How To Play Poker

"The urge to gamble is so universal and its practice so pleasurable that I assume it must be evil"
Heywood Broun


Poker is really a generic term for a family of games. The most common vanahons are:

·     Draw Poker

·     Five-card Stud

·     Seven-card Stud

·     Texas Hold ‘Em

·     Omaha

I will start with how to play draw poker and five-card stud, with particular focus on draw poker, as all other types are derived from these two. If you can master the basics of these two games you can easily adapt to all other forms of poker.
The Basics

The Basics

Poker is played with between two and twelve people seated at either a circular or a kidney shaped table. A game of poker can last for several hours and is divided into hands. Each hand of poker takes about 3-5 minutes to play, depending on the number of  players at the table and how fast they play. Depending on the strength of his/her hand, players make bets by putting money (which is exchanged for chips if you’re playing in a casino) into the ‘pot’. The objective for each poker player, during a hand, is to win all the money in the pot of each hand. That is, to obtain the highest-ranking hand, or bet out all of the other opponents and be the sole remaining player left in contention. Pots are not all the same size so at the end of the playing session the person who has won the most money is not necessarily the person who has won most pots. The aim of the game is to win,as much money during the playing session as possible.

If you are planning to have a social game it is worth setting a limit on the stakes that are to be played for. It is also a good idea to set a finishing time in advance, as the losers, even when playing for very small stakes, usually want to continue playing until they get their money back.


The Ranking of Hands

Although there are many variations of the game of poker, the ranking of hands always remains the same. A poker hand is always made up of exactly five cards. The values of each card from the highest to the lowest are ace, king, queen, jack, 10, 9, 8, 7,6,5,4, 3, 2, ace (an ace can be high or low depending on the circumstance). In the remainder of this book, where appropriate, an ace will be shown as an’A’, a king as’K’, a queen as’Q’ and a jack as’J’.

Poker hands are ranked in the order of probability of being dealt in five-card combinations from the standard 52-card. deck. There are 2,598,960 combinations of five-card hands possible in the standard deck. The number of possible hands in each of the categories is given opposite. You will see that the high card is the commonest hand and easiest to get dealt, hence it is worth the least. By contrast, there are only four combinations of cards which will give a royal flush, making it the rarest hand and hence the most valuable.

Royal Flush – 4

The five highest cards of the same suit. Examples are

A(clubs), K(clubs), Q(clubs), J(clubs), 10(clubs) or A(hearts), K(hearts), Q(hearts), J(hearts), 10(hearts)


Straight Flush – 36

Any five cards of the same suit which are also in sequential order or rank. Examples are

7(diamonds), 8(diamonds), 9(diamonds), 10(diamonds), J(diamonds) or 3(spades), 4(spades), 5(spades), 6(spades), 7(spades)


Four of a kind – 624

Four cards of the same rank or value. Example 10(hearts), 10(diamonds), 10(spades), 10(clubs), 7 (clubs).  (Notes that most standard poker hands have 5 cards in a hand).


Full House – 3744

Three cards of the same rank or value plus a pair of different rank. Example 3(diamonds), 3(spades), 3(hearts), 9(spades), 9(clubs).


Flush – 5108

Five non-sequential cards of the same suit. Example A(clubs), K(clubs), 7(clubs), 5(clubs), 2(clubs)


Straight – 10,200

Five cards of mixed suits in sequence of rank. An example is 7(diamonds), 8(hearts), 9(diamonds), 10(diamonds), J(spades). Although the ace is normally a high card it can also play as a low card to form a five-high straight (or indeed a straight flush). Thus A(clubs), 2(diamonds), 3(hearts), 4(clubs), 5(spades) is the lowest possible straight.


Three of a kind – 54,912

Three cards of the same rank, also called a set or trips (short for triplets). Example 6(clubs), 6(hearts), 6(diamonds), 10(hearts), 9(spades).


Two Pair – 123,552

Any two cards of the same rank, plus any other two cards of the same rank, plus one odd card. Examples are A(hearts), A(clubs), 4(diamonds), 4(hearts), 5(clubs) called’ aces up’ as aces are the higher pair, or 7(clubs), 7(spades), 3(hearts), 3(diamonds), Q(hearts) called’sevens up’ as sevens are the highest pair.


One Pair – 1,098,240

Any two cards of the same rank, plus three odd cards. Example 8(hearts), 8(spades), K(hearts), J(clubs), 3(hearts)


High Card – 1,302,540

If no player has a pair or better then the highest card held wins. Examples are A(clubs), K(hearts), 10(spades), 8(clubs), 5(hearts) which is an Ace high, or 9(clubs), 8(clubs), 5(hearts), 4(diamonds), 2(spades, which is a lowly nine high.


There are some aspects of hand rankings which can be confusing for beginners. For instance, flushes are ordered in terms of their highest card, then the next highest and so on down to the fifth card, so A(clubs), K(clubs), 7(clubs), 5(clubs), 3(clubs) is a bigger flush than A(spades), K(spades), 6(spades), 5(spades), 2(spades), although both are called’ ace-high flushes’. Also, if there were two flushes exactly the same size, e.g. Q(spades), 7(spades), 5(spades), 4(spades), 2(spades) and Q(clubs), 7(clubs), 5(clubs), 4(clubs), 2(clubs), the two hands would draw and the pot would be split between both players as in poker there is no difference in the value of suits. Similarly, with two-pair hands, if two players have the same highest pair, the lower pair determines the winner, so A-A-4-4-J would beat A-A-2-2-Q and both would beat Q-Q-J-J-K. In the unlikely event of two players having the same two pair, the player with the higher fifth card would win. Thus, J-J-5-5-Q would beat J-J-5-5-9.