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What is a Straight in Poker?

Dominic Field

Aug 7, 2023

Straight Hand in Poker

What is a straight hand in poker? That’s the question we’re going to answer in this article! We’ve put together a beginner’s guide that will give you the “straight dope” on this particular poker hand.

Get ready to learn some interesting facts and figures involving straights later. But first, let’s look at how to actually make one.

What Is a Straight Hand?

So what is a straight? In poker games, all hands are made up of five cards. If you have five consecutive cards which increase in rank, then you have a straight.

Example: 5 6 7 8 9

You use the card with the highest rank to determine the value of a straight. So in the above example, with nine as the highest ranking card, we have what is called a nine-high straight, which would beat an eight-high straight or lower. Naturally, this hand loses to a ten-high straight or better.

Notice how the suits are different in a straight. That’s because five cards of the same suit make a flush. So if we have five consecutive cards of the same suit, we have a straight flush, the best possible poker hand.

Other Straight Rules

Unlike other poker hands, a straight is unique, in that aces play as both high and low. 

Example: A 2 3 4 5

Here we have a five-high straight, where the ace effectively has a value of one. 

Example: T J Q K A

However, in this example, the ace resumes its usual role of being the strongest card. An ace-high straight is the best kind of straight.

In all forms of poker, straight rules remain the same. In Seven Card Stud, for instance, suits have a ranking. This is used to break ties and determine which player will start the action. However, this system is not used when it comes to straights. If two players have straights of equal value, the pot is split, rather than looking at the suit of the highest card.

What Beats a Straight in Poker?

Okay, we now understand what a straight is. But is it a strong hand relative to other poker hands? Where does it sit in the overall rankings? For all traditional forms of poker, the following rankings apply:

  • Royal flush: An ace-high straight flush; the best possible hand.

  • Straight flush: Any five suited and consecutive cards.

  • Four of a kind: Four cards of the same rank, plus one other.

  • Full house: A three-of-a-kind and a pair.

  • Flush: Five suited, but not consecutive, cards.

  • Straight: Five unsuited cards in consecutive order of rank.

  • Three of a kind: Three of the same rank with any two unmatching cards.

  • Two Pair: Two cards of equal value, with two other cards of equal rank.

  • Pair: Two cards of equal rank with three unconnected cards.

  • High Card: Any other combination of unmatching cards.

Read more: Poker Hand Rankings

Poker Straight Mathematics

Using a standard 52-card deck, so no jokers or wild cards included, there are only ten possible straights. That’s everything from five high through to ace high.

Of course, that doesn’t factor in the various suit permutations. If you consider those too, it’s possible to make 10,200 different straights from a total of 2,598,960 distinct poker hands. In other words, just 0.39% of all possible hands are straight hands.

The likelihood of picking up a straight, along with its chances of winning, depends on the form of poker you’re playing. For instance, with community card games like Omaha and Texas Hold’em, the five board cards are shared by all players. 

Why does that matter? For one, if the flop brings three cards to a straight, you’re probably not the only one holding the goods. But games like Seven Card Stud give you more cards with which to hit a straight draw.

Probability of Making a Straight

Aside from the type of poker being played, there are other factors that determine how likely you are to make a straight. For instance, if you hold Jx-Tx, you can make many more straights than a hand like Kx-3x.

Let’s keep things simple and stick to Hold’em. Here are some interesting probabilities about straights:

Flopping a Straight

If your starting hand gives you four ways to make a straight, the odds of flopping one are roughly 76-to-1. That’s about a 1.3% chance. A hand like 9x-8x can make four different straights: queen high, jack high, ten high, nine high, and eight high.

When your starting hand only allows for three straights, like Tx-8x, the probability of flopping your straight slips to just 0.98%.

Picking Up a Straight Draw

It’s much more likely that you’ll pick up a straight draw than flopping a made hand. If your hand offers four straight possibilities, you’ll make an open-ended straight draw 9.6% of the time. There’s also a 16.6% chance of picking up a gutshot, meaning a 26.2% overall chance of flopping a straight draw.

If you hold one-gappers, you still have a good chance of picking up a straight draw, flopping one around 21.9% of the time. That breaks down to 7.26% for an open-ender and 14.6% for the inside straight draw.

Completing a Straight Draw

If you’re lucky enough to flop an open-ender, you’ll make it on the turn 17.02% of the time. Your chances of hitting the river are almost one-in-three, at 31.5%.

With a flopped gutshot, you’ll turn the straight 8.51% of the time, making it by the river on 16.5% of occasions.

How To Play a Straight

For the most part, a straight is a very strong hand. As such, you should definitely be betting and raising in pretty much every situation. However, proceed with caution when you have the bottom end of a straight, or if the board shows four to a straight.

If you’re playing with deep stacks, you should not be going broke with a hand like 9x-8x on a board of Tx-Jx-Qx, particularly if the opponent had raised pre-flop. Similarly, a board of 6-7-T-J-9 would be a concern. Although we flopped the nut straight, there are now flushes and better straights to be concerned about.

Straight Poker Hand Nicknames

You’ll hear lots of poker hands referred to by fun nicknames. But it’s not just “pocket rockets” for aces and “presto” for pocket fives. Some starting hands are named after famous poker players who used them to complete straights. Here are just a few examples of straight-related nicknames:

  • Broadway: A “Broadway straight” involves all of the “Broadway” cards, i.e. A-K-J-Q-T.

  • Stu Ungar: The starting hand A-4 is sometimes referred to as the “Stu Ungar”. In 1997, the legendary player used it to win the WSOP Main Event with a straight.

  • TJ Cloutier: Another iconic player, Cloutier made three straight flushes in the same year while holding J-9. As such, this hand now bears the great man’s name in tribute.

  • Wheel: At the other end, a five-high straight is often called the “wheel”. That’s due to the ace’s ability to turn around from low to high.

Final Thoughts

This article has answered the question “What is a straight in poker?” and much more besides. Now that you understand everything about this poker hand, why not head over to Natural8 and put your new-found wisdom into practice?

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