Poker is essentially a simple game. Its countless versions can be quite complex, so this explanation focuses on 5-Card Draw (i.e. "regular" poker), the easiest one for beginners to learn.
Poker is played with a standard deck of 52 playing cards (except for Ross Perot Poker, which is played with less than a full deck). The cards are ranked from high to low in the following order: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. Aces are ALWAYS high. Aces are worth more than Kings which are worth more than Queens which are worth more than Jack, and so on. The cards are also separated into four suits. The suits are:
The suits are all of equal value, meaning that no suit is more valuable than another. It's a very democratic game. Each player is dealt five cards. The object of the game is to end up with the highest-valued hand. From best to worst, hands are ranked in the following order:
Royal Flush is composed of 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace, all of the same suit. It's the toughest hand to get.
A Straight Flush is comprised of five cards in numerical order, all of the same suit. It's not allowed to "wrap around," such as Q-K-A-2-3. This is also very rare. If you get two of these in a row, you are cheating. If there are two Straight Flushes at the table, then whichever hand's Straight Flush reaches the highest card value wins. So in the examples below, Hand 2 (which has a King) would beat Hand 1 (which only goes up to 8).
Four of a Kind
Four cards of the same numerical rank and another random card. If there are two or more hands that qualify, the hand with the highest-ranking Four of a Kind wins. In the examples below, Hand 2 would beat Hand 1.
Of the five cards in your hand, three have the same numerical rank, and the two remaining card also have the same numerical rank. Ties are broken first by the Three of a Kind, then the Pair. So K-K-K-3-3 beats Q-Q-Q-A-A, which beats Q-Q-Q-7-7.
A Flush is comprised of five cards of the same suit, regardless of their numerical rank. In a tie, whoever has the highest ranking card wins. In the example below, Hand 1 (with a King) beats Hand 2 (with a Queen).
Five cards in numerical order, regardless of their suits. Just like with the Straight Flush, a Straight cannot "wrap around." In a tie, whoever's Straight goes to a higher ranking card wins (so in the examples below, Hand 1 beats Hand 2).
Three of a Kind
Three cards of the same numerical rank, and two random cards that are not a pair.
Two sets of pairs, and another random card.
One pair and three random cards. If more than one person has a One Pair, then the person with the highest ranking pair wins.
If none of the players have anything of value, the player holding the highest-valued card wins, with the 2 as the lowest card, and the Ace as the highest. In the case of a tie, you move to the next highest card, and continue.
The only way to stay in the game is to not fold. If you have a bad hand and want out quick, then you'd seriously consider folding. If you have what you think could be a good hand (if you could take a few new cards and get good ones), then you would seriously consider staying in. If you have an outstanding hand, then you'll definitely want to stay in.
- First, each player places an ante or "token bet" into the pot before the cards are even dealt. The ante can be anything from a few coins to wads of banknotes. You need an ante because it guarantees that someone will always win something on each hand.
- Once everyone has placed their ante, the dealer deals the cards face down around the table, starting at the player to his left and continuing clockwise. The dealer (if he's playing) always deals to himself last. The dealer deals everyone their first card, then goes back around the circle to deal the second, and so on. As soon as everyone has five cards, the remainder of the deck is placed in the middle of the table, and play begins.
- Each player looks at his or her cards, and then the first player places a bet. While there are several ways of deciding who bets first, poker novices are best off letting the player directly to the left of the dealer make the first bet. Then on the next hand, the person to his left will bet first, and so on around the table for each new hand.
- Players have several options as far as the first round of betting goes. If no one has made a bet yet, you have two choices:
Open: If no betting has begun when your turn comes, you may "open" the pot. This simply means that you make the first bet (any amount up to the betting limit).
Check: The opportunity to "check" only occurs if no one has yet opened the betting when it comes time for you to decide what to do. When a player checks, