pairs, especially high value ones, before the next cards are dealt can be hugely important as the odds of a player hitting any Pair on the flop itself drop to 32.43% or around 3-1.

If you simply call the blinds pre-flop with say, a Pair of 10’s, without raising, you risk letting the small, big blind and late table positions such as the button see the community cards for free/little money and therefore, are increasing the chance of a hand they might have folded to a bet (Such as Ace-Six) catching a higher card to match their hole cards and beat your existing Pair with one of their own.

Out of position, you are going to be much more inclined to simply call someone else’s raise or throw away a weak Pair such as nine’s or lower without ever making a bet at all. Over betting a pocket Pair through the flop, turn and river (the three ‘streets’ of Texas Hold’em poker) is one of the most common mistakes novice players make. The more community cards available and, the more players in the action, the greater the chance their hand has developed to be better than yours.