Poker Rules

This article is intended for people who have either never played poker, or only played once or twice. I'm just going to explain the basic rules of the game. There won't be any advice or strategy.


While there are many different varieties of poker, the object of the game is always the same; to win as many chips as possible. You win chips by successfully wagering on poker hands. Players make bets based on the strength of their hands. The player that remains in the game, with the best hand wins the pot.

Poker Hands

The best poker hand is determined based on the following table, ranked highest to lowest. See the Hand Rankings page for examples.

Poker Hand Rankings
Five cards with sequential rank, all in the same suit.
Four cards all with the same rank.
Three cards of one rank, and two cards of another rank
Five cards of the same suit.
Five cards of sequential rank.
Three cards of the same rank
Two cards of one rank, and two other cards of one rank
Two cards of the same rank
When none of the above hands are present, the highest card in your hand.

In the event that two players have the same hand, one pair for example, the player with the higher cards wins. Two kings beats two Sevens for example. If both players were to have the same pair, then the next highest card in each player's hand is used to break the tie. Two Kings with an Ace beats Two Kings with a Jack.

Five Card Draw:

Five card draw is probably the most recognized form of poker. It is what you see in westerns and video poker machines. It's also one of the least complicated methods of play.

Ante - In most games, there is a small required bet before the cards are dealt for each hand. This is called an ante, and guarantees that there is money in the pot. The other option is for players to post blinds, but I'll discuss that later.

After everyone has antied, cards are dealt so that each player has five cards. Once everyone has their cards, players will take turns betting starting with the player to the left of the dealer. When it is a player's turn he has the following options.

  • Check - Bet $0. Players may only do this if no one has bet in the current round.
  • Fold - If a player does not wish to bet on his hand, he can opt to fold. He will not have to contribute anymore chips to the pot, but he also cannot win.
  • Bet - Place a bet into the pot.
  • Raise - If a bet has already been made, a player had the option to raise, which is to increase the size of the bet. The increase should be at least as large as the last bet or raise.
  • Call - Match the current bet.

Play continues in a clockwise manner until everyone has either folded, or called the highest bet.

At this point all remaining players may discard up to three cards, and draw new cards to replace them. There is another round of betting, just as before.

The remaining players will then have a showdown, where they reveal their hands, and the player with the best hand wins the pot. If at any time, all players except one have folded, then that player automatically wins the pot. If two or more players have the best hand, then they will split the pot.

Texas Hold'em

Blinds - In Texas Hold'em, we use blinds instead of antes. Blinds are bets made before you see your cards, and work as follows: The player two positions to the left of the dealer, pays the big blind, which is the minimum bet for the round. The player to the dealer's immediate left posts the small blind, which is about half as much as the large blind. No one else is required to bet.

Once blinds have been posted, players are all dealt two cards. These are called their hole cards. The first round of betting will then take place starting with the player to the left of the big blind who must at least match the big blind to stay in, otherwise he must fold. In this format, you cannot check in the first round. The player who posted the big blind will get an opportunity to bet last in the first round. If everyone has called, and not raised the blind amount, then the big blind has the option to check.

After the first round of betting, the top card is discarded (burned), and the next three are turned up. This is called the flop. These cards are community cards and can be used by all players. This is followed by a second round of betting. For this round of betting and all future rounds, betting starts from the dealer's left.

Next another card is burned, and a fourth community card is turned over. This is called the turn, or fourth street. There is another round of betting.

Another card is burned, and a fifth and final community card is revealed. This is called the river or fifth street. There is a final round of betting. Any players remaining will then reveal their hole cards. The player who can make the best five card hand out of the seven cards available to them, five community and two hole cards, wins the pot. For example, if your hole cards were kd and 5h, and the community cards were Js, 5d, 7h, 2c, 3c, your best hand would be 5h, 5d, kd, js, 7h.

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