Poker Hands

In order to succeed in the world of poker, having a stable foundation of basic strategy knowledge is vital. Having a firm grasp of these concepts will help you learn how to play poker with more confidence, and start winning more hands.

One of the basic strategy principles that is key for all players to know, is understanding the poker hand rankings. Knowing what beats what is a necessity, and will help you make better decisions within your game.

Let’s take a look at our poker hand rankings chart and see the top 10 hands, the probability of getting that hand, and the number of combinations available in your standard poker game.

A poker hand of a pair of aces

Poker Hands Ranking

Hand Name
Hand Description
Royal Flush
A Royal Flush is made out of a 10, Jack, Queen, King, and an Ace, all of the same suit
Royal Flush image
1 in 649,737
Straight Flush
A Straight Flush is five sequential cards all in the same suit.
straight flush image
1 in 72,193
Four of a Kind
A Four of a Kind is the same card in each of the four suits.
Four of a kind image
1 in 4,164
Full House
A Full House is a pair plus three of a kind.
Full house image
1 in 693
A Flush is five cards in the same suit.
Flush image
1 in 508
A Straight is five cards in a numerical order, but not all five cards share the same suit.
Straight example image
1 in 253
Three of a Kind
Three of a Kind is three of the same card and two non-paired cards.
Three of a Kind image
1 in 46
Two Pair
Two Pair is two different pairings or sets of the same card.
Two Pair example
1 in 20
One Pair
One Pair is a pairing of the same card.
A single Pair example
1 in 1.36
High Card
A High Card refers to a hand with no matching cards.
High card example
1 in 0.99

In poker, each possible hand you can make is ranked by their rarity, with the rarer hands being more valuable and therefore ranked higher than more common hands. However, it’s important to note that not all games use the same hand ranking system, as the rules between variants can differ greatly. The following poker hand ranking chart applies to the following games.

Other games, such as Short Deck, Razz, and Badugi, have different hand rankings based on how hard it is to make hands according to their rules.

Poker Hands Probability

While that probability column may seem like an important one to remember, it’s really just there for completeness’ sake; it’s not something you’d use in-game. It’s a calculation that shows how often you’d make each hand if you were dealt a random five-card hand, so there’s no strategic knowledge to knowing these probabilities.

If you’re a bit of a math nerd and want to know how it’s calculated, here’s how it’s done.

We start by working out the number of possible five-card hands. This can be found with the equation 5⁵², which equals 2,598,960. Then, we divide the possible number of hand combinations by that number. For example, there are four possible ways to make a royal flush, so the calculation is 4/2,598,960, which can be simplified to 1 in 649,739.

Winning Poker Hands: What are the Best Poker Hands?

Now we will show you the poker rankings in a more practical setting. We will provide the hole cards and the community cards, and show you what your best five card hand would consist of.

Let’s begin:

High Card Example

A hand with no cards of the same rank, your highest-ranked card is the most important.

Poker Hands High Card Example

One Pair Example:

Two cards of the same rank.

Poker Hands One Pair Example

Two Pair Example: 

Two sets of two different cards of the same rank.

Poker Hands Two Pair Example

Good Poker Hands

Three Of A Kind Example:

Three cards of the same rank.

Poker Hands Three of a kind example

Straight Example:

Five cards in order but of different suits.

Poker Hands Straight hand example

Flush Example: 

Any five cards of the same suit.

Poker Hands Flush Example

The Stronger Hands in Poker

Four Of A Kind Example: 

Four cards of the same rank.

Poker Hands Four of a kind example

Straight Flush Example:

Any five cards in order, all of the same suit.

Poker Hands Straight Flush Example

Royal Flush Example:

The cards T, J, Q, K, and A, all of the same suit.

Poker Hands Royal Flush Example

Poker Hand Tie-Breakers and Kickers

On occasion, you are going to find yourself in a situation where the best hand at the table is being shared by more than one player. In these instances, in order to break the tie and declare a winner, the extra cards that are not directly contributing to the best hand comes into play. These cards are known as ‘Kickers’. The player with the highest kicker (outside of the top hand) takes the pot.

Let’s look at an example:

Poker Hands Tie Breaker Example

In the rare case where both players have identical five cards hands and share kickers, then they split the pot equally.

