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 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.

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:



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:



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?



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 on Texas Holdem Poker rules: Texas Holdem Poker Rules

More Beginner Strategy Articles:

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M. Sullivan 2012-05-26 01:41:25

board: A 2 3 4 5

plyr 1 has: J 6
plyr 2 has: AA


Arny 2012-05-21 16:53:16

Here is my situation.


grant 2012-05-05 06:15:31


Aces take it.

brant 2012-05-04 23:10:32

if i have a pair of kings and a pair of tens and my opponent has a pair of aces and a pair of nine, then the other player has a pair of kings and a pair of sixs then what happen ? is the pt split betwwen us or does the ace take all ?

Chris 2012-04-22 16:54:44

Player 1 has K,2, player 2 has J,4, table has K,A,A,J,4 who wins

Emily 2012-03-11 22:57:34

10 9 8 7 against pair of 10's queen high

Lee 2012-02-07 12:57:55

Player 1 ... J, A

Player 2 ... J, 4

Board ...... J,5,5,K,2

Must the K be used as the kicker for both or does each player pick their kicker independently?


Hrishikesh 2012-01-14 04:07:16

Sorry For earlier one..

If one player has 2 J , Player 2 has 10,6 & table has JQKA3 Who wins ?

Hrishikesh 2012-01-14 04:06:06

If one player has 2 J , Player 2 has 10,J,Q,A & table has JQKA3 Who wins ?

el 8ey 2012-01-06 14:11:09

Playing Omaha. Board KK AA 3. I have pair of 7 opponent has pair of 8 who wins

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