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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Sean Lind 2009-11-03 03:32:00

Edong,

You guys have the same hand. Both players are holding a straight 4-8.

It's a split pot

EDONG 2009-11-02 07:06:00

player1: 7,4
player 2: 10,10

community cards: 4,5,6,7,8


who wins???

Sean Lind 2009-10-30 03:14:00

Andi,

Unless one player has a flush, It's a split pot. The best possible 5 card hand is the 5 cards on the board. So both players use that as their hand.

andi 2009-10-29 07:24:00

hi mate got a hand for u to solve for me

the flop and turns are

10 J Q K A
straight not royle

player one J 8
player two Q 4

who wins or split
thanks

Sean Lind 2009-10-14 05:23:00

Eugene,

You have to use two cards, so the player will have quad 9's, using the highest card in their hand as their kicker.

Since it would be impossible for anyone else to have quad 9's here, only higher quads or a straight flush would beat her.

eugene 2009-10-13 13:53:00

In omaha if there are 3-nines on the board and a player has a 9 & king in her hand does she have quad nine's using the king as her 5th card adding no value to the quad nine's but using the king as her fifth card, no other hands have any quads or straight or royal flushes, she has the best hand right?

Sean Lind 2009-09-23 01:57:00

Mahdi,

Since neither player has a flush, it's a split pot, they have the same hand.

mahdi 2009-09-22 16:04:00

hey!! if theres only two pplayers left in the game:: plyr 1: As Ad
plyr 2 :Ac Ah
board: kd Qs 2s 3h 2c

who'll win??

Sean Lind 2009-08-04 18:24:00

Amy,

You rank two pairs by the top pair first, if those are the same, then you use the second pair. If those are still the same, then you go to the kicker.

Make the best 5-card hand for each player, and you'll see the winner.

P1 - 6644Q
P2 - 5544Q

It should be obvious now who wins in your first scenario. Do the same for the other two and you'll see that player 1 wins again (since 6644 is higher than 4433) and in the last scenario player 2 wins, since QQ44 is better than 6644.

amy 2009-08-02 16:32:00

who wins?
Player #1- 2 6
Player#2- 5 J
Board- 4 Q 4 5 6

who wins?
Player#1- 2 6
Player#2- 3 3
Board- 4 Q 4 5 6

who wins?
Player#1- 2 6
Player#2- J Q
Board- 4 Q 4 5 6

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