The Easiest Way to Remember Poker Hand Ranks
With few exceptions, all poker games place hands on the same scale from high- to low-value. Poker hands are ranked depending on their likelihood. The least-likely hands are the highest-ranked; the most common hands are the lowest-ranked. Identical poker hands are ranked by which hands holds cards of the highest value.
Poker Hand Rank
Here is the standard hand rank, from highest to lowest:
Playing a live game of poker requires that you know this hierarchy. For new players, this may seem a little daunting. After all, here you have nine pieces of complex information to remember in precise order.
A Word about Mnemonic Devices
I learned the order of poker hands using a mnemonic. I think anyone can use this simple method to learn the hierarchy in a matter of minutes. Mnemonics are popular memory devices used by students, teachers, and people of all stripes for hundreds of years in order to remember complex information.
You probably used a mnemonic device to remember the order of the planets in our solar system. I remember learning the sentence: "My very excellent mother just served us nine pizzas." The first letter of each of the words in that sentence will help you remember that the planets go in this order – Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. I'll probably never forget that fact, thanks to the mnemonic device I was taught.
The trouble is, it's hard to convert hand rankings into words. Besides that, I don't think you learn much about poker by simply memorizing the order of hands. You should use the opportunity of needing to learn proper hand hierarchy to improve your understanding of poker strategy.
The tips below will help you understand the proper order of poker hands better and introduce you to some basic poker concepts to help you improve your overall game.
Low-Value Poker Hands
To remember the order of the four lowest-value hands, just remember the number series "0, 1, 2, 3."
- 0 means "high card." Having nothing in your hand means the value of your hand depends on the value of your highest card. Remember – in poker, aces rank high, while 2's rank low.
- 1 means "one pair." Any hand that contains just a single pair of cards and nothing else valuable is a 1.
- 2 means "two pair." This is a hand that contains two pairs of cards.
- 3 means "three-of-a-kind." It's the most valuable of the low-value hands.
High-Value Poker Hands
For the purpose of this post, I'm calling every hand above a three-of-a-kind a "high-value hand," but lots of poker strategists would consider a straight to be a low-value hand. This is really a difference in philosophy and a language issue more than anything else.
For that reason, and for simplicity's sake, I like to think of straight as a "/" symbol in my mnemonic. That means our current mnemonic string goes: "0, 1, 2, 3, /."
It's easier to memorize the order of the other high-ranking hands if you count the number of letters in the hand's name. It's made all the easier to remember by the fact that the number of letters increases as you move up the scale.
Here's how I break it down:
- 5 – The word flush contains five letters.
- 9 – The words full house contain nine letters.
- 11 – The words four of a kind contain eleven letters.
- 13 – The words straight flush contain thirteen letters.
- 18 – The words royal straight flush contain eighteen letters.
Putting them all together, our mnemonic is: "0 – 1 – 2 – 3 / 5 - 9 - 11 - 13 – 18."
Other Ways to Memorize Hand Hierarchy
I'm not going to pretend that the method I used to learn hand hierarchy is the only one that will work. The three ideas below are the most popular tactics on the Web besides the use of mnemonics, based on my research. You can use any of the four methods described on this post to keep track of what hand beats what other hand. That way, you'll be able to plan your tactics ahead of time and make smart bidding decisions.
Some people learn best by repeated drilling of the material to be memorized. I've heard of actors reading their scripts over and over, playing tapes of the script in their sleep, and learning their lines by rote. I can't think of any reason why you shouldn't try this method.
Various poker trainer programs and strategy gurus have put together diagrams to help you analyze your hand. You can use these in poker rooms, and obviously you can use them online, so long as you don't care about the other guys at the table making fun of you. They're available for free with a simple Google search.
The more rounds of poker you play, the more you'll become familiar with all the rules, including the rules of hand ranking. You may lose a bunch on the way there, because of your lack of familiarity with hand ranks, but, by God, you'll get it eventually.
Remember that some poker variations assign different values to cards and hands. Some games are totally reversed, rewarding the lowest-value hand instead of the highest-value one. Other games may consider an Ace to be low, or use Jokers, which throws off the hierarchy and strategy a bit.
I hope that this page helped you learn about the value of the cards you're dealt. I believe the best way to practice your newfound understanding of hand hierarchy is to get out there and play a bunch of poker. If you're still new to the game and not yet comfortable with your understanding of hand rankings, you can always play in free-to-play apps or use play-money at your favorite online poker room.