What is poker?
No definition of poker could possibly satisfy everyone despite the majority of games sharing the same common features. Poker is played in cardrooms (mostly within casinos) across the world, home games (illegal in some areas) and more recently on the internet.
Cardrooms and Internet poker consist of mostly stud, draw and flop games. Among the most popular are Texas Hold ‘Em, Seven & Five Card Stud, Omaha High, Omaha High/Low and Razz. Home games however, have what seems hundreds of different poker varieties, some of which if you saw played you may struggle to call poker! In recent times Texas Hold ‘Em has become the most popular poker game whereever cards are dealt. TV coverage has highlighted the beautiful simplicity of the game which only takes a minute to learn but (to quote one famous poker commentator) a lifetime to master.
With no embarrassment for bad calls, no smokey atmosphere and the comfort of your own home, online poker has become the place to find poker action 24 hours a day. You can join in free spins no deposit games with stakes as little as 4 cents or play for free whilst you learn your chosen game.
Cardrooms are becoming more and more novice friendly, most offering at least one beginners night per week. The play here is slower then the internet as a real person has to shuffle and deal the cards. Many cardrooms have different rules and you should always check what is expected of you before you take your seat, for example, in low stake tournaments or beginners nights, you may be asked to deal for the table and yourself (self deal).
The number of players can range from two (known as heads-up) up to ten for single table tournaments and cash games. Multi-table tournament numbers are not limited unless specified by the tournament organiser and can often have fields of over 1000 players. Typically for a ten player tournament the first three players share the prize money, usually 50% for 1st, 30% for 2nd and 20% for 3rd.
Almost every game is played with one deck of 52 playing cards. For the more popular game of Texas Hold ‘Em, here are the hand rankings from best to worst.
|Royal Flush||Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten – of the same suit.|
|Straight Flush||Nine, Ten, Jack, Queen, King (best straight flush) though to Ace, Two, Three, Four, Five (worst straight flush) – of the same suit.|
|4 of a kind||Any four matching cards.|
|Full House||Has two of a kind and three of a kind in the same hand, for example – Queen, Queen, Ace, Ace, Ace.|
|Flush||Any five cards of the same suit.|
|Straight||Any five connecting cards, for example – Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight.|
|3 of a kind||Any three matching cards.|
|Two pairs||for example – Ace, Ace, King, King.|
|A pair||Any two matching cards.|
|High card||The highest card in your hand.|
The first game, step by step
Assuming you are playing a ten player tournament (know as Sit N Go) on the internet:
- Once the ten places are taken, the game will begin and you will be given a seat.
- The play begins after the dealer button (marked ‘D’) with two players making blind bets, the small blind and the big blind.
- Two cards are dealt to each player. The player immediately after the big blind is first to act.
- When it is your turn you have the choice to call, raise or fold. If you are the small blind you have already placed half of the amount needed in your blind bet to see any more cards, if you are the big blind you have already placed the amount needed to see the flop unless a player raises before it is your turn. If there is a raise you have the choice to re-raise, call or fold.
- The Flop: Three community cards are dealt face up. Every player at the table who didn’t fold before the flop can now use these cards to help their hand, there is another round of betting at this stage. If nobody bets you can simply check and see the next card without placing any more money into the pot. A bet must be called or raised if you wish to see the next card, otherwise you must fold.
- The Turn: A fourth community card is dealt face up. Again, every player still in the hand can check, bet, call, raise or fold depending on the actions of others.
- The River: A fifth and final community card is dealt face up. Here we see the last betting action. If a bet is made by one player and called by another, both players must turn over their cards and the winner is decided.
- If at any stage a bet is made but not called, the person betting takes the whole pot, this person has the choice to show his cards or simply pass them back to the dealer (known as mucking)
- Once the winner is decided, a new hand starts, the dealer button is moved one place clockwise. The blinds will increase usually after a set period of time.
- After the final person is eliminated, the prize money is shared out and the game is complete.