The basic version of Poker is the Poker Draw. All variations of poker are derived from this version.
The rules of poker are simple. Players receive cards that make a hand, and then try to improve their hand.
The player with the best hand when the showdown occurs, or the last player to stay in play after every other player has folded, wins the round.
So the strength of the hand is not the only element that can help you win at poker. The bluff has all its place in Poker.
Poker hands and their hierarchy
A poker hand always consists of 5 cards. The way the cards are dealt and the way that bets are made depend on the variant of poker played.
The poker hand is valued according to the value of the cards that make it up, but the four colours are equivalent.
Here are the poker hands in descending order:
This is the strongest poker hand. It consists of Ace, King, Queen, Jack and 10 of the same color.
It consists of a sequence of five cards of the same color, for example, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 of clubs. Between two straight flushes, the one with the highest card wins.
Square or Poker or Four of a Kind
This hand contains four cards of equal value (for example, 4 Aces), plus any card. Between two pokers, the one with the highest cards wins.
Full House or Full
It consists of three cards of the same value (set) and two cards of the same value (pair). Between two full houses, the one with the highest value wins.
Color or Flush
This hand consists of five cards of the same color. Between 2 flushes, the hand that has the highest card wins. If the highest cards are equal, it is the 2nd highest cards that are compared, and so on.
Suite or Straight
This hand consists of a sequence of five cards, but in more than one color. Between two suites, the one with the card of highest value wins.
Three of a Kind
This hand contains three cards of one rank plus two cards of any kind. Between two three of a kind, the three of a kind with the cards of the highest value wins.
This hand contains two cards of one rank, two other cards of one rank, plus any card. Between two double pairs, the one with the highest pair wins, irrespective of the value of the other cards in the hand (for example, two 10s and two 4s wins over two 9s and two 8s). If the higher pairs are equal, it is the other pairs that are compared. Finally, if they are identical, then it is the 5th card of each hand that are compared. In case of total equality, the pot is split.
This hand contains two cards of one rank and three other cards of different values. Between two pairs, the one that holds the pair with the highest value wins. If the pairs are identical, it is the other 3 cards of each hand that are compared, one by one, from the one with the highest value to the one with the lowest value.
This hand has five cards that do not meet any of the criteria of the hands described above. It is the hand with the highest card that wins. If the highest cards between two hands are identical, it is the 2nd highest cards that are compared, and so on.
Poker can be played between 2 and 12 players, depending on the variant. Most frequently, the tables gather 7 players.
There are three basic categories of Poker: Draw Poker, Stud Poker, and Flop Poker. The Texas Hold’em, which is undoubtedly the most popular variant of Poker today, belongs to the 3rd category. In Flop Poker, each player plays with his cards and “community cards”, which are placed in the middle of the table for everyone to share.
Texas Hold’em Poker Rules
In Texas Hold’em Poker, each player receives 2 cards, face down. The players make their bids. After the bidding, if more than one player is still in play, then 3 cards are drawn and placed face up in the middle of the table. This is the flop. They are community cards that each player can “combine” with his own to make a 5 card hand. Another round of bidding takes place. After the bidding, if more than one player is still in play, then 1 card is drawn and placed face up in the middle of the table, next to the flop. This is the turn. Another round of bidding takes place. After the bidding, if more than one player is still in play, then 1 (final) card is drawn and placed face up in the middle of the table, next to the turn. This is the river. Another round of bidding takes place. After the bidding, if more than one player is still in play, then the showdown occurs. The player with the highest hand wins.
The game is played with a deck of 52 cards and a token (or button), which determines which player deals the cards. The game is played clockwise, from the position of the dealer. Note that contrary to the game of Blackjack, where players play against the dealer who represents the casino, at Poker, players play against each other.
The goal of the game of Texas Hold’em is to build the strongest hand using your private cards and the community cards. Note that unless the showdown occurs, your private cards are only known to you.
