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The origins of Poker date back as far back as the 16th century, when Germans huddled together in their Fachhallenhause and attempted to bluff their way to fuller purses. The game as we know it today started out as “Pochen” before moving over to France and becoming “Poque”.
While the original versions might not have been recognisable in today’s gambling establishments, it did eventually make its way over to the Mississippi riverboats, where it became the beloved game that would later be played across the world – the game better known as Poker.
It was in the 1800’s that Poker took on the familiar form that we know today, but that wasn’t the end of its evolution. The game continued to take on different forms – for example, it was during the Civil War that Stud Poker was first introduced to the world.
Today, there are many variations of the game, with rules that differ depending on what game is played and where. In some instances, a game of Poker played in two establishments based next door to each other can have different rules, depending on the “House Rules”. House Rules are the rules put in place by a specific casino, whether that is online or offline.
Today, Poker is played in just about every corner of the world. It’s a beloved pastime that requires a generous helping of luck and skill, and the right combination has been known to change the very lives of its players.
If you want to play a game well you need a sound knowledge of the rules and Poker is no different. Whether you’re playing 888 Poker or Texas Holdem, here is everything you need to know about this game.
Poker is scored with a hand of five cards in almost every version of the game, with the exception of a small number of variations. During a hand of Poker, the aim is for the players to use strategy and skill to try and compile the best hand from the cards that have been dealt.
Each type of hand is scored according to a set of rules, allowing players a clear indication of who is the winner once the hands are revealed (if they are indeed revealed). From highest to lowest ranking, here are the various hands that you could expect to play in a game of Poker:
- Five of a Kind: this is the highest ranking hand that it is possible to get in a game of Poker. This hand consists of a wild card followed by four deuces. In games where a wild card is not in play, five cards of the same kind (e.g. five 3’s), count as a Five of a Kind. In those instances where more than one player produces this hand, the highest ranking card will take the pot.
- Straight Flush: this is a hand of five cards of the same suit, in a sequence (e.g. 5,6,7,8 and 9 of clubs). A royal flush is an A,K,Q,J and 10, all of the same suit.
- Four of a Kind: this hand consists simply of four cards of the same rank (e.g four 8’s). The fifth card does not matter.
- Full House: this hand is made up of three cards of the same ranking and then two cards of same ranking (e.g. three 8’s and two 9’s).
- Flush: five cards of the same suit, regardless of their ranking, makes a Flush.
- Straight: a straight consists of five cards in a sequence, regardless of their suit.
- Three of a Kind: three cards of the same rank (e.g. three 9’s) make up this hand.
- Two Pairs: two pairs of matching ranking cards make up this hand (e.g. two 2’s and two jacks).
- One Pair: two cards of a matching ranking make up this hand.
- No Pair: a player has no pairs or “nothing when the hand they have does not meet the criteria for any of the hands described above. In the event that all players have “nothing”, the hands will then be rated by the highest card within each hand. In rare instances where all players have “nothing” and there are more than one player with the exact same hand, the pot will be split between them.
While these hands play an important role in determining whether a player wins a hand of Poker or not, they are by no means the only way for a player to win the pot. The results of any hand are based largely on the actions of the players and their beliefs about the hands the other players are holding.
Placing Your Bets
Poker isn’t just about getting the highest ranking hand – betting plays a huge part in a player’s success. Betting is done at various intervals throughout the game, depending on which version is being played, and this allows players to manage their chips, depending on the hand they believe is taking shape. A player who knows how to manage their bets will not only increase their chances of winning a bigger pot, but they can also minimize their losses.
It’s quite common for a game to start with what is known as an “ante” and this is usually done before the cards are dealt. From there, players will have the opportunity to increase the pot at each interval.
Bets are usually placed starting to the left of the dealer, with each player either “raising”, “checking”, “calling” or “folding”.
- Raising: to increase the bet.
- Checking: to “bet nothing” (this is only possible when no other player has raised the bet).
- Calling: putting the same number of chips into the pot as the previous player.
- Folding: to discard the hand (in this instance, the player forfeits that round and loses any chips that he has placed into the pot).
All players will need to have put the same number of chips down before the game can progress. In instances where one player “raises” the pot to a number that the other players refuse to “call”, that player will automatically win the pot. In is in these instances where bluffing becomes an integral part of the game. Basically, it means that players don’t have to have the winning hand in order to win the round, as long as they convince the other players to fold.
Play the Players, Not the Game
Bluffing might seem like cheating but it entirely permissible in a game of Poker, if not encouraged. Bluffing is about making the other players believe what you want them to believe. At times, you might want them to believe you have a better hand than you really do, so that they “call” or “fold”, allowing you to take the pot.
Bluffing is a real skill, sometimes involving the slightest of body movements, while at other times, requiring that a player has a really good “Poker face”. Either way, it can greatly improve the chances of a player walking away with the pot.
It is common for professional gambling venues (including Poker games online) to set minimum and maximum betting limits. A maximum betting limit protects players from those who might have a lot more money, and therefore, be able to take advantage of the fact that other players simply couldn’t afford to “call” when they “raise” the pot. It’s important for players to take note of the betting limits so they don’t join a table they can’t afford to play.
