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A hand of poker is divided into betting rounds. During a given betting round, each remaining player in turn takes one of the actions below. Betting proceeds in a circle until each player has either called all bets or folded.
check, a bet of zero that does not forfeit interest in the pot
bet or raise, a nonzero bet greater than preceding bets that all successive players must match or exceed or else forfeit all interest in the pot
call, a nonzero bet equal to a preceding bet that maintains a player’s interest in the pot
fold, a surrender of interest in the pot in response to another player’s bet, accompanied by the loss of one’s cards and previous bets
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Poker hand rankings
At the showdown, those players still remaining compare their hands according to the following rankings:
Straight flush, five cards of the same suit in sequence, such as 76543 of hearts. Ranked by the top card, so that AKQJT is the best straight flush, also called a royal flush. The ace can play low to make 5432A, the lowest straight flush.
Four of a kind, four cards of the same rank accompanied by a “kicker”, like 44442. Ranked by the quads, so that 44442 beats 3333K, and then ranked by the side card, so that 4444A beats 4444K.
Full house, three cards of one rank accompanied by two of another, such as 777JJ. Ranked by the trips, so that 44422 beats 333AA, and then ranked by the pair, so that 444AA beats 444KK.
Flush, five cards of the same suit, such as AJ942 of hearts. Ranked by the top card, and then by the next card, and so on for all five cards, so that AJ942 beats AJ876. Suits are not used to break ties.
Straight, five cards in sequence, such as 76543. The ace plays either high or low, making AKQJT and 5432A. “Around the corner” straights like 32AKQ are usually not allowed.
Three of a kind, three cards of the same rank and two kickers of different ranks, such as KKK84. Ranked by the trips, so that KKK84 beats QQQAK, and then ranked by the two kickers, so that QQQAK beats QQQA7.
Two pair, two cards of one rank, two cards of another rank and a kicker of a third rank, such as KK449. Ranked by the top pair, then the bottom pair and finally the kicker, so that KK449 beats any of QQJJA, KK22Q, and KK445.
One pair, two cards of one rank accompanied by three kickers of different ranks, such as AAK53. Ranked by the pair, followed by each kicker in turn, so that AAK53 beats AAK52.
High card, any hand that does not qualify as one of the better hands above, such as KJ542 of mixed suits. Ranked by the top card, then the second card and so on for all five cards, as for flushes. Suits are not used to break ties.
Suits are not used to break ties, nor are cards beyond the fifth; only the best five cards in each hand are used in the comparison. In the case of a tie, the pot is split equally among the winning hands.
Texas holdem rules
Many home game players are not familiar with the game of holdem, especially its use of “blinds” to start the betting action.
Texas holdem is a “community card” game, meaning that some cards are dealt face-up in the middle of the table and shared by all the players. Each player has two down cards that are theirs alone, and combines them with the five community cards to make the best possible five-card hand.
Play begins by dealing two cards face down to each player; these are known as “hole cards” or “pocket cards”. This is followed by a round of betting. Most hold’em games get the betting started with one or two “blind bets” to the left of the dealer. These are forced bets which must be made before seeing one’s cards. Play proceeds clockwise from the blinds, with each player free to fold, call the blind bet, or raise. Usually the blinds are “live”, meaning that they may raise themselves when the action gets back around to them.
Now three cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table; this is called the “flop”. A round of betting ensues, with action starting on the first blind, immediately to the dealers left. Another card is dealt face up (the “turn”), followed by another round of betting, again beginning to the dealer’s left. Then the final card (the “river”) is dealt followed by the final round of betting. In a structured-limit game, the bets on the turn and river are usually double the size of those before and on the flop.
The game is usually played for high only, and each player makes the best five-card combination to compete for the pot. Players usually use both their hole cards to make their best hand, but this is not required. A player may even choose to “play the board” and use no hole cards at all. Identical five-card hands split the pot; the sixth and seventh cards are not used to break ties.
Poker strategy – a crash course in the basics
Poker is a complicated game but a few simple guidelines go far in preventing beginner mistakes. Later in the guide we will recommend good poker books and web sites where you can learn the finer points of advanced strategy, but for now keep these ideas in mind:
Be patient. Fold early and often. Top holdem players might fold 80% of their hands before the flop. The idea is to only play when you have an advantage. The sad truth is, most of the time you don’t have an edge and you can tell just by looking at your first cards. If you’re going to fold at all during a hand, the earlier you fold the better, because you will contribute fewer chips to a pot that someone else wins. By folding a lot early, you give yourself a stronger average hand when you do play. That makes it easier to follow the second rule.
Be aggressive. Don’t be afraid to raise. The fewer opponents that are in the pot with you, the more inclined you should be to raise instead of call. Often the best choice is to raise, next best is to fold and the worst choice is to call. The exception is when there are a lot of other players in the pot. Now the odds are that somebody has a pretty good hand. In this case you can fold your medium-strength hands and call with good draws. But when you make that draw, don’t slow play it. Raise!
Know when you’re beat. Okay, so you started with a strong hand and have been doing a lot of raising. But now this other guy just won’t quit reraising you and your hand hasn’t improved. Well, it may be time to give up. Don’t be afraid to fold when you know you’re beat.
Keep an eye on the pot. The smaller the pot is, the stronger your hand needs to be to continue. Even a good draw in a tiny pot is not worth the cost. But conversely, a long shot draw becomes profitable in a large pot. When it’s your opponent that is drawing, remember that his profit is your loss. You’re happy to let them draw against you when the pot is small, but be sure to make them pay the maximum to draw when the pot is large. In short, don’t draw in a small pot and don’t slow-play in a large pot.
Get inside your opponent’s head. What do you think he has? What do you think he thinks you have? What does he think you think he has? If you can outsmart your opponent on this level, you have the advantage. But it takes practice. New players tend to concentrate too much on their own hand. It’s just as important to understand what your opponent might have as well. A good start at developing this skill in holdem is to imagine what is the strongest hand anybody could have given the current board. For example, maybe a pair of aces in the hole would make three aces. Then think back over the play of the hand so far. Is your opponent’s play consistent with holding two aces? If not, he probably doesn’t have that hand. To go to the next level, look back over your own play so far this hand. Is your play consistent with holding two aces? That gives you an idea what your opponent might think you have.
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Online Poker Beginner´s Guide
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