How to Determine the Winning Poker Hand

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When playing poker with your family or friends, one of the things you're going to need to know is how to determine the winning hand in all scenarios.

Before we go any further, first you need to memorize or print out the order of poker hands.

Once you know that a flush beats a straight and three of a kind beats two pair, you're off to a good start.

The majority of poker hands are simple to determine a winner from.

If one player has a flush, and no one else has a flush or better, it doesn't take much thought to figure out who's the winner.

It's once things get a little bit more complicated that people start to get confused. First, you want to remember these rules of poker hands:

  • You must make the best hand possible using exactly five cards
  • All five cards are used in deciding the strength of the hand
  • No cards outside of the best five have any bearing on the strength of the hand

If you're playing Texas Hold'em poker, players are allowed to use any combination of cards from their hand and/or the board cards.

This means if the absolute best five-card hand a player can make is by using the five cards on the board, then that is his or her final hand (this is known as playing the board).

Some Common Areas of Confusion

Here's a quick rundown of a couple common areas of confusion, and how to resolve the winner:

Two Players (or More) Have a Flush

If more than one player has a flush, you award the pot to the player with the highest flush. This includes all five cards, for example:

Board:

         

Player 1:

   

Player 2:

   

In this scenario, Player 1 wins the pot. The reason is that when you look at all five cards, Player 1 has the higher flush:

Player 1:

         

Player 2:

         

All the cards are the same, until the final fifth card. Since  7 is higher than 6, Player1 wins the entire pot.

If instead of the 2 on the board, that card was the T, both players would have the same flush (playing the board) and the pot would be split.

Two Players Have Two Pairs

When two players have two pairs, it can sometimes be confusing for people to know who won.

Take this example:

Board:

         

Player 1:

   

Player 2:

   

In this scenario, Player1 wins the entire pot. Two pair is always ranked by the value of the highest pair first, and only if that pair is the same for both players do you rank by the second pair.

If both of two pairs are identical, it will be the kicker that will decide the winner (the highest-value fifth card is the kicker).

In this scenario because the two paired on the river, Player 1 has two pair - A A 2 2 with the kicker K.

Player 2 has the lower two pair - K K Q Q with the kicker 3. Aces are higher than kings, so Player 1 wins the entire pot.

Who Wins?

Board:

         

Player 1:

   

Player 2:

   

Take a second to figure it out. This is a very bad beat, as once the river falls both players now have four of a kind with nines.

Only Player 1, who up until this point had nothing special, has the highest kicker with an ace.

Even though Player 2 flopped a full house - K K K 9 9 - once the fourth nine fell, he was now playing four-of-a-kind nines with a king kicker.

Player 1 wins the whole pot.

The Omaha Rule

The rules in determining the best hand in Omaha are exactly the same as in Texas Hold'em with one additional rule:

  • Every player must make the best five-card hand using exactly two cards from his hand (you're dealt four cards in Omaha) and three cards from the board.

This means that if there are four hearts on the board and you only have one in your hand you do not have a flush.

You must always use exactly two cards from your hand.

More Beginner Strategy Articles:

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Lori 2010-08-23 18:40:23

one player has 2 pairs 7's & 9's second player has 2 Pairs jacks & 2's..who wins?

Kindlin 2010-08-22 14:49:33

DJ: Is that a question...?

Dhy: Maybe that was set up wrong, but only one person has a straight. p1=789TJ(winner), p2=TTKJ9(pair). If the 6 was a Q, then it would be p1=89TJQ, p2=9TJQK, so p2 would win

Darren: p1=AQJT9, p2=AKT97. p2 wins; K > Q.

Pats: p1=55599, p2=99955. Triplets break a full house tie; 999 > 555.

Kindlin 2010-08-22 14:41:08

I'll answer these last few while I'm here.

The general rule is the best 5 cards that can be formed out of the 5 community cards and your two hole cards.

Jugo: Both players have the same 5 cards (666QQ) so split pot.

Fabrice: 22AK7 > 22A97

Tommy: TT > 22

Dhan: p1=AQ, p2=KJ, Board = 2468T. p1 wins with high card A. One example should be fine.. lol

99KQJ = 99KQJ, so split pot. If the board was 794KQ, then it would be 99KQ8 > 99KQ7

pats 2010-08-07 08:12:39

p 1:- 5 5
p 2:- 9 3

9 6 9 Q 5

who wins???

pats 2010-08-07 08:05:37

p 1:- 5 5
p 2:- 9 5

9 6 9 Q 5

who wins

Darren O 2010-08-04 15:22:07

Hi Sean,
Just wondering if you can help settle a question.

P1: Q J
P2: K 2

Community cards: A, 10, 9, 7, 5

I would of thought player 2 as he has the higher card, although player 1 can make a stronger 5 card hand.

Thanks

dhy 2010-07-30 12:25:38

what if the players is both straight?
the player 1 has a 7 and A while the player 2 has a hand of 10 and K the flop 8,9,10,J,6

who will win??

DJ 2010-06-26 16:46:55

chopped pot 99jkq

dhan 2010-06-18 00:31:43


can you give me the 2 examples of a high card win!


board:7 9 J K Q

P1: 9 8


P2: 9 6

all players got 1 pair

split or win???
who wins?????

tommy 2010-06-10 21:51:41

dose two 10s beat two twos

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