Poker Hands - Does a Flush beat a Straight? Find out here.

Whichever poker variant you're going to be playing - be it Texas Hold'em, Omaha, 7-Card Stud or some other popular variant - the key thing you're going to need to know is the possible poker hands, how they rank in relation to one another, and what are the chances that your hand is better than your opponents.

Whilst there are some claims that poker originated in Europe, most modern day theories point to the notion that poker is very much an American invention, created in New Orleans as a gambling game for those who had enough money to lose at the card tables. Originally it was thought that Four of a Kind was the top poker hand, followed by a Full House, then Three of a Kind or a Set, then Two Pairs and a Pair. Flushes and Straights were not introduced until a little later.

The following graphic is a quick reminder of poker hands and their strengths:

Poker Hand Rankings

How likely am I to be have a good poker hand?

The table below gives the chances of being dealt each poker hand, if you are just dealt five cards. It can be used to assess the strength of each hand in relation to each other poker hand:

Poker HandOdds
Royal Straight Flush649,740 to 1
Straight Flush64,974 to 1
Four of a Kind4,165 to 1
Full House694 to 1
Flush509 to 1
Straight255 to 1
Three of a Kind or Set47 to 1
Two Pairs21 to 1
Pair2.37 to 1 or 7 to 3
High Card2 to 1

If you've seen poker played in the movies (particulary in old cowboy films) then you probably think that in every hand somebody at least gets a full house, and usually a full house with three aces. In truth, most hands in poker are won by players whose hand contains a high pair, or one that they have managed to develop into a flush or straight thanks to cards that have been drawn or flopped.

Different Games, Different Probabilities

One of the joys of all the poker variants is that each different game brings with it its own odds of having or developing a decent poker hand, and this has to be remembered if you switch from one variant to another. Typically, in Texas Holdem poker for example, you build your hand from your two pocket cards and the five cards that form the community cards, meaning you have a choice of seven. This means that decent hands are liklier than if you were playing a straight poker game where you only received five cards. Typically, in Texas Holdem, any high pair such as QQ, KK and AA is seen as a good hand, anything above that is a great hand, and anything above a flush is likely to be "the nuts". In Omaha poker, you have nine cards to choose from (although you have to use two of your pocket cards). You are far more likely to have a good hand, but then so again are you opponents.

You can consult my list of the top poker variants given below, to see how the hand rankings are affected by the number of cards available:

People often ask me if there's any easy way to remember poker hand rankings, like there is to remember the order of the planets in the solar system ("My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets" - although poor old Pluto dropped off the list in 2006). The truth is, there isn't, but the more you play poker the quicker you will get used to the hands and how they rank. The only one people seem to struggle with is that a flush beats a straight - once you've mastered that one, you're sorted. Good luck at the tables!

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