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Poker's handy glossary

28 July 2006

Dear Mark,

I am surprised at how many players truly don't know the hand rankings when playing poker. For example, a flush versus a straight seems to fool a lot of players. Anyhow, how about a list of hand rankings and some examples so that we can laminate them and post it for our always-friendly Thursday night game? Stan K.

Yep, Stan, you pegged that one. Seemingly more players mistake the flush's and straight's hand strength than that of any other poker hand. But before a top to bottom rundown opening with the quint major, this quick refresher of these contentious rules that seem to pop up at some not-so-friendly kitchen table games: Suits do not break ties, nor are cards used beyond the fifth; only the best five cards in each hand are used when comparing hand strengths. Also, with ties, the pot is equally split amongst the winning hands.

Now it's time to learn your flushes from straights, at least to the point where no one will think you are a complete newbie. The table below will show you the standard rank of different poker hands used by almost every poker room when playing most versions of poker.

Royal Flush: The highest-ranking hand in poker. To have a royal flush is to have the top five cards, led by an ace, all in sequence, all the same suit. An example would be a 10-J-Q-K-A, all spades. This hand ranks just above a king-high straight flush.

Straight flush: Sometimes called quint or routine, this poker hand consists of five consecutive cards of the same suit, such as 2-3-4-5-6 or a 7-8-9-10-J. An ace-high straight flush, or royal flush, can also be considered a straight flush. The ace can also be used to create the lowest straight flush, a 5-4-3-2-A.

Four-of-a-kind: Four cards that have the same face value accompanied by a "kicker." Ranked by the quads, so that 6-6-6-6-3 beats a 5-5-5-5-A, and then ranked by the side card (if you happen to be sharing all four cards on the board), so that 6-6-6-6-K beats a 6-6-6-6-Q.

Full house: Any three cards of the same face value, plus any other two cards of the same number, such as 6-6-6-Q-Q. Ranked first by the trips, so that 6-6-6-Q-Q beats a 5-5-5-A-A, and then ranked by the pair, if trips are shared, so that 6-6-6-Q-Q beats a 6-6-6-J-J. Often identified by the three of a kind, three queens and two sixes is often known as queens full, and sometimes more specifically as queens full of sixes.

Flush: Any five cards of the same suit, such as A-Q-7-5-2 of clubs. Ranked by the top card, and then by the next card, and so forth for all five cards, so that A-Q-7-5-2 of clubs beats an A-Q-7-4-3 of the same, or any other suit.

Straight: Sometimes called a run or sequence, a straight is five consecutive cards of mixed suit. The ace plays either high or low, such as 5-4-3-2-A or A-K-Q-J-10 but NOT an "around the corner" straight like 4-3-2-A-K-Q.

Three-of-a-kind: Often called trips, triplets, tricon or trio, a three-of-a-kind poker hand is three cards of the same face value plus two unrelated cards. Ranked by trips, so that K-K-K-7-5 beats Q-Q-Q-6-4, and then ranked by each kicker in turn so that K-K-K-7-6 beats a K-K-K-6-5.

Two pair: A poker hand consisting of two cards of one rank, two of another, plus an unrelated card. For example, A-A-K-K-Q is two pair, also known as two pair, aces and kings, aces up, aces over, aces over kings, and aces and kings. Ranked by the top pair, then the bottom pair and finally the kicker, so that Q-Q-6-6-5 beats a J-J-9-9-A, Q-Q-5-5-8 or a Q-Q-6-6-3.

One pair: Two cards of one rank accompanied by three unmatched cards, such as A-A-Q-7-5. Ranked by the pair, followed by each kicker in turn, so that A-A-Q-7-5 beats an A-A-Q-7-4.

High card: Any hand that does not qualify as one of the better hands mentioned above, such as a J-10-7-5-3 of different suits. Ranked by the top card, then the second card and so on down for all five cards.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Nobody is always a winner, and anybody who says he is, is either a liar or doesn't play poker." -Amarillo Slim

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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.