Does a Straight Flush Beat Four of a Kind in Poker & Why?
The straight flush and the four of a kind are some of the rarest poker hands possible, and holding one of them will almost certainly give you the best hand.
But how do they stack against each other and does a straight flush beat four of a kind?
The short answer is yes, in poker, a straight flush always beats a four of a kind.
In this article, however, we don’t just give the answer to this question, but provide some additional information that will help you understand the math and the odds behind these hand combinations.
Does a Straight Flush Beat Four of a Kind in Poker?
Now that you know the most important thing about these hands, we can dive deeper into the Texas Hold’em hand ranking rules and explain why does a straight flush beat 4 of a kind.
In Texas Hold’em, hands are ranked based on how often they occur on average. Hands that occur less often are ranked above the ones that happen more frequently.
|Four of a Kind
|Three of a Kind
As you can see in the table with the hand ranking above, the strongest hand combination in poker is the royal flush because, with odds of 649,739-to-1. The chances of getting this hand are the lowest of all hand combinations in poker.
Based on the same rule, the weakest paired combination in Texas Hold’em is in one pair, because the odds for this hand are 1.37-to-1, and it’s the lowest of all paired hands in poker.
When it comes to the straight flush or 4 of a kind, both of these hands are ranked in the top three spots.
With 72,192-to-1 odds of occurring, the straight flush is the second rarest and the second strongest hand in poker, outranked only by the royal flush. The chances for this combination to occur on any given hand are 0.00139%.
Four of a kind is ranked one spot below the royal flush, the odds for this hand are 4,164-to-1 which means that there is a 0.02401% chance for this combination to occur on any given hand.
As you can see, although both of these hands are very rare and very strong, the chances of having a four of a kind combination are significantly higher than the chances of having a straight flush combination.
Because of this, in poker, a straight flush combination is stronger than a four of a kind combination.
What Is a Straight Flush In Poker?
In poker, a straight flush combination contains five consecutive cards of the same suit.
- 10♠9♠8♠7♠6♠ – a ten high straight flush
- K♦Q♦J♦10♦9♦ – a king high straight flush
If one or more cards in the combination are not in consecutive order but all cards are of the same suit, the combination is called a flush.
- 10♣9♣8♣7♣5♣ – a ten high flush
- A♦Q♦J♦10♦9♦ – an ace high flush
If one or more cards in the combination are not of the same suit, but all cards are in consecutive order, the combination is called a straight.
- 10♦9♥8♥7♥6♥ – a ten high straight
- K♦Q♦J♦10♦9♥ – a king high straight
If the highest card in the combination is an ace and the lowest card in the combination is a ten and all of the cards in the combination are of the same suit and in consecutive order, the combination is called a royal flush.
- A♥K♥Q♥J♥10♥ – a royal flush in hearts
- A♦K♦Q♦J♦10♦ – a royal flush in diamonds
How Straight Flush Combinations Are Ranked
In Texas Holdem, straight flush hands are ranked based on the rank of the highest card in the combination. The higher the rank of the highest card, the stronger the straight flush.
- J♠10♠9♠8♠7♠ vs. 10♠9♠8♠7♠6♠ (jack high straight flush vs. ten high straight flush).
In this example, the jack high straight flush outranks the ten high straight flush because the highest card in the jack high straight flush (J) outranks the highest card in the ten high straight flush (T).
The Number of Straight Flush Combinations in Texas Hold’em
In the standard 52 card deck used in Texas Holdem individual cards are divided into 13 different ranks (A, K, Q, J, T, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2), and 4 different suits (hearts, diamonds, spades, clubs).
Based on this we can calculate the total number of combinations for each straight:
- There are 10,200 unique straight combinations
- There are 36 unique straight flush combinations (9 for each suit)
- There are 4 unique royal flush combinations (A to T straight in the same suit)
In theory, there are 40 unique straight flush combinations, 10 for each suit, but because the highest straight flush for each suit is called the royal flush and is ranked above other straight flush combinations, we deducted all 4 royal flush combinations and placed them in a separate category.
This means that there are 36 unique straight flush combinations.
If we divide the number of unique straight flush combinations in poker (36) by the total number of possible hands (2,598,960) we can calculate the probability of getting a straight flush combination.
- 36 / 2,598,960 = 0.00139
There is a 0.00139% chance that you will get a straight flush combination during any random hand.
What Is Four of a Kind in Poker?
A four of a kind hand combination contains four cards of the same rank + the fifth card of a different rank (also known as the kicker). In Texas Hold’em, this combination is also commonly referred to as quads.
- K♠K♣K♦K♥J♠ – four of a kind, kings or quad kings
- 5♣5♠5♦5♥A♦ – four of a kind, fives or quad fives
How Four of a Kind Combinations Are Ranked
If a situation happens in which both players have quads, the 4 of a kind combinations are ranked:
- Firstly, based on the rank of the four cards with the same rank
- Secondly, based on the rank of the kicker
- 8♠8♦8♣8♥Q♠ vs 6♠6♦6♣6♥Q♠ (quad eights with a Q kicker vs. quad sixes with a Q kicker).
In this example, quad eights with a Q kicker are stronger than quad sixes with a Q kicker because the rank of the four cards in the quad eight combination (8) outranks the four cards in the quad sixes combination (6).
It is very important to remember that four of a kind combinations are ranked based on the kicker only in situations where both players hold the same four of a kind hands.
This situation is very specific and can happen only when there are four cards of the same rank on the board and both players play the board.
- You are holding J♠10♦ and your opponent is holding 9♥8♣ and the board is 4♠4♣4♦4♥6♠
The best 5-card combination that you can put together in this situation is quad fours with a jack kicker (4♠4♣4♦4♥J♠), and the best 5-card combination that your opponent can put together is quad fours with a nine kicker (4♠4♣4♦4♥9♥).
In this example, both hands have the same four of a kind card rank in their combination, so we have to follow the second rule and use the kicker to decide the winner.
Because the kicker in the quads four with a jack (J) outranks the kicker in the quad fours with a nine (9), the former beats the latter.
The Number of Four of a Kind Combinations in Texas Hold’em
To find out the total number of possible four of a kind combinations in poker, we need to multiply the number of different ranks by the number of possible kickers.
Before we start, remember that there are 13 different card ranks and 4 different suits in a standard 52 card deck used for Texas Hold’em.
The calculation is as follows:
- 13 x (52 – 4) = 13 x 48 = 624
The total number of ranks x (total number of kickers – the four kickers used for that specific four of a kind combination).
There are 624 unique four of a kind combination (four cards of the same rank + one card of a different rank) that can occur in Texas Hold’em.