In poker you can’t have a straight & a pair: Here’s why

A poker player has to be familiar with the rules and etiquettes of the game. Some poker beginners may not even know what a straight is. But whether you are new to poker or experienced at it, you’ll find this article useful as it will help you learn poker rules or at the least remind you of them.

You can’t have a straight and a pair in poker because the best five cards are always used during the showdown. And a straight outranks a pair, meaning your hand will only be considered a straight.

In poker, the highest possible Straight is A-K-Q-J-10 (also called “Broadway” straight. There are a number of straight combinations that could go all the way down to A-2-3-4-5 (sometimes referred to as the “Wheel” or “Bicycle”, in poker terminology).

We must mention that not every straight is ranked equally in poker. And suits are more important when it comes to straights. If you are a poker newbie and not following all we’ve been saying, don’t despair. We’ll explain everything in full later in this article. And by the time you finish this article, you will understand all these jargon and start showing off to your friends.

So let’s start from the beginning and that’s poker hand itself. You have to understand poker hands if you are to fully appreciate the concept of straights.

AKQJT is the highest straight possible in poker. But any straight should make you a lot of money over a decent sample. On the other hand a pair is a much more common hand.

Understanding Poker Hands

The aim is to win in poker, right? But how do you win? How do you win a hand? By having the best cards, right?

You need to understand that poker players form five sets of playing cards, otherwise referred to as hands. These hands are formed according to the established rules of the game. Each poker hand has a rank. In a showdown, the rank of your hand is compared to that of your opponents. If you hand outranks that of your opponent, you are a winner. If it is the other way around, better luck next time. If both players have the very same hand, then the poker would get split.

In some versions of poker, lower-ranking hands win you the pot. However, this is more common with low games like Razz. High games like Texas hold ’em and seven-card stud makes the highest-ranking hands winners.

The patterns formed by your hands determine the category of hand it will belong to. Hands in the same category are also not exactly the same as the rank of individual cards will determine the rank of a hand within its category. Individual cards are ranked, from highest to lowest: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 and 2. Aces are ranked the lowest when part of a five-high straight or straight flush.

Poker Hand Rankings

Below are hand rankings in poker with a brief description of each hand.

  • Royal Flush – You are said to have a royal flush when A, K, Q, J, 10, all the same suit. It is the best poker hand there is and outranks every other hand. 
  • Straight Flush – Second ranking poker hand that occurs when you have any connecting straight cards, say 10-9-8-7-6, all of the same suit.
  • Four-of-a-Kind – When you have four cards of the Same ranking that are not in the same suit as 5-5-5-5-K. 
  • Full House – When you have a pair and three of a kind in the same hand. For instance, O10-10-10-8-8.
  • Flush – A flush is made up of five cards that are of the same suit but not in a numerical sequence/order. Take, for instance, A-K-5-4-2 flush.  in
  • Straight – When you have any five connected cards in a row, say 10-9-8-7-6.
  • Three-of-a-Kind – This occurs when you have five cards, three cards that are of the same rank, and two happen to be non-paired cards. For instance,  Q-Q-Q-7-6.
  • And those are followed by two pairs, a pair, and a high card rankings.

 What Is A Straight In Poker?

By now, you should already have a good idea of what a straight is in poker. The example below should make you understand a straight better.

Board: Q♠T♦9♥

Hand 1: K♣J♣

Hand 2: J♦8♦

The two hands in this example are both straight but the first hand will win the pot because it’s a higher ranking straight (also called King-high straight). So whenever two poker players have a straight, the highest-ranked used in forming the straight will be used to determine the winner.

You can check my detailed article: Who Wins if Both Players Have a Straight? With Examples, for a more in-depth look.

In poker, the highest possible straight that can be formed is referred to as Broadway and is made up of Ace-high straight (TJQKA). On the other hand, the lowest possible straight is called ‘the wheel’ and is made up of A2345.

Note that you will be able to formulate a straight only 0.4% of the time. Your probability of formulating a straight will even be less if you don’t maximize those chances by playing right. You will also be in a good position if your hole cards are suited as this provides you with the chance to come up with a flush. In a rare but not unusual situation where two players end up with straights of the same rank, the pot will be shared between them.

split pot, both players have a straight
This is an example of a split pot. It doesn’t matter that player with AK has “hit a pair” alongside his straight. Both players best 5 card combination is a straight AKQJT.

What Is A Pair In Poker

You are said to have a pair in poker when two of the cards in your hand are ranked similarly, for example, J-J or 10-10. A pair is ranked eighth in the list of poker rankings. In a nutshell, a pair is a hand having two equally ranked cards.

Take for example the following scenario in a game of Hold’em.

Board: J♥9♥4♠2♠3♣

Player One Hand: A♦J♦

Player Two Hand: Q♠J♣

Player Three Hand: K♠K♦

Players one and two have similar hands since they both make a pair of jacks. The only difference is that the first player makes his jack with an ace while player two achieved that with a Queen.

The third player also makes a pair – a pocket pair. A pocket pair ranks higher than a pair of jack, so player three wins.

If you want to know exactly who wins, when both players have a pair, then I have a perfect article for you: Who Wins if Both Players Have a Pair in Poker? With Examples

Can You Have A Straight With A Pair?

The answer is no, you can’t have a straight with a pair in poker. And the reason for this is simple. Remember that five cards make up your hand in poker.

When it comes to a showdown, it’s the best five cards that win. If your best five cards aren’t better than that of your opponent, you lose the hand.

If you have a straight and a pair in your hand, it’ll only count as a straight in showdown because all your five cards are to be considered.

Imagine a game of poker where Player 1 hits J-7 while the other player has 10-6 as well as a pair of 6. When it comes to a showdown, Player 1 will be considered to have a straight of J-7 while player two will be considered to have ONLY a straight of 10-6 and NOT a straight and a pair.

If you are confused, there is a simple rule to remember – Consider only the best hand during the showdown. And in poker hand ranking, a straight outranks a pair and that’s why you can’t have a straight and a pair.

If two players have a straight of the same rank, the pot will be shared between the two. I included many examples of when the pot is shared and when not in the article that I linked above.

Using Straight As Part Of Your Poker Strategy

Straights are strong hands particularly in No-Limit Hold’em. However, you must be careful when trying to hit a straight in certain situations. One such situation is when there are already straights on a paired board or when there are straight on a board where a possible flush has completed. Remember that a flush outranks a straight.

You are in a fantastic position if you are able to hit a straight with two hole cards. And this is because a straight with two hole cards is stronger than a straight with only one hole card.

Using A Pair As Part Of Your Poker Strategy

One-pair holdings are generally not strong hands and you may want to be wary of them when playing large pots. When there is a high tendency of forming straights and flushes, the strength of a pair reduces dramatically.