How to Play Poker

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How to Play Poker

Poker is one of the most well-liked card games in America and while most people traditionally played it among friends, poker has exploded in popularity due to the internet and the ability to wager on poker online. If you always wanted to learn how to play poker, but just didn’t get around to it, here are some tips.

There are so many poker games that one can play. The more popular poker variants include: Five Card Stud, Five Card Draw, Texas Hold Em, Let it Ride, Carribean poker, Pai Gaw Poker, English Stud and the list goes on and on. Perhaps the most popular and one of the easier poker games to learn how to play is Five Card Draw and this is the game that is taught below.

Five Card Draw

Five Card Draw is perhaps the most popular poker variant played in a home setting. However, if you are looking to learn poker in order to bet at the casinos or online, you should choose the many community poker variants, specifically Texas Hold Em. Some of the benefits of Five Card Draw is that the game play is easy to learn, everyone plays it and it is generally an exciting and fun game to play.

Five Card Draw Basics

In order to play Five Card Draw you just need a plain deck of 52 cards, some poker chips and a group of 3 to 5 poker players.

In order to start the game, you must first choose who will deal. You can draw cards to see who has the highest card in order to deal. Usually, the player to the left of the dealer gets dealt first, then moving clockwise around the table. Before a hand is dealt, all players must “ante up”. This means that if they want to play poker at the table, they must buy in to the game. The amount of each game’s ante is stated before each game. Those players that don’t want to ante up are not allowed to play.

Each player is dealt five cards, one card at a time and all cards should be dealt face down. Once the dealer has completed the deal, he can put the remaining deck aside (it will be used momentarily).

Once all cards are dealt, players can pick up their cards being careful not to disclose their cards to anyone. The object of Five Card Draw is to ultimately have the highest poker hand out of all the bettors. In the game of poker, there is a standard poker ranking of which are the highest individual cards and combinations of cards.

Individual Card Rankings

In a deck of 52 cards, ace ranks highest, then king, queen and jack. Numbered cards are ranked high to low as follows: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. Joker cards are usually discarded from the deck, but can be used in some home games as wild cards- they can be given any value you and your group decide. You will notice four suits; hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs. These suits are all equal and there are no rankings between them.

Combination Card Rankings

The following combination card rankings are ranked from lowest to highest:

Pair – A pair is two cards of equal rank. They can consist of 2 jacks, 2 twos or any two similar cards. Pairs against one another are ranked by the above individual rankings. A pair of jacks is higher than a pair of tens.

Two Pairs – Two pairs is when you have two groups of card with equal rank. In a five card hand, you may have a pair of jacks and a pair of eights

Three of a Kind – Similar to a pair, except for the fact that you now have 3 cards of the same rank.

Straight – A straight is when you have a hand of five cards in sequence. For instance, you can have a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or a 10, J, Q, K, A. Keep in mind that the suits of the card do not have to be the same, just the number or ranking of the cards need to be in sequence. The higher the last card in the sequence, ultimately the higher the ranking. Please note the lowest straight sequence is A, 1, 2, 3, 4 with the 4 being the high card. The ace in a straight can be ‘wrapped’ around, i.e. it can be played high or low. Here, it is being played low.

Flush – A flush is when you have 5 cards all of the same suit. Remember the suits are all equal, if two or more players have flushes at the table, you should then see who has the highest cards.

Full House – A full house is when a player has a hand that consists of a pair and a three of a kind. For instance, a full house might look like this; J, J, 7, 7, 7.

Four of a Kind – Similar to the pair and the three of a kind, the four of a kind is when you have four cards of the same rank. Keep in mind that the 5th card doesn’t get counted. If two players have a four of a kind, the one with the highest card wins; 5, 5, 5, 5 is beaten by 9, 9, 9, 9.

Straight Flush – A straight flush is both a straight and a flush. It is all five cards of the same suit in sequence. A straight flush might look like this; 7, 8, 9, 10, J all of the suit Hearts. While highly unlikely, if two players at the table have a straight flush, the high card wins.

Royal Flush – A royal flush is the top poker hand and is extremely hard to obtain. It consists of an A, K, Q, J and 10 all of the same suit. Since all suits are equal if there are two royal flush hands at the table, they are both equal.

First Round of Betting

Once a hand is dealt, players look at their cards and determine if the hand that they have been dealt has potential. Using the rankings above, they determine if they have a shot at winning. In Five Card Draw, players are allowed to draw cards, but before they do so, they must decide on whether they will continue to play. If your hand looks promising, you will probably want to stick in the game, in order to do so you must place a bet. For those that have been dealt a weak hand, you may want to save your money to play the next round. If you decide not to play this round, you do not have to bet and you just have to announce to the table that you “fold”. It should be noted that when you fold, you lose your initial ante.

Drawing Cards

After those that wish to fold do so, each player that remains will be able to draw cards from the remaining deck if he or she wishes. Keep in mind if you have a great hand such as a straight, you don’t have to draw any cards. For each card you draw, you have to discard one card. So if you draw two cards from the deck, you must first discard two cards. It is important to note that most house rules state that the maximum numbers of cards you can draw from the deck is four.

Once everyone has drawn from the deck a new round of betting begins. Once again going around clockwise from the player at the dealer’s left. If at this time you realize your hand is weak, you can choose not to bet anymore and fold. For those still left after the table you can once again go around the table and add to the pot or you can have a showdown with another player. A showdown is when two players keep adding to the pot, (either thinking they have the highest hand or bluffing). Bluffing is when you act as if you have a high hand, but really don’t. This strategy if done well might scare the other person to fold, even though your hand is weaker- letting you win the entire pot).

Once all players decide to stop betting or a showdown has occurred, one player can “call”. This means that the player would like everyone to finally reveal their cards. At the call, each person shows their cards to everyone at the table. The person with the highest ranking cards wins the entire pot.

For those interested in playing poker at home or online, there are plenty of sites available where you can learn the game and even practice betting. Many of these sites are simulations, so you don’t have to bet real money, just chips.