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Starting Hands are the Key to Success in Texas Hold'em

You might think that starting hand strategy in poker is all about getting big cards and winning with them, but that’s only half the story. The other half of the story is avoiding getting yourself into situations where you call down with weak cards.

If you’ve played poker already, you’ll probably nod your head in agreement when you hear this situation:

You’re in the Big Blind and you catch top pair on the flop with a weak kicker. A player bets, and you call the flop with your top pair. The player bets both the turn and river, and you call again (even when you really don’t want to). When you turn your cards over, you find to your dismay that your opponent has a bigger kicker and wins the pot.

You’ve just been out-kicked! This happens all the time and the key is to let it happen to your opponents – not you! Always remember this fundamental principle to poker: “A bet saved is a bet earned!”

With that, let’s go to the next section where we will look at the top 10 starting hands in Texas Hold’em Poker.

The Top 20 Texas Hold’em Starting Hands

Choosing the correct hands to start betting with preflop is very important, and can get a beginner player winning hands right off the hop. We are going to show you the top 10 Texas Hold’em starting hands, so that you can start betting at the preflop with confidence.

Top 20 Poker Hands


1. Pocket Aces

This is the best starting hand that a player could be dealt. It has the highest odds of winning over any other pair of cards.

2. Pocket Kings (Cowboys)

Commonly referred to as Cowboys, pocket kings are second in line behind the aces as the top starting hand. Go into your preflop situation confident, but look out for your opponent holding an ace.

3. Pocket Queens

At the number 3 spot comes the lovely queens. Just like the two pairs before it, pocket queens are a solid starting hand and should be played in the majority of situations.

4. Pocket Jacks (Fishhooks)

Despite professionals consistently complaining about being dealt pocket jacks, this is still a very good hand. Aggressive play preflop could get reap some nice rewards if done correctly.

5. Ace-King Suited (Big Slick)

Number 5 on our list is the first non-paired hand we have seen, and that is ace-king suited. Despite going into preflop behind any pocket pair, this hand gives you a ton of top pair potential, flush/straight draw potential, and puts you ahead of all of the other unpaired hands going into the flop.

6. Pocket Tens

Pocket tens comes in at number 6, due to it’s potential to collect a lot of value with the proper preflop raising strategy. Be careful not to go too deep in a situation where your opponents are heavily raising and 3-betting, chances are you are going into the flop as the underdog.

7. Ace-King Offsuit

The Ace-King offsuit is the only set of cards on this list that is both non-pair, and non-suited. While this hand lacks the flush draw potential that Ace-King suited has, it is still a very strong hand that has some great potential to land a top pair on the flop.

8. Ace-Queen Suited

The Ace-Queen suited brings a lot of possibilities and a lot of potential to hit some big pairs, a nut flush, and a straight draw. Preflop, look to play aggressive with this hand and be sure to pay attention and evaluate your opponent’s response.

9. Pocket Nines

Much like pocket tens, pocket nines lack the flash that other high pairs have but should still be played aggressively preflop. This pair comes with great odds, and can be deadly if you happen to catch a nine on the flop.

10. Ace-Jack Suited

The Ace-Jack suited shares similar qualities with Ace-Queen suited in terms of playability. This hand has a good chance of hitting some heavy hitting pairs and gives you both a flush and a straight draw, but be cautious of the deadly Ace-King.

The next ten hands all share similar qualities in which they all have great playability. Some have great flop potential, some have great flush/straight draws, and some have both. Let’s take a look at the hands that have landed on our spots from #11- #20.

11. King-Queen Suited

Poker’s original power couple, this hand is valuable because of how well it flops. It’s common to make strong flush draws, strong straight draws, and good top pairs. However, if you do flop top pair, you’re vulnerable to someone having AK or AQ, so be careful.

12. Ace-Ten Suited

The lowest of the broadway Ax hands, ATs still has a decent amount of value because of its straight potential, which makes it much stronger than A9s. You can flop nut flush draws and top pair top kicker with a ten-high flop, but be wary on ace-high boards.

13. Ace-Queen Offsuit

Slightly further down the rankings, thanks to its lack of suitedness, AQo is still a very strong hand. Whenever you flop a pair, it’s likely to be the best hand, and you can still make the broadway straight.

14. Pocket Eights

Pocket pairs suffer from an exponential decline the smaller they get, and that holds true for pocket eights vs. pocket nines. The smaller the pair, the more likely it is that overcards will flop, and the higher chance there is over being caught set under set. However, 88 is still a strong hand and should be played as such.

