The first part of learning poker is understanding all of the hand rankings. A Royal Flush is the best possible hand you can make in poker. It is the highest kind of straight flush with cards from A to T all of the same suit, for example A♠K♠Q♠J♠T♠. There are only 4 combinations, one for the royal flush cards of each suit.
Since this hand can’t be beaten, the holder is guaranteed to win and everyone at your table can only have worse hands. This is why there is a special category and name for this specific hand.
The order in which all hands rank in poker is:
- Royal Flush
- Straight Flush
- Full House
- 2 Pair
- High Card
Probability of making a Royal Flush
As well as being the strongest hand, it is also the hardest to make so you should not expect to see one often or be too concerned about an opponent making one. If dealt 5 random cards, they will be a Royal Flush 0.000154% of the time, that is 1 in 650,000 hands.
When dealt 2 random cards the chance of making a royal flush by each street (assuming you never fold before then) is:
- 0.000154% on the flop (1 in 649,000)
- 0.000923% on the turn (1 in 108,000)
- 0.0032% on the river (1 in 31,000)
Although if you are dealt 2 suited cards that are both part of a royal flush like A♣Q♣ the probabilities are:
- 0.0051% on the flop (1 in 20,000)
- 0.020% on the turn (1 in 5,000)
- 0.051% on the river (1 in 1,960)
Therefore, you should expect to be dealt tens of thousands of hands before you make one, meaning it is uncommon even for high volume online players.
Because of how rare Royal Flushes occur, it isn’t a big strategic consideration in poker unless there are already 3 of the royal flush cards dealt out. But when you do make one, it is always a strong value hand, so your aim is to build the biggest pot against weaker hands, knowing you can never lose it at showdown. This can be achieved by letting opponents bluff you or betting yourself to get called by worse hands. Smaller bets will be called more often but bigger bets create a bigger pot to win the times you are called.
In some games a jackpot is paid out for making a royal flush. If you get dealt one during a live game at a casino or cardroom you could check with the dealer to ensure you don’t miss out. When playing online games it will be automatically awarded if a site has this jackpot.
More commonly there are bad beat jackpots when a hand of a high enough strength (for example any 4-of-a-kind and better) loses to an even stronger hand. The loser is given a payout and depending on the specific rules decided by the game provider the hand winner and rest of table may be paid too.
Royal Flushes are the strongest hand in all of the most commonly played variants of poker, including Texas Holdem, Omaha, Short Deck, Stud and Draw games.
But in Deuce-to-Seven games the hand rankings are reversed compared to standard poker meaning a Royal Flush is the worst possible hand and 75432 (the lowest high card hand) is the best possible. And in the Razz variant the aim is to make the lowest possible hand (A is always low) so 5432A is the best possible hand, not a Royal Flush.
Famous Examples of Royal Flush
Chris Moneymaker, the winner of the WSOP Main Event in 2003, was playing a $25k buy-in shootout tournament during the 2010 NAPT, broadcast live on ESPN2. He was dealt A♣K♣ while pro Jason Mercier was dealt K♦K♥. Mercier raised all in preflop and Moneymaker called. The cards were dealt out J♣T♣3♥8♠Q♣ giving Moneymaker a Royal Flush on the river. This helped him to stay in the tournament and get into the money.
We have articles with a guide for all poker hands and combinations which you may want to look through.