What is a High Card in Poker?
High Card is the weakest combination out of all poker hands. It is a five-card hand with different suits and without any matching ranks. The best High Card is Ace-high, while the lowest hand in Hold'em is a 7-high (2-3-4-5-7).
What Does a High Card Look Like?
If the hand doesn’t even have One Pair and all five cards are not of the same exact suit or in sequential order, the hand is valued based on its highest-ranking card. Here are some examples of High Card hands:
A, Q, 9, 5, 3
K, 7, 5, 4, 2
J, 10, 7, 6, 2
9, 8, 7, 6, 4
How Does a High Card Rank?
A High Card is the lowest of all poker hands when playing standard versions of the game. It is weaker than One Pair and so it will also be beaten by Two Pairs, Three of a Kind, a Straight, and all other higher hands in poker.
What Beats a High Card?
10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace all in the same suit.
Five cards in a row, all in the same suit.
The same card in each of the four suits.
A pair plus three of a kind in the same hand.
Five cards, all in one suit, but not in numerical order.
Five cards in numerical order, but not of the same suit.
Three of one card and two non-paired cards.
Two different pairings or sets of the same card in one hand.
One pairing of the same card.
No matching cards
A hand with just a High Card can only beat a weaker High Card hand. For example, K-8-7-6-2 is better than Q-J-10-9-6. If two players have the same High Card, the tie is broken by the second highest card and so on.
How Should You Play a High Card in Hold’em?
It is rare that a High Card wins a hand in poker.
It could be that the hand is checked down all the way to the showdown and a high card wins the pot due to no player having so much as a pair. It could be that you run a bluff and your High Card hand isn't even seen by your opponents, who all fold. It could also be that a preflop shove with Ace-high is called, but no one manages to make a hand and the Ace wins the pot (not uncommon in the late stages of a tournament). But it's very rare that a High Card hand will win a pot of any significance.
If you find yourself at the river with a High Card you may try winning the pot with a bluff, but it will be the bluff that wins the hand, not the strength of the High Card.
There may be occasions, also, where you are able to confidently put your opponent on a particular drawing hand which can be beaten by an Ace-high or similar. If they miss their draws and try a bluff anyway, you may be able to win the pot with your High Card hand. But as a rule you should not expect to win a lot of chips with a hand like this - if it doesn't improve, and fast, you will probably want to let it go and move on.
High Card Probabilities
Although a High Card is weaker than One Pair, the probability of getting a High Card hand in Texas Hold'em is lower than that for making a pair. This is because you are more likely to make at least a pair, with seven cards available, than to miss everything.
Below, we look at High Card probabilities for a five-card hand.
Number of ways to make the hand
(not including different suits)
Number of ways to make the hand
(including different suits)
Odds of getting High Card
Probability of getting High Card
1 / 0.995
The odds of being dealt a High Card on the flop is only the tip of the iceberg. For more on odds, including the probability of winning any given hand on the flop, turn, and/or river, have a play with our poker odds calculator.