With the exception of a Straight, aces are always high. In a Straight, they can be both high and low. A High Straight (A K Q J 10) is the best Straight available, the so-called Nut Straight, but an ace can also be low in a low Straight (A 2 3 4 5) sometimes called the Wheel or Bicycle. Although the ace is involved in this low Straight, the highest card is the five, and that means that if someone held 2 3 4 5 6, that would beat the five-high Straight.
means the best hand available based on the community cards showing. A Nut Straight would be the highest Straight available; the Nut Flush, the highest possible Flush.
At poker, when two players have hands of matching ranks, the height of the cards is key. So, if two players hold 3 of a Kind, the player holding KKK will beat the player holding 888.
The size of the other cards in the hand may also become important in the matter of Kickers. A kicker is the next highest card not involved in the formation of a poker hand combination. For example, if two players held the following hands, it would be the kicker which decides who wins the hand:
Player A 8 8 4 4 J
Player B 8 8 4 4 6
Both players hold the same 2 Pair – 8s and 4s – but Player A holds a jack kicker, whereas Player B holds only a 6 kicker. Therefore, Player A wins the hand with the higher kicker.
Sometimes, there is more than one kicker involved.
Player A A A Q 6 4
Player B A A Q 5 2
This time, both players hold a Pair of aces and both hold a queen kicker. But, a poker hand is made up of five cards so, now, attention moves to the next kicker. Again, Player A wins the hand, courtesy of holding a 6 as his second kicker, opposed to Player B’s 5. This result is incredibly close. Player A will be blowing the tips of his fingers over this deal; Player B will be licking his wounds.
If two or more hands are a perfect tie, the pot is split between all the players involved. This happens more often at Texas Hold ‘Em than at many variations because there are five community cards. Let’s see an example:
The board shows 10(S),6(C), A(S),K(D),J(C)
Player A holds Q(D),10(S)
Player B holds Q(C),6(S)
Player C holds A(D),Q(H)
Player A flopped (made the hand when the flop appeared) a Straight (A,K,Q,J,10) but, presumably, did not bet enough to keep the other players out of the hand. Unfortunately for him, although the turn did not hurt him, the river certainly did because, now, all three players have the same Straight. Player A may have both Q and 10, but that makes no difference now that the 10 has appeared on the river. All three players can now use the AKJ from the flop and the 10 from the river, to add to their own Q in hand, to make the Straight. The proceeds of this pot will be shared equally between all three players.
Sometimes, when one player has put all his chips into the pot and other players keep on betting, you need to form a side (or secondary) pot. This is how it works.
Let’s say that Player X has only $20 left in front of him.
Ahead of him, an opponent raises to $50 and another player calls him. Player X wants to call as well but he can’t match his opponents’ bets. You can never be driven out of a hand because you don’t have enough money on the table – you can always push your last money in and contest the pot. Thus, Player X can only play $20. So, he calls, and goes "all-in". The main pot should now consist of Player X’s $20, plus $20 from each of the other players’ bets – to match Player X’s stake. So, the main pot is worth $60 (plus any Blinds there might have been). This is all Player X can play for, because that covers his stake.
Now, there is a side pot formed from the remaining extra money which the other two players have bet. $30 from their $50 bets goes in there. Obviously, Player X can do no more betting, so he just waits patiently to see the result of the hand. Meanwhile, any further bets made by other players go into the side pot (which may well become far bigger than the main pot). Eventually, the result of the side pot will be decided first and then Player X will show his cards to claim the main pot (or throw them away disgustedly and skulk from the table).
The good news is that online, and in clubs and casinos where there is a dealer, you don’t have to worry about these mechanics. It will all be done for you. Although it sounds quite complicated now, they are in fact very simple and you’ll get used to them very quickly.