Many sources (including VNH Poker, pokerstars.com, and cardplayer.com) explicitly list Royal Flush as the highest poker hand.

This seems unnecessary - it's the highest hand anyway as the highest Straight Flush. When designing a ruleset, unnecessary is harmful (e.g. it gives new players more to remember).

So is there a good historical or game-mechanics reason why we treat the Royal Flush as a special case?

  • Note: You can also find this question on Board & Card Games SE, where I posted it before learning about Poker SE. Commented May 10, 2016 at 0:01
  • It causes harm? Can you put a dollar value on the damages?
    – paparazzo
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 5:21
  • 1
    No, but I posted this question because I found someone who thought that Four of a Kind came between Royal Flush and Straight Flush in Texas Holdem. It would have been impossible for this confusion to arise if Royal Flush didn't get a separate category. Commented May 10, 2016 at 5:36
  • 3
    FWIW, this always bothered the pedant in me, too. I think one benefit of the distinction is that it's slightly easier than saying "ace-high straight flush" and it succinctly indicates that you're talking about the best possible hand in the game. Commented May 10, 2016 at 12:33
  • This might be more of a language question than a poker question. I recommend you ask at english.stackexchange.com. They are good help with etymology questions there. Commented May 10, 2016 at 12:43

3 Answers 3


I don't believe it has any historical background other than this is how the rules go.

A royal flush is the highest hand possible and is given a unique name as something to achieve.

I got a royal flush sounds a lot cooler than, I got an ace-high straight flush. It feels more prestigious.

I also don't find it confusing, and if it is, it's a quick explanation to set the person on track.

  • Just feels like, I have the best hand possible, sound more cooler than I have royal flush.
    – ducks
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 21:15

Naming a Royal Flush is an anachronism that really doesn't follow the rest of the ranking rules for poker hands. It is a redundancy that has somehow crept into poker parlance and it remains there primarily because people like the sound of it. I've been playing poker for sixty years now and never have I gotten used to this anomaly. We don't name a "four ace" quad, or "Aces full of____" boat. Nor do we rank and an "ace troika" or an "ace high straight" etc. We should in fact get rid of the term altogether. Linguistically it works well without it.

  • 1
    You've never heard of a wheel? Or a broadway? Nut flush?
    – corsiKa
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 22:07

It clears up that the ace is the top end of a straight

2 though 10 is clear to anyone that can count

It clears up the top end is

Yes it is obvious if you play poker but if you don't know the game at all it clears up some important stuff

Also the math is a little different as a royal flush is actually easier to hit than others. The ace is block on a king high (it becomes a royal). Where there are not over blockers on ace high.

  • 2
    I don't believe this answer. After all, no one has to clear up that the 8 is the high card in 4-5-6-7-8. Indeed, if the distinction actually existed for pedagogical reasons, then what would certainly exist instead would be the following list: "... > flush > straight > Wheel > 3-of-a-kind > ..." because that's the hand where the high card (Ace) is not the high card of the straight. I'm expecting an interesting historical rationale for Royal Flush, but I'll eat my hat if anyone can convince me it's a pedagogical advantage instead of a disadvantage. Commented May 10, 2016 at 6:10
  • 1
    @Paparazzi In that case, any straight flush that includes an ace should have a unique name. Seeing as how a five high straight flush (5-4-3-2-A) does not have a unique name, I think the rationale behind this answer is inconsistent.
    – Rainbolt
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 16:14
  • 1
    @Rainbolt Actually a five high straight flush does have a unique name: "Steel Wheel". But the fact that it isn't very well know compared to a Royal Flush does seem to play into the answer somehow.
    – user1934
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 16:21
  • 1
    "Wheel" is a popular term for the hand, but I don't think it is called out in the official rules by that name (unlike Royal Flush, which is called out in the rules). It matters because if you have established neither a consistent nor authoritative reason for why the hand has a unique name in the rules, then you haven't answered the question. Even an inconsistent reason, coming from an authoritative source, would suffice to answer the question.
    – Rainbolt
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 16:21
  • 2
    Sorry, it was rude of me to ask twice for an authoritative source. I thought at first that you misunderstood my comment, but I understand now that you don't think answering my question is necessary to form a good answer (and that's totally fine). My apologies for harassing you.
    – Rainbolt
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 17:00

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