15 Poker Hand Names That Will Make You Smile (And Where Those Names Came From)
For anyone who has played poker for a while, you are probably familiar with the standard poker hands. But did you know there are names for non-standard poker hand too?
And even some of the names that we think are standard poker hands aren’t really standard, but variations of a standard hand.
Standard Poker Hands
The standard poker game has a standard ranking system. This system assumes that there are no wild cards and follow standard poker play where each player is dealt a minimum of 5 cards and only 5 cards are used to determine the winning hand. Below I have ranked in order from best to worse, the standard hands in poker:
- Straight Flush. A straight flush contains 5 cards in consecutive order all of the same suit. The lowest ranking straight flush (assuming the game allows for aces to be high or low) is an ace, a 2, a 3, a 4, and a 5. All must have matching hearts, clubs, spades, or diamonds.
- Four of a Kind. When a player has four of a kind, the player has 4 cards of the same rank. The lowest four of a kind hand would be 4 2’s.
- Full House. In a full house, a player has 3 cards of matching rank and 2 cards of another matching rank. It is a combination of 2 lower-ranking hands: three of a kind and a pair. The lowest ranking full house would be a hand containing 3 2’s and 2 3’s.
- Flush. Any five cards of the same suit. An example of a flush could be a 2, a 4, a 6, a 7 and a jack all of clubs.
- Straight. A straight contains 5 cards in order but have different suits. The lowest ranking straight would be an ace 2, a 3, a 4, and a 5 all of a different suit (once again assuming that the ace can be played either high or low).
- Three of a Kind. A three of a kind contains 3 cards of the same rank, For example, 3 7’s.
- Two Pair. When a player has two pair, he has 2 cards of one rank and 2 cards of another rank. The lowest ranking two pair hand would be 2 2’s and 2 3’s.
- One pair. This is when a player has 2 cards of the same rank. The lowest ranking pair is 2 2’s. However, in most video poker games, a player must have 2 jacks or better to have a winning hand, but this can vary based on the version of the video poker game the person is playing.
- High Card. This is simply the highest card in a hand where none of the cards match up to make one of the above scenarios.
As you can see this covers all the standards, but even in this case, there are some you may have heard of that are not there. And there are definitely others that have interesting stories behind the names.
Non-Standard Poker Hands
5 of a Kind
Everyone has heard of 5 of a kind, and the name is self-explanatory. You have 5 matching cards. This is a non-standard hand because there are only 4 of each kind in a deck. But when you are in a casino that plays poker with multiple decks or playing a game with wild cards, the possibility exists for 5 of a kind. It is the highest ranked hand in these types of games
This is also one that everyone had heard of, but it is not technically a standard poker hand. It is technically a straight flush with the highest ranking cards. Incidentally, the term flush comes from the Latin “fluxus” which means flow and is used in poker because it means fullness, in this case, full of the same suit.
A big bobtail is when you have a 4 card straight flush. The term bobtail simply means cut short. So a big bobtail is one card cut short of a straight flush.
Straight Flush House
A straight flush house is when you have 3 cards of one suit and 2 cards of another in consecutive order. As the name indicates, the hands of a straight, a flush and a full house are used to coin this term.
In this hand, the player will have a Q-K-A-2-3. With the ace being both a high and low card in most games, the Q-K-A combination are the top 2 ranks and the A-2-3 cards are the lowest, thus this hand bridges or wraps the cards around from highest to lowest via the ace. It is also known in some circles as a round-the-corner straight.
A skip straight is cards in consecutive order that skip ranks, for example, a hand of 2-4-6-8-10 would be a skip straight as it is consecutive but skips the 3, 5, 7 and 9. Other names for this are alternate straight, Dutch straight, skipper, or kangaroo straight.
Five and Dime
A five and dime hand is one where the player has all of their cards between 5 and 10 with no pairs with a 5 as the low card and the 10 as the high card. Since there are six ranks between 5 and 10 (inclusive) this would mean they are one card short of a straight or straight flush (if all of the cards are of the same suit). This hand gets its name from the famous Woolworth stores in the US at the beginning of the 20th century, which were called five and dimes because all of the items were either 5 or 10 cents.
