Poker Hand Rankings & Charts: Evaluate Your Poker Cards

Before you take us up on our free poker money offer on your way to becoming a World Series of Poker champion, you must first master the basics. The most important in the game is to understand the poker hand strength and rankings. You will not get very far if you do not understand what hand beats which other hands.

A poker hand is typically made up of the best five cards you have at your disposal. For example on the river in a hand of Texas Hold'em you actually have seven cards to choose from, and you are allowed to pick whichever poker combination of the five make up the best hand. This is even true if the two hole cards you have been dealt are the worst, you can instead to 'play the board' meaning your best hand is made up of the five shared cards.

What follows is poker rankings from the strongest to the weakest. In the event of a tie, the highest poker cards win.

The poker hands in order

Royal Flush

Royal Flush

The strongest poker hand is the royal flush. It consists of Ten, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace, all of the same suit, e.g. spades.


Straight Flush

Straight Flush

The second strongest hand in poker is the straight flush. It is composed of five consecutive cards of the same suit. If two players have a straight flush, the one with the highest cards wins.


Four-of-a-kind

Four-of-a-kind

A four-of-a-kind is four cards of the same rank, e.g. four Kings. If two players have four-of-a-kind, then the one with the highest four-of-a-kind wins. If they have the same (if four-of-a-kind is on the board), then the player with the highest fifth card wins, since a poker hand is always composed of five cards.


Full House

Full House

A full house is a poker combination of a three-of-a-kind and a pair. If two players have a full house, then the one with the highest three-of-a-kind wins. If they have the same one, then the pair counts. A full house is still one of the best poker hands.


Flush

Flush

Five cards of the same suit make a flush. If two players have a flush, then the one with the highest cards wins.


Straight

Straight

Five consecutive cards are called a straight. If two players have a straight, the one with the highest cards wins.


Three-of-a-kind

Three-of-a-kind

A three-of-a-kind is a poker combination of three cards of the same rank. If two players have the same three-of-a-kind, then the other cards, or both cards, determine the winner, since a poker hand is a always composed of five cards.


Two-pair

Two-pair

Two-pair hands are, of course, composed of two pairs. If two players have two-pair, the rank of the higher pair determines the winner. If they have the same higher pair, then the lower one counts. If that is also the same, then the fifth card counts.


Pair

Pair

A pair is composed of two cards of the same rank. Since winning poker hands are always composed of five cards, the other three cards are so-called "kickers". In case two players have the same pair, then the one with the highest kicker wins.


High card

High card

If you don't even have a pair, then you look at the strength of your poker cards. If there are two players at showdown who don't have a pair or better, then the one with the highest cards wins.

Understanding poker card strength

One of the core skills in poker is being able to determine whether your hand is strong or not, because many factors contribute to how strong or weak a certain poker card combination actually is.

The number of players helps determine poker hand strength. If lots of players have chosen to play the hand voluntarily, you have to assume they are doing so because they hold strong hands.

However if only two players are involved in a hand, it is less likely. A pair of Aces, for example, is quite a strong poker combination against one player, but against four players it decreases significantly in value.

Your opponents playing style is also a big factor. If they are 'tight' meaning they play few hands, then you can expect them to show up with a strong hand when they do. If they are 'loose' meaning they play a lot of hands, then the relative strength of their hand usually goes down.

The composition of the community poker cards will determine how many strong potential hands are in play. If you hold three of a kind, but there are four cards to a flush and four cards to a straight, your poker combination strength goes down. This is called a 'wet' board. Likewise if the board is made up of out of sequence cards with no flushes possible, your hand strength goes up.

The amount of chips in play also plays a part. In a tournament when chip stacks are shallow, it is not unusual for players to commit their money with weaker holdings to avoid 'blinding away'. However in cash games, where the stacks are deep, you are less likely to see such risks being taken.

Understanding these complex decisions takes a lot of experience. Until then, you can greatly improve your poker hand strength skills by only choosing the best poker starting hands.

Starting Hands Chart: Which Hands Should You Play?

The Starting Poker Hands Chart

The PokerStrategy.com Starting Hands Chart shows you which hands you should play and how you should play them to get started. Simply print it out and you will always know what to do throughout the entire game.

