Poker is a game that is known throughout the world and that has been played for many generations by people from all walks of life. It can be played in many different ways: from a regular deck of cards, world class tournaments, and even on a video poker machine. Variations have even been made up, such as: strip poker. As popular as poker is, many people don’t really know much about it. Let’s go over some general facts.
Poker originated in the 16th century. The Persians played it, but back then it was called “nas” and it was only played with 25 cards. Later, the game began to be played by the Europeans, who called it “poque.” The game then moved to the United States just before the Civil War. It was mainly played in New Orleans. Most players were thugs, cheats, and outlaws. Later, the game spread throughout the western United States and became the game of poker we all know today.
Poker is played with 2 or more people that places bets in a communal pot. After each round, the player with the best hand wins whatever is in the pot. At each betting round, the player has a choice of performing 1 of 4 actions:
1. Check: Placing a bet of zero that does not cancel the interest in the pot.
2. Bet or Raise: A bet that is higher than the bet placed before. Each successive player must either match or beat this bet otherwise they will lose any interest that they have in the pot.
3. Call: A bet that is the same as the bet placed before so that the player can maintain his/her interest in the pot.
4. Fold: Player surrenders his/her interest in the pot based on the hand they have or the preceding players bet.
Poker is played with a 52 card deck. Some games of poker allow for a Joker card as a wild card as well. Cards are dealt out. The hand of cards you get decides if you will win or lose the round… along with some strategy that we will get into later. Some hands are better than others. Here are the hands in order of lowest ranking (worst) to highest ranking (best).
High Card: The highest card held by any player.
One Pair: 2 identical cards, such as 2 Queens. The player with the highest number of identical cards wins.
Two Pair: 2 different pairs of identical cards, such as 2 10s and 2 Jacks. The player with the highest number of pairs wins.
Three of a Kind: Three identical cards such as 3 7s.
Straight: 5 cards in a sequence, such as 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace.
Flush: Five cards of the same suit. (Diamonds, Hearts, Clubs, Spades).
Full House: Three of a kind plus one pair such as 2 6s and 3 9s.
4 of a Kind: 4 identical cards, such as 4 8s.
Straight Flush: Five cards of the same suit in a sequence, such as 5, 6, 7, 8, 9… all of hearts.
Royal Flush: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and 10…all of the same suit.
The lowest ranking hands are much easier to get over the highest ranking hands. This is where odds come in. There are several types of odds that will determine the outcome of each poker game. The most commonly thought of odds are the card odds. Card odds are the odds of getting a particular hand during each round. An example… there are 2,598,960 possible hands using a 52 card deck. The odds of getting a royal flush during your first hand are 1 in 649,740.
The next type of poker odds are investment odds. This is where a player decides if he/she should bet on the next hand or fold. Is it chance of winning worth the chance of losing more money? This is determined by several things. Is the players hand good? Or should you bluff? We will get into that later.
The last kind of odds is the edge odds. Edge odds are used to determine the performance of the other players. Are they strong or weak players? Do you think they are bluffing? Are you or any of the other players losing your edge? Players that lose there edge are more likely to lose. This helps players determine their own odds of winning.
Now for the part of poker that can literally turn a terrible hand into a great hand. This is by bluffing and using your “poker face.” This strategy has long been used by poker players across the dawn of the game. First off, bluffing is when you do something to try to deceive other players into thinking you have a better hand than you really do. By doing so, other players may fold or drop out of the game and give you a better chance of winning the round.
Now how the heck do you bluff? There are dozens of ways. One method is to increase your bet and raise other players. They will think that you must have a good hand and that perhaps they should drop out. This doesn’t always work, however. You must effectively use you poker face.
What is a poker face? It is your general expression as you play. Professional poker players like to keep a calm and lucid expression at all times so that other players can’t tell what hand they have by the expression on their face. If you are bluffing, you may want to have an excited look on your face to give the impression that you have a great hand. But, don’t get too cocky. Other players may figure out what you are doing. The best poker face is one that always remains the same. This way other players can never tell what kind of hand you have.
There are various types of poker games. Some of those most popular are: Texas Hold ’em, 7 card stud, Omaha, and 5 card draw. How these are played will be gone over.
