Straight vs. Flush: Understanding the Key Differences in Poker Hands

By David Huber
July 07, 2023

In poker, deciphering the difference between a Straight vs. Flush can require a modicum of focus – even for veteran players.

For beginners, it should seem simple enough to monitor community cards and match them with hole cards in games like Texas Hold’em to create the best possible 5-card hand.

Yet the aesthetic design of face cards mixed with numerical values can sometimes catch a weary poker player “napping” on a made Straight. And there are few things in poker more frustrating than misreading your own hand!

In this article, we will look at the distinct difference between a Straight and a Flush in poker, which hand is valued higher, and how to recognize a rare yet powerful Straight Flush hand.

flush vs. straight

Straight vs. Flush in Poker

In a standard poker deck, players will be competing at a table with 52 cards:

  • 13 cards of each suit (spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs)
  • 4 cards of each numerical value (A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2)

As we’ve discussed in other articles here at Cardplayer Lifestyle, there is no distinction in value between suits. This means that spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs all have the same “hand strength” value in Flop games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha, Stud games like Razz, Draw Poker, etc.

However, there IS an important difference in poker hand strength value when it comes to numerical and face cards.

A Straight in poker is a 5-card hand in which a numerical sequence is unbroken.

For example: 9-8-7-6-5 is a Nine-high Straight; Q-J-T-9-8 is a Queen-high Straight; and A-K-Q-J-T is an Ace-high Straight (also known as a “broadway” Straight).

Generally speaking, an Ace is the strongest card in the deck compared to any other numerical or face card holding. But beginning poker players should keep in mind that it is possible for an Ace (and an Ace only) to convert itself from a “high” card to a “low” card for Straights.

As shown above, A-K-Q-J-T is an Ace-high broadway Straight. But 5-4-3-2-A is a Five-high Straight (the Ace becomes the low end of this Straight). Any other Straight will beat a Five-high Straight in “high” variants like Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and Stud games.

If you’re playing Texas Hold’em and show down a Five-high Straight of 5-4-3-2-A and your opponent shows 6-5-4-3-2, your opponent will win the pot.

A Flush in poker is a 5-card hand in which all cards are of the same suit (spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs).

For example: Qc-Jc-5c-4c-2c is a Queen-high Flush: Spades; which will defeat a Ten-high Flush of Tc-9c-8c-7c-3c at showdown.

Similar to Straights, the highest possible Flush in poker is an Ace-high Flush.

As a 5-card “high” hand, Ad-6d-5d-4d-3d (an Ace-high Flush: Diamonds) wins over Kd-Qd-Jd-Td-2d (a King-high Flush: Diamonds).

In 7 Card Stud, Ac-Kc-4c-3c-2c will tie at showdown against Ad-Kd-4d-3d-2d. But Ac-Kc-4c-3c-2c will win against Kd-Qd-Jd-5d-4d once players reveal their face-down cards.

Does a Flush Beat a Straight in Poker?

Yes. A Flush is a stronger “high” hand in poker when compared to a Straight.

A low Flush hand like 7h-5h-4h-3h-2h will defeat the very best Straight hand of A-K-Q-J-T (as long as they are not all the same suit).

The reason that a Flush has a higher poker hand ranking than a Straight is because the odds are slightly more difficult for a player to make a Flush compared to a Straight.

What is a Straight in Poker (and what isn’t)?

Any 5-card uninterrupted numerical (or face) sequence of cards is a Straight in poker.

Q-J-T-9-8 (Queen-high Straight)
5-4-3-2-A (Five-high Straight)
K-Q-J-T-9 (King-high Straight)

A four-card sequence is NOT enough to make a Straight in poker.

Q-J-T-9-7 (Queen-high nothing)
Q-Q-J-T-9 (One Pair: Queens)
A-Q-J-T-9 (Ace-high nothing)

The same is true for Flushes.

