A Beginner’s Guide to Poker

The game of poker has becoming increasingly prevalent in recent years due to the high profile given to the popular card game by major television companies as well as the massive number of online gaming sites that allow poker to be played over the internet. These days, work colleagues and friends will regularly meet up at their homes to take part in a few games of poker as an alternative means of entertainment. One of the true joys of poker is the fact that it happens to be such an incredibly easy game to learn.

The most common variation of the game of poker is Texas Hold ‘em.  Although other poker games such as Omaha and 7 card stud still enjoy popularity with a number of players, the simplicity of Texas Hold ‘em makes it an instant favorite that can be enjoyed even by the absolute novice.

Texas Hold ‘em is played at a table consisting of two or more players. It is most common to see tables starting with six players although up to ten can take part in many different online versions of the game. The purpose of poker is to be the last player sitting at the table and this is achieved by winning the playing chips of every other player taking part in the game.

To determine which player becomes the dealer, every individual player is issued with a single card. The dealer is the player left holding the highest single card. A dealer button is placed in front of the player in question so other players are aware of who the dealer is. The cards are gathered in by the dealer in preparation for the first round of betting.

The two players sitting to the left-hand side of the dealer are responsible for placing two different ante bets and these are referred to as ‘blinds’. The player to the immediate left of the dealer is responsible for posting the small blind while the player to second left of the dealer posts the big blind which will be twice the value of the small blind. Blinds start at a low levels to begin with (5c/10c or 10c/20c) but these should be doubled after fixed periods of time (10 minutes is perfectly acceptable) to increase the pace of the game especially in the later stages. Any player with a matching bet in front of their playing place when the betting reaches them is allowed to ‘check’. This keeps them in the hand without having to raise the current bet. Betting takes place using ‘chips’ as a substitute for real cash.

Once the blind are posted, each player is dealt two cards. These are referred to as the ‘hole’ cards. Players are permitted to look at their cards without showing other players what they have been dealt. Once each player has established his hole cards, betting begins with the player immediately to the left of big blind. The player can match the size of the big blind, raise his bet or, if he doesn’t like the look of his hand, can fold them and sit out until the next round is played.

Betting should continue in a clockwise direction until all players have leveled the highest bet and all chips are moved into the centre of the table. This is called the ‘pot’.

The dealer now places three community cards in the middle of the table, burning one card from the pack between each card. This is called the ‘flop’ and the remaining players can use the three community cards and their hole cards to build the best hand possible. A new round of betting begins, starting with the player to the immediate left of the dealer until all bets are equally matched. Again, players may fold if they are unhappy with their card combinations. After this round of betting, a further community card called the ‘turn’ is dealt and players bet again on the new card combinations available. A final card called the ‘river’ is dealt into the community cards and players take part in a final round of betting based on their two hole cards and the five community cards on show. If two or more players remain in the hand at the end of the final round of betting, the highest hand wins the entire pot. If a player cannot match a bet but wants to remain in the game, a side pot can be created for the remaining players with a higher chip count. Once a hand is won, the dealer button moves one place to the left and a new dealer begins the next round.

Hands are rated by strength with a single high card being the lowest possible winning hand. This moves in progression to a pair, two pairs, three-of-a-kind, a straight, a flush, full house, four-of-a-kind, a straight flush and a royal flush. Play continues until one player remains at the table and this individual is declared the overall winner.