Poker Basics: The Key to Being a Pro

Perhaps the most popular card game but not always the easiest to master, Poker is a game of skills and luck. There are only two ways to win. One is to have the highest hand; two is to have the best poker face in town. The first depends on luck; the latter requires talent.

The Game

At the start of a regular poker game, the players agree on a betting limit which dictates the maximum bet each player can place. Before the cards are dealt, each player places an ante into the pot. An ante is a bet and should be equal to the same amount for every player. This means that if Player 1 throws in two dollars, all other players should place the same. Once all antes have been set, the dealer then deals the cards one by one to each player starting with the player to his left. This continues until all players have five cards each. The remaining cards are placed in the middle of the table. This signifies the beginning of a series of opening, seeing, checking, raising, folding and a lot of bluffing.

To open means to place the first bet which is any amount not exceeding the betting limit. To see is to match another player's bet. To raise means to "see" and increase the bet placed by the previous player. To fold is to drop out of the game mainly because the player is not confident that his hand is good enough. To check is not to "open" and not to "fold". However, the option to check is only available as long as no one has opened the betting yet.

After the first series of betting, all players who have not yet folded now have the option to let go of three bad cards and get new ones from the deck. It is important that every card thrown out or drawn from the deck by each player remains unknown to other players. Once each player has his new set of cards, meaning his original two plus the three new ones, betting resumes. This series of betting, drawing new cards and betting again only ends when no player opts to raise or when everyone folds. When this happens, all cards are turned face up and the player with the best hand wins the game.

What is the Best Hand?

The hierarchy of hands starting from the best hand down to the weakest is as follows. 1. Royal Flush (A, K, Q, J and 10 all from a single suit), 2. Straight Flush (5 successive cards all from a single suit), 3. 4 of a Kind (4 cards of the same number or rank of card), 4. Full House (a pair and three of a kind), 5. Flush (5 cards belonging to the same suit), 6. Straight (5 cards in sequence but not of the same suit), 7. Three of a Kind (three cards of the same rank), 8. Two Pair (2 different pairs), 9. Pair (a pair of cards with the same rank), 10. High Card (the highest single hand of all the cards). Examples of cards of the same rank are four 2's while cards of the same suit are three diamonds.

Bluffing your Way to Riches

The most important aspect of poker that is known to all but is not given enough attention is bluffing. Bluffing is the art of lying and making the other players believe that you have a better hand than you actually have or vice versa. In short, keeping a poker face and not giving away any clue based on mannerisms, facial expressions and eye movements to your opponents.

In the game of life, poker included, luck isn't always there. Every player who wishes to master the game of poker without shelling out his riches should know the rules, have discipline and be an experienced bluffer.