Poker Hands

In all poker variations, each of the players’ poker hands consists of five cards. More than five cards may be dealt, with each player choosing which five to play. Alternatively, fewer than five cards may be dealt, with players free to choose one or more community cards (cards placed face-up on the board and available to all the players) to make up the total of five cards they ultimately play.

In most poker games, including Seven-Card Stud and Texas Hold ’em, high-ranking cards (cards with high numbers and face cards) have higher value. Games like Lowball and Razz use similar card ranking rules in reverse – low-ranking cards have higher value. In High-Low Split games, two players with the highest and the lowest hands may share the pot.

Poker Hand Rankings

In poker card ranking, it adds value to have

  • two or more cards of the same rank
  • all cards from the same suit
  • all cards with consecutive values

Any two cards of the same rank is a pair. If two players both have the same pair – for example, both have two 8s each – the ranks of the other three cards they’re holding will determine the best hand.

Kickers in Poker Hands

In poker, side cards – one or more cards that aren’t included in a pair or a set of three or more cards of the same rank – are called "kickers". In many games, it’s the ranks of two players’ kickers that determine the winner. For example, if two players both hold a pair of jacks, it’s the value of their other cards, or kickers, that determine the winner.

No Pair in Poker Hands

If a player’s hand includes five unrelated cards – with no pairs and cards that aren’t all in sequence or all in the same suit – the hand is known as "no pair". If two players both have a no pair, the individual rankings of their cards determine the winner. For example, a player with the five cards ace, 10, 5, 3 and 2 will beat a player with the hand jack, 9, 6, 3 and 2.

A no pair is often described by the one or two highest-ranking cards in the hand. For example, "queen high" describes a no pair in which the highest-ranking card is a queen. The lowest possible high card is seven-high – because anything lower would be a straight (if the lowest card is a 6 and there are five cards, this leaves 6, 5, 4, 3 and 2).

For valuable poker card combinations in order of their worth, see poker card ranking.