How to Determine the Winning Poker Hand in Texas Hold'em

One of the essential things you’ll need to learn when starting out playing poker is how to determine the winning poker hand. It seems like a simple thing to see which poker hand wins but there are a surprising number of scenarios where this isn’t clear.

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The first step to determine the winning Texas Holdem hand is to memorize the official poker hand rankings:

Once you know that a flush beats a straight and three of a kind beats two pair, you're off to a good start. After memorizing the proper order of poker hands, you'll need to practice reading the board. And figuring out which 5-card poker hand is your best from any combination of your hole cards and the community cards. From there you'll then need to determine which of those 5-card poker hands wins the pot.

The Golden Rule to Determine the Best Poker Hand

The majority of poker hands are fairly easy 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 which hand is the winner. It's once things get a little bit more complicated that people start to get confused. So you want to remember the golden rule for determining winning 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 to make their best poker hand. 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). A player can also use one or two of his or her hole cards in compiling their best 5-card hand.

Related Reading:

Which Poker Hand Wins: Examples

Here's a quick rundown of a couple common areas of confusion and how to determine the winning poker hand in some specific scenarios:

Example 1 - 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-value flush card. This includes all five cards. For example:

Player 1: A hearts A 6 hearts 6

Player 2: K hearts K J hearts J

Board: 8 hearts 8 5 hearts 5 10 clubs 10 Q hearts Q 2 spades 2

Player 1's Best Hand is: A hearts A Q hearts Q 8 hearts 8 6 hearts 6 5 hearts 5

Player 2's Best Hand is: K hearts K Q hearts Q J hearts J 8 hearts 8 5 hearts 5

Even though Player 2 has more high flush cards than Player 1, the Ace is the highest flush card so Player 1 takes the pot.


Example 2 - Another flush example where the board has most of the flush cards:

Player 1: A clubs A 7 diamonds 7

Player 2: Q spades Q 6 diamonds 6

Board: 9 diamonds 9 J diamonds J 2 spades 2 K diamonds K A diamonds A

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: A diamonds A K diamonds K J diamonds J 9 diamonds 9 7 diamonds 7

Player 2: A diamonds A K diamonds K J diamonds J 9 diamonds 9 6 diamonds 6    

All the cards are the same until the final fifth card. Since 7♦ is higher than 6♦, Player 1 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.


Example 3 - Two Players Have Two Pairs

When two players have two pairs, it can sometimes be confusing for people to know which poker hand wins. Take this example:

Board: K diamonds K Q spades Q 2 spades 2 3 hearts 3 2 clubs 2    

Player 1: A diamonds A A clubs A

Player 2: K hearts K Q hearts Q

In this scenario Player 1 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.


Which Poker Hand Wins?

Board: K diamonds K 9 spades 9 9 clubs 9 9 diamonds 9 9 hearts 9

Player 1: A diamonds A 2 clubs 2

Player 2:  K spades K K clubs K

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.

Try the Which Hand Wins Calculator!

whichhandwins2pair

Don't worry - you're not the only one who can get a bit confused trying to determine the winning poker hand! It's such a common problem, in fact, we built the ultimate tool for beginner players to figure out winning hands in all scenarios. It's called the Which Hand Wins Calculator and it's pretty simple to use.

Just enter in your hole cards, your opponent(s)' hole cards, the cards on the board, click "Which Hand Wins" and every player's hand will be ranked from first to worst!

Winning Hands in Omaha

The rules for 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 there five community cards. But you can only use two of your four and three cards from the board. This means if there are four hearts on the board and you have one in your hand you don't have a flush. You must always use exactly two cards from your hand.

More on Omaha Poker rules: How to Play Omaha Poker

Texas Holdem FAQs

  • What are the top Texas Holdem Official Rules?

    1. BUY-IN - In a cash game, there is a minimum buy-in to enter, but you can reload or buy more chips at any point outside a hand. In a tournament you buy-in once, with the possibility of re-entering. Your starting stack is typically 100 big blinds or more.

    2. DEALER BUTTON - This represents the 'rotating' dealer which moves after each hand. To choose the first dealer, each player picks a face-down card from the deck and the one with the highest value card is the dealer.

    3. BLINDS - There are two 'blind' players after the button (clockwise) - Small and Big Blind. The big blind is the call price of the round and small blind is half of that. These are forced bets that the players in question need to put out to build a pot, irrelevant of their hand.

    4. DEALING - You need to deal clockwise around the table, starting from the small blind. Each player gets one card at a time for a total of two hole cards. After a round of betting here, you deal 3 cards for the flop followed by another betting round. Then one more card for the turn, more betting, then one more river card and final betting. Before dealing each round, the dealer must 'burn' the card at the top of the deck


    5. ACTIONS - Every time cards are dealt or turned on the board, there is an action. Choose to check (do nothing), bet (add chips to the pot), call (match someone's bet), raise (add even more chips than the bettor), or fold (discard their hand and exit the round). A bet must be at least worth two big blinds. Or if you raise, it must be at least double the previous bet. Each round is only over when all players have acted - either placed their chips, folded or checked around.

