Understanding Poker Hand Rankings

If you are going to excel at the game of poker you need to get a firm grasp of the fundamentals. And certainly the most fundamental aspect of poker the rankings or importance of the possible hands you can play. There are a few hard and fast rules: first, a hand always consists of five cards. And second, no respectable poker game will ever recognize wildcards, jokers or any other card that is not found in the standard 52 cards on a deck. Master the fundamentals of poker and the world is yours.

Another rule that's good to know: when playing games that involve more than five cards per player, each individual can only play with the best 5-card combination of cards. If a Cardinal Sin exists for poker players it's not knowing what hand can defeat another.

The playing cards in the game of poker are said to have 2 "qualities:" a card’s suit is first, and a card’s rank is second. Basically, there are four suits, namely, Spades, Diamonds, Hearts, and Clubs. In the game of poker, one suit is not better than the other. Now when we refer to "ranks" were talking about the 13 classifications. This is from 2 right up to 10, this also includes Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces. Here's a freebie: the cards with higher rankings will always beat those cards that are ranked lower. Also, an ace can be used to your advantage as either a high or low card, since it is higher than a King and lower in rank than a two card.

When playing poker, players create hands of five cards which will vary from one another (or not) depending on the type of game being played. The hands created are based on a standard ranking system and the player with the highest-ranking hand wins that particular deal and all the money that goes with it.

Hands are ranked by category first and then by individual card ranks second. Oddly enough even the lowest qualifying hand in a certain category defeats all hands in all lower categories. The smallest two pair hand for example, defeats all hands with just one pair or high card. Only between two hands in the same category are card ranks used to break ties.

In order to make the entire recognition factor more easy-to-digest, poker hands are usually presented with the most important cards sitting on the left, with cards descending in importance sitting on the right. After you’ve understood and mastered how rankings work – again easily accomplished through memorization and continued playing – you’ll be able to make the right choice concerning whether or not you would play a particular hand. Since all poker games follow the same hand rankings, you only need to learn one kind of hand ranking.

The top poker ranks:

Royal flush: The highest possible hand in poker, the royal flush consists of an ace straight flush, such as 10-Jack-Queen-King-Ace in the same suit.
Straight flush: This hand consists of five consecutive cards all in the same suit, which contains a flush and a straight, such as 4-5-6-7-8 or 9-10-J-Q-K.
Four-of-a-kind: This hand is a combination of four cards of the same rank, such as K-K-K-K or 6-6-6-6 and any unmatched card.
Full house: This hand consists of three cards with the same rank and two pairs of identical ranking cards, such as 5-5-5-10-10 or K-K-K-3-3 and so on. If two or more players have a full house on the same round, the player with the higher ranked three-of-a-kind wins the game.
Flush: This hand is made up of five cards of the same suit. It can be five different clubs, hearts, diamonds or spades. If two or more players have a flush hand at the same time, the one with the highest-ranking card wins.
Straight: This hand consists of five consecutive cards with different suits, such as 8-9-10-J-Q or 4-5-6-7-8, etc. If other players also have straight hands, the player with the highest-ranking cards wins.
Three of a Kind: Just like it sounds, three cards of the same number or face value
Two-pair: Just like it sounds, this hand consists of two sets of the same ranking cards and one unmatched card, such as 4-4-5-5-6 or J-J-8-8-5, etc.
One-pair: Simple, yet often effective, this hand consists of three unmatched cards and two cards of the same rank, such as J-J-4-7-8, K-K-10-9-8, etc.
High card: When no one at the table can come up with any of the aforementioned poker hand rankings, they each have a high card and the one with the highest card wins.

Understanding poker ranks is a challenge to be sure. But if you ever entertained any poker long term plans of success, it's imperative that you learn and understand the poker ranks as soon as possible.

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