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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Error saving comment!

You need to wait 3 minutes before posting another comment. 2011-04-22 19:04:06

@ Lori

Jacks and deuces beats sevens and nines. It has a higher pair.

@ logan

You have the best hand, two pair kings and tens. Your opponent has two pair jacks and tens.

@ pippy

The player with AdJd wins with two pair, aces and kings with a jack kicker.

@ Karen

Player one wins with his jack-high. Both players have the pair of sevens but the jack plays.

@ Joseph Wells

In Texas Hold'em you can never use an ace as a one.

@ AdZ

Player 1 wins with two-pair, queens and jacks with an ace-kicker.

@ Peter

With only five community cards in Texas Hold'em this can't happen. If it happens in another game then someone's stacking the deck. It will never happen to you ;)

@ Jeff

It looks to us like Player 5 has the best hand, a straight to the six.

Check out our "Which Hand Wins" Calculator to figure these out quickly and easily!

Jeff 2011-04-22 15:01:20

Here is my situation.

Community cards are

Player 1 6H,JD
Player 2 9H,10H
Player 3 KS,4S
Player 4 9C,8S
Player 5 2H,8H
Player 6 5C,10S

Which player would win?

Sarah 2011-03-11 00:06:33

does 3 of a kine beat 2 pairs

trishannajones 2011-01-08 08:55:20

If the 5 cards showing is 34567 player 1 has 2, Q
Player 2 has 3, 10 player 3 had 6, J and player 4 has A, Q who wins

peter 2011-01-01 01:17:51

in royal flushes if 2 players both have one which suit wins?

AdZ 2010-12-24 03:32:55

who will win for this?

Player 1: A J

Player 2: 7 3

Cards flop: J Q Q
Cards Turn: 3
Cards River: 7

Joseph wells 2010-12-18 07:53:45

Can you use a ace as a1

karen 2010-12-01 10:22:41

if player one has j 9 and player 2 has 6 9 and the following on the table is 7 7 A 2 8 who wins .

pippy 2010-10-23 06:08:21

ok two players 1st player had ace diamonds and jack of diamonds and the 2nd player had ace of clubs and four of spades the five cards on the table were 1 ace, 2 kings, 1 five and 1 four... who wins?

logan 2010-10-16 09:56:17

if somebody have a jack and a 5 in his hand and i got pocket kings. on the board there is 10 10 3 jack 5. who wins

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