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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Johan 2010-01-06 08:47:18

Pl = J,5 P2 = J,4
Board = 88992
Who wins?

Sean Lind 2010-01-04 20:06:42

Hey Harry.

I can't remember the exact hand you're talking about, but I can guarantee there was no mistake made.

I've watched that broadcast multiple times, so have other thousands of poker players, and I've never heard it mentioned before.

If you can get the cards from the board and hand and post them here, I can tell you why Hoang lost.

Harry 2010-01-03 09:38:17

Just watching 2003 WSOP rerun on ESPNCL. Hoang lost with 3 Jacks to 3 Tens. Did you watch that round? How did that happen? The other cards seemed neutral.

Sean Lind 2009-12-28 18:31:47

Justine,

You are absolutely correct. Player two wins with QQ88K.

Sean Lind 2009-12-28 18:29:53

Allen,

Nothumbs said everything that needs to be said.

Sean Lind 2009-12-28 18:28:47

Micheal,

Player one wins. A full house is ranked on the value of the trips first, pair second.

10-10-10-4-4 > 4-4-4-10-10

Justine 2009-12-26 11:38:16

player 1 has hold cards 5 and 2
player 2 has hold cards K and 2

community cards are Q, 8, 8, 5, Q. Who wins?

i'm guessing player 2 with 2 pair Qs and 8s with K kicker. am i right?

nothumbs24 2009-12-26 00:54:21

Allen, the pot is split. Both players are playing the board and they both have a full house; 4s full of 3s.

allen 2009-12-25 05:15:01

board has 33444 player 1 has 3,k player2 has 10,2 who wins

micheal 2009-12-25 02:07:22

p1:Qc 10s p2:As 4d board:44j1010...who wins

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