Texas Hold’em is easily the most popular poker variant worldwide. There are many things to learn about poker, but figuring out hand rankings is the first step on the long journey to becoming a good player.
poker hands beat which isn’t all that hard, but beginners often make some
Some of the most
common ones are not being sure whether a full house beats a flush or if a
straight beats three of a kind.
If you consider
yourself a Texas Hold’em beginner, and these are some of the questions you want
answers to, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, you’ll learn everything there is to know about poker hands’ strength.
You may need to read it a few times, but you’ll never again be confused about what beats what in Hold’em.
How Do You
Make Hands In Texas Hold’em?
In Hold’em, all
players are dealt two face-down cards to start the hand. After that, five more
community cards are dealt across the board for everyone to use.
All players can
use all seven available cards to make the best possible five-card hand
combination. This means that you can:
- Use two cards from your hand
and three community cards
- Combine just one of your hole
cards with four cards on the board
- Use only the five community
Once it’s time
for the showdown, the cards speak. When you turn over your hand, you’ll always
play the best five-card hand possible.
usually no problems here as the dealer will compare all hands and announce the
But before cards
are revealed, the only way to play correctly is if you know all the hand
rankings. So, let’s dive into it.
Beats Which In Hold’em Poker
Texas Hold’em uses
a hand ranking system present in all high poker variations. If you know how to
play 5 Card Draw or 7 Card Stud, the good news is you don’t have to learn
Hand values are
exactly the same across all these poker variations.
But if you’re
new to poker as a game and Hold’em is the first variation you learned, the
following section will help clear any confusion.
Texas Hold’em Hand Rankings
As explained, a
Hold’em hand always consists of five cards. You can’t use only four, and you
can never use six or seven.
So, the hands’
values have been tailored accordingly:
- Royal flush: the highest possible straight flush containing T J Q K and A of the
same suit. This is the strongest possible hand in Texas Hold’em that is
guaranteed to win every time.
- Straight flush: five cards of the same suit in a sequence, such as 3s 4s 5s 6s 7s.
- Four of a kind or quads: Four cards of the same rank plus any other card, e.g. Q Q Q Q 2.
- Full house: three of a kind plus a pair, e.g. 9 9 9 5 5.
- Flush: Five cards of the same suit. There are four suits: clubs, diamonds,
hearts, and spades. If all your five cards are in just one of these suits, you
have a flush.
- Straight: Five cards in sequential order, provided they’re not all of the
same suit, e.g. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Keep in mind that an ace can help form two
straights in Hold’em, namely A 2 3 4 5 and T J Q K A.
- Three of a kind (trips): Three cards of the same rank coupled with any two non-paired cards,
e.g. T T T 7 2.
- Two pair: Two cards of the same rank and two more different cards of the same
rank, e.g. 9 9 5 5 J.
- One pair: Two cards of the same rank combined with three cards of different
values. For example, K K 9 5 2 is a pair of kings.
- A high card: A hand containing five
cards of different ranks and suits that don’t make any of the other
combinations. For example, a hand like K, J, 7, 5, 2 is referred to as a
If you ever get confused about which poker hands beat which, you can
always refer to this list to find your answer.
Hands In Hold’em To Determine The Winner
Now you know all
the hand rankings, and this will help you figure out most situations. However,
things aren’t always so clear-cut.
What happens if
two or more players have a hand from the same category? Who wins when everyone
has two pairs or a straight?
The best piece
of advice to make this distinction is to remember that, in Hold’em, you always
start at the top.
For example, it’s
clear cut in a pair vs. pair scenario. A pair of aces beats a pair of kings. A
pair of tens beats a pair of eights, etc.
In two pair situations, the top pair is the only relevant factor in determining the winner. If one player has K K 2 2 X and the other one has Q Q J J X, the one with the pair of kings wins.
sometimes confusing for beginners because the other hand looks stronger, and it
would be the case if card values were somehow added. But that’s not the case in
The same rule
applies to full houses, where the player with the best three-of-a-kind
combination will always win the pot.
