Introduction to Poker Hands

Poker isn’t just about the hands you are dealt. The top poker players will tell you it’s not about the cards. In a sense, they are correct. But, truthfully, the cards do matter more than some poker players claim. A talented poker player is able to win many hands without having the strongest hand but, most of the time, the player dealt the best hand wins the pot.

Poker, as they say, is a card game where cards often don’t matter. The player that is ballsy enough to step up and be aggressive typically ends up better than a player that is passive and sits back waiting for a big hand. 

As nice as it would be to catch big hand after big hand, you can’t expect that to happen very often. So when the cards don’t come, you have to make some plays (i.e. bluff) in order to win. With that said, we want you to understand the best hands since you still need to know them. 

Since the most common poker games are Texas hold’em, Omaha hold’em, and Stud, we are going to focus on the best poker hands in these games for this guide. There are many other poker games such as Badugi, Razz, and 2-7 Triple Draw where players attempt to make different hands than the other games mentioned.

The Best Hand in Poker

The absolute best hand in poker is a royal flush. If you get a royal flush, your hand cannot be beaten so don’t allow your opponent to bluff you off the hand. A royal flush is very uncommon though. So uncommon that you might never get one in your lifetime. Or, you could get a few of them. Really depends on how lucky you are!

A royal flush is Ten, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace all of the same suit (spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts). You’re more likely to get a royal flush when playing poker online as opposed to in a live casino because you see more hands per hour online. However, even online, you won’t get a royal flush very often. So, when you do, cherish the moment!

The Next Best Poker Hands

There are two more poker hands that are uncommon, although less uncommon than a royal flush, but still very powerful hands. Nothing beats a royal flush, but if you get these two hands, you’ll almost never lose. The second strongest poker hand is a straight flush. It’s similar to a royal flush, except you don’t have to get the Ten, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace. You just need any five consecutive suited cards.

An example of a straight flush is the Nine, Ten, Jack, Queen, King of diamonds. Straight flushes are tough to get but not quite as tough as a royal flush. Assuming you play poker on a regular basis, you’ll probably get a straight flush about once a year in Texas hold’em and a few times if you are an Omaha hold’em player. A royal flush is the only hand that can beat a straight flush. The odds that a player will get a straight flush and lose to a royal flush are nearly astronomical. So, have no fear, when you have a straight flush, be confident your hand is the best.

Of course, unlike with a royal flush, a straight flush can actually lose to a better straight flush. This almost never happens in Texas hold’em because players share community cards other than the two hole cards (face-down) dealt. But, in a game like seven card stud, each player is dealt seven individual cards. So, let’s say your straight flush is Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight of spades and your opponent has Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten of diamonds. Your opponent’s hand wins because a Ten-high straight flush beats and Eight-high straight flush.

The third strongest poker hand is four-of-a-kind, also referred to as quads. When you get quads, you have four cards of the same value. This hand only loses to a royal flush, straight, or higher quads. A few years back, poker star Andrew Robl, in a high stakes televised Texas hold’em game, had quad-nines, but his opponent had four queens. Since queens are of higher value than nines, Robl’s hand was beat.

Hands such as these are uncommon. In fact, you could play poker regularly for twenty years and only lose a sick hand like that once or twice. Getting quads won’t happen very often, but does happen more often than a straight flush or royal flush. So it’s incredibly uncommon for a hand this strong to be beat. 

When you get big hands like these, your opponent’s will have a hard time putting you on those hands. They are sneaky because they are so uncommon. Especially in Texas hold’em, if you flop a royal flush, straight flush, or quads, the best play is to always play slow. Don’t get too excited and bet big because your opponent is likely to fold. The best play is to slow play and hope your opponent catches a big hand, one that can’t beat yours, so that you get paid off. Many players make the mistake of betting big out of excitement and that scares off the other players. When you have monster hands such as these, you want to maximize your profits.

The Rest of the Best Hands in Poker

A royal flush, straight flush, and quads aren’t the only strong poker hands. There are a few other types of hands that can win you some big pots. First off, a full house is a very big hand. You will get a full house far more often than the above poker hands, but it’s still not the type of hand you should expect to get frequently. On average, you’ll get one about once every couple of poker sessions in live poker and likely once a day, on average, online.

What is a full house? When you have a hand that includes a three-of-a-kind and another pair. For example, Seven, Seven, Seven, Queen, Queen. In this example, you have Sevens full of Queens. The best full house possible is Aces full of Kings. If you and your opponent both have a full house, to determine which player wins, you first compare the three-of-a-kind. The highest three-of-a-kind value wins. If the value is the same, you then go to the additional pair value to determine the winner. For example, if you have Aces full of Nines and your opponent has Aces full of Eights, you win.

Next in line is a flush. A flush is still a very strong hand in a game such as Texas hold’em, but can be vulnerable in Omaha hold’em. When the board is paired, a flush is often beat by a full house in Omaha, but not as often in Texas hold’em. What is a flush? When you have five cards of the same suit (i.e. spades). If they are connecting suited cards, that’s a straight or royal flush. Otherwise, you just have a standard flush. When playing Omaha, you have to be careful with low value flushes such as eight-high because your opponent could have a bigger flush.

Another solid hand is a straight, but this can be beat a lot in Omaha or Stud, so proceed with caution. In Texas hold’em, straights are usually winning hands. But, as you’ll quickly learn, that isn’t always the case. A straight is when you have five connecting cards such as Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven. If those connecting cards are all of the same suit, you have a straight flush. Otherwise, you just have a standard straight. When multiple players have a straight, the winning hand is based on the player with the highest value card that is part of the straight.

The last real strong hand is called three-of-a-kind or “trips”. Any time you have three cards of the same value and no other pair to go with it, you have three-of-a-kind. This hand can win you big pots a lot of the time, especially in Texas hold’em. It’s another one of those hands that is tricky to play in Omaha hold’em because, so often, you will be up against a straight or better. So when playing Texas hold’em, play trips aggressively. In Omaha, play trips passively. Just don’t get carried away in either game if the board has 3-4 flush and connecting (straight) cards when you have trips.

Two pair is the next hand in line. This is a tricky hand because it always looks strong, but is often vulnerable. With that said, it can still win you a big pot sometimes in Texas hold’em. You probably won’t win many big pots with two pair in Omaha, however. Two pair is when you have two separate pairs of cards. The strength of your two pair is based on the value of each pair. Again, Aces and Kings are the highest value pairs, so Aces and Kings is an unbeatable two pair hand if your opponent doesn’t have a stronger hand than two pair.