Putting a fixed limit in place restricts players to increasing the bet by a specific amount, which is agreed upon beforehand. The limit can change during the hand – but once again, this is agreed upon before the game begins.
When the tablet stakes rule is put in place, players will only be able to bet the number of chips that they have purchased at the beginning of the game. The player cannot withdraw their chips unless he has left the game.
A game of poker isn’t just about the draw of the cards – it is also about strategy and that means that players will sometimes take their time in making decisions that allow the game to progress. Some games set time limits to speed up the game, while others don’t. If there’s a time limit on the game you’re playing, be sure to make yourself aware of it so you don’t feel pressured into making a decision because you suddenly find yourself short on time.
Learn the Subtle (or not so Subtle) Rule Differences
Poker rules aren’t universal. You might find subtle or marked differences in games when you change casinos or countries, and it’s important that you know the game well before you start placing your bets. Small differences in the rules can have a huge impact on your game play.
The Different Types of Poker Games
The diversity of the Poker game is perhaps one of the most beautiful aspects of the game and it gives players the opportunity to put their skills to the test. One of the most popular variations of this game is of course Texas Hold ‘Em, but this is by no means the only variation of the game. Here is a list of the most popular Poker games, both in online casinos and live establishments:
Other Poker Variations
The 5-Card Draw
This is another popular version of the game, with each player being dealt five cards. Players will have the option of trading three of their cards during the first round of the game.
Follow the Queen
This variation of the 7-stud poker game turns one of the cards into a wild – usually the next card flipped after the queen is exposed. In the event that no queens are flipped over during the round, there will be no wild cards during that hand.
What You Should Know
Because some of the rules of Poker change, depending on where you are, what version is being played and even what House Rules are in play, it’s important that players take nothing for granted. With this in mind, there are a few questions that every player should ask before joining a game. These include:
- Is the Ace high or low?
- Are there Wild Cards?
- Is there a betting limit?
There is a reason that Poker continues to be a popular game in gambling venues around the world since its beginnings back in the 1600’s. The game requires a certain skill and creativity, combined with the luck of the draw – a combination that can get a player’s pulse racing long before the last hand is called.
- Ace in the whole: refers to one of the hole cards being an ace.
- Action: player’s turn to act.
- Add-on: buying more chips before a player busts.
- All in: a player bets all of their chips in one hand.
- Ante: the forced, required bet before the hand begins.
- Bank: otherwise known as the “house”. This is the individual responsible for chip distribution, dealing cards and keeping track of buy-ins and winners.
- Bankroll: the funds a player has to wager during his Poker career.
- Bet: the money wagered in a hand.
- Blind: a forced bet.
- Big Blind: the higher amount of the two forced bets in certain variations of the game.
- Bluff: a bet made on a hand that is unlikely to win the round. This is usually intended to either win the pot by convincing players to “fold”, or to disguise playing patterns.
- Boat: alternate name for a full house.
- Bottom Dealing: a method of cheating whereby the cards are dealt from the bottom of the deck, instead of the top.
- Bug: a limited wild card.
- Burn Card: a card removed from the top of the pile to prevent cheating.
- Bust: when a player loses all of their chips.
- Bottom End: the lowest of the possible straights in a hand.
- Buy-in: minimum chips required to enter into a game or tournament.
- Call: matching a bet.
- Cap: limit on the number of raises possible during a hand.
- Cashing Out: the exchange of chips for money when the player leaves the game.
- Check: no bet placed.
- Dead Blind: the player who posts the blind is not able to raise if the other players call.
- Deal: to distribute the cards to the players on a table.
- Dealer: the person who is dealing the cards.
- Downbet: betting a lower amount than the previous betting round.
- Downcard: the card dealt facing downwards.
- Flop: the first three cards lying face-up on the table.
- Fold: to discard the hand.
- Forced Bet: a bet required to allow the game to progress.
- Freezeout: this is the most popular type of Poker tournament variation that allows for no rebuys and the winning player is the one with all of the chips at the end of the tournament.
- Hole Cards: the cards that are faced downwards in a hand.
- House Rules: rules specified by a particular establishment, usually made clear in writing.
- Insurance: the player agrees to reduce or split the pot instead of playing the hand to completion.
- In Turn: the player is in turn if they are expected to play next.
- Limit: the maximum or minimum bet amount.
- Misdeal: this occurs when the hand must, for some reason, be dealt again.
- No-Limit: when the game has a no-limit, players can bet all of their chips in one hand.
- Nothing: a player who has no combination of winning cards. In this instance, the only way to win is in instances where all players have nothing. In this instance, the one with the highest card in their hand wins.
- Poker face: an expression that reveals nothing about the cards a player holds.
- Raise: to increase the bet.
- Reraise: a raise called by a player to previously “called” in the same round.
- River: the final card dealt during a hand.
- Tell: a detectable change in a player’s behaviour, whether this is their game play or expression, that provides clues about the hand they have been dealt.
- Upcard: the card played facing upwards.
- Up the Ante: to increase the stakes of the bet.