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Poker originated in the American west in the 1800s. Poker is a game of skill, luck and psychology. Unlike blackjack, the players play against each other with no dealer. Deal passes from player to player. This is the most basic form of poker, known as draw poker or 5 card draw.

The Cards

A single standard deck of 52 cards is used and some variations include jokers or "wild" cards. The cards are ranked in order with the ace the highest card and twos being the lowest.

Each player is dealt a "hand" of five cards and each hand is ranked according to the following list starting with the highest hand.

Royal Flush
Five of a Kind (with a Wild card or Joker)
Straight Flush
Four of a Kind
Full House
Three of a Kind
Two Pair
High Card
A royal flush is made up of a straight flush with an ace high. This is the highest possible natural hand.

A five of a kind is only possible with wild cards. If another player has five of a kind, then the higher cards win - i.e. five kings beat five jacks.

A straight flush is five sequential cards all in the same suit.

Four of a kind contains four cards all the same value.

A full house is made up of 3 cards of the same value and a pair. When wild cards are used and more than one player has a full house the three of a kind values are compared, then the pair values. The highest hand wins.

A flush is made up of any 5 cards from the same suit.

A straight is made up of any 5 sequential cards, regardless of suit.

A three of a kind contains three cards of equal value.

Two pair is made up of two sets of pairs.

A pair is two cards of equal value.

A high card is the weakest hand. If no player has a pair or higher , then high cards are compared and the highest card wins.

Some poker variations include wild cards which may be jokers or other designated cards in the deck. This can cause some confusion when ranking winning hands. A five of a kind usually ranks above a straight flush. Some games will rank hands without wild cards higher than those with wild cards.

Poker Rules

Play usually begins with players placing an "ante" or minimum bet to be dealt cards. Betting starts after each player is dealt five cards face down. Players place their bets in a pot in the middle of the table and take turns going clockwise beginning with the player to the left of the dealer.

The first player to bet may choose to "open" the betting and place a bet or "check" which means they don't want to open the betting but are still in the game.

Once the betting has been opened. The next player has the following options:

See - you match the opening bet
Raise - you match the opening bet and increase the bet
Fold - you quit and lose whatever you have in the pot and place your cards face down on the table.

After each player has made their initial betting decision. Each player now has the option to exchange up to 3 cards for 3 new ones. No one sees the cards discarded. The most basic form of draw poker will allow you to exchange all of your cards for new ones.

After each player has exchanged their cards, then another round of betting begins. The hand ends when there are no more raises or everyone except one folds.

Its now time for everyone to turn over their hands to see who won.


Poker is all about making the other players think you have a poor hand, when in fact you have a winning hand. This way they all stay in the game and keep betting to increase the pot and potentially your winnings. However, unless you plan to "bluff", you should know when to cut your losses with a bad hand and fold. Poker players are good liars and actors.

What is "bluffing" you ask? This is a mainstay strategy of the game. This involves betting high to scare the other players into thinking you have a great hand, when in fact you may have nothing but a high card.

You may choose to play aggressively by often betting the maximum and forcing other players to bet more than they would like to stay in the game. If you are good at it, this could be a quick and profitable way to play.

Many new poker players play conservatively by always betting the minimum and folding when the cards are not very good. Although they may keep more of their bankroll, they never win the big pots either. Conservative players often fall prey to the trickery of the bluffer. If other players peg you as a conservative player, they will bail whenever you bet more than the minimum.

Avoid bluffing heavy winners, they can afford to call. Players new to poker are often desperate to know what you've got and will call you just to see your hand. Experienced players are often cautious and are easier to bluff. Keep in mind how your cards look to the other players. Don't bluff with absolutely nothing in your hand.

All good poker players are good observers. Many players have a "tell" - something that indicates when they have a good hand. When you lie and bluff, you may inadvertently scratch your nose or wipe your brow. The object is to discover the other players tells while hiding your own. Perfect your "poker face".


Try different styles of play. It's wise to play conservatively just starting out. Once you are comfortable with the game try playing aggressively to see how the other player react. They may reveal tells when switching from passive to aggressive play.

Make them pay. If you see a weakness in a player, exploit it! Poker is about making money. That player will soon learn their lesson. Don't feel guilty about making them learn that lesson. We've all learned that lesson.

Learn from better players. If someone takes you for all you've got, find out how they did it. There's always something to learn from watching them play. Once you've figured them out, they will no longer have an edge against you.

Go for the high stakes. If you have been winning at a $1-$2 table, then try the $2-$5 table. You have a shot at higher winnings and get a chance to learn from better players.

If you are new and losing, keep at it. Most professional poker players lost big in their early days, but learned valuable lessons from it.

Try the real money games. You'll find a lot of players making frequent and outrageous bluffs for no reason. They've got nothing to lose. When you sit down at a real money game, you'll find it a lot different. Suddenly, these players start to fold and check more often.

Practice your poker face. The best way to win is to not give any clues about how good or bad your hand is.

Never be afraid to fold and fold frequently, if you must. If you have a poor hand, don't expect later cards to give you something better. It's always better to loose a few small bets than to get roped into a betting war and lose your shirt.

Don't drink alcohol when playing poker, especially in a casino. Alcohol makes you lose your inhibitions and you just might start betting the maximum with just a high card!

Use your head. Always be in control of your play and betting. Don't start betting the kids college fund or your mortgage payment for the next six months or you may find yourself in need of services of organizations like Gamblers Anonymous.


There are a number of variations of poker. Check out Casino Game Guides for descriptions of these and more.