When Learning How to Play Poker Remember that Poker is Not Learned in a Day!

Poker has long been one of the most popular card games. There are many variants of poker including video poker. Poker can be played at home among friends or in a casino. Around the world, there may be a billion or more players who already know how to play poker but there are also many millions of players who would like to play poker but don't know even the basics of the game.

This series of articles is for true beginners in poker.

Is Poker at an Online Casino Different than Poker at a Land-based Casino?

We will talk about how to play in a casino in greater depth in the next article, part two of the series. For now, there are many large differences between playing poker online or in a land-based casino.

In Poker we Play with a Single Deck of Cards

A deck of cards has 52 cards with four suits of 13 cards each. In some poker variants, there are also jokers. In variations with jokers, we usually have two jokers. It is really quite simple to judge the odds of getting a better hand with new cards by using the simple math of the number of cards that will help divided by the cards left in the deck.

We will return to the simplest poker math a bit later on.

There are Ten Possible Hands in Poker

It is important when you start to play poker games to understand the hierarchy of poker hands. While every poker game has its unique elements, the hierarchy of hands is fixed except in games with jokers or other wild cards where it is possible to get five of a kind.

Let's review the ten hands from best to worst with a short explanation of each.

Royal Flush

This a hand that has 10 through ace all of the same suit. This hand is extremely rare, coming once in about 40,000 hands. In normal poker games, it is usually not the best strategy to go for a Royal Flush since with four cards to that hand, it is entirely possible to win the pot with a lesser hand.

Straight Flush

This is five consecutive cards all of the same suit. It is also quite rare but a lot less rare than a Royal Flush which is simply the best straight flush available.

Four of a Kind

This is all four cards of the same rank. Some cards have the same value in other games such as the ten-point cards in blackjack. In poker, a king is better than a queen and so on!

Full House

This hand is three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank. It is not common but it is also not rare.


This hand is five cards of the same suit but not connected.


This is five connected cards of different suits. It is harder to get a flush so the flush ranks higher than a straight. There will be many hands when a player has a straight but thinks that an opponent has a flush and folds his or her hand.

Three of a Kind

Here we are getting at the four hands that make up the bulk of all poker hands. Three of a kind is three cards of the same rank. It is a lot less common than four of a kind!

Two Pair

Once again, we have a hand that on the surface looks similar to the one above it in the hierarchy of hands. Two pair is very common in poker.

One Pair

This lowly hand, surprisingly, wins many pots!

High Card

If the players still in the pot after all the betting has completed, a player might win the hand with the highest ranking card in a hand with not so much as a pair!

The high card has another important function. In a hand where the two remaining players each have the same pair, the high card after the pair wins the hand. A good example is when both players have a pair of kings but one player has an ace. In that case, the hand with the ace wins!

Five or Seven Cards

There are a few poker games that employ as few as three cards, such as Guts, but here we will talk about the classic five and seven card poker games. It is more important to learn how to play the classic games than the oddball three card games.

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Draw Poker

Draw poker is always played with five cards. In fact, the very popular video poker game is based on draw poker.

Each player gets five cards which they don't show to any opponent. Then there is a betting round. In the first round of betting, a player has to evaluate his or her hand and has to try to determine if any bet from an opponent is a bet from strength or a bluff.

After the first round of betting, every player has the option of discarding up to four cards and getting new cards in their stead. In friendly weekend poker games, you have to show an ace in order to get four cards.

Then there is another round of betting and the showdown. The highest hand wins!

Keep in mind that in video poker, players can discard ail five of their cards!

Five-card and Seven-card Stud

There are two "stud" variations of poker. The poker rules for both of them are basically the same. Unlike in draw poker games, where one's opponents never see your cards, in stud there are cards that the dealer deals "up".

Lesser Hands Often Win in Five-card Stud

Since there are only five cards in stud poker variation, it will be a lot more difficult to get as much as a straight. A high card will win many pots!

The first round of betting takes place after each player gets two cards "in the hole" and one card up. Players can check, bet, raise, call, or fold. The first player to bet will often check even with a very good hand so far so as to not cause the others to fold.

This is a form of bluffing, kind of like reverse psychology.

There is then another card dealt up and another betting round. Finally, the fifth card is dealt "down" and the last batting round takes place.

Seven-card Stud is Similar with a Few Important Differences

There are more betting rounds in seven-card stud. There are also two more cards per player. Players see four of each opponent's seven cards. That leads to many players folding a hand that they feel they cannot win.

What is Basic Poker Math All About?

Basic poker math recognizes that there are only 52 cards in the deck. Here we are assuming that the game is without jokers.

Let's use seven-card stud as an example. We will use parameters that might not obtain in your game but the idea behind the math is the same. So, let's assume seven players. When the next to last card is played, there are still five players in the hand. The two players who folded did so after the fourth card was dealt.

How Do we Evaluate the Down Cards?

For the purposes of calculating odds, all down cards are considered to still be in the deck! So, we see 20 up cards plus the four up cards of the players who folded.

We also know two of our own cards. Thus, the total number of known cards is 26, exactly half the deck.

What Hand Can You Reasonably Attain?

If you have one pair, you can reasonably attain three of a kind or two pair. Now you have to know if any of the cards that you have a pair of are still "in the deck". The process of determining which cards can help you win the hand is called counting "outs".

Let's say that you have a pair and both of the other cards of that rank are still "in the deck". There are two cards that can give you three of a kind and a number of cards that can give you two pair.

If you feel that an opponent has a better chance to win the hand and if he or she bets, it might be the correct move to fold even late in the hand.

What Will We Talk about in the Next Installment?

We will talk about bluffing, about how to read opponents, a little more poker math, and a quick review of the two most famous modern poker variations, Texas Hold'em and Omaha.




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