Much like the big bobtail, this hand means you are short from making a straight flush. In this case 2 cards short. This hand contains 3 cards, all of the same suit, in consecutive order
This is a very uncommon hand because, in most games, the Joker is not used, but in games where it is used, you can have a flash hand. It consists of one card of each suit (any rank) and the Joker. Where the term flash came from, in this case is not very clear, but it seems to be due either the fact that there are only 2 Jokers in a deck, meaning they are less likely to appear making a quick appearance in a game where they are played or because they are rarely used in a game so they appear “in a flash” and are gone.
Also known as a blazer, this occurs when all the cards in your hand are jacks, queens and/kings. Since it means that you could have a full house or 2 pairs, the hand is “on fire” thus the term blaze.
A flush house consists of 2 cards of one suit and 3 cards of another. It gets its name from a full house and a flush.
Cats and Dogs
Cats and dogs are no pair hand. The type of cats and dogs hand you have is determined by the highest and lowest cards.
Cats and Dogs rank below straight flush houses and above straights in games where they are allowed. Usually, if cats and dogs hands are played, they are the only unconventional hands allowed. It ranks just above a straight, and below a straight flush house or any other cat or dog.
- Little dog: Has a 2 as the low card and 7 as the high card. This allows for 1 non-consecutive card in the hand as you would see in the five and dime hand.
- Big dog: Has a 9 as the low card and an A as the high card and also allows for 1 non-consecutive card. This ranks above a straight or little dog, and below a straight flush house or cat.
- Little cat: Has a 3 as the low card and 8 as the high card. This hand ranks above a straight or any dog, but below a straight flush house or big cat.
- Big cat: A big cat is an 8 low card, K high card hand. This hand ranks just below a straight flush house, and above a straight or any other cat or dog.
It should be noted that in some games a dog or cat flush beats a straight flush, under the reasoning that a plain dog or cat beats a plain straight. In these circumstances, the big cat flush would be the highest hand in the game.
In some circles, the word tiger is substituted for cat.
These hands got their names because of dogs and cats tendency for these animals to chase things. In the case of these hand, you are chasing the missing card to make the straight.
A russ is 5 cards of the same color. The relationship of the names to the cards is unclear. There are 2 unsubstantiated origins of the term. The first is that it started to be used after World War 1 and was originally the term for all red cards, red being the color of the Communist Soviet Union or Russian, thus the shortened term russ. The other possible origin is from the Hindi term juice. The term juice has been slang for blood for centuries, thus as in the first possible origin, red cards were russ, then expanded to all black cards as well.
A skeet is a hand consisting of a 9, a 5, a 2, and two other cards lower than 9. The word skeet means to shoot or spray. In this case, the ranks are spread out or sprayed over the non-suited cards. A skeet can also be referred to as a pelter or bracket
This hand also allows for a Skeet Flush, which is a skeet with all of the cards of the same suit.
A kilter or kelter is what we have been learning today. It is a general term for all non-standard hands. The term means order or good condition. A phrase you may have heard of is off-kilter, which means out of balance; away from the norm. A kilter hand is one that is out of the norm.
Where Kilters Would Be Used
Most of these hands obviously would be meaningless or even impossible in standard poker, but there are games where they are not only meaningful but vital to know.
Games with wild cards would allow for the 5 of a kind hand.
Games with the joker (and the joker is not wild) would be games where the flash hand is used.
Games like Manilla which removes all cards below the rank of 7 and Mexican Stud where the 8s, 9s, and 10s are removed utilizing a good number of Kilter hands.
Ranking Hands with Kilters
At the beginning of this article, we showed you standard poker card rankings. But how would the kilter hands fit in? The answer is in the list below:
- 5 of a Kind
- Royal Flush
- Skeet Flush
- Straight Flush
- 4 of a Kind
- Big Bobtail
- Full House
- Straight Flush House
- Big Cat
- Little Cat
- Big Dog
- Little Dog
- Wrap-Around Straight
- Skip Straight
- Five and Dime
- 3 of a Kind
- Little Bobtail
- 2 Pair
- Bobtail Flush
- Flush House
- Bobtail Straight
- One Pair
- High Card
It is quite possible that you will never play a game of poker where most of the kilter hands are used. But they exist and they exist for a reason. The reason is that poker had hundreds of variations and these variations require rule changes.
Knowing these terms can also increase your reputation around the poker table. Even though a standard game wouldn’t use a big cat or a bobtail flush, you can impress your opponents in your friendly weekly poker game by commenting on how they almost got what they needed for a flush, but instead got a bobtail flush. This might make them think twice about calling a bluff in a future hand.