Straight in poker
Those who are learning to play poker should understand the strength and significance of each combination that a player or their opponent can make. This issue is of high importance, and today we will talk about a combination called straight, its specificity, and its place in the poker hand ranking.
What is a straight?
A straight in poker is a combination of five cards arranged in ascending order without gaps that have different suits. Here are some examples of the straight:
- A♥ 2♦ 3♠ 4♥ 5♣;
- 7♥ 8♥ 9♦ T♣ J♠;
- 10♥ J♠ Q♥ K♠ A♦.
With that said, an important condition must be met: at least one card in this sequence has to be of a different suit. If all five cards have the same suit, then it will be a different, much stronger combination, referred to as "straight flush".
Straight is not the strongest hand in poker, but you can hit it much more often (1 out of 254 hands) than a flush or a full house, so the chances of winning with this combination are quite high. In terms of strength, straight beats a pair, two pair, and three of a kind but loses to any flush and higher.
Despite the principle of making a straight is simple, novice players do not always understand exactly how to collect this hand and how the winner is determined when comparing two straights.
How to make a straight
Straight in texas hold'em, the most popular form of poker, can be assembled in three ways, depending on how many hole cards a player uses to form the given hand.
- Two hole cards + three community cards
A player should use two pocket cards and 3 cards from the table. For example, the player adds king and queen (hole cards) to jack, nine, ten (board cards).
- One hole card + four community cards
A player uses just one of their pocket cards and 4 cards from the board to get a made straight. For example, the player adds ten (hole card) to queen, jack, nine, eight (community cards).
- No pocket cards used, all 5 cards from the board
This situation occurs when the made straight is on the table, and your hole cards can’t help you make a higher straight. In this case, you need to understand whether your opponents can have a better combination. Should this not be possible, they also use the board cards, and the pot is usually split.
In other types of poker, some compilation methods described above are not available. For example, in Omaha, a player must use 2 pocket cards to get a made hand. Therefore, only the second (2 hole cards + 3 board cards) option is available.
Which straight is higher?
In a situation where two or more players have managed to collect a straight, the winner is determined as follows: the players’ hands are compared, and the participant who has the highest card in the straight takes the pot.
For a better understanding, let’s consider an example:
- Hero: 9♦J♦
- Villain: 9♥T♠
- Board: 5♦6♣7♥8♠T♦
Despite the fact that both players have made a straight, you take the pot because your top card of the hand is higher (J♦ versus T♠). We compare your J♦ T♦ 9♦ 8♠ 7♥ against your opponent's T♠ 9♥ 8♠ 7♥ 6♣. This is how the seniority of straights in poker works.
Important! It is worth recalling that cards you use to make a straight must be of different suits.
If high cards are of the same strength, the pot is divided equally between the players. However, one nuance should be taken into account: a straight with an ace can be both the strongest and the weakest combination.
Straight with an ace
An ace is not always the highest card when making a straight; it can be either the highest or the lowest card in the combination:
- 10♠ J♥ Q♣ K♦ A♣ — the highest card.
- A♦ 2♠ 3♣ 4♥ 5♠ — the lowest card.
The lowest straight in poker is called a "wheel", which is the straight that includes the sequence from ace to five (A2345). When an ace is placed at the very beginning of a hand, it conditionally takes the place of 1. The odds of winning with such a small straight are very poor. Ace high straight (10JQKA), in turn, is the strongest variation of this hand.
Straight draw and its variations
In poker, players make decisions based not only on a made hand but also on an incomplete hand that has the potential to improve on the following streets. Such a hand is called a straight draw – a combination that lacks one card to be a made hand. For example, 8910Q is a straight draw as Jack is missed.
You can’t win with the straight draw because it has no power and does not count as a full poker combination. However, if a straight draw improves to a straight on the next streets, it can win the pot.
- Open-ended straight draw
This is one of the straight draw variations that consists of four consecutive cards. One card is missed, either at the beginning or at the end of the row. For example, your cards are T-J, and the flop comes 6-Q-K, so you need either 9 or A to hit a straight.
- Gutshot straight draw
What is a gutshot in poker? Gut shot straight is also a drawing hand that has a gap in the middle of the row of consecutive cards and needs a specific card to improve to a straight. For example, your cards are 5-6, and the flop comes K89. Thus, to hit a straight, you need 7.
There can be also a situation when a player is two cards short of making a straight on the flop. In this case, the player has a backdoor straight. In order to turn the backdoor straight into a straight, two appropriate cards must come on the turn and river.
Straight in poker texas holdem occupies the middle position in the hierarchy of poker combinations. In practice, this combination can be made in 1 out of 254 hands, but it has some important nuances that must be remembered in order to win hands with a straight.