Ah-9h-8h-3h-2h (Ace-high Flush: Hearts)
Js-9s-7s-6s-4s (Jack-high Flush: Spades)
Ad-Kd-Qd-Jd-Tc (Ace-high Straight)
Ac-Kc-Qc-Jc-9d (Ace-high nothing)

What is a Straight Flush in Poker?

A Straight Flush is an extremely rare (and valuable) hand in “high” variants like Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and Stud.

Basically, a Straight Flush is an uninterrupted, 5-card numerical (of face card) sequence in which all cards are of the same suit.

Kc-Qc-Jc-Tc-9c (King-high Straight Flush: Clubs)
7d-6d-5d-4d-3d (Seven-high Straight Flush: Diamonds)

As with normal Straights, an Ace can be used to complete the low-end of a Straight Flush.

5h-4h-3h-2h-Ah (Five-high Straight Flush: Hearts)
5s-4s-3s-2s-As (Five-high Straight Flush: Spades)

Is There Any Hand That Beats a Straight Flush in Poker?

The highest possible Straight Flush is called a Royal Flush – which defeats all other hands in “high” poker games.

Ah-Kh-Qh-Jh-Th (Royal Flush: Hearts)

In Texas Hold’em, the odds of making a Royal Flush of any suit are nearly 1-in-650,000.

Some veteran poker players who have seen millions of Texas Hold’em hands can only recall a few times in which a Royal Flush was made in a game they were seated at (either in a live or online poker setting).

Straight vs. Straight Hands in Poker

As explained previously, the higher the numerical or face card value of the cards, the more “strength” a poker Straight has at showdown.

If you watch a lot of televised poker or review online hand histories, you may come across instances in which two players have both made Straights, but only one player is awarded the pot at showdown.

Player 1: 9c-9d
Player 2: 4c-4d

Community Board Cards: 8h-7h-6c-5d-(?)

Although both players have completed Straights on the Turn, Player 1 is a massive favorite to win the pot outright at showdown with a Nine-high Straight versus an Eight-high Straight.

If both players go “all-in” on the Turn in this scenario, Player 1 is clearly in the lead and Player 2 is drawing to a “2-outer” Nine to chop the pot.

So if the River is a Nine – both players tie with a Nine-high Straight and the pot is divided between these two remaining players.

If any card other than a Nine is dealt on the River, Player 1 wins the entire pot at showdown with a Nine-high Straight over Player 2’s Eight-high Straight.

What is an Open-Ended Straight Draw in Poker?

An open-ended Straight draw in poker is when a player already has four uninterrupted, consecutive cards to a Straight, and is lacking either a “high” or “low” card to complete a 5-card hand.

Player 1: Jd-Th

Community Board Cards: 8s-9c-2c-4h-(?)

On this hypothetical Texas Hold’em board, Player 1 has an open-ended Straight draw leading up to the River. If no other information is available, Player 1 has an 8 out of 46 chance to make a Straight once the final community card is dealt.

Any Queen would give Player 1 a Queen-high Straight: Q-J-T-9-8.
Any Seven would give Player 1 a Jack-high Straight: J-T-9-8-7.

As a rule, “open-ended” Straight draws are easier to successfully complete than the other type of poker Straight draw…

What is a Gutshot (or “Inside”) Straight Draw in Poker?

A gutshot (or inside) Straight draw in poker is when a player has four of the five cards necessary to successfully complete a Straight, but the current holding is “interrupted” and will require a 4-outer to make the hand.

Player 1: Jd-Th

Community Board Cards: 8s-7c-2c-4h-(?)

For Player 1 to complete a Straight, the River card MUST be a Nine. With no other known info available, Player 1 would have a 4 out of 46 chance to make a Straight once the final community card is dealt.

In poker, gutshot (or inside) Straights are more difficult to complete compared to open-ended Straights.

To flesh this concept out to Straight Flushes…

Straight Flush Draws in Poker

Player 1: Qs-Js

Community Board Cards: Ts-9s-2d-(?)-(?)

