What Beats What in Poker

The following list of poker winning hand rankings is typical of the all major poker variations, from best to worst, without wild cards.

1. Royal Flush. This is the Holy Grail of poker, with odds of 1 in 649,740. This winner is composed of 10-J-Q-K-A, all of the same suit. The player who wins a game with this beauty should cash out and leave the table, because his or her luck won’t get any better—possibly ever again.

2. Straight Flush. Five cards of the same suit in order, such as 3-4-5-6-7 all of spades. Odds of this hand: 1 in 72,193.

3. Four of a Kind. A hand containing four of the same card, such as 10-10-10-10-4. Odds: 1 in 4,165. Beware the game where someone comes up with four of kind often, especially high cards; the likelihood of cheating is high.

4. Full House. A set containing three of a kind plus a pair, such as K-K-K-3-3. Odds: 1 in 694, making this an achievable winner.

5. Flush. Five cards of the same suit, but not in order, such as 2-4-7-J-K of spades. Odds: 1 in 509, another achievable win.

6. Straight. Five cards in a row, such as 4-5-6-7-8, but not of the same suit. Odds: 1 in 255, making this combination another peak hand. However, it’s wise to heed old poker wisdom: Never try to fill an inside straight (a hand missing one card in the middle to complete the straight).

7. Three of a Kind. Three cards of the same number or rank, such as Q-Q-Q, plus two other unrelated cards. If you have three of the same cards and another pair, that’s a different hand (see Full House).

8. Two Pair. Two pairs of cards having the same number or rank, such as a pair of sevens and a pair of 10s. If you’re superstitious, watch out for the two-pair combination of aces and eights, known as “the dead man’s hand” in memory of Wild Bill Hickok, who was shot to death by a disgruntled opponent while holding such a hand.

9. One Pair. Any two matching cards, such as J-J, sometimes set as the required hand to open betting in five-card draw poker.

10. High Card. When no player has any of the above winning combinations, the player with the highest card in his or her hand wins. Sometimes all it takes is an ace in the hole.