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# How To Play Poker

By: David Messmer

Break Studios Contributing Writer

Knowing the basics of how to play poker will enable you to play a wide variety of games since poker has so many variations.  Regardless of the variation, there are several steps to playing poker that are common to all of the different games.  In order to know how to play poker, here are a few steps that you will always follow:

1. Buy chips.  When you sit down at a poker table you have to buy in for a certain amount.  Sometimes there will be a maximum or a minimum buy in (or both).  You can sometimes buy more chips in between hands, but once a hand starts you cannot buy more chips to increase your stack for that hand.
2. Post blinds and/or antes.  In games that use community cards (Texas Hold 'Em and Omaha, for instance), the game starts with players posting blinds.  The player to the left of the dealer posts an amount equal to half the minimum bet.  The next player to the left posts an amount equal to the minimum bet.  In variations of stud poker (five and seven card) as well as most forms of draw, the game begins with each player posting an ante.
3. Deal the cards.  The exact number of cards will be different for each variation but the one common theme to all standard poker games is that you will not get all of the information about your hand from this first deal.  In Texas Hold 'Em, for instance, you will get two cards, but there will be five community cards later in the hand that you don't know upon the initial deal.  In seven card stud, though you will end up with seven cards if you stay to the end of the hand, you begin with only three cards - two cards face down and one card face up.
4. Determine who plays first.  In drawing games the player to the immediate left of the dealer acts first.  In games that require blinds, the player to the left of the big bling acts first.  In stud, the player with the worst hand showing must "bring in," which means that that player must bet a predetermined amount (usually half of the minimum bet).
5. Determine the action.  Once you have determined who acts first in the hand, the action continues in a clockwise pattern around the table.  Each player has the option to fold, call the total bets up to that point, or raise.  This action continues until either one player remains or at least one other player calls the highest raise.
6. Deal more cards.  The exact number of cards and how many more rounds of action ensue depends on the variation of poker that you're playing.
7. Determine the winner.  If, at the end of all the rounds of betting, two more players remain, then the hand goes to a showdown.  At that point, the players must compare their hands and determine whose is the best.  That player wins the pot.  If there is a tie, then each of the winning players gets an equal share of the pot.

While the rules of individual games vary, these basic steps apply to all forms of poker.  Also, the strength of hands is another commonality between all poker games.  In order to know how to play poker, you must know the rank of the hands.  Here is that rank, from the strongest to the weakest.

1. Royal Flush.  A-K-Q-J-10 all of the same suit.
2. Straight Flush.  Five cards in sequence (e.g. 4-5-6-7-8), all of the same suit.
3. Four of a kind.  Four of the same numbered cards (e.g. 9-9-9-9-x, where the x is any other card).
4. Full house.  Three of one numbered card, and two of another (e.g. Q-Q-Q-6-6).
5. Flush.  Five cards of the same suit.
6. Straight.  Five cards of any suit in sequence (e.g. 8-9-10-J-Q).
7. Three of a kind.  Three of the same numbered cards (e.g. 5-5-5-x-x).
8. Two pair.  Two separate pairs of numbered cards (e.g. 2-2-A-A-x).
9. One pair.  One pair of numbered cards (e.g. 8-8-x-x-x).
10. High card.  If no one has any of the above hands, then the winner is the player with the highest card, starting with the Ace.
Posted on: Mar. 13, 2010