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Poker: Basic Rules

The Basics: Poker is a card game played against other players. A poker game, no matter what variant, is a matter of getting the best five-card hand. What does that mean?

Well, let’s take a game like Seven Card Stud (which I will go into greater detail in a moment). In Seven Card, you will, over time, get dealt seven cards. Of those cards, you can use up to five of them to make the best hand you can. Depending on what poker game you play, you may be limited in different ways as to what cards you can and can’t use. But, as I said, we’ll get to that in a bit.

For now, it’s important to learn what the various possible hands are. I will first give you a list of the hands (with a short bit of info on each), from worst to best, and then go into detail.

Rags – Nothing that makes anything in particular. It’s just a bunch of useless cards.
Pair – Two cards of the denomination.
Two Pair – Two separate, different pairs.
Three of a Kind – Three cards of the same denomination.
Straight – Five cards in sequential order.
Flush – Five cards, all of the same suit, in non-sequential order.
Full House – A Three of a Kind and a Pair
Four of a Kind – Four cards of the same denomination.
Straight Flush – Five cards, all of the same suit, in sequential order.
Royal Flush – The Top five cards of one suit.

If you get cards that make nothing (no pair, not of the same suit, not in any sequential order), this is called Rags. The highest hand of this kind would be an Ace. If you had nothing good but an ace and I had nothing but a King, you would win.

If you have two cards of the same denomination (i.e., two eights), that would be a pair. The higher the pair, the better the hand (i.e., two aces beat two kings).

You could have two pairs (i.e., two aces and two eights). If you end up with two pair and I end up with two pair, the highest of the pairs wins the hand (i.e., if two aces and two sixes are against two kings and two eights, the aces and sixes wins).

Three of a Kinds are three cards all of the same denomination (i.e., three nines). Much like with a pair, if two three of a kinds are competing, the higher of the three of a kinds wins (i.e., three aces beat three kings).

A straight is any five cards in sequential order, such as a four, a five, a six, a seven, and an eight (this particular hand would be called an “eight-high straight”). They are in order as if they were on a number line. A straight must be in order like the above example. A two, a four, a six, an eight, and a ten (sequential evens) is not a viable hand. The highest card in competing straights will win the hand (so a ten-high straight beats my eight-high straight). The cards in a straight do not have to be all of the same suit (if they are, it’s an even better hand that will be mentioned in just a second).

A flush is any five cards, all of the same suit (referred to as “suited”), in non-sequential order, such as an ace, four, five, eight, and king of diamonds (this particular example is called a “king-high flush”). They aren’t in any order, but they are all diamonds. If they are in order (like a straight), that’s an even better hand that will be explained in just a second. Like a straight, the highest card is what you look at to see who wins. So my king-high flush beats an eight-high flush.

A Full House is a three of a kind pair up with a pair (i.e., three kings and two fours—the kings are said to be “over” the fours since the kings are making up the three of a kind). Much like in two-pair, the highest of the three of a kinds wins the hand (so a full house with kings over fours would beat a full hours with sixes over aces).

Four of a kind are four cards all of the same denomination (i.e., four queens). Much like with pairs and three of a kind, if two four of a kinds are competing, the higher of the four of a kinds wins (i.e., four aces beat four kings).

A straight flush is (much like the name implies) a flush with all the cards in sequential order (i.e., a four, a five, a six, a seven, and an eight, all of spades). As with a straight and a flush, when two straight flushes are against each other, the highest straight flush wins (i.e., an eight-high straight flush beat a six-high straight flush).

The best hand is a royal flush which is the very best straight flush possible. It’s a ten, jack, queen, king, and ace all suited. Unless you’re playing a wild card game (which Jackpot Casino Events do not run), this is the very best hand you could possibly have.

How to Play: Before getting into the various games of poker, a bit can be said on the very basic way to play the game. No matter what variant, poker is a game against the other players. You and everyone else will be dealt cards. Over time, opportunities will present themselves to potentially improve whatever cards you have. You and everyone else can bet during the game at specific times (depending on the variant), in an attempt to suck money out of each other.

Since it’s a game against other players, you’re going to have to “figure out” what the other person has. Poker is a game of skill more than luck. The better you get at reading people (how they play, how they bet, their mannerisms), the better you’ll play.

We’ll take a quick moment to cover betting. Generally, any game will open with an ante or blinds. An ante is the bet before the game begins that each person puts in (such as an ante of “100” from each player). This will go into the communal pot that everyone plays for. A blind is a different kind of opening bet (generally used in Texas Hold’em and its variants). One person will be designated as the big blind (usually the person sitting two seats left of the dealer), and the person to his right will be the small blind. Depending on what the opening bet is supposed to be (i.e., if betting is starting at “200”), then the big blind would put in the full opening bet (“200” in this case), while the small blind would put in half the opening bet (“100”), all before the cards are even looked at (thus, a “blind” bet). It’s similar to an ante, but only two people do this each round.

The thing about blinds to realize is that, unlike in an ante, the blinds are actual bets for the round. Anyone else betting that round has to at least match the amount bet in the big blind (for our example, “200”), if they want to stay in. They can bet more, but they have to at least match (“call”) the big blind.

Blinds are only used the first round of betting. After that, while the minimum bet required to start betting in a round is still the same size as the big blind (for our example, still “200”), betting does not have to occur. If no one wants to bet that round, they each can “check,” which basically says “there is no bet currently, and I don’t want to bet.”

For an example of blinds in action, check out the Texas Hold’em page. There are also pages setup currently for 5 Card Draw and 5 Card and 7 Card Stud (the generally requested variants at events). One more page is also setup to illustrate the pot and gambling.

Jackpot Casino Events dealers can deal any official game of poker that is desired. Wild card games are not allowed (and generally neither are high-low games). The dealers though do not play the games. They are there to monitor the game and the make sure everything is played properly.

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