Poker is a game of chance, however, once you try to understand the whole concept of the game, you will come to realise that it is a mixture of skill, knowledge, and a basic understanding of psychology. There are many variations to this game, and Texas Hold’em is one of the most popular one. Once you get the hang of it, this may become on of your favorite gaming choices.
It may take days or years to learn, but for some, a lifetime to master. In this short start-up guide, we will try to introduce you to the basic rules of poker and help you master it successfully.
The Basics of Poker
Poker is played with a standard deck of 52 cards (occasionally with the addition of one or two jokers) that are ranked from high to low. Their ranking is the following: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. Also, there are four suites and no suit is ranked higher than the others. The suites are the following: spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. Basically, all poker hands will contain five cards, and according to their rank, the strongest hand will win.
Usually, poker is a one-deck game, however, nowadays two decks prevail in both online and live poker. The used decks are in contrasting colours for easier recognition and to speed up the game. Moreover, the dealer always follows a standard procedure: cards are dealt to the left, and when the time comes, the shuffled deck is passed to the next card dealer (the dealer button also rotates to the left).
Five of a Kind — This hand has a real low shot of happening at all since it involves using wildcards, which exist only in certain versions of poker. However, this is by far the strongest hand one can have. And if it happens that there is more than one player that has five of a kind, the higher card will win (Five Kings beats five queens, etc.).
Straight Flush — Players have always considered this to be the strongest hand combination (without the use of wildcards). A straight flush is a sequence of 5 consecutive cards that are all of the same suit (e.g. 5-6-7-8-9).
Four of a Kind — Simply put, four of a kind means that a player has four of the same cards. In cases where there are two or more hands with the four of a kind, the hand with the highest ranked card will prevail.
Full House — This hand is made up of three of a kind and a pair. Ties are decided by the card ranks. For example: if one player has three Kings and a pair of 2s, that will most definitely beat three Queens and a pair of aces.
Flush — A hand of five cards in the same suit, but not in a sequence.
Straight — The cards are aligned in a sequence, however, they are not all of the same suits.
Three of a Kind — This hand consists of a combination of three of the same cards.
Two Pairs — This combination contains two different pairs of cards in hand — Here’s an example hand: Q, Q, 7, 7, 5.
One Pair — This combination is the most frequent one and contains just one pair, such as: 10,10, K, 3, 2.
High Card — In case that nobody has a pair or something better, the player with the highest card wins. If there is a tie, the dealer will look for the second highest card. High card principle is also applied to the situation when there is a need to break a tie between the high hands that are of the same strength (flush, straight, pair).
In the end, the ranking and the hand you will get is always based on mathematics, so unless you are planning to bluff, you shouldn’t bet unless you are holding a hand that could score you a win. For example, a player shouldn’t expect to get a straight flush more than once in 65,000 hands, however, you may get two pairs about once in 21 hands.
How Do You Bet?
So, now to learn the essence of the poker — betting. During the course of every Poker game, there will be one or couple of betting intervals in which players will have an opportunity to bet on their available hands. The underlying skill and goal is to minimise the losses with weak hands.
The rules require players to put a contribution called “ante” to start off, and that means they’re required to put in at least one or more chips to the pot. Furthermore, each betting round starts with players investing one or more chips (if they wish to), and then every other player needs to “call” that bet by putting in the same number of chips or “raise” with more on top of that bet. On the other hand, the third option is to “drop” (fold) and quit until the next dealing. Additionally, when players drop, they lose any chips they’ve put in the pot. And unless they put the same amount of chips as any proceeding player, they will need to step out the game.
If a player wants to stay in the game and avoid further betting, they will “check,” or in other words, make a “bet of nothing.” However, if any other previous player has made a bet before, others no longer have the option to “check.” In that case, they can only call that bet or fold. However, the players can also decide to raise a bet that has been raised by another player. This is called “sandbagging,” and it will be clearly stated beforehand whether this option is allowed in the venue.
The betting order is always the same in each game — the first one to bet is the player left of the dealer. In addition, the betting order moves clockwise, so no one can check, bet, or raise before their turn.
Types of Poker
Nowadays, when someone talks about poker, they usually refer to Texas Hold’em since this type of poker has become increasingly popular over the past decade. What is more, players have been reading about it, playing it, and even watching the World Series of Poker championship. However, there are many variations of poker you may encounter in case you wish to join the massive poker community.
This is easily one of the most popular poker games in most parts of the world. In this version, there are four betting rounds during which players can call, raise, or fold. However, before the first round, the dealer will give two cards to the players (hole cards). And as soon as the first round of betting is over, the dealer will reveal three community cards. This first round is called the “flop.” After that, once the fourth community card is revealed comes the “turn,” and lastly, when the fifth card is exposed — “the river.” Finally, players need to make their own best hand combining their cards with the five community cards. And once the four rounds are finished, the players who haven’t folded reveal their cards in the showdown.
Omaha is a type of Hold’em poker and 2–10 players can enjoy this version at the time. Just like with Texas Hold’em, there are also four betting rounds, but each player receives four hole cards instead of two, as in Texas Hold’em. Finally, players need to make their 5-card hands by combining two of their hole cards with three community cards.
In this version, each player receives seven cards, four of them faced up. The goal is to make the best possible 5-card hand from their initial 7.
Overall, playing poker is an exciting experience that can bring you handsome profit and hours of fun. No matter if you are interested in being a casual player or a true professional, you need to remember the following: it is impossible to play every hand and make a profit in each round. The game is based on mathematics, so don’t fall for the classic gambler’s fallacy.
So if you’re a beginner, try to follow this simple guide and avoid playing with real money for at least a couple of months. Although there are many variations of this game, the basics remain the same. And once you master the basic rules and maybe even develop a strategy, you will be able to enjoy this fantastic game without fear of losing much. However, bear in mind that the best way to combat that beginner’s fear you might be having is through knowledge and preparation. So if you wish to join the poker community, start learning and master the game. Good luck!