Because each game type varies significantly we have starting hands charts and strategies for each gametype. Below you will find an example of our starting poker hand charts for No Limit Texas Hold'em.

If you prefer other game types, check out our beginner strategies and starting hands charts for other game types:

The No Limit Texas Hold'em Starting Hands Chart

The chart contains four categories of information:

  • Your starting hand
  • The actions of your opponents before you
  • Your position
  • How you should play your starting hand considering your current position and the actions of your opponents before you.

Click here to download the chart for No Limit Hold'em!

Your Hand Actions Before You Early Pos. Middle Pos. Late Pos. Blinds
High Pairs
  All players folded Raise
AA, KK, QQ Players called Raise
  1 player raised Raise
Middle Pairs
  All players folded Raise
JJ, TT Players called Raise
  1 player raised Call20
Low Pairs
99, 88, 77, All players folded Fold Call Raise Call
66, 55, 44, Players called Fold Call
33, 22 1 player raised Call20
Your Hand Actions Before You Early Pos. Middle Pos. Late Pos. Blinds
High Aces (s stands for suited, o stands for offsuit)
  All players folded Raise
AKo, AKs Players called Raise
  1 player raised Raise
Middle Aces (s stands for suited, o stands for offsuit)
AQo, AQs All players folded Fold Raise
AJs, AJo Players called Fold Raise Call
ATs, ATo 1 player raised Fold
Low Suited Aces (s stands for suited)
A9s, A8s, A7s, All players folded Fold Raise
A6s, A5s, A4s, Players called Fold Call
A3s, A2s 1 player raised Fold
Your Hand Actions Before You Early Pos. Middle Pos. Late Pos. Blinds
Suited Face Cards (s stands for suited)
KQs, KJs, KTs, All players folded Fold Raise
QJs, QTs, Players called Fold Call
JTs 1 player raised Fold
Offsuit Face Cards (o stands for offsuit)
KQo, KJo, KTo, All players folded Fold Raise
QJo, QTo, Players called Fold Call
JTo 1 player raised Fold
Suited Connectors
T9s, 98s, All players folded Fold Raise Fold
87s, 76s, Players called Fold Call
65s, 54s 1 player raised Fold
Your Hand Actions Before You Early Pos. Middle Pos. Late Pos. Blinds
All other hands not considered above
  All players folded Fold
The rest Players called Fold
  1 player raised Fold

The first column: Your Hand

The best poker hands in order

In the left column you see the possible starting hands. Each starting hand is abbreviated. AA, for example, stands for two aces, 99 for two nines. If your hand is not included in the chart, you should fold.

CardsSymbolFull name
Aces A Ace
Kings K King
Queens Q Queen
Jacks J Jack
Tens T Ten
Nines 9 Nine

Suited cards s: An s behind the hand, as in A9s, stands for suited and means that both of the poker cards you are holding are of the same suit (hearts, diamonds, spades or clubs). Which suit it is doesn't play any role in Texas hold'em.

  • A9s stands for ace nine of the same suit
  • A4s stands for ace four of the same suit
  • QJs stands for queen jack of the same suit
  • QTs stands for queen ten of the same suit

Offsuit cards o: An o behind the hand, as in KQo, stands for offsuit and means that the two poker cards are of two different suits, for example if you are holding a club and a heart.

  • KQo stands for king queen of different suits
  • QTo stands for queen ten of different suits
  • JTo stands for jack ten of different suits

The second column: What action took place before you?

winning  poker hands ranking

The second column shows you the possible answers to this question. You obviously play differently when someone raised before you, since this is a sign that your opponent has a strong hand.

Columns 3-6: What to do depending on your position?

poker hands order by position

Your position tells you in what column to look next. If you are in early position, look at the third column, if you are in the Small Blind or Big Blind, look at the last column.

What to do next?

The most important thing to understand is that you should take these poker hand orders only as a starter guide to poker hand strength. Every hand can be a winner or loser, depending on the circumstances. Rather than rely upon these guides as the being definitive, it is important to progress to some of our more advanced strategy sections once you feel you have a good understanding of the poker hand rankings.

Further reading: Learn the basics of Texas Hold'em

Play for free with real money

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Or quickly test your poker knowledge

We also prepared a small quiz for you about the poker hand ranking, so you can test your knowledge before you head off to the poker tables.

Take the poker hands quiz