How to Play Poker

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It isn’t hard to learn to the basics of poker; gameplay follows 8 simple steps:

  • 1. It is very important to be familiar with hand rankings. It is futile to go into a game without the knowledge of what to look for in a winning hand. The winning game player has the hand with the highest values. What if two players have the same hand, or no one holds cards that are of worth? The winner becomes the player with the single highest ranked card, the highest being an Ace. The first step to playing poker is knowing when you have cards to hold and when you have cards to fold.
  • 2. As the game begins, so does the betting. Everyone at the table has to provide an ante for the initial pot. This ensures that the winner of the current hand reaps at least the minimum benefits. At the end of the hand, the winner takes the entire pot, including the initial ante.
  • 3. The dealer provides each player with cards that make up a hand. Starting with the player to the left of the dealer, cards are dealt face down until each player has an original hand. The deck is then placed in the middle of the table, to be touched only by the dealer.
  • 4. After the hands are distributed, each player looks over their hand. It is at this time that players begin strategizing and evaluating the use of each card in hand. It is also about this time that beginning poker players give their cards away without realizing it. Players that have not yet established a “poker face” have certain mannerisms that tell the other players at the table what they are essentially working with. Trained players know what to look for in the faces of other players, so watch yourself carefully. It takes only an automatic increase in breathing rate, flushed face, lack of eye contact or muscle movement for a poker expert to read other players like a book. This is a crucial first step in successful poker playing.
  • 5. Each player rearranges their cards into something they can work with. It is then time to continue the betting process. By this time, you should have a pretty good idea of whether or not your hand stands a chance and is worth the money you are risking at the table. The player to the left of the dealer begins the betting; this player can either open the betting or pass the bet to the next player by saying “check,” moving the decision along the line of players. At the first bet, every other player has to follow suit or fold their hand. Players can:(a) See/Call — this allows the player to remain in the game by matching the previous bet
    (b) Fold — players that have nothing to work with will fold before risking any more money
    (c) Raise — players with good odds may choose to raise the stakes for the remaining players.
  • 6. After the first round of betting is complete, players have the opportunity to discard up to three cards and replenish those three cards from the dealers deck. Players holding an Ace may discard up to four cards. If you are going to discard, make sure that those cards will not help your chances of winning. It is possible to keep all your cards if you feel like you were originally blessed with a winning hand. Put discarded cards face down on the table and rearrange your new and improved (sometimes) hand.
  • 7. The betting continues for another round and players have the same options. At this point in the game, you have the cards that will help you win or convince you to fold. Some players with weak hands may “bluff” their way to the end of the game, trying to fool other players into thinking they have a winning hand.
  • 8. The final step comes after all players have folded or put enough money in the pot to stay in the game. All remaining players expose their cards and the winner takes everything in the pot.

Poker Game Variations

(Players start with the same two cards to work with)

7-Card Stud Poker

Game play is similar to the previously detailed form, except there are two extra cards. Players try to make the best 5 card hand that is possible from the 7 cards that they are dealt.

Texas Hold-Em Poker

Players are initially dealt two cards which only they can see. Based on the first two cards, a round of betting ensues. The dealer then places three cards on the table in succession that are available as cards in every players hands, in conjunction with their individual two cards each. Two more rounds of betting is followed by the last placement of two cards added to the table.

Omaha Poker

Players are dealt four cards and then everyone bets. The dealer then provides 5 cards on the table that are “community cards,” used for everyone. Winning hands are made up of two individual cards and three of the community cards; highest valued hand takes the pot.

Knowing the Details of A Winning Hand

Royal Flush

It doesn’t get any higher than this: A, K, Q, J and 10 of the same suit.

Straight Flush

This hand provides 5 consecutive cards, all of the same suit. The combination of sequence and suit makes this a straight and a flush at the same time: a straight flush.

Four of a kind

Commonly referred to as quads; this hand is made up of all four cards of the same rank. In the case of two hands containing four of a kind, the highest ranking cards win it.

Full House

This hand has three matching cards of one rank and another two matching cards of another rank. If two players boast a full house, the highest ranking set wins the pot.

Flush

A flush is a hand which has five cards of the same suit, but do not necessarily have to be in sequence as far as rank. In the instance of two flushes, the highest ranking card will win the pot. If the highest ranking card is the same, the second highest ranking card would win the pot, and so on.

Straight

A straight is a hand in which you have 5 cards that are in sequence as far as rank, but do not necessarily have to be the same suit. Again, two straights are ranked by the highest card in the hand.

Three of a Kind

Commonly referred to as trips; this hand contains three cards that are the same rank, attached to two unmatched cards. If there are two hands the same, the highest ranked card wins. If the rank is identical, the highest unmatched card would win the pot.

Two Pair

This hand has two cards which are the same rank, two other cards that are the same rank and one unmatched card to supplement. The higher ranking of the pairs would carry the weight in a tie.

Pair

This hand is characterized by a pair of cards that are of the same rank and three unmatched cards to supplement.

High Card

If no other players have hands of worth, winning is determined by the high card; the player with the highest value card will win the pot. If the high card is shared between two players, the second highest would be consulted and so on.