Sometimes new players end up relying on other players at the table or the dealer to determine which hand won the pot or a side pot. There may also be split pots. If you look at the board systematically then it can reduce the time it takes and increase the certainty of determining the winner.
GAMES WITH COMMUNITY BOARDS
Assuming no wild cards, you can look at the board at any time and determine the best possible hand by looking for the following in order:
1. Flush & Straight: 3 to the flush and 3 to the straight (possible straight flush)
2. Paired board: a pair on the board can mean poker/quad (4 of a kind) or a boat (full house) is possible
3. Flush (already looked for in step 1)
4. Straight (already looked for in step 1)
So if there is no flush and the board is paired after all 5 community cards are out, then the best possible hand is the quad followed by the boat. If there is not three to the straight showing then the next best is a set (3 of a kind), followed by 2 pair and a pair. These last three hands are always possible no matter what is on the board.
ANY GAME WITH WILDCARDS
You can apply this logic to non-community games without wildcards as well. Wild cards are pretty pointless in hold ‘em games but may still be called by the drunk at the table. For community or non-community games with wildcards the best 5 card hand is 5 of a kind followed by the straight flush and so on. Five of a kind is pretty easy to spot, but the straight flush may take some time. Use this helpful hint:
1. Count the number of wildcards and set aside
2. Match suits of remaining cards
3. Find x number of cards to the straight (where x plus the wildcards will equal 5)
Remember even if someone misreads their hand, if the dealer or another player points out the correct read then that is the made hand so don’t be too quick to push the pot to a winner, especially if you just wrapped up a game with crazy possibilities at the poker table.