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Poker Rules! (And How to Play it)


Poker rules can be tough to explain, mainly because there are so many variations of the game with different structures, rules, betting policies, strategies and tactics. So, we can't really do much more in this one article than give you a broad overview of basic poker rules. Once you've got this, spend some time checking out the poker rules of individual games and reading about poker strategy.

Poker can be played with one deck of cards or with more than one or can also involve the addition of extra cards (Jokers). As with most card games, poker rules state that cards are ranked from high to low throughout the deck from King (high) to Two (low) - the ace can be ranked high or low depending on what you're playing. Some games can also use wild cards to mix it up a little.

The rules of some games might state that you get dealt, for example, seven cards. But, all poker rules mean that you're only really interested in five cards. Your best five cards will win (or lose!) you money. You call these five cards your 'hand' and your objective is to put the best combination possible together.

Basic hands (in order of best to worst) are:

Five of a Kind: Five of the same card (i.e. five Aces, five Kings etc)

Royal Flush: The "top" straight flush (Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten of one suit)

Straight Flush: Five cards of the same suit in ranking order (i.e. Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six of Hearts)

Four of a Kind: Four of the same card (i.e. four Nines)

Full House: Three of the same card plus a pair (i.e. three Kings and a pair of Tens)

Flush: Five cards of the same suit (i.e. King, Jack, Five, Three and Two of Spades)

Straight: Five cards in rank order but in different suits (i.e. Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six - in any suit)

Three of a kind: Three of the same card (i.e. three Nines)

Two pair: Two of the same card x two (i.e. two Fours and two Twos)

One pair: Two of the same card (i.e. two Fives)

High card: The highest card you have if you have nothing better as listed above

For most people, the whole thrill of poker is in the betting. It's what turns a basic card game into an exciting (and potentially lucrative) combat zone where you pit your wits and your nerves against other people. So, you can have a mediocre hand but if your body language and eye contact say different then you can fake another player into betting or folding…even if he has a sure-fire winning hand!

The poker rules for betting vary according to the game you're playing. The basic types of betting include:

Limit: Here you fix the amount that can be bet at any given time

No Limit: Here you can bet what you have available or whatever you like

Spread Limit: Here you can bet between two fixed amounts

Pot Limit: Here you can bet anything up to the value of the pot on the table

In many instances poker rules say that you have to pay a bet to get dealt a card then you bet according to how lucky, blessed or downright aggressive your hand is making you feel! Betting basically goes round the table raising the stakes until players start to fold and there is a pot winner. Your betting choices are basically to check, call, raise or fold.

There are no hard and fast rules as to which bet you choose - it's up to your hand, your judgment and your perception of your competitors' cards that will dictate what you do to try to win!

A key thing to remember is that it's not just the hand you were dealt that can win the game for you. You can also use your personality, body language and the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents to take the pot money. Poker is just as much about psychology as it is about chance and a good poker player will use this to good effect. There's nothing in poker rules that says you can't bluff, lie, dissemble and fake the way you look to others about the cards you're holding! You just can't cheat!

Read individual games' poker rules

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