Texas Hold’em: Which Poker Hands Beat Which?
Texas Hold’em is a popular poker game played between two or more people. Two cards are dealt face down to each player, with up to five ‘community cards’ dealt face up in the middle of each hand. Those community cards are then shared by all players.
Players can play either, both or none of their two ‘hole’ cards and the highest-ranking five-card hand wins the pot. The thing is that because Hold’em involves shared ‘community’ cards, pots can often be split as hands are outranked by other hands.
Common Texas Hold’em Hand Rankings
In Texas Hold’em, the best poker hand is a royal flush, followed by a straight flush and then on down.
In other variants the best hand differs. When you play Razz, for example, A-2-3-4-5 is the best hand, while in three-card brag 3-3-3 beats even A-A-A.
As Texas Hold’em is the most popular variant played online and in casinos, we’ll concentrate on those hand rankings:
A royal flush is 10-J-Q-K-A of the same suit: 10h Jh Qh Kh Ah.
Five consecutive cards (non-royal) of the same suit: 2d 3d 4d 5d 6d.
Four of a Kind
Also known as quads, these are four identical value cards plus a kicker: 10d 6d 6h 6c 6s.
A full house is made up of a three-of-a-kind plus one pair: Kd Kc Ks 3d 3c.
A flush is five non-consecutive cards of the same suit: 3c 5c 10c Jc Ac.
A straight is made up of five non-suited cards in order: 3d 4c 5h 6c 7d.
Three Of a Kind
Three of a kind is made up of three matching cards plus two kickers: Ad Ac Ah 3d 8c.
Two-pair is made up of one pair of cards and another pair, plus a kicker: Jd Jc 3d 3c 7d.
This hand is made up of one equal pair and three unconnected cards: 10d 10c 3c 4h 5s.
Five unconnected cards make up this hand. The highest card plays in a showdown: Kh 10d 7c 6d 3h.
Hold’em Hands: Probability of Hitting
Kickers And Split Pots
Most of the hands above contain ‘kickers’. These are the extra cards in a hand that can decide pots if two or more players have the same hand.
Here’s an example:
Player 1 has A-A-K-K-3
Player 2 has A-A-K-K-7
The higher ‘kicker’, in this case the 7, would win the pot for Player 2.
Split pots can happen a lot in Texas Hold’em because it’s a community game.
Here’s another example:
Player 1 has 10-J-Q-K-A
Player 2 has 6-7-8-9-A
The board reads 2-2-2-2-3
Despite Player 1 having a straight, the best hand available from each players’ hand and the board is 2-2-2-2-A (quad twos with each player’s ace acting as a kicker).
In this scenario, the pot would be split between the two players.
Best Starting Hands – How Do They Rank?
Knowing the rankings of starting hands is important. It’s also good to know how often you are going to hit the starting hands you will be dealt in Hold’em.
More importantly, you need to know how often you are going to win with them.
A pair is dealt every 220 hands or so (and if you’re lucky, more often than that), so they’re pretty rare.
Even among pairs, high pairs are better than medium pairs and medium pairs better than small pairs.
A pair of aces, wins nearly 85% of the time, with a pair of kings beating out other hands 82% of the time. Queens drops further, to just under 80%.
Jacks, tens, nines, eights and sevens (medium pairs) range from 77 down to 65% in terms of win rate. A pair of 2s (deuces), finally, wins 49% of hands.
A rough ranking of starting hands in terms of their winning chances goes as follows. Remember, the starting hands which are worth playing always depends on the other players, the stage of the tournament and how much is at stake!):