Poker has been an active card game for countless years and is a well established game whether played for fun or for serious gamblers who have made a profession from it. The main game has developed many variations but the basic rules apply to all of these with minor alterations. To an outsider who has never played the game it can seem very complicated but once a few rules and winning hands are explained the game does become a lot clearer. The easiest way to start to learn the game is to read through the winning hands and see which take priority over others, learn the basic game first and then move onto the variations as you become more advanced. For the purposes of this article we will deal with how to play 5-card Draw Poker first which is sometimes referred to as “regular poker”.
Poker is played with a regular set of playing cards i.e. a 52 card pack apart from one variation which uses less cards, all of the cards have a ranking order in the game and Aces are always high therefore the ranking order of the cards is as follows:-
Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, these cards are represented in four different suits Hearts, Clubs, Spades and Diamonds. Using a combination of the cards that you are dealt with will give you various winning hands. I will now list the winning hands starting with the highest and working down to the lowest.
This is the highest hand that you can be dealt with, to have one of these you will need a 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace but they must all be from the same suite, not an easy hand to get but it will always be the winner.
This comprises of your 5 cards following in sequence and all from the same suit i.e. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 of clubs. If two players both have a straight flush then the winning hand is the one that finishes on the highest card. Straight Flushes can only be made from a 2 upwards, you cannot follow a King , Ace with a 1, 2, 3.
To have this you will need in your hand 4 cards of the same ranking and the 5th card is not required. If two players have this combination then the player with the higher ranking cards wins i.e. four Kings will beat four 10's.
This comprises of you having three cards of the same ranking plus the remaining two cards having the same ranking i.e. three 10's plus two 5's. If two players have full houses then the player with the highest ranked three of a kind is the winner, if both of the three of a kind are ranked equally then the pair is chosen for the highest ranking.
A flush is five cards that belong to the same suit, they do not have to follow numerically but the winner is decided by the flush that contains the highest ranked card i.e. a flush that contains an Ace will beat a flush that contains a King.
A straight is all five cards that follow in sequence, lowest possible card being a 2 and the highest possible card being an Ace, if two straights are produced then the player with the highest ranking card will win.
Three cards that have the same numerical value, the other two cards are not counted in, the player with the highest ranking cards will win.
Two sets of pairs of cards of the same numerical value, the fifth card does not come into play, the player that has the highest ranked pair will win.
One pair of cards, the other three cards are not counted, the player with the highest ranked pair will win.
If no combinations can be made then the highest numerical card in the hand is counted, if two players have the same highest card then the next lowest card is checked and the player with the highest will win.
Once you understand what it tales to have a winning hand you are ready to start playing, when you first sit at the table with the rest of the players always decide amongst yourself the betting limit i.e. the maximum amount that any one player can raise the game by in each turn, this will prevent anyone from over betting the other players out and ensure that you do not gamble your life savings away.
Before any cards are dealt to the players a stake is placed into the pot, this is an agreed amount amongst the players and all of the players have to do this, once the pot has been filled then the cards are dealt. The dealer will deal each player one card face down in turn starting with the player to his left and working round the table clockwise, this is repeated until all of the players have 5 cards. The first player to the left of the dealer now takes their turn, they have two choices at this stage of the game, they can either check which means that they do not wish to open the betting but wish to stay in the game or they can open and place their bet into the pot. If the player has checked then it is the next player to the left who has the same two choices.
Once betting has been opened the next player to the left now has three choices, they can either “See” which means that they have to add the same amount of money to the pot as the person who opened the betting or they can “Raise”, this means that they place a higher amount of money into the pot than the player before them. The third option if their hand is definitely unplayable is to “Fold”, the hand of that player is discarded and they no longer take part in that round of the game.
Once all of the players have had their turn they can now discard up to three cards out of their hand and replace them with the same amount of cards from the deck. The new cards are also dealt face down so no player has any idea what the other players are holding.. Now the players have the option of opening or checking as with the first round, this continues until all of the players have finished raising the bets or all of the players have folded their hands and just the winner remains.
If there are more than one player remaining and no-one is raising the cards are turned over and the highest ranked hand takes the pot, this is when you find out who has a lucky streak!
To be successful you need to know when your hand is a lost cause and fold, do not try to out-bluff players with a hand that contains mediocre cards, keep a straight face, if you have a god hand remain calm and don't try to raise the bets too quickly, this will give the game away in no time. If you are nervous about your hand, don't show this in your face as the other players will sense this and raise you out of the game.
As mentioned above there are variations to this game so always make sure that all of the players know which version you are about to play.
In this version the players are dealt with 5 or 7 cards respectively and do not throw in any cards to get them replaced, with 7 card stud they make their hands by using the best combination of 5 cards. Usually the first two cards are dealt face down but the rest are then dealt face up. Betting is played after each card is dealt so the pot is usually larger than with 5 card draw.
Here two card are dealt and then betting commences, three cards are placed in the middle of the table face up and each player tries to make a winning hand from a combination of his two holding cards and the other three, a round of betting takes place and then another card is dealt into the middle of the table face up and betting commences again, this is repeated until there are five cards in the middle of the table.
This is a more fun version of the game where the hand with the lowest ranking takes the game and is not normally played out of the home, it is a good way of practising at poker but not for monetary gains.
As with all gambling, it is supposed to be for fun and enjoyment, never bet more money than you can afford to lose.