What is a High Card in Poker?

A high card is the lowest possible hand in poker. This is the weakest combination you can get, consisting of five cards of different rankings that don’t form any made hand like a straight or a flush.

Although a high card is not a made hand in a traditional sense, it is still important in the overall poker hand ranking system, as it is a winning hand in some specific situations.

Poker HandExplanationExample
#1. Royal FlushFive highest cards of the same suitAcKcQcJcTc
#2. Straight FlushAny five consecutive cards of the same suitJcTc9c8c7c
#3. Four of a KindFour cards of the same rank4c4s4d4hJc
#4. Full HouseThree cards of one rank + two cards of another rank3c3s3d7h7c
#5. FlushFive cards of the same suitKdJd7d5d3d
#6. StraightFive consecutive cards in different suits6s5s4d3d2h
#7. Three of a KindThree cards of the same rank7c7h7d2hJ2
#8. Two PairsTwo cards of one rank + two cards of another rankQcQs2c2hJs
#9. One PairTwo cards of the same rank8h8sAcKs5d
#10. High CardAny other handAcQdJs4h3c

Examples of a High Card Poker Hand

A high card poker hand is made of five cards that don’t work together in any capacity. The hand is always named after the highest of the five cards. For example:

  • As Ks 9d 8d 4c – high card, Ace, or Ace-high
  • Qh Jh 7s 6c 3d – high card, Queen, or Queen-high
  • 9s 7h 6h 5c 3c – high card, Nine, or Nine-high
  • 7c 6c 4s 3s 2d – high card, Seven, or Seven-high

There are instances when two or more players will reach a showdown with just a high card hand. In these scenarios, the winner is determined based on the highest-ranking card in the five-card hand.

For example, an Ace-high hand always beats a King-high hand. If two players have the same top-ranking card, then the second-highest card is compared. So, if one player has Ks Jd 7s 6s 4c and the other player holds Kh Th 9s 8s 6h, the first player wins because the Jd is the second-highest card in these two combinations.

What Beats High Card in Poker?

High card is the worst possible poker hand that doesn’t beat any made hands and it can only win against another (lower) high card poker hand.

At a showdown, a high card loses to every other hand in the hand ranking hierarchy, namely one pair, two pair, three of a kind, straight, flush, full house, four of a kind, straight flush, and Royal Flush.

So, the only way to win with a high card at a showdown is if your opponent also announces a high card. If they have any other made hand, you will lose.

High Card Probabilities

With the high card being the weakest of all poker hands, it is no surprise that this is also the easiest hand to get in Texas Hold’em. In fact, a random five-card combination drawn from a deck of 52 cards will turn up as a high card at a frequency of 50.1%.

In Texas Hold’em, these are the odds of ending up with just a high card hand on different streets:


High card isn’t a very exciting hand, but it frequently comes with a draw of some sort that you can fall back onto. Here are some more stats about high card hands that you might find useful:

  • You’ll flop a gutshot draw to go along with your high card hand about 10.3% of the time
  • There is a 3.47% chance of flopping an open-ended straight draw with a random unpaired hand
  • Your high card hand will improve from flop to river to one pair 24.1% of the time

How to Play High Card in Poker

High card hands will not win you many pots and can sometimes get you in trouble. If you are holding an Ace, for example, you shouldn’t be calling bets in hopes of catching an Ace on the turn or the river, as making that one pair isn’t guaranteed to give you the winner.

Many beginner players have problems folding big high card hands in Hold’em like AK or AQ, even when the board texture is very unfavorable. While these are great hands preflop, once the flop comes and you miss completely, you shouldn’t be holding on with your high card hand in the face of a lot of aggression.

A high card hand, especially when it is an Ace-high or a King-high, can be used as a bluff catcher in some specific situations, and you can also use it as a bluff yourself. However, knowing when to do it requires quite a bit of studying and a deeper understanding of poker strategy.


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