Once you learn to play poker it can really be addictive and fun. Many people have a misconception that this is a tough game full of jargons and nuances. Yes, there are tricks to the game just as in all other games. However, this is a card game just like most other card games. The rules are simple and it just takes some practice to start playing.
The primer: Crash course in hands
You might be wondering what a hand is. It’s not the hand on your arm. In the world of poker, a hand is a set of 5 cards. There are different types of hands and each has a different value. The highest value hand is called the Royal Flush and is the toughest one to get.
Learn to play poker: the hands
Here is the list of hands sorted out in decreasing order of value:
- Royal flush:
This is a set of 5 cards comprising Ace, Queen, King, Jack and 10. These cards need to be in the same suit (that is, either all diamonds, or all spades, clubs, hearts etc.)
- Straight flush:
This is a natural sequence of cards – for example, 2, 3,4,5,6. These too, need to be of the same suit.
- Four of a kind:
This is a set of 4 cards of the same value but different suits and one random card. Example, 2, 2,2,2,6. The winning hand is decided by the value of the number on the set of four.
- Full house:
In this, 3 cards have the same value and 2 have another value. Winning hand is decided on the 3 cards’ numerical value first, followed by the 2 cards in case of a tie.
These can be of any numerical value but need to be of the same suit. For example, 3, 8,5,7,4 of hearts.
This is a sequence of 5 cards but each card belongs to a different suit. For example, 3, 4,5,6,7 of different suits.
- Three of a kind:
This consists of 3 cards having the same numerical value, along with 2 other random cards. Example, 3 of spades, 3 of hearts, 3 of diamonds, 5, 6.
- Two pair:
These comprise 2 pairs of 2 numerical values and another card. Example, 4 spades, 4 hearts, 6 diamonds, 6 clubs, 7.
- One pair:
This is a pair of cards having same numerical value, along with 3 other cards at random. Example, 2 spades, 2 hearts, 5, 6, 9.
- High card:
If none of the players have any pair of value or any of the above hands, then the winning hand is the one with the highest value of the lot.
Rules of the game
The game starts with the players placing their wagers in a pot placed at the center. Each player is then provided a stack of 5 cards face down. Once all players are dealt, they can pick up their cards to see how good their set is. Then betting begins from the first player to the left of the dealer. Betting comprises a series of jargons used to describe different situations. Once betting is done, players get to trade from 1 to 3 cards in exchange for new ones. If a player has an Ace in their set, they can even trade up to 4 cards but they’ll need to show the Ace card first. In you have a good set already there’s no need to trade. Once trading is over, a fresh round of betting happens, at the end of which the player with the highest value hand wins.
It should also be noted that players can “fold” at any time between bets. Folding is when a player quits the round before it’s ended, saving him/herself from betting money on a bad hand. Contrary to folding is the “bluff”. Players with bad hands may opt to stay in the game on the premise that their opponents may fold in fear that they are holding a very strong hand. Bluffing is almost like a game of cat and mouse, and you need to be willing to take the risk of your opponent staying in the game. As the stakes get high, holding a bluff can be very costly and therefore is suggested only for veteran players.
It’s easy to learn to play poker once you’ve got the basics right. After a few rounds, you’ll be hooked and glad you learned!