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Poker - Basic Rules of Poker
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Intro: Get to grips with the basics of this famous card game
Written on Saturday 20th of October 2012

Introduction to Basic Poker rules

The card game Poker has been played recreationally for many centuries now. As the game has developed and grown, so have the rules to how it is played. These poker rules have become a standard worldwide, no matter what type of poker game you happen to be playing. Even more so for playing internet poker where poker rules have to be well implemented to avoid disputes occurring.

Understanding these rules is essential for beginners, therefore Betastic has put together a comprehensive guide to the basic rules of poker. Most poker games are a variation on five card draw, so we will use this as a template to explain the in and outs for you.


    * Usually 2 -10 players depending on the game
    * One deck of 52 standard playing cards
    * Cash of betting chips


    * Play - A single game played from cards dealt to the winner(s) collecting the pot
    * Hand - A series of cards held by any one player during a play
    * Pot - a common pool where bets are placed during play
    * Flop - refers to the dealing of the first 3 face-up cards to the board (Texas Hold'em, Omaha)
    * Showdown - the finale to a play to determine the winner
    * Fold - To drop out, believing you cant win
    * Rank - The value of a particular card in the context of the game
    * Royal - King, Queen, Jack in that order of rank
    * Kicker - Spare card(s) not part of a sequence in a hand


The idea behind the card game poker is to win the pot of bets placed during a play. To win, a player must be holding the highest ranked hand of all players left in the showdown, or be the only player not to fold before showdown starts.

Fundamentals of Poker

Before the cards are dealt each player places an ante or token bet into the pot located at the centre of the table. This ensures that someone will win something no matter what hands are dealt. Once all the ante bets have been placed the dealer then deals one card face down to each player. Starting with the player to his/her immediate left, and then proceeding anti-clockwise around the table. The dealer always deals to themselves last. The same procedure is used for the second, third, forth and so on. How many cards are dealt and whether they are dealt face-up or face-down depends on the poker game being played. Once all the cards are dealt then the rest of the pack is usually placed in the middle of the table.

To simplify things we will assume that betting is carried out in the same way the cards have been dealt. Starting with the player to the left of the dealer and rotating anti-clockwise. When it is your turn to bet you have a number of options:

As long as you haven't folded, you will be eligible to replace some of your cards. Your discarded cards are placed face down on the table so no one can see. You can then receive new cards from the deck to replace those you discarded. When all the players have received their new cards then the betting opens again using the same system as for the first round. This continues until there are no more raises by any players or all players have folded apart from the winner. Players left in the showdown at the end of the play have to turn the cards to determine the winner. The winner is the player with the highest ranked hand when the cards are turned.

Card Rank

The Ace is considered the highest ranking card followed by the Royal cards and then the numbered cards, from the highest to the lowest. In a hand sequence 5, 4, 3, 2, Ace, then the Ace is considered the lowest ranked card. Sometimes poker games are played without 2, 3, 4 and 5 numbered cards to speed up the game and avoid arguments.

Hand Rank

See Hand ranking guide

Equal Hand Ranks

In the event that players finish up with the same hand rank a tie may be called. In this situation there are a number of different rules to determine the winning hand rank.

Tied hands

In the unlikely event that hands contain exactly the same valued cards there are two possible outcomes. Either the pot is shared, or it goes to the player who 'called' (bet the highest). This will depend on the poker game being played.

Wild Cards

Certain poker games include what are known as 'wild cards'. These are cards specially selected before a game starts that can be used in a hand to represent any other card in the pack. Popular choices for wild cards are jokers, 2's or 3's and red 10's. The rules vary in different poker games as to how a wild card is used. Therefore it is important that before starting a game, if wild cards are to be used then you understand what they represent.

Wild card hand rank

In the situation when hands with wild cards are involved in a tie, then the hand with the least number of wild card will be the winner. If there is the same number of wild cards in each hand then the pot is shared. There are a few types of poker game where the wild card can be used to make up 5 of a kind or a Double ace high flush. These hand ranks have greater value because of the addition of the wild card.

Poker Betting

As you would expect there are definitive rules for betting in poker and players risk being ejected from a game if they don't adhere to them. Players may not:

    * Make a bet on behalf of another player
    * Remove a bet once its been placed in the pot
    * Borrow money or chips from another player at the table

Side bets are allowed in certain games, eg. high card draw in stud poker.

Betting Limits

To avoid betting getting out of control, betting limits can be imposed on a poker game before it starts. This dictates the amount a player can physically bet on each of their turns. This can apply to both maximum bet and minimum bet a player can make.

Changing betting Limits

Betting limits can be changed during a game of poker under certain conditions. These have to be agreed by all players in the game.

No limit Betting

No limit Betting is best left to the professionals. This is when there are no betting limits imposed on a game. Beginners are advised to steer well clear of such games, as your poker career may be finished before it even gets started. No limit Texas Hold'em Poker is the card game of choice for the finals of the WSOP, where the best card players players in the world compete every year.

Raise Limits

Limits on the amount you can raise have to be agreed on before the start of play. Typically raising limits are:

    * two or three times by one player per betting interval
    * no more than three per player per betting interval

Freezing the raise is becoming more and more popular. Where one player who has not yet raised may decide to put into the pot an amount sufficient to stay in and 'freeze the raise' by adding another agreed amount into the pot. Other players then have to decide whether to fold or carry on by matching this amount. This only applies to that particular betting interval.

Pot Limit

This can be set so that a maximum amount is allowed in the pot during a play. Therefore each player has to calculate the amount they wish to raise, making sure it doesn't exceed the pot limit.

Table Stakes

Players bring to the table an amount of money or chips they want they want to play with. There are certain rules specific to table stakes that have to be adhered to by all players:

    * An agreed minimum must be put down to play
    * A player can add from his own pocket during a poker game but not during play
    * No borrowing from the pot or any other player
    * No decreasing table stake during game
    * Cannot sell chips back to banker until he/she has withdrawn from the game
    * Cannot place a bet that exceeds his/her table stake

When the situation arises that a player has run out of money or chips during a play then they can carry on to the showdown. Any bets made after that player has run out are put to one side in a separate pool.

General rules

    * Basic etiquette principles apply, poker is a civilised game
    * No private arrangements between players
    * No looking at discarded cards, un-dealt cards, hole cards or another players hand
    * Each player must deal when it is there turn
    * Cannot remove money from the pot
    * Cannot leave the table with your cards, a sit in should be used if you plan to return

Advanced play in Poker

Bluffing - is commonly used by poker players and has been part of the game since it was invented. The idea of bluffing is to deceive or mislead your opponents using a statement, reaction or play. A common form of bluffing is to react in a way that leads to your opponents believing you have a weaker hand then you do, puffing out the cheeks or sighing heavily are commonly used.

Sandbagging - is sometimes considered the opposite of bluffing. Usually bluffing is used to disguise a weak head. Sandbagging involves betting weakly to disguise a strong hand. The check-raise is a form of sandbagging.

Freeze out - is a different type of play where each player puts an equal number of chips into the pot. Apart from a players winnings no chips can be added, lent or removed during play. As soon as a player has lost all their chips they are out of the game, this continues until all players are eliminated and the winner takes all.

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