Texas Hold ’em: Each player is dealt 2 cards face down. Bets are made. Once this is done, the dealer places 3 cards face up in the center. This is called “the flop.” All players “share” these 3 cards and use them in conjunction with there own 2 cards that were face down. Only each individual player can see and use there own 2 cards. Another round of betting then follows. A fourth card is then placed face up. Another round of betting occurs. A fifth card is now placed face up. Players now make the best 5 card hand out of the 5 face up cards and there own 2 cards that are face down. While each round of betting occurred, players can raise, call, fold, etc. Once the fifth card is placed, only the remaining players are allowed to see who has the best hand and thus win the pot.
7 Card Stud: Each player is dealt 2 cards face down and one card face up. Players then bet depending on how good their cards are. Only each individual player can see their face down cards. Another card is placed face up in front of each player. Players bet, fold, etc. This process happens 2 more times. Now players have 2 cards faced down and 4 faced up. One final card is placed face down in front of each player. Bets can be placed until this last card is placed. The remaining players then show their 3 face down cards. These 3 cards are used with the 4 cards in the center to create the best hand with only 5 cards. The player with the best hand wins.
Omaha: This is played similarly to Texas Hold ’em except every player is dealt 4 cards face down instead of 2. Each player can only use 2 of there 4 cards. The rest is the same as Texas Hold ’em.
5 Card Draw: Each player is dealt 5 cards face down. Bets are made. Then, each player decides which of his 5 cards he wishes to keep based on what may make a better hand. Players then return the cards they do not want and draw new cards. This can happen only once. Another round of betting occurs. Then, any remaining players see who has the best hand and who wins the pot.
Poker can be played in many different variations. One is to play poker on the internet. Internet poker allows you to play any type of poker game online 24 hours a day 7 days a week. You can play with people throughout the world or against a computer opponent! It can be played for fun or for money. To play internet poker, you most likely have to download the software first. Each website has different software so pick one you like and that is secure. If you want to play for money, you fist have to deposit your own money… which you can lose! This can be done through Paypal, credit cards, etc. If you lose all of your money, you will have to deposit more in order to keep on playing. If you are playing at a free website, you do not have to do this, but you cannot win any money either.
Another variation of poker is video poker. Many casinos offer this. It is similar to a slot machine, only there are no reels and you can win without plain luck! Strategy is involved, again unlike slot machines! With slot machines, you hope the reels stop on winning locations. In video poker, you can do some of the choosing (your cards) and thus better your chances of winning.
Video poker uses a random number generator, or RNG. The RNG constantly cycles through different card hands based on the probability on how likely it can be dealt in a 52 card deck. When you push the “deal” button on the machine, it generates your hand based on this.
Since it is poker, video poker allows you to discard unwanted cards depending on what type of poker you are playing (Texas Hold ’em, 5 Card Draw, Jacks or Better, Jokers Wild, etc.). You must decide what the best strategy is and which cards to use in order to win. Each video poker machine has different rules and a different payout schedule according to what kind of hand you have.
Another variation of poker that many people like to play at their own private parties is strip poker. Strip poker puts a new spin on regular poker. This is because when people lose a round, they must remove one article of clothing. Those with no clothes left lose. Whoever is left with clothing wins. It makes for a very memorable and funny game! Strategy can help you win at strip poker. Use your poker face, bluff, and try to wear more clothing. This way you have more clothing to lose and less embarrassment.
Another variation of poker is poker tournaments. These are often held at casinos. Normally, there is an entrance fee, but some are free. The ultimate poker player usually wins a huge prize at the end of the tournament. Tournaments are usually played with chips. There is often betting limits. Some are: fixed limit, pot limit, or no limit. Sometimes there are only a handful of players, and other times there are hundreds.
One type of poker tournament that is world renowned is the World Poker Tour. This tournament occurs each year. It has an entrance fee of $10,000. Only the best players get into this tournament. Some actually get sponsored! This world class tournament is played all over the world. The final game is usually played in Las Vegas. Players progress to the next round and location based on their performance. The top players share in over $12 million in prize money. The ultimate player wins the bulk of it. The entire event is televised on the Travel Channel.
That was a lot to swallow. Hopefully you now know the basics of poker. Poker has been around for a long time, and at this rate is sure to be around much longer!