15. King-Jack Suited

While slightly weaker than KQs, KJs still flops a lot of strong pairs, strong draws, and strong flush draws. You would only need to be wary on king-high boards when a lot of money starts to go in, as it’s likely someone has a king with a higher kicker.

16. King-Ten Suited

Slightly weaker still is KTs, but it remains a strong hand and a respectable 16th in the rankings. It can still make broadway and king-high straights, as well as strong flush draws. However, similarly to KJs, you should be wary if there’s a lot of action on a king-high board.

17. Queen-Jack Suited

Any two cards that are suited and connected always feel strong when you play them, and that’s certainly the case for QJs. There are lots of great straight and flush draws you can pick up on the flop, but the only downside is the top pairs it makes aren’t the strongest and are often beaten by other common hands people play.

18. Ace-Jack Offsuit

Losing its suited value really hurts AJo, as it’s just not as strong of a hand without it. While you’ll likely be in good shape on jack-high flops, it doesn’t perform as well on ace-high boards, particularly if you play this hand aggressively preflop.

19. King-Queen Offsuit

Another hand that’s hurt by a lack of suited value is KQo. Not being able to flop a flush draw is a big reason why this hand is 19th, but it’s still great at flopping pairs, and there are still plenty of straight draws to give you equity.

20. Queen-Ten Suited

The last hand in our rankings is QTs, a hand that’s starting to look a lot weaker than some of the hands in our top ten. While there’s the potential for broadway straights and good flush draws, its pairs are often dominated by strong hands, which can make it a tough hand to play.

Players should always take these lists with a grain of salt, because there are some factors that we will discuss in the next sections that will influence both the value of your hand and the decisions you make.

Position Affects Your Hand Value

The most important aspect to focus on in this ranking chart is to notice the value of position when it comes to your hand. In Texas Hold’em, position is a huge advantage – you want to be as close to the Button as possible (as the Button the last person to act after the flop).

When you are in positions like the SB (Small Blind) and BB (Big Blind), your starting hand EV drops significantly in Texas Hold’em. This is due to the fact that you often end up betting or calling in these positions with hands that are much weaker than you would normally play.

In addition, people behind you get to see your actions, so they are in better position to perform tricky moves or steal the pot if necessary. This is why many Texas Hold’em experts say that if you observe a game, that money tends to flow toward the direction of the Button.

This means that you want to tighten up your starting hand selection early in the game and drop questionable hands like [KT], [QT], [JT], [T9] – and possibly even [KJ] or [QJ] – in early position. You can see for yourself on the EV chart that these hands will lose you money in the long run in Hold’em. In late position, however, you can relax your starting hand selection to include these cards. You can also begin playing pocket pairs a bit more liberally in late position.

Absolute Value vs. Relative Value

Another concept that players should understand with regards to their poker hands, is that each hand has both; an absolute value and a relative value. Absolute value is the value of the hand on its own, whereas relative value refers to the value of a hand with respect to the community cards.

Let’s look at an example:

Player 1: Ace of hearts + Ace of spades

The Board: 10 of clubs + 9 of clubs + 8 of hearts + 6 of clubs + Jack of spades

The absolute value of this pocket pair is very high, in fact it is the highest possible AV a player can have. However given the cards that are on the board, the relative value of Player 1’s hand is significantly lower and an opponent could win the pot with a combination of different hands. Staying conscious of values and playing hands based on the relative value is vital.

Poker Hand Rankings and Expected Value

David Sklansky’s starting hand analysis from the book “Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players” is considered a standard in the poker world. However, these EV charts were created by Sklansky without any definitive proof of why certain hands were better – they simply were.

With this starting hands EV chart, you now have statistical rankings of each Hold’em hand. By only playing hands that have profitable expected value, you will greatly increase your ability to earn money over the long-term at Texas Hold’em. Please remember, however, that this is a compilation of EV for the average player, and the average player may not play the same way that you do.

You will still need to play your poker hands tactically, which means that you still need to observe your opponents, take notes, watch out for traps and calculate your odds. You need to play your hand as the situation dictates and not get married to a hand just because it is a long-term winner. Remember: Texas Hold’em is all about knowing when to fold’em as well.

Poker Hand Rankings FAQs