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Poker Guide PDF Print E-mail
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Article Index
Poker Guide
Learn the Basic Rules of the Game
Know the Lingo
Bet Smart
Some Variations of the Game

So you've seen Rounders, and the idea of taking Matt Damon for everything he's worth seems appealing to you. Or maybe you haven't seen the movie and still find that appealing. Whatever your motivation, you want to learn how to play poker, a time-tested card game that has the distinction of being one of the most ancient forms of gambling. Good for you. But before you strap on the green visor and throw down your life's savings, you're going to have to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em.

Poker, at its very essence, is a simple game, but its countless versions can be quite complex. Texas hold’em is the most popular version but not the easiest one, which is why we're going to focus on 5-Card Draw (a.k.a. "regular" poker), the easiest one for beginners to learn. Later on we'll tell you about some of the other variations of the game, but for now, it's gonna be 5-Card Draw, so you're just going to have to deal. Get it? "Deal?" Sorry.

There are other games that don’t require specific skills or knowledge, such as bingo. Nowadays, you can play bingo games online, either for free or for real money, if you’d rather not invest a lot of time in learning different rules and principles.

1. Understand the Cards and their Values

Poker is played with a standard deck of 52 playing cards (except for Ross Perot Poker, which is played with less than a full deck). The cards are ranked from high to low in the following order: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. Aces are ALWAYS high. Aces are worth more than Kings which are worth more than Queens which are worth more than Jack, and so on. The cards are also separated into four suits. The suits are:

  • Clubs: Club
  • Spades: Spade
  • Hearts: Heart
  • Diamonds: Diamond

But you already knew that from playing Go Fish, right? The suits are all of equal value, meaning that no suit is more valuable than another. It's a very democratic game.

Each player is dealt five cards. The object of the game is to end up with the highest-valued hand. From best to worst, hands are ranked in the following order:

Royal Flush
Straight Flush
Four of a Kind
Full House
Flush
Straight
Three of a Kind
Two Pair
One Pair
High Card

Royal Flush

This is the most valuable hand in all of poker. A Royal Flush is composed of 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace, all of the same suit. It's the toughest hand to get.

Examples:

HAND 1:Spade10 SpadeJ SpadeQ SpadeK SpadeA HAND 2:Heart10 HeartJ HeartQ HeartK HeartA

Straight Flush

A Straight Flush is comprised of five cards in numerical order, all of the same suit. It's not allowed to "wrap around," such as Q-K-A-2-3. This is also very rare. If you get two of these in a row, you are cheating. If there are two Straight Flushes at the table, then whichever hand's Straight Flush reaches the highest card value wins. So in the examples below, Hand 2 (which has a King) would beat Hand 1 (which only goes up to 8).

Examples:

HAND 1:Diamond4 Diamond5 Diamond6 Diamond7 Diamond8 HAND 2:Club9 Club10 ClubJ ClubQ ClubK

Four of a Kind

Four cards of the same numerical rank and another random card. If there are two or more hands that qualify, the hand with the highest-ranking Four of a Kind wins. In the examples below, Hand 2 would beat Hand 1.

Examples:

HAND 1:Spade6 Heart6 Club6 Diamond6 SpadeJ HAND 2:SpadeQ HeartQ ClubQ DiamondQ Heart3

Full House

Of the five cards in your hand, three have the same numerical rank, and the two remaining card also have the same numerical rank. Ties are broken first by the Three of a Kind, then the Pair. So K-K-K-3-3 beats Q-Q-Q-A-A, which beats Q-Q-Q-7-7.

Examples:

HAND 1:SpadeJ DiamondJ HeartJ Diamond4 Spade4 HAND 2:Heart5 Spade5 Club5 DiamondA ClubA

Flush

A Flush is comprised of five cards of the same suit, regardless of their numerical rank. In a tie, whoever has the highest ranking card wins. In the example below, Hand 1 (with a King) beats Hand 2 (with a Queen).

Examples:

HAND 1:Spade2 Spade4 Spade7 SpadeJ SpadeK HAND 2:Diamond5 Diamond6 Diamond7 Diamond8 DiamondQ

Straight

Five cards in numerical order, regardless of their suits. Just like with the Straight Flush, a Straight cannot "wrap around." In a tie, whoever's Straight goes to a higher ranking card wins (so in the examples below, Hand 1 beats Hand 2).

Examples:

HAND 1:Heart7 Heart8 Spade9 Club10 DiamondJ HAND 2:Club3 Diamond4 Diamond5 Heart6 Spade7

Three of a Kind

Three cards of the same numerical rank, and two random cards that are not a pair.

Examples:

HAND 1:Spade10 Diamond10 Heart10 Heart3 DiamondQ HAND 2:Club2 Diamond2 Heart2 Spade8 Spade9

Two Pair

Two sets of pairs, and another random card.

Examples:

HAND 1:Club7 Heart7 SpadeJ DiamondJ Spade5 HAND 2:ClubQ SpadeQ DiamondK ClubK HeartA


One Pair

One pair and three random cards. If more than one person has a One Pair, then the person with the highest ranking pair wins.

Examples:

HAND 1:Spade8 Diamond8 Diamond5 ClubK Heart3 HAND 2:Heart2 Club2 Diamond3 Spade4 Club5


High Card

If none of the players have anything of value, the player holding the highest-valued card wins, with the 2 as the lowest card, and the Ace as the highest. In the case of a tie, you move to the next highest card, and continue.

Examples:

HAND 1:Spade2 Club4 Diamond5 Diamond10 HeartQ HAND 2:Club2 Diamond8 Club9 Heart10 SpadeJ