The “Top Five Cards” Rule And How Does It Apply To Splitting Pots?


While playing a 5-card game, such as Hold-Em, you can only use the top five cards. For instance, let’s say there are four cards on the table (6-9) and the remaining two players have a “10 A“, and a “10 K“. The assumption is that you have the 10 A whereas your friend has a “10 K“. Here, the best possible hand would be a 6-10 straight. 

On the other hand, there is a possibility that your friend has “K K” while you have “A A“, but the board spells 3-4-5-6-7. This will cause you to split since both players would play the best hand, i.e., the board.

As a general rule, poker hands consist of only 5 cards. When you have 7 cards to choose from, one makes the best 5 card hand possible. Here, the remaining 2 cards do not count.

Best Possible Hand

In the given situation, your best possible hand would be “6, 7, 8, 9, T“. In fact, that of your friend or co-player would also be “6, 7, 8, 9, T“. Both of you tied and split the pot at this because of the same best possible hands.  

In other words, the pot is split, not because of the straight on the board, but since both the players have “A A K 5 4“. In this case, not even the extra K “kicker” can play because both the players are allowed to use only 2 hole cards. Here, the best five cards in the hand are “T 9 8 7 6” for the straight, which were common to both of you.

The ace which you had was your “sixth” card, whereas what your friend had, i.e., a K card, was the “seventh” card in your hands. One could argue that since ace (the sixth card) values more than K (the seventh card), Ace could easily beat K, given the remaining cards are the same. However, here the position of Ace and that of K do not matter. 

This happens because, in a 5-card game, only the top five cards in the hand get counted. In contrast, if the straight had been “busted” along with “T 9 8 7 5“, in that case, Ace played against a K could make you win.

To Sum Up

The top five cards rule applies in card games where only cards are considered while playing. Herein, you have to choose your best five cards in the hand and use them against the opponent players. 

While Splitting Pots, both the players must have the same or identical top 5 cards on hand. In such a situation, the remaining cards and their values do not influence the game. Even if you have an Ace and your opponent has a King as cards as your remaining cards, you cannot win. You and your co-player would split the pots since both of you would choose to play your best hand.

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