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How To Understand Poker Hands - Which Cards and Hands Have The Strongest Value In The Game?

Updated on July 6, 2014

Intro to Poker Cards and Hands

Regardless of which style of Poker you are playing, as there are several playing styles, the strength of each hand is the same in every Poker game. This means that the value or strength of each card or groups of cards that form "hands" is the same for each game of Poker you play.

Card values range from 2 to Ace, with 2 being the lowest value.

The strengths for each card from lowest strength to highest are as follows:

2 (deuce), 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J (Jack), Q ( Queen), K (King), A (Ace)

The different suits (hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades,) are all equal in value . The only time they become relevant is when they are being played with relation to a "flush" hand, which will be explained later.

Card Suits
Card Suits

Poker Hands Listed in Order of Strength

High Card
One Pair
Two Pairs
Three of a Kind
Straight
Flush
Full House
Four of a Kind
Straight Flush
Royal Flush

Each hand is explained below in more detail.


High Card

The High Card wins a hand when no other hands are present. It simply means that the person with the strongest or highest card wins the hand. If no person playing the hand achieves a pair or better, the person with the strongest card (ranging from 2-A) will win.

One Pair ("Pocket" Aces)
One Pair ("Pocket" Aces)

One Pair

One Pair in poker is when you have any 2 of the same card. A pair of 2's is the lowest pair you can obtain while a pair of A's is the highest pair you can obtain. Therefore, one pair may beat another pair. The only other hand that one pair can beat is a high card - a hand in which nobody actually obtains a hand and the winner is based on whoever has the highest single card).

In poker terms, "One Pair" is also known as "pocket pairs." So, if you have a pair of 5's, you can say you have "pocket 5's". Pocket Aces is the best pair to have.

Two Pairs (aces and kings)
Two Pairs (aces and kings)

Two Pairs

Two pairs is exactly that, two pairs of cards. This is when you have any two sets of two of the same card. You can have two 5's and two K's or two 3's and two 4's, so on and so on. Each of these hands is two pairs. Any two pairs will beat any one pair but a hand with two pairs may beat another hand with two pairs.

For a hand with two pairs to beat another hand with two pairs, it is dependent on whichever one has the highest card in one of its pairs. A hand with two A's and two 2's will beat a hand with two K's and two Q's. This is because the A is the highest card. The hand that has the pair of A's is the stronger hand.

Three of a Kind (sevens)
Three of a Kind (sevens)

Three of a Kind

Three of a Kind is when you have three of any card. You can have three of a king 2's, three of a kind 8's, three of a king Q's, and so forth. A three of a kind will beat any pair or two pair hand. The greater the strength of your cards, the better your three of a kind is. So, a three of a kind of K's will beat a three of a kind of 10's.

Straight (5 through 9)
Straight (5 through 9)

Straight

A Straight is when you obtain any five consecutive cards. It does not matter what suits the cards are as long as they are consecutive. You can have a Straight with A,2,3,4,5 or 10,J,Q,K,A. The funny thing with the Ace is that, even though it is regarded as the strongest single card, it can also be used as the low card in straights that contain A,2,3,4,5.

Flush (random ordered cards)
Flush (random ordered cards)

Flush

A Flush is when you have five cards all of the same suit. You can have a Hearts Flush, a Clubs Flush, a Diamonds Flush, or a Spades Flush. The order of the cards does not matter with a regular flush. Although a Straight Flush and a Royal Flush, which are explained below, depend on the order of the cards, a regular Flush does not.

You can have a Flush with any assortment of same-suited cards but the strength of the highest card still matters. A flush containing an Ace, for instance, is the best flush. If two people were to both have flushes, the person with the highest card in their flush will win the hand.

Full House (10's full of K's)
Full House (10's full of K's)

Full House

A Full House, also known as "a boat", occurs when you have three of a kind of one card as well as a pair of another card. You can have a Full House with three 5's and two K's, three A's and two K's, three 2's and two 4's, and so forth.

The strength of the full house is dependent on the set of cards that for the three of a kind within the hand. For example, a full house containing three 2's and two A's (also referred to as 2's full of Aces) would lose to a full house containing three A's and two 2's (referred to as Aces full of 2's). When two full house's are competing, the full house that has the strongest three cards will be the winning hand.

Four of a Kind (eights)
Four of a Kind (eights)

Four of a Kind

This is a rare and very good hand to achieve. A Four of a Kind hand is when you have any four of the same card. That is, you can have four 4's, four A's, four 10's, and so on. The greater the card strength, the better your Four of a Kind is. So, a Four of a Kind of 8's will beat a Four of a Kind of 5's. The additional card in your hand is meaningless when you have a four of a kind.

Straight Flush (five through nine of hearts)
Straight Flush (five through nine of hearts)

Straight Flush

A Straight Flush is a combination of a Straight and a Flush. This means that each of your cards but be suited as well as consecutive. You can have a Straight Flush of any value, ranging from A,2,3,4,5 to 9,10,J,Q,K. If your Flush was 10,J,Q,K,A then it would be considered a Royal Flush (explained below) which is an even better hand than the Straight Flush.

The strength of your straight flush is dependent on what your highest card is. For example, a straight flush with a high card of 10 will beat a straight flush with a high card of 7.

Royal Flush (spades)
Royal Flush (spades)

Royal Flush

The Royal Flush is the best possible hand you can get in poker. It can be achieved using any suit but the cards must all belong to the same suit and include a 10, J, Q, K, and A. It is similar to a straight flush except that a royal flush is made using the five highest cards (the 10 - A).

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    • davidlaw2 profile image

      davidlaw2 4 years ago

      No one ever needs to lose money over all. Playing good strong poker, holdem will always put money in your pocket. Just keep track over time and you will see. This book will show you how.

      http://bookstore.booktango.com/Products/SKU-000580...

    • profile image

      lilmama4273 5 years ago

      I like this hub. Very informative. I love playing poker, but I have to be honesty....I hate losing. ;)

    • mattdigiulio profile image

      mattdigiulio 5 years ago

      This is great -- like a starter's kit for anyone interested in learning the rules and hands of a fun and popular game! Love this one. I am a huge poker fan -- I play the Zynga version on FB and watch the WSOP religiously. Great hub! Matt

    • davidlaw2 profile image

      davidlaw2 5 years ago

      Poker including holdem are fun games. They are more fun when you win. I hope more people realize that it is a game of skill not luck like a slot machine. Thanks for your Hub.

    • nmdonders profile image
      Author

      nmdonders 5 years ago

      Thank you for the comments :) I'm glad it's helped a few people. That website posted by davidlawz is great. These charts can be super handy. I like your story moonlake. I would have loved to hear the sister's response.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      Like you hub. Good information. I played poker for 20 years every monday. My son went to school and told the sister I couldn't come for a parents thing because I was playing poker. Voted up and shared.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      I play Pinocle fairly regularly. Everyone in the family plays poker except me. Won't everyone be impressed that I know something about the game. Thank you!

    • davidlaw2 profile image

      davidlaw2 5 years ago

      Hi:

      This is useful to new players. The next step is to learn the hand strength of each hand compared to the number of players in a hand. Here is a link to a free hand strength chart. http://spiritmountainpoker.webs.com/freehandstreng...