    6. BETTING / RAISING RULES - You need to declare your intent to raise or the amount before making an action. Or bring their chip raise amount into play at the same time. You can't place chips gradually - This is known as a string bet and would be considered a call.

    7. SHOWDOWN - Unless everyone folds to one player, the best hand at showdown (showing cards after last betting round post-river) wins the pot. The player who bet on the river should reveal their hand first. The other/s can show or muck/fold their hand and give up the pot.


    8. THE BEST HAND - Poker hand rankings are as follows, with the best ranging from top to bottom:

    Royal Flush
    Straight Flush
    Quads
    Full House
    Flush
    Straight
    Three of a Kind
    Two Pairs
    One Pair
    High Card
  • How many Texas Holdem betting rounds are there?

    There are FOUR Texas Holdem betting rounds:
    - pre-flop
    - post-flop
    - after the turn
    - after the river (showdown)
  • How should the Texas Holdem layout be?

    Note that the Texas Holdem layout includes three flop boxes, one turn box and one river card box on the felt table. You may also have a play section marked on the table where your bets are made, away from your stack
  • How many players for Texas Holdem?

    A Texas Holdem cash game is played on a single table with 2 to 10 players. The goal in a cash game is to win as many chips as you can. A multi-table tournament will have a number of players divided into multiple tables with 9-10 players on each table. As players run out of chips and are eliminated, the number of tables reduces until the final table (9-10 players). Play continues until heads up (2 players) and then the final prize winner.
  • How do blinds work in Texas Holdem?

    There are two 'blind' players after the button (clockwise) - Small and Big Blind. The big blind is the call price of the round and small blind is half of that. These are forced bets that the players in question need to put out to build a pot, irrelevant of their hand. This is to induce more action from these players because they have the worst position. Otherwise they'd never play!
  • How many cards do you get in Texas Holdem?

    Texas Hold'em combines your two hole cards with the five community cards. The player with the best 5-card hand (out of 7) including BOTH hole cards wins the pot for that round.
  • What's the most common winning hand in Texas Holdem?

    The hand rankings are placed in that order for a reason. The more valuable cards are the ones that are harder to get. So by default, since High cards and single pairs fall at the bottom, these are the most common hands to hit. Therefore, Ace or King high cards, or pairs - most likely a pair of face cards since they're played more.
  • What's the worst starting hand in Texas Holdem?

    72 off-suit is mathematically the worst starting hand you can have in Texas Holdem. In fact, many home or cash games on TV have a bonus for winning with this hand to induce action.
  • Do you shuffle after EVERY Texas Holdem hand?

    It's called the Shuffle and Cut - and it's done after every hand. When a round is over and the pot is won and distributed, the deck must be shuffled. Live card rooms will alternate decks between hands. The deck must also be cut with minimum four cards with the bottoms of the decks hidden from players. Only then can dealer deal the next hand.
helmuth
2020-06-17 18:11:29

Please explain who wins
Player 1 : AJ
Player 2 : A 10

Board : A 8 4 2 9

PokerListings
2020-06-23 07:40:17

Hey helmuth,

Both players hit the Ace, but Player 1 has the higher kicker (J) so Player 1 is the winner.

Dth
2020-06-17 18:06:31

Player 1…A2
Player 2..66

Card 66AAA
Who is winner plz guide

PokerListings
2020-06-23 07:36:54

Hi there,

Both players have quads, but Player 1 has the better quads. AAAA > 6666.

Alta
2020-06-05 10:40:43

2 players have exact hand – pair of kings and pair of sixes – how is it determined who wins?

PokerListings
2020-06-05 15:01:27

They split the pot 50/50, unless one of them has a flush that comes in play with the board.

Sherita Hudson
2020-05-13 05:47:37

If players are plyn an one has A,4 an one has a 6,5 they both paired wit the board who pairs win?

PokerListings
2020-05-13 07:36:07

Hey Sherita, the higher pair wins, pair of Aces beat all other pairs for example. Second player’s 66 or 55 will beat the other’s pair of 4s.

TYRESE
2020-04-27 05:56:35

can you tell me which hand wins if your playing High Card Poker.. the dealer has 3 of clubs 5 of clubs jack of clubs king of clubs Ace of clubs and opponent has king of spades king of diamonds Queen of hearts Queen of diamonds 7 of spades

Bea Ocampo
2020-04-12 19:30:10

Player 1: Q 7
Player 2: JJ

Cards: 3 7 9 2 6

shikodx
2017-05-13 14:47:44

p1 – A A 10 10 7
p2 – A A 10 10 J p2 – wins same two pair higher kicker

shikodx
2017-05-13 14:46:27

impossible stituation in texas holdem ( possible in 5 card standard poker ) = split

shikodx
2017-05-13 14:43:58

source i watch a lot of professional poker tournaments

shikodx
2017-05-13 14:43:42

P1 : 222 KK
p2 : 55522 p2 wins ( with a higher full house )

1 2 3 40

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