In poker, three of a kind beats two pair. Straight beats three of a kind. Flush beats straight. And so on.
But what about suits — spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs? Do they matter at all?
What if two players both have a king-high straight? Is it a split pot, or does the highest king win?
Or, what if they have the same two pair, and the same kicker — would the pot be assigned to the player whose kicker has the highest suit?
In poker, there are a few occasions in which the suit rank does actually make a difference, but chances are they are not as important (or common) as you may think.
What is the highest suit in poker?
Spades is the highest suit in poker. However, suits do not determine the winning hand in poker. Although suit ranking is used in some poker procedures, such as dealing for the button, all suits will always have the same value at the showdown.
Which means if two or more players hold the same identical five-card hand (e.g. Q, Q, 8, 8, A), the pot will be split regardless of whoever has the ace of spades, or the queen of spades.
Similarly, if two players have the same straight (e.g. 9, 8, 7, 6, 5) it does not matter whether player B has the nine of clubs, and player B the nine of diamonds — it’s a tie.
In poker, the only way suits affect the value of a hand is if you have a flush, which is five cards of the same suit.
But in terms of the value of each suit, no such thing.
A jack of spades isn’t higher than a jack of clubs. A six of hearts does not win against a six of diamonds. And so on.
That being said, the official suit ranking from highest to lowest is: spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs.
The order of the suits may change depending on where you play, but as a poker dealer I’ve never seen or heard of a different rule.
So you may ask, why is there an order if suits don’t make any difference in poker?
Well, in some cases, suits do matter. Let’s have a look at five situations in which a jack of spades will actually beat a jack of clubs.
Here’s when suits matter in poker
1. Chip race in poker tournaments
In poker tournaments, all the lowest denomination chips will need to be replaced with bigger ones as the blind levels increase.
This is commonly referred to as the chip race and the longer the tournament, the more the levels, the more it will happen.
A stack of 100s can be replaced with two 1000s; five 1000s can be replaced with a single 5000 chip. But what about odd chips?
In this case, the dealer will deal a card face up in front of each odd chip.
Then, all odd chips will be put in the middle, replaced with higher denominations, and these will be assigned to the highest cards.
So if there are three kings (say, spades, diamonds, and clubs), but only two higher denomination chips, then the player who was dealt the king of clubs won’t get any.
2. Dealing for the button
At the start of a poker tournament, the position of the button is usually the first (seat one). This applies to new tables as well.
In some tournaments, the position of the button will be picked randomly by the card room software — the same that displays the blind levels, number of players, etc.
However, in cash games, that’s a different story.
Say five players come to the table and want to start playing — who will be the big blind?
In this case, the standard procedure is to deal for the button. The dealer will deal a card face up to each player, and the player with the highest card will get the button.
So if two or more players are dealt the same highest card, suit ranking will determine the winner.
3. Odd chips in split pots
If the pot is split between two players, and there is an odd chip, it will usually be awarded to the player left to the dealer.
So for example, if there is $87 in the pot, the player left to the dealer gets $44, and their opponent gets $43. Easy as that.
However, in some cases suits will be used to assign the odd chip (I’ve never seen this personally).
Spades will beat hearts, hearts will beat diamonds, and clubs will be the lowest suit.
4. Betting order in seven-card stud
In Texas Hold’em, which is the most popular poker variant, the position of the button determines both the order of the deal and the order of each betting round.
In seven-card stud, however, it is the player with the lowest upcard who must bet first.
So if player A is dealt the deuce of hearts, and player B the deuce of diamonds — player B will go first. There are only two possible bets in this case:
- The bring in. Usually the same amount of the ante, e.g. $1.
- The small bet. The smaller fixed bet, e.g. $2.
This is because seven-card stud is a limit game. You can’t bet any amount you want, like in NLHE; there are fixed bets.
5. Breaking tables
Let’s say there are four cash games in the room you’re playing at.
Suddenly, four friends (all playing at the same table) decide to leave.
The three remaining players don’t really want to play three-handed, so they ask a supervisor to move to another table.
In this example, if there were only two seats available, then the procedure would usually be to deal three cards (or spread the deck and let each player pick one), and see who has the lowest card.
That player would have to wait for a third free seat, whereas the other two could join the other tables instantly.
What is the highest suit in a royal flush?
This seems to be a relatively common question when people are trying to find out what the highest possible poker hand is.
Like, if two players have a royal flush (ace, king, queen, jack, and ten, all of the same suit), who wins?
Chances of that happening — and chances of you seeing that in your entire life, for that matter — are minuscule. But who wins?
First of all, this is technically impossible in Texas Hold’em as well as most poker variants.
In Texas Hold’em, any five-card combination makes it impossible for two players to have a royal flush, even if they use both their hole cards.
Player A could have a royal, and player B could have four fifths of a royal, but it wouldn’t count.
Now, in games like seven or five card stud, in the super rare event in which two players hold a royal flush, the pot will be split. It will be a tie, regardless of the suit.
This is because, as mentioned earlier, suits never determine the value of a hand in poker.
That being said, the rule may change depending on where you play.
Ace, king, queen, jack, ten of hearts may beat ace, king, queen, jack, ten of clubs. But it wouldn’t be the official rule.
You probably won’t see that in your entire life anyway.
Highest suit in poker: summary
In poker, the value of any hand does not change according to their suits. A straight with the queen of spades does not beat a straight with the queen of hearts.
In most card rooms, the order of the suit (highest to lowest) is the following:
To memorize it, you can think of it as black, red, red, black, with spades and hearts (which is basically the same shape upside down) being the highest.
Or, remember that they are in reverse alphabetical order — S, H, D, C.
There are five situations in which suits do matter in poker, specifically:
- Replacing low denomination chips with bigger ones in poker tournaments
- Dealing for the button at the start of the game (cash poker)
- Awarding an odd chip in a split pot (not the official rule)
- When two or more players have the same upcard in seven-card stud
- Breaking a table (cash poker, sometimes in tournaments too)
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