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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Sean Lind 2009-07-28 17:45:00


In that scenario it's actually a split pot, since you both have the same hand (Straight 10-A)

If you actually lost it's either a mistake, or you where mistaken. The suits don't matter, unless either player has 5 of the same suit, giving them a flush.

GPogz 2009-07-26 17:39:00

I got A-J
Player2 got A-9
Board 10-Q-K-J-9
Why computer said i lose? Because p2 is dealer?suit doesn't matter right?

vaggos 2009-07-26 02:57:00

what is t?

Sean Lind 2009-07-26 01:21:00


T = 10

Sean Lind 2009-07-21 16:58:00


Just write out the best possible hand for each player, and you'll see your answer:

P1 - 777AJ
P2 - 777AK

Player 2 wins.

nic 2009-07-20 04:02:00

Board 777a8

player 1


Sean Lind 2009-07-14 18:39:00

Dave Peters,

It's a split pot. Both player have the same hand


Since you can only play 5 cards, the other cards in the players hands don't matter.

DAVE PETERS 2009-07-12 16:08:00


Sean Lind 2009-07-03 17:28:00

Hey Kalikala,

in Hold'em you make the best 5-card hand using any combination of your cards, and the board cards.

Both players are player two pairs, 88 and 66, but player one has a J as their kicker:


while the other player plays the board


So the player with the Jack wins with a higher kicker.

Even though 22 was ahead until the river, once the board double pairs, the pair of twos is counterfeit. You don't get any more credit for having a pair in your hand, only the best 5 cards count.

kalikala 2009-06-29 01:20:00

if one player has J and 10 and the other player has 2 and 2 the river cards are 69868 who wins the pot

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