The world of poker is where the right combinations can make all the difference between wins and losses. From the fundamentals of poker combinations to hand strength comparison, today we’ll discuss the essentials of poker hands and how they rank in strength. It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned player or just getting started, this guide is your go to resource to help you navigate the feels with confidence as we break down all poker combinations one by one across the most popular and some lesser famed variations.
Poker Combinations: Basic Concepts
Each hand is assigned a certain rank in poker and during showdown, the ranks of these hands are compared against one another to decide the winner. The good news is that all poker games utilize the same set of poker combinations to determine the winner. These poker combinations are common to the most popular games such as Texas Hold’em, Omaha and even Stud Poker games.
That said, in low poker games such as Razz Poker, the rankings are reversed and the lowest ranking poker hand wins the pot. Then, there are high-low split games where the pot is split between the highest and lowest ranking hand.
However, the most played poker games such as Texas Hold’em and Omaha poker follow the traditional hierarchy of hand rankings to determine the winner.
To learn how to play the most popular games of Poker, you need to know the traditional poker hand combinations in order of their strength. So, let’s list them out from the highest to the lowest.
Poker Combinations Chart: Highest to Lowest
Let’s begin by understanding the ranking of each poker combination to realize their strength in comparison to one another, along with examples.
|A♠ K♠ Q♠ J♠ 10♠
|9♥ 8♥ 7♥ 6♥ 5♥
|Four of a Kind
|8♣ 8♠ 8♦ 8♥ 2♠
|Q♦ Q♠ Q♥ 7♣ 7♠
|K♣ 10♣ 7♣ 5♣ 2♣
|10♦ 9♠ 8♣ 7♥ 6♠
|Three of a Kind
|J♣ J♠ J♥ 4♦ 2♣
|9♦ 9♣ 5♥ 5♠ 2♠
|6♦ 6♠ 10♣ 8♠ 3♠
|High Card (No Pair)
|A♣ 10♠ 8♥ 5♠ 2♦
- Royal Flush: The highest-ranking poker combination that includes the top five cards of the same suit, such as A ♦ K ♦ Q ♦ J ♦ 10♦.
- Straight Flush: Five consecutive cards of the same suit, with the highest card determining the strength, for example, 9♠ 8♠ 7♠ 6♠ 5♠.
- Four of a Kind: Four cards of the same rank, accompanied by any fifth card, as in 8♣ 8♠ 8♦ 8♥ 2♠.
- Full House: A poker combination of Three of a kind and One Pair, like Q♦ Q♠ Q♥ 7♣ 7♠.
- Flush: Five cards of the same suit, in no particular sequence, with the highest card breaking ties, such as K♥ 10♥ 7♥ 5♥ 2♥.
- Straight: Five consecutive cards of different suits, with the highest card deciding the hand’s strength, for instance, 10♦ 9♠ 8♣ 7♥ 6♠.
- Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same rank, accompanied by any two other cards, like J♣ J♥ J♠ 4♦ 2♣.
- Two Pair: A hand containing two sets of pairs, with an unrelated fifth card, such as 9♦ 9♣ 5♥ 5♠ 2♠.
- One Pair: Two cards of the same rank, accompanied by three unrelated cards, as seen in 6♦ 6♠ 10♣ K♦ 3♠.
- High Card (No Pair): When none of the nine poker combinations is made, the highest card in the hand determines its strength, like A♣ 10♠ 8♥ 5♠ 2♦.
Poker Combinations: Things to Remember
Royal Flush- Strongest and Unbeatable Poker Combination
As you can clearly see in the table above, Royal Flush is the highest and strongest poker combination of all poker hands and beats all other poker hands. No other poker hand comes even close to this invincible yet rarest hand of all.
High Card- Weakest Poker Combination
The lowest and the weakest poker combination is a High Card that has no suited cards, a complete sequence or pairs. As such, its strength is determined by the highest ranking card in the hand. For instance, if we compare two hands that look like A♣ 2♣ J♥ 10♠ 6♦ and K♣ Q♠ 3♦ 9♠ 10♦, the hand with Ace as its highest card will beat the hand with King as its highest card, as Ace High ranks higher than King.
Higher Ranking Hands Beat Lower Ranked Hands
As per the standard poker combination rules, the higher-ranking poker hands beat the lower ranking ones. This means, Four of a Kind beats a Full House and a Flush always beats a Straight. A Straight Beats Three of a Kind and Two Pair always beats One Pair poker combination. To play your hand strength appropriately, you must memorize these poker combinations in their correct order of strength.
Role of Kicker in Poker Combinations
Kicker holds a special role in deciding the winner in a poker game. It is the highest remaining card that is not part of the primary ranking hands. Let’s take the example of a hand played between two players.
Hole Cards of Player 1
Hole Cards of Player 2
Q♥ J♣ 8♠ 5♦ 2♠
None of the players have hit any of the nine poker combinations listed in the table above but each poker player has an Ace for a High card. Since both high cards of the same rank, the next highest card, i.e. the kicker, will be taken into consideration to decide the winner of the hand.
The kicker here is crucial in breaking the tie between the players who both have an Ace as their high card. Understanding the concept of kickers is crucial in such situations as it adds an extra layer of poker strategy to determine the winner. Since player 1 has King for a kicker and player 2 has 9 for a kicker, Player 1’s hand is stronger in overall strength and hence, shall be the winner of the hand.
Let’s take another example of Three of a Kind Hand for more clarity.
Hole cards of Player 1
Hole cards of Player 2
K♣ A♦ 9♠ K♦ 6♣
Here, both players make three of a kind with King as one of their hole cards. Now, since the strength of their primary hand, the triplet is equal, their kicker shall determine the winner. In this case, player 1 wins again since its kicker, Q ranks higher than player 2’s kicker, 10.
This is as far as the poker combinations go when you play standard games of Poker such as Texas Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha. Now, if you remember, we also mentioned how these hand rankings invert in their order of strength when you play certain other variations of Poker.
This is true in the Hi-lo variation of poker games. Let’s take a quick look.
To begin with, Lowball poker is a variant of poker in which the normal hand rankings of poker combinations are inverted. In such variants, Aces are treated as either low cards or high cards in straight and flush combinations.
Lowball Poker Combination Methods
Here’s how the strength of various poker combinations change in Lowball poker games.
Ace to Five Low- In this variation, the best and strongest hand is A-2-3-4-5. Here, straight and flushes with the lowest cards wins the game.
Deuce-to Seven Low– This poker variation derives its name from its strongest hand i.e. is 7-5-4-3-2, regardless of suit.
Ace to Six Low– In Ace to Six low, the best possible hand you can make is A-2-3-4-6. This hand is also known as the Chicago Wheel. It is the strongest hand, followed by A-2-3-5-6, A-2-4-5-6 and so on.
As you may see, things certainly get interesting when you invert the hand rankings. However discussing lowball variants of Poker at length shall be a story for another day. If you’re just getting started and wish to experience Poker at its original best, memorize the traditional poker combinations at best to enjoy the most popular and fun variations of Poker today.