April 13, 2022 3 min read

If you're new to poker, you may be wondering what the best possible hand in the game is. While there's no definitive answer to this question, many would say that it's the royal flush (A-K-Q-J-10 of the same suit).

There are four other hands that make up what poker players call the big six -- straight flush, four of a kind, full house and flush -- that tie with the royal flush for first place.

Poker hands rank from high to low

A royal flush is highest and an ace-high straight (A-K-Q-J-10) is lowest. This is a true highest to lowest list that ties for ties at each rank. If you’re playing with a community card deck, your ultimate goal is to have five cards of one rank in your hand.

For example, if there are four face cards on the board, you can combine them with two in your hand to make a straight flush (Ace, Jack, Queen, King). Two pair beats three of a kind which beats two high pairs; other than that it’s hard to arrange two pair into anything better.

Full house vs. Flush

It’s generally thought that a full house (three-of-kind plus a pair) is better than a flush. One of three things can beat a full house: A straight flush, which is five cards in numerical order, or a royal flush, which is an ace high straight with an ace, king, queen, jack and 10; for example, 10♣ K♦ Q♥ J♦ A♣ 9♣.

But if you have four cards to a royal flush and one card left over (say it’s an 8), it won’t be considered as part of your hand and could win you the pot.

Two pair vs. Three of a kind

Two pair is a strong hand. Two pairs (e.g., Aces and Eights, Queens and Kings) give you a chance to win with either pair. That’s because there are four combinations of two different cards that can beat two pairs: A higher one pair; a lower one pair; both other hands; and neither other hand.

There’s only one combination of three cards that can beat three of a kind, so three of a kind isn’t nearly as good as two pairs—although it’s obviously better than two high cards.

One pair vs. Straight

A pair beats a straight, which means that when two players have either a one-pair or a straight and both want to show their hands, whoever has one more card in their sequence wins. For example, three of a kind beats a straight. In other words, with one pair you need to have only two of your four cards match for them to beat five cards in order.

Four of a kind beats a full house, so you need four out of five matching cards. If there is more than one player showing down these winning hands, then it becomes an all-out war between both pairs to see who can have more in common. In all cases, straights and flushes do not win against any hand other than another similar type.

High card vs. Royal flush

A royal flush is one of five cards that are of same suit and in consecutive order. For example, 10-J-Q-K-A, all hearts. The royal flush is by far and away considered to be the best possible combination you can make with a standard 52 card deck. According to statistics from Nevada casinos, a royal flush only occurs once every 649 cards played.

So that means if you were to play 100 hands of blackjack at $10 a hand—which would cost you $1,000—the probability of making a royal would be 1/649 x $1,000 = $14.16; not worth it! While we're on calculating return on investment here: remember that pot odds don't exist in blackjack.

American Game Zone has an excellent collection of Poker Tables which will provide you with the experience of a quality casino with your poker mates at your home.

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