Non-standard poker hands are hands which are not recognized by official poker rules but are created by house rules. Non-standard hands usually appear in games using wild cards or bugs. Other terms for nonstandard hands are special hands or freak hands. Because the hands are defined by house rules, the composition and ranking of these hands is subject to variation. Any player participating in a game with non-standard hands should be sure to determine the exact rules of the game before play begins.
The usual hierarchy of poker hands from highest to lowest runs as follows (standard poker hands are in italics):
- Five of a kind: Five cards of the same rank, only possible using one or more wild cards.
- Skeet flush: The same cards as a skeet and all in the same suit.
- Straight flush: The highest straight flush, A-K-Q-J-10 suited, is also called a royal flush.
- Four of a kind: Between two equal sets of four of a kind (possible in wild card and community card poker games), the kicker determines the winner.
- Big bobtail: A four card straight flush (four cards of the same suit in consecutive order).
- Full house
- Flush: When wild cards are used, a wild card contained in a flush is considered to be of the highest rank not already present in the hand. For example, in the hand (Wild) 10♥ 8♥ 5♥ 4♥, the wild card plays as the A♥, but in the hand A♣ K♣ (Wild) 9♣ 6♣, it plays as the Q♣. A variation is the double-ace flush rule, in which a wild card in a flush always plays as an ace, even if one is already present. In such a game, the hand A♠ (Wild) 9♠ 5♠ 2♠ would defeat A♦ K♦ Q♦ 10♦ 8♦ (the wild card playing as an imaginary second A♠), whereas by the standard rules it would lose (because even with the wild card playing as a K♠, the latter hand’s Q♦ outranks the former’s 9♠).
- Big cat
- Little cat
- Big dog
- Little dog
- Straight: When wild cards are used, the wild card becomes whichever rank is necessary to complete the straight. If two different ranks would complete a straight, it becomes the higher. For example, in the hand J♦ 10♠ 9♣ (Wild) 7♠, the wild card plays as an 8 (of any suit; it doesn’t matter). In the hand (Wild) 6♥ 5♦ 4♥ 3♦, it plays as a 7 (even though a 2 would also make a straight).
- Wheel: The sequence 5-4-3-2-A. This could technically be considered a round-the-corner straight, but is frequently played even if other round-the-corner straights are not allowed, particularly in pai gow poker. When wheels are recognized as distinct from round-the-corner straights, they are ranked as straights: in most games they are considered five-high, and thus the lowest possible straights, but in pai gow poker they rank between king-high and ace-high straights.
- Wrap-around straight: Also called round-the-corner straight. Consecutive cards including an ace which counts as both the high and low card. (Example Q-K-A-2-3).
- Skip straight: Also called alternate straight, Dutch straight, or skipper. Cards are in consecutive order, skipping every other card. (Example 3-5-7-9-J).
- Five and dime: All cards are fives, sixes, sevens, eights, nines, or tens with no pair.
- Skeet: Also called pelter or bracket. A hand with a deuce; a three or a four; a five; a six, a seven, or an eight; and a nine.
- Three of a kind
- Little bobtail: A three card straight flush (three cards of the same suit in consecutive order).
- Flash: One card of each suit plus a joker.
- Blaze: Also called blazer. All cards are jacks, queens, or kings.
- Two pair
- Russ: Five cards of the same color.
- Bobtail flush: Also called four flush. Four cards of the same suit.
- Flush house: Three cards of one suit and two cards of another.
- Bobtail straight: Also called four straight. Four cards in consecutive order.
- One pair
- High card
Some poker games are played with a deck that has been stripped of certain cards, usually low-ranking ones. For example, the Australian game of Manila uses a 32-card deck in which all cards below the rank of 7 are removed, and Mexican stud removes the 8s, 9s, and 10s. In both of these games, a flush ranks above a full house, because having fewer cards of each suit available makes full houses more common.
Cats and dogs
“Cats” (or “tigers”) and “dogs” are types of no-pair hands defined by their highest and lowest cards. The remaining three cards are kickers. Dogs and cats rank above straights and below flushes. Usually, when cats and dogs are played, they are the only unconventional hands allowed.
- Little dog: Seven high, two low (for example, 7-6-4-3-2). It ranks just above a straight, and below a flush or any other cat or dog.
- Big dog: Ace high, nine low (for example, A-K-J-10-9). Ranks above a straight or little dog, and below a flush or cat.
- Little cat (or little tiger): Eight high, three low. Ranks above a straight or any dog, but below a flush or big cat.
- Big cat (or big tiger): King high, eight low. It ranks just below a flush, and above a straight or any other cat or dog.
Some play that dog or cat flushes beat a straight flush, under the reasoning that a plain dog or cat beats a plain straight. This makes the big cat flush the highest hand in the game.
A Kilter, also called Kelter, is a generic term for a number of different non-standard hands. Depending on house rules, a Kilter may be a Skeet, a Little Cat, a Skip Straight, or some variation of one of these hands.