Poker is a card game where players compete against one another to win the pot- collected chips or cash. While the game does rely on chance, there is quite a bit of strategy involved, and many methods for winning incorporate psychology, odds and game theory.

This is one of the oldest and most popular card games still being played, and it is one of the few that is played at an international level in major tournaments. The cash prize for the winner of these tournaments can be in the millions of dollars.

The Rules

The goal of the game is to hold the best hand, that is, the most desirable assortment of cards. Each card retains its own value but can be worth more when paired with other cards. More information about card values and types of hands can be found later in this guide.

If players are playing the game in a casino setting, the dealer or house always deals the cards. Otherwise, the role of dealer would rotate through the assembled players. At the start of the game, the dealer gives each player a card in turn, one card at a time. Cards are always dealt to players in a clockwise fashion. A typical poker hand is five cards, but more cards can be added throughout the game. If a player has more than five cards by the time they are required to play or reveal their hand, then only their five best cards are counted.

There are many different variations of poker, and which one is being played will determine if the cards are being played face up or face down. Bets are often made once the cards are dealt, and bets can also be made any time during the round. Individual players can call their own bets, and if no other players choose to match the bet, then they fold. At this point, the game will end immediately. No cards will be required to be shown, and the hand concludes, with the player who called the bet (the bettor) winning the pot. The next hand may continue with new cards being dealt or with the same cards being put into play again.

When a player makes a bet, this gives that player an opportunity to bluff. The player may not have a very good hand and may realize that their only chance of winning is to pretend that they do have a good hand. If they do not betray their hand through their face, then they are presenting what is known as a poker face. It is up to the other players to decide if the bettor is bluffing and either call him on it or fold. If they choose to call the bettor on his bluff, then they must present their cards and the bettor must present his cards as well. Any other players that want to call the bluff may choose to do so at this time and present their cards. The player with the best hand wins the pot.

Only one player may win a hand at a time. While the pot can continue to stay on the table and grow, other players can claim it from the winner through consecutive hands. It is up to the player who won a hand to decide if he wants to bet all his winnings or just a portion.

Card Values and Hands

Individual card values for poker follow basic card rules, but they are ranked by order rather than having specific numerical values. The ace is the highest, followed by the king, queen, jack and then the number cards in descending order. The ace card can be played as a 1 or the lowest card in a hand if it is paired in the following order- ace, 2, 3, 4, 5. Cards are always ranked in these standard orders, even if they are arranged differently in the player’s hand. In online poker games, the cards will be automatically ordered by rank.

Of the hands possible in most poker games, a straight flush is the most valuable, followed by four of a kind, a full house, a flush, a straight, three of a kind, two pair, one pair and a high card. If more than one player holds the same kind of hand, the hand with the higher ranking cards wins.

Straight- A straight is a hand that contains five cards, all in ranking order. There must be no spaces between their orders. So a hand of 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 would be a straight, whereas a hand of 10, 9, 7, 6, 5 would not be. It does not matter what suit (diamond, heart, club or spade) the cards are from for a straight hand.

Flush- In a flush hand, all cards must be from the same suit. Their order is not important.

Straight Flush- A straight flush satisfies both requirements for a flush and a straight. That means all cards must be of the same suit and must flow in order of rank with no breaks. A hand of jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, all in clubs, would be a straight flush.

Four of a Kind- If the player holds a hand with four cards of the same number or rank, then they have four of a kind. The higher the rank of the numbers, the better their hand is, and a four of a kind containing all kings would beat a four of a kind hand of all jacks.

Three of a Kind- A hand with three cards of the same rank would be a three of a kind. Once again, the higher the ranking of the numbers, the more value it holds.

Full House- Full house hands have two sets of cards in them. There are three cards from the same rank and two cards from another rank. A hand of 3, 3, 3, 5, 5 would be a full house. Full house hands go by several names, including “three over pair” and “three full of pair”.

Two Pair- If you have two sets of cards of the same rank, then your hand is considered two pair. A hand with 2, 2, 4, 4, 5 is considered two pair, as the 2’s and the 4’s make separate pairs.

One Pair- If your hand only has a single pair, then you have what is known as one pair.

High Card- If the cards in your hand do not meet any of the requirements of any of the above hands, then only your highest card counts. You may still win the hand if all other players fold or have hands of lesser value than yours.

Strategies for Playing

Poker is almost always played for money online, though there are free games available as well. If you are new to the game, you should try to keep your bets small and play cautiously. Bluffing becomes easier online since no one can see your face, but if you are playing against human players or a live dealer, and you constantly bluff, you are very likely to be called on it.

Many times it is useful to fold and try for a better hand on the next turn. Your chances of getting a good hand increase as you play additional hands. So you may want to save your money and your high bets for when it will really pay off.

Just because you have a good hand, you may not want to go all in (bet everything). Other players may hold hands that are better than yours, so even solid hands need to be bet on with caution.

Before you make a bet, take time to consider the odds of other players having a better hand. This will be easier to do with a standard 52-card deck, which most online sites will use. However, some of them will use multiple decks, and you will need to be wary that this can lead to increased odds for overpowering hands.