In Texas Hold’em, two initials bets are imposed on the player immediately to the left of the dealer and the player immediately to his left. These bets are known as the small blind and the big blind. The big blind is twice the amount of the small blind. The amount of the small blind is agreed upon between all players at the table. The player immediately to the left of the dealer has the small blind and the player to his left the big blind.
Once the blinds are raised, the cards are dealt. The dealer distributes the cards one by one to each player in clockwise motion. Each player receives two cards, which are “private” and which only he sees. When all players have their cards, the 1st round of bidding starts. At the beginning of this round of bidding, the minimum bet is the value of the big blind. The first player to speak is the one to the left of the player who raised the small blind. Since he hasn’t made any bid yet, he may:
- “call”, meaning that he bids the amount of the big blind to stay in the game,
- “raise” by x dollars, meaning that he bids the amount of the blind and raises it by x dollars to raise the stakes,
- “fold”, meaning that he does not bid any money and subtracts himself from this game.
The other players have the same options: call, raise, or fold. Whenever a player calls, he bids the amount which is currently at stake. So if a player has raised the stakes to $100, for example, then to stay in the game, the other players need to bid $100 or more. The first player to raise the stakes during a bidding round can raise them by the amount he wants, but any other player wishing to further raise the stakes will have to do it by at least the amount of the last raise. In other words, if a player has raised the stakes by $75, you cannot further raise them by $50. You can call $75, you can raise $75 or more, or you can fold.
A bidding round comes to an end in either of the following cases:
- only one player is left in the game,
- no player has raised the stakes further.
When the initial bidding round is completed, the game continues with:
- the flop, if there is more than one player still in play,
- another bidding round, the 2nd of the game,
- the turn, if there is more than one player still in play,
- another bidding round, the 3rd of the game,
- the river, if there is more than one player still in play,
- another bidding round, the 4th of the game,
- the showdown, if there is more than one player still in play.
In the 2nd, 3rd and 4th bidding rounds of the game, the players have no obligation to risk more money to stay in the game, they can just “check” what will happen next, unless a player has raised the stakes by making a “bet” of x dollars.
The other bid that a player may make at any point in time during a bidding round is “all in”. You guessed it, “all in” means that he is bidding all the money that he has left, whatever that amount is.
So the possible bids at Texas Hold’em poker are:
- raise x dollars,
- bet x dollars,
- all in.
Because no player has to reveal his cards unless the showdown stage is reached, you may very well win without having to reveal your hand, and possibly with a weaker hand than the other players at the table. It all depends on how “capable” you are of convincing the other players that your hand is stronger than theirs. Whether it really is or not is irrelevant. If you get every other player to fold before the showdown stage, then the pot is yours. Only if you reach the showdown stage will you really need your hand to be stronger than theirs to win.
After a game, the token (or button) is moved clockwise, and the new dealer shuffles the cards, has them cut, waits until the blinds are raised by the two players to his left, and starts dealing the cards. It’s a new game.
Final thoughts on Poker
Poker is a very interesting card game, which you can (and will) quickly get addicted to. It is extremely easy to win big at Poker, but it is just as easy to lose big. What is really exciting about Poker is the opportunity to bluff. Everything you say or do at the Poker table will be scrutinized by the other players. They will base their decision just as much on their hand as on their “reading” of yours. The more you can throw the other players off, the better. You’ll want them to think that you have a weak hand when you have a strong one, so that they raise the stakes and you cash in a big pot. You’ll want them to think that you have a strong hand when you have a weak one, so they back-off and let you cash in a pot which you would otherwise have had no chance to win. But if it gets to the showdown, then the cards will speak. But even then, anything can happen.
A couple of our friends who play poker didn’t like playing online at first because they couldn’t read the body language of the other players. They couldn’t tell if they were nervous, if they were sweating, if they were looking at their cards every 20 seconds, if they were relaxed, etc. But now, with the webcams at the tables in certain online casinos, they are more comfortable playing online. While it’s still not the same as playing face-to-face with the other players, around a real poker table, it gives the players a better “reading” of what is happening at the table. If you have a webcam on your computer, give it a shot now! You won’t regret it.
Play Poker Now!