Part of being a good poker player is knowing all of the types of hands you can get. Here are the winning hands you want to play for in any game of poker and the odds of getting them.
Many people think poker is all about strategic betting and reading people. While these two factors make the difference between a pro and an amatuer, there is still quite a bit of luck involved with playing poker as well. In fact, the main strategy in poker is actually being able to understand your odds of beating out other people with the best hand on the table.
What constitutes how powerful or lucky a hand is? Probability! From least to most powerful based on probability of being bested by your opponents, these are the winning hands you want to play for in any game of poker.
A high card hand refers to having the highest card on the table in your hand. While typically the winning high card is from the deck’s royal family — King, Queen, and Jack — you can also have a winning high card if you have a 10 and everyone else has nothing but 8 and under.
It’s also important to note that an Ace counts as the high card in most types of poker in addition to being played as a 1 in a low straight. That means most poker games consider card values from highest to lowest as follows: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, etc.
The odds of getting a high card hand (in five-card games, like stud, draw, and Hold ‘em) are just over 50%, and the odds of getting it in a seven-card poker hand are 17.4%. But the odds of winning with a high card are not high at all. In fact, it’s 100% likely that someone will have the same valued hand or a better one than you.
One pair is exactly that — a pair of cards of the same number or face (meaning Kings, Queens, and Jacks). What makes this a winning hand over others is if you’re going against a high card hand or a pair that has a value less than yours. For example, you might have a pair of Kings and your opponent has a pair of Queens or lower.
Depending on the type of poker you’re playing, you might have both cards in your hand, one on the table and one in your hand, or both cards on the table and the highest high card at the table in your hand. In this final case, which may occur in Texas Hold ‘em, you might have an Ace in your hand, your opponent has a King or lower in their hand, and the pair on the table is Jacks or lower.
The likelihood of getting a pair in five-card poker is just over 42%, and it’s nearly 50% likely that someone will have a pair or better than you. In seven-card poker, the odds of getting a pair are 43.8%, and it’s 82.6% likely that you’ll be tied or bested.
A two pair is two sets of pairs, or one pair of one number or face and another pair of another number or face. Like a pair, and many other hands in this list, your winning all comes down to having the highest valued version of this hand.
Let’s say you have a pair of 10s in your hand (also referred to as a pocket pair) and a pair of 8s on the table. Your opponent has a pair of 9s in their hand and that pair of 8s on the table. You would win (congrats, by the way!) in this case. If you have a pair of Aces in your hand and your opponent still has those 9s with those 8s on the table, you’d still win (wow, you’re on a roll!). But if there are two Aces on the table and you have 10s in your hand and your opponent has Kings in theirs, then you lose (can’t win ‘em all).
Now here’s where things might get a little tricky. Let’s talk Texas Hold ‘em again. Say you’ve got a cool King and a 7 in your hand. Your opponent also has a King and a 5 in their hand. The flop shows a 7, 5, and a Jack. Then the turn is a 3, and the river is a King. Who has the better hand? You do! You have a King-7 two pair, and your opponent only has a King-5.
The odds of getting a two-pair in a five-card game are approximately 4.75% with 7.62% likelihood that you will tie with or get bested by an opponent.
A three-of-a-kind is pretty straightforward: three cards of the same number or face. In 5-card draw poker, you might get a three-of-a-kind in your hand. In Texas Hold ‘em or 5-card stud, you might get one or two of those cards in your hand and the missing one(s) on the table. Same as the previous hands, when there are more than one of these hands at the table, you win when you have the highest three-of-a-kind.
Your odds of getting a three-of-a-kind in a five-card game of poker are approximately 2.11% with 2.87% likelihood of matching or getting bested by an opponent. In seven-card poker, the probability of this hand is 4.83% with a 15.3% chance of matching or being bested.
A straight is five cards in consecutive order, even in seven-card poker. Examples include:
Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10 (which is called a “Broadway” straight)
10, 9, 8, 7, 6
5, 4, 3, 2, Ace (which is called a “Wheel” or “Bicycle” straight)
Or, you might have any combination of five cards in exact order, like 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 or Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7.
You are 0.39% likely to get a straight in five-card poker with a 0.76% chance of having the same level hand or worse than your opponents. In seven-card poker, you are 4.62% likely to get a straight with a 10.4% chance of having the same level hand or worse than your opponents.
A flush is when you have five cards of the same suit, meaning five hearts, five spades, five diamonds, or five clubs. The card values can be of any type or in any order. (We’ll go over a royal flush and a straight flush later.)
The way you win when there are multiple players with flushes in their hands comes down to the high card. If you have a King, Queen, 6, 8, 9 of hearts and your opponent has an Ace, King, 7, 5, 3 of spades, then your opponent wins. The same would happen if you had flushes of the same suit. Note that your opponent’s hand is referred to as the “nuts” or a “nut flush.” This name might be based on the exclamation “nuts!” you have when your opponent wins when you both have decent hands.
In a five-card game, the odds of getting a flush are 0.1965%, and you could tie or lose to a better hand with 0.367% probability. In a seven-card game, however, your odds of getting a flush are 3.03% with a 5.82% chance of losing to a better hand.
A full house is when you have a set (or three-of-a-kind) and a pair in your hand: for example, three Kings and a pair of Aces, which is a pretty decent hand. If your opponent had, say two 10s and three Queens, you’d be the winner. The key to winning against another full house is having a set made up of higher ranked cards than your opponent.
Your odds of a full house in five-card poker are 0.1441% with slightly higher odds of being beat or matched: 0.17%. In seven-card poker, your odds of getting a full house are 2.6% with slightly higher odds of being beat or matched: 2.8%.
A four-of-a-kind is like a pair or three-of-a-kind — multiple cards of the same number or face — but in this case, it’s four of the same cards. When you score a four-of-a-kind, you’ve got all of that particular card in the deck, one of each suit. That’s what makes this hand challenging to get (and beat!).
In five-card poker, the chances of a four-of-a-kind are approximately 0.024%, and there’s a 0.0256% chance that you’ll get bested or be matched. In seven card poker, the chances of this hand are 0.168% with a 0.199% chance of getting beat by a better hand.
A straight flush is when you have five consecutive cards all of the same suit. For example, you might have the Wheel straight in hearts (5 of Hearts, 4 of Hearts, 3 of Hearts, 2 of Hearts, Ace of Hearts). Or, you could have any other straight in the same suit, like 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 of spades; Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7 of clubs; or 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 of diamonds.
In five-card poker, your odds of getting a straight flush are 0.00139%, with a 0.0015% chance of being bested or matched. And in seven-card poker, your odds are a bit better with a 0.0279% chance of getting the hand and a 0.0311% of being overpowered by another player’s hand.
However, a Broadway straight in the same suit is something different (and better!).
A royal flush is the top of the top poker hands. This is when you have the Broadway straight (Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10) all in the same suit. This is the rarest hand you can get, which makes it so powerful. In five-card poker, your odds of getting a royal flush and being matched by another royal flush are 0.000154%. In seven-card poker, your odds of getting a royal flush and being matched by a royal flush of a different suit are 0.0032%. Now that you know what hands you should be hoping for and how to determine your chances of winning, head to your favorite online New Jersey casino. Many online casinos offer video poker, live poker tables, and other fun ways to play your favorite game.
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