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A beginner’s guide on how to play poker

Poker is a game commonly played by up to eight players. The objective is to win the ‘pot,’ which refers to the sum of money wagered by the players throughout the game. To win, it is important to first learn the different hand rankings that dictate whether a player wins or loses.

Poker hand rankings

The great thing about poker, regardless of which variation you play, is that the goal remains the same and the hand rankings that decide the winner is unchanging. 

Players may come across many different types of poker games and they can learn them immediately as long as they have a strong understanding of how to attain a winning hand. For this to be possible, they need to remember the following: 

Five of a kind

The highest hand a player can attain is a five of a kind. It consists of four cards of the same number and one wild card. Not all poker games have wild cards. However, in those that do, a wild card can stand for a different value to strengthen a hand. 

Straight flush

When there are no wild cards, straight flush is the highest hand a player can have. It is a combination of five cards from the same suit that follows a subsequent order. For example, a hand with 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 from the same suit is considered a straight flush.

Royal Flush

A royal flush is acombination of A, K, Q, J, and 10 from the same suit that trumps all other kinds of straight flush.

Four of a kind 

When you have four cards of the same rank, it is considered a four of a kind. The fifth card can be anything and it won’t change the value of the hand.

Full house

A full house occurs when the hand is composed of 3 cards of the same rank and a pair from a different rank.

Flush 

A hand with five cards from the same suit is considered a flush, regardless of what order they follow.

Straight 

A straight happens when a player’s hand is made up of five cards in succeeding ranking. The suit doesn’t take precedence.

Three of a kind

This hand is composed of three cards of the same rank, and another two with different ranks.

Two-pairs

This hand contains a pair of cards with one rank and another pair with a different rank. For example, a combination of 4, 4, J, J, and 5, is considered two pairs. The last card can be anything.

One pair 

When you have only one pair of cards with a similar ranking while the rest are of random ranks. 

No pair

It is considered the lowest hand when a player’s hand has no pairs and doesn’t have any of the above combinations.

How is poker played?

There are several variations of poker but all of them share the same goal of making the best hand win. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to play poker:  

Pre-Flop

At the start of the game, players are dealt two cards. The dealer will start from the left. Once everyone has their cards, players can now check or make a bet. There are three actions to take:

  • Call – To match the bet of another player
  • Fold – Player forfeits the game
  • Raise – Increase the amount of the previous bet.

The Flop 

After the first betting round, the dealer draws three cards on the board. These are community cards anyone on the table can use.  The players will then go through a second betting round and are given the same three options.

The turn 

The dealer draws one community card. After, the next betting round occurs.

The river 

During this round, one last community card is dealt for the fifth round. One last betting period will take place and players will now build their best hand using their cards and the ones laid face-up in the table.  The remaining players will now reveal their cards and whoever has the best hand wins. 

Variations of poker

There are several variations of poker today. However, it can generally be grouped into three different classifications: Draw games, stud games, and community games.

Draw poker games are where players receive a full hand before the round. They develop the strength of their fards throughout the game by drawing cards and replacing their original hand. On the other hand, stud poker, although some of the cards are drawn face-up, a player’s full hand is hidden.

Community poker refers to games with “community cards”, which are set in the middle of the table and can be used by any of the active players. 

Below are the most popular variations in any of these classifications:

Texas hold’em

Considered the most popular, Texas hold’em poker is also the most played. It is played with a maximum of nine players. Each player receives two ‘hole’ cards, which refers to cards that are not exposed to other players. The game can be played in four stages: 

  • Pre-flop 
  • The flop 
  • The turn
  • The river.

In these stages, a total of five community cards will be dealt and they can be used by all the active players. There are a total of four betting rounds in the game, all occurring after every stage. If there is more than one player at the end of it, they reveal their cards and the player with the best hand wins.

Omaha

This variant has the same gameplay as Texas Hold’em and follows the same four stages. The key difference is in how many hole cards are dealt at the start of the game. In Omaha, the dealer will draw four cards for every player and the player must use exactly two of those cards when building their hand.

7-card stud

This game can be played by up to eight players. Usually, they are dealt two cards facing down and one facing up. This is done counterclockwise, starting with the player from the dealer’s left. The stage is called the third street. 

At the end of all the stages, the players should have seven cards in total, with the first two and the last card facing down. Once all the cards have been received, the remaining players will build their hands from the seven cards they have.

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