In this example, Player 1 has flopped an open-ended Straight Flush Draw. Two out of the remaining 46 cards in the deck can complete Player 1’s Straight Flush hand: the King of Spades or the Eight of Spades.

Player 1: Qs-Js

Community Board Cards: Ts-8s-2d-(?)-(?)

In the example immediately above, Player 1 has flopped an inside Straight Flush draw. Only 1 card out of the remaining 46 in the deck will make Player 1’s hand – the Nine of Spades.

Can a Poker Straight Be Hard to Identify?

Poker hands are not typically “perfectly laid out” in perfect numerical order in poker games until the virtual or live dealer presents the hand at showdown.

If you’re not paying attention, you might find yourself mucking a hand because you don’t realize its strength.

Player 1: (8s-Th)
Player 2: (Jc-Jd)

Community Board Cards: Jh-2d-5c-Qc-9c

Although this hand might theoretically rarely see a showdown between the two players, it might be easy for Player 1 to overlook the fact that he or she has the superior 5-card hand.

Player 1: Queen-high Straight (Qc-Jh-Th-9c-8s)
Player 2: Three of a Kind: Jacks (Jc-Jd-Jh-Qc-9c)

In this instance, Player 2 does NOT make a Flush because there are only four cards of the same suit present at showdown, so Player 1 wins.

Identifying Straights in Poker: Does Playing Card Quality Matter?

In reputable casinos and retail card rooms, players should rarely (if ever) encounter a situation in which they cannot identify each of the unique 52 cards in a standard poker deck when they are “face-up.”

But poker home games may be a different story.

Poker playing cards can become worn over time. They are also highly susceptible to food and/or beverage stains – or a poker game host may be playing with an off-brand deck in which numerical values, face cards, or suits are difficult to identify.

When playing poker, you should be able to immediately identify each card once you have seen it. If you are playing with an off-brand poker deck that requires you or your opponents to inquire about the value or suit of cards when they are face-up, then it is advised to refrain from playing for real money with that deck.

The same can be said for “themed” online playing decks – make sure you can immediately discern each poker card’s value before enabling an aesthetically unorthodox digital deck.

Are Straights and Flushes Easier to Identify Using 4-Colored Poker Decks?

Four-color poker decks have become very commonplace online. They can objectively enhance the gameplay experience for individuals who suffer from color-blindness, and do so without any poker strategy disruption (advantage or disadvantage) to participating players as a result.

But do 4-color poker decks make it easier for colorblind (or non-colorblind) players to identify Straights?

Perhaps not?

However, 4-color poker decks DO (from personal experience) make it possible for colorblind individuals to more easily identify suits (Hearts, Spades, Diamonds, and Clubs). But again, this can depend on the digital playing card theme when playing online poker.

I’ve come across some 4-colored poker deck themes online that actually make it more difficult to identify card suits.

So for internet poker, it’s important to preview each deck (using face-up examples) before selecting it for real money play.

How Are Poker Straights Different from “Runs” in Rummy?

If you are a rummy player who is new to the game of poker, you’ll need to remember that a poker Straight is a 5-card hand – whereas a “run” in rummy is 3 or more consecutive tiles of the same suit.

Rummy rules are completely separate from the rules of poker. Three and four-card Straights (or Flushes) do not exist in poker games like Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Stud, etc.

Have Fun with Poker Straights

A Straight in Poker is a somewhat “strong” made hand compared to inferior Three-of-a-Kind and below holdings, but is vulnerable to any Flush or higher ranked poker hand.

The more poker hands you play and experience, the more Straights you will see – and the easier it will become to decipher when you may or may not be vulnerable at showdown.

Have fun at the tables and enjoy the learning experience that poker provides to make the most out of your poker playing journey – whether you’re participating in an online game or in-person at a casino card room.

Best of luck at the tables!



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David Huber poker author
Written By.

David Huber

David Huber has been involved in the poker industry for close to two decades: initially as a professional online poker player and later as an editor, consultant, writer, and forum manager. Known as “dhubermex” online, David’s poker-related work has been heavily published across numerous websites since 2004.

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