Your Guide to Poker Hand Rankings From Top to Bottom

What's the best hand you can have in poker?

It's Saturday night, you're at the poker table with your friends, and you're feeling lucky. You're hoping for a run of cards that ends up with hands like the first or second on this list. But the rest of the list will do in a pinch and they might be winners depending on what everyone else has—or, more to the point, what everyone else thinks you have.

These 10 hands are listed from the strongest to the weakest. The list assumes that no jokers or wild cards are being used. As the singer Kenny Rogers croons, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em." This list should help you to follow his advice. 

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Royal Straight Flush

Royal flush with poker chips
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A royal straight flush is when you have 10-J-Q-K-A in your hand, all of the same suit. This is the best there is, no bluffing about it. Although if you are a good bluffer, you might smile as brightly as the sun when you look at your hand and realize you don't have this, then immediately go...well, poker-faced. You might make your opponents think this might be what you hold in your hand even if you don't.

And if you do hold it, there's probably no way you're going to be able to be poker-faced.

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Straight Flush

This hand has any five cards, all of the same suit, in order, such as the 4-5-6-7-8 all of hearts. It doesn't bring quite the adrenaline rush of a royal flush, but it's still a reliable winner. 

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Four of a Kind

Four of a kind means you hold four of the same card, such as 8-8-8-8 with maybe a random 5 or something else thrown in there for your fifth card. Not bad, not bad at all. If you're masterful at bluffing and you can get others to fold, this could easily bring home the pot.

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Full House

This is any set of three of a kind plus a pair, such as 10-10-10-3-3 or K-K-K-2-2. It's a good hand that carries its weight as a winning one.

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All five of your cards are of the same suit, although they're not in order. For example, you might hold the 2-4-7-J-K of spades. This might get your heart pounding, but it has a bit of competition.

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A straight is any five cards in order, such as 3-4-5-6-7. They don't have to be all of the same suit. You could do worse. On a really bad night, this might look pretty good. 

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Three of a Kind

This is three cards all of the same number or rank, such as 6-6-6 or Q-Q-Q. If you had Q-Q-Q-2-3, you'd have three of a kind. This might be worth staying in the game with...or not.

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Two Pair

You have two pairs of cards of the same number or rank, such as 5-5-4-4. If you have a pair of sevens and a pair of nines, you've got two pair. This is pretty far down the list of great hands. It's not exciting, but it could turn out to be a winner if Lady Luck is with you and not with anyone else. 

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One Pair

This is two cards that match, like K-K. The poker gods need to be standing right behind you to win with a pair like this. It could happen, but this hand is usually a "fold" candidate. 

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High Card

If no one has any of the above hands, the player with the highest card in his hand wins. Just having an ace in the hole is sometimes enough.

When More Than One Player Has the Same Hand

The value of your cards acts as a tiebreaker. If you have three of a kind, all kings, this scrubs the guy with three twos or even three jacks. The higher your cards, the better your chances of winning. Of course, if two of you have royal straight flushes, you're going to be splitting the pot.