In straight and
flush scenarios, the winner is determined by comparing the highest card in the
- 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 beats 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
- Ah 9h 7h 5h 2h beats Kh Qh 9h 7h 5h
Finally, in the
event that both players only have a high-card hand (no pair), the one with the
highest card wins.
Of course, this
only applies if there are no better combinations available on the board.
Resolving A Tie: The Role Of Kicker In Poker
Every now and
again, it will happen that two players have the exact same hand. For example,
they could both have two pairs, kings and tens.
With players new
to poker, this will often create a lot of confusion.
That said, the
rules of Hold’em are very clear on how these situations are resolved.
compared, and whoever has the higher kicker wins.
For those unfamiliar with the poker lingo, kickers are those dangling cards in your hand that aren’t a part of any combinations. For example:
- In a hand K K 7 7 J, the jack
is the kicker card
- If you have A A A 9 5, both 9
and 5 are “kickers”
So, in our kings
and tens scenario, players would compare their fifth card. If one player had K
K T T 7 and the other held K K T T Q, the pot goes to the player holding the
Keep in mind
that this rule only applies if a player’s hole card is higher than the
available community cards. Remember, you always get to play the five best cards
on the showdown.
Here’s a couple
of scenarios with the same starting hands but different boards to clarify this
Player A has 9
8, and player B has 9 7. By the river, the board read 9 9 5 2 4. In this case, Player
A wins because their kicker plays.
possible hand for Player A is 9 9 9 8 5, while the best hand for Player B is 9
9 9 7 5. The eight beats the seven, so Player A wins the pot.
have the same starting hands as before 9 8 vs. 9 7, but this time the community
board read 9 9 A J 2. In this scenario, the hand is a tie, and players will
split the pot.
This is because
both players have the exact same best five-card hand: 9 9 9 A J. Since both the
8 and the 7 are lower than the ace and the jack, they’re disregarded.
It may still
seem a bit confusing, but you’ll get the hang of it as you play more.
Just try to
keep two important rules in mind when figuring out which poker hands beat
- The best possible five-card
hand always plays
- Always check at the top and
work your way down
Once you learn
all the hand rankings and memorize these important rules, you’ll no longer have
any problems figuring out who wins at the showdown.
Holding The Nuts
– When You Know You Can’t Lose
Unlike in some
other poker variants, you’ll often find yourself in spots in Texas Hold’em
where you know you have the best possible hand.
This is known as
“the nuts” and it’s one of the best feelings you can have at the
This is possible
because the game combines your hidden “hole” cards and community cards. Hence,
there is plenty of information to work with.
For example, if you have Ah 5h and the board reads 9h 7h 2c 6c Qh, you have an ace-high flush and the best possible hand. There is no way for any other player to beat you.
this is another concept that beginners are sometimes confused about and will
play their hand cautiously, even in spots where they can’t lose.
If you’re new to
poker, I’d suggest you take your time reading the board and thinking about
hands when making your decisions.
After you gather
some experience, you’ll become much better at this, and it’ll become almost
What To Do With This Information
need to know which hands beat which to play the game. But why is this
information so crucial if you know the dealer will always ensure the pot goes
to the rightful owner?
The thing is,
everything you do at the Hold’em table revolves around this concept.
You’ll be making
your decisions based on the strength of your hand and the perceived strength of
your opponent’s holdings.
If you know a
full house beats a flush, you’ll be less inclined to chase your flush draws on
a paired board.
When you have a
top pair with a weak kicker, you’ll know your hand is susceptible, and you need
to proceed with caution.
who’s been playing poker for any serious length of time, this information may
seem trivial and redundant, but it’s far from it.
The fact is, I
still come across people who haven’t mastered the basics and aren’t quite sure
what to do with their hands. Yet, they decide to jump into the action and play
for real money.
happen very often, but it’s not something you’d ever want – even in a friendly
game where you’re playing for pennies.
At the lowest of
stakes, it may only cause you some embarrassment but in any serious game, not
being sure about which poker hands beat which can be a very costly mistake.
It goes without
saying that you can’t even begin to learn any more complex strategies before
you master these basics.
are at the heart of all poker concepts, from the simplest ones to the ones used
by those at the highest of stakes.