An Introduction to Poker

Poker is popular and these days, quite widely understood. But there are still people who don’t know what’s happening when they see a game taking place. So what are the basics?

Texas Hold’em
If you’ve seen televised poker, you’ve probably seen Texas Hold’em. This is the version of the game with five cards in the centre of the table, turned face up, and two cards held by each player.

The five cards are the community cards, and the two dealt to each player are the hole cards.

You may also hear the terms flop, turn and river – these are the first three community cards, the fourth card and the final communal card, and a round of betting takes place after each is dealt.

Betting
A designated player begins the betting by placing down the small blind, an agreed minimum amount.

The next player places the big blind – twice as much as the small blind – and everyone else must match it in order to stay in the pot.

Players with a strong hand – or who want to bluff – can choose to raise, but you’ll often see that happen later in the hand.

A round of betting takes place after the initial hole cards are dealt out, and again after the flop, the turn and the river.

Finally all remaining cards are turned face up and the strongest hand wins.

Winning Hands
It’s possible to win at poker with a single card – for example, an ace beats a king if neither hand contains any pairs, straights, flushes and so on.

However, there are ways to make your hand stronger, if you can hit several cards of the same value or suit.

Pairs, three of a kind (sometimes called triples or just trips) and four of a kind all make your hand stronger – and two pairs in one hand are stronger than one.

If you get three of a kind and a pair in the same hand, that’s a full house, and is usually a much stronger hand.

A straight contains five cards of consecutive numerical value – so, for example, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. They don’t have to be the same suit, but it’s a much stronger hand if they are.

A flush contains five cards of the same suit, but any values. If they form a straight, that’s a straight flush – and, again, is a much stronger hand.

If you ever hit a royal flush – that’s ten, jack, queen, king and ace of the same suit – you’re probably going to win the hand.

However, the chances of getting dealt that hand are very small, so don’t hold out too much hope for it!

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