You see a game of poker in the movies and often the players are going all in and the stakes are high.
Poker doesn’t have to be this way, however, in real life. Many people find playing poker an enjoyable way to relax, whether playing with family or friends, and a good way to entertain guests. After a delicious meal at a dinner party, or if you wish to steer clear of drinking games, you might want to bring out the deck of cards and indulge in a few games with your guests. At the other end of the scale, you might be the guest, rather than the host, and find you need to know how to play. Knowing how to play poker is a useful social skill.
Below is a look at some of the basics of poker so that the next time someone suggests a game, you don’t have to just sit and watch while the others play.
What is poker?
Poker is a card game and involves calling bets, which means matching a bet; raising a bet (increasing the bet), or, if a player doesn’t don’t think their cards are good enough to win or if they don’t wish to bet, concede (by folding).
The game consists of five cards and the object of the game is to build a better hand than all of the other players. The more unusual the combination of cards is, the higher the hand will rank. If you’re unsure of which hands are the key to your success and how to gain an upper hand on your opponent, check out this in-depth guide on all poker hands.
A set of 52 cards will comprise a standard deck of cards for poker. If players are betting, especially in a casino, they’ll use chips. These chips represent money.
Other than the deck of cards and, if you’re betting, chips, you don’t really need a great deal else to play poker. Just a good-sized table that all the players can sit comfortably around and some chairs for them to sit.
It is best to research what cards make the best poker hands.
To understand poker, you have to know what constitutes a winning hand. Here’s a quick guide of the best hands in order:
- Royal flush: this hand beats all and consists of an ace, jack, queen, king and 10, all of the same suit.
- Straight flush: this hand consists of a run of cards all of the same suit.
- Four of a kind: this hand will feature four cards all of the same value but in different suits, e.g., four jacks.
- Full house: this hand will contain three cards of the same value in different suits, plus a pair of the same value in another suit, e.g., three jacks and two twos.
- Flush: in this hand, you’ll have any five cards of the same suit.
- Straight: five cards, numerically sequential, of different suits make up this hand, e.g., 2-3-4-5-6 of mixed suits.
- Three of a kind: three cards all of the same value comprise this hand, e.g., three threes.
- Two pairs: in this hand, you’ll have a pair of cards of the same value and another pair of cards of the same value, such as two twos and two fours.
- A pair: in this hand, you’ll have a pair of cards the same value.
- High card: in the event of two players having the highest hard, a kicker comes into play.
Understanding poker hands can give you an advantage over other players.
Playing the game
Playing poker is very straightforward, and the five-card draw version is the best one to learn when you’re new to the game. Versions of poker such as Texas Hold ‘Em require much more strategy and experience if you’re going to enter into cash games.
Five-card draw progresses as follows:
- If you’re betting, everyone should place some money in the pot before the cards are dealt. You don’t have to bet if you’re just playing for fun with family or friends, of course.
- The dealer should then deal everyone five cards face down.
- Another betting round then takes place.
- Everyone then looks at their cards and decides how many they wish to replace to make up a better hand. They discard these cards and then receive new ones from the deck. A player doesn’t have to discard any cards if they don’t want to. They can just keep the ones they have.
- There’s one more round of betting once everyone has discarded and replaced the cards they wish to.
- At this point, if there’s more than one player still in the game, it’s time for the showdown. In this round, each player reveals their cards. The person who has the best hand wins.
A few simple tips for playing poker
Poker is fun and you can tilt games in your favor by being observant during the game. Here are a few tips for observing the other players so that you stand more chance of coming out on top:
- Watch how many cards a player discards when replacing their cards. If they get rid of two or more, the chances are they have a weak hand.
- Study each player, even if you’re not currently in the pot (if you’re betting). See when they voluntarily enter the pot, observe their betting patterns and note how many cards they draw. Correlate all this information at the actual showdowns so you can build a profile of the player.
Don’t let Hollywood fool you into thinking that poker always has to be a high-pressure, high-stakes game. Invest in a standard deck of cards, learn basic five-card draw and you can relax over a game with friends and family. You can even indulge in some healthy competition without even betting and have a good joke about the rivalry afterward.