What are Poker Rules?
General poker rules are quite simple. Poker itself is divided into a number of types, each of them with unique gameplay, but all following the same, basic rule: To win, you need to have the highest hand possible, or force your opponent to fold his hand by smart betting.
Let’s start with the card hierarchy. The value of each card is marked with a rank from 2 to A. The 2 is always the lowest and Ace is the highest. However, an Ace can be used to complete a straight (A-2-3-4-5), and in that case, Ace is considered to be the lowest card. In some types of poker, such as Razz and Omaha Hi/Lo, Ace is considered to be the lowest card.
Card suits also have their hierarchy in poker. In variants such as Hold’em or Omaha, the suits are not relevant, because you cannot complete the exact same hand in two different suits. In some variants, like 5-card draw or Stud, card suits do matter, because it’s possible to complete two hands with different suits.
Let’s get familiar with hands, that are identical in each poker variant. A poker hand always consists of exactly 5 cards. The weakest hand is the highest card you hold (High Card), while the strongest is the Royal Flush. The strength of poker hands and their hierarchy is, of course, dependent on their occurrence frequency. Weak hands are much easier to complete and the strongest ones are very rare. There are players who play online poker for years and never had a Royal Flush.
Here are the examples of all poker hands:
- One Pair – Two cards of the same rank: K-K 7-6 -A
- Two Pair: K-K 7-7 A
- Three of a kind (trips, set): K -K- K 5-A
- Straight – Any five consecutive cards of different suits: 2h-3s- 4d-5c-6d
- Flush – Any five cards of the same suit (not consecutive): 3d 6d Ad Kd Qd
- Full House – Any three cards of the same rank and two cards of the same rank: K-K-K A-A
- Four of a Kind – Four cards of the same rank: K-K-K-K A
- Straight Flush – Any straight with all five cards of the same suit: 5s 6s 7s 8s 9s
- Royal flush – A straight from 10 to an Ace with all five cards of the same suit. The highest hand possible in poker: Ts Js Qs Ks As.
Each system is valuable, because of the individual cards from which it is composed. For example, a pair of deuces is lower than a pair of sevens, which is lower than a pair of aces. The same rule applies to three of a kind (set, trips) and straight. The straight from 2 to 6 is weaker than the straight from 9 to King for example.
Remember that each system consists of five cards – no more, no less. When you have a pair, only two of your cards are identical, but your hand is also made by the remaining 3 cards, which also have their value. Let’s assume that the following situation occurs:
You and your opponent have the following hands:
- You: Kh Kd Ac 7d 4s
- Opponent: Ks Kc Qh Jd Th
Each of you has a pair of kings, but you are winning this hand, because of your High Card – the Ace is higher than the High Card of your opponent (in this case it’s the Queen). We call this card a kicker. The higher the kicker, the greater the chance of winning the hand. Perhaps you will find all that confusing at first, but after a while, these rules will become your bread and butter and you will consider them to be easy.
You don’t win at poker only by having the best hand. The most important part of poker is a betting round, which is a strategic part of the game. In the betting round, you decide what to do with your hand. The rules of betting rounds are different for each of the poker variants. However, you always make one of the five basic decisions: CHECK, BET, CALL, RAISE or FOLD.
- Check – means that you simply wait and do nothing this turn. You don’t bet, and you don’t contribute to the pot – you wait for your opponent’s decision. If you’re the last one in the queue to make a decision, the action depends on the variant of poker. Another card can be dealt, or all players can show their hands (showdown).
- Bet – none of the players has put any chips into the pot yet, so the first one who will do that, performs a bet.
- Call – calling a bet. If your opponent has put a specific amount of money into the pot, you can call him by matching that amount.
- Raise – raising the bet. A raise is only possible if a player before you placed a bet in this round. For example, a player bets $10 and you raise him to $20.
- Fold – folding your cards. You resign from further play in the hand. The fold is performed when player bets and you don’t want to call or raise – you decide to let go of your hand. It’s not possible to win a hand After the fold.
Each betting round lasts until everyone puts the same amount of chips into the pot, or if only one player is left in the game.
Probably it’s best to explain the betting phase with an example. Let’s assume that we have 4 players in the hand:
- Player 1: Check – he doesn’t bet and waits for his opponents to make a move.
- Player 2: Bet $10 – he bets. Now, if the other players want to continue to participate in the hand, they must pay $10, or raise his bet.
- Player 3: Fold – player believes, that his hand is too weak and quits by folding his cards.
- Player 4: Raise $30 – this player decides to raise the first bet, and now the stake is at $30.
At this point, not all players have put the equal amount of money in, so the queue goes back to Player 1.
- Player 1: Fold – he leaves the hand.
- Player 2: Call – carefully calls for $20.
We have two players left in the hand – Player 2 and Player 4. Both of them added the same amount of money into the pot ($30).
There are many movies out there with poker scenes, in which one of the characters suddenly bets more money than his opponent has on the table. Such scenes make a lot of people believe that poker debts are a common thing, but in modern poker, no such things are taking place. A player can only use the money he has available at the beginning of the hand. No chips can be added during a hand and you cannot bet with more chips than your opponent has in his stack at a given time (stack means all your chips available at the table).
Let’s say we have two players in a hand. The pot is $50, Player 1 has an additional $50 in his stack, while Player 2 has only $30. Player 1 goes all in, which means he bets all his chips ($50). In this case, Player 2 doesn’t have to fold his hand, because he doesn’t have enough chips to cover Player 1’s bet. If Player 2 decides to call for his remaining $30, the excess amount of Player 1’s bet ($20) goes back to his stack and the stake is on $30. The pot value is $110 ($50 from the previous round and $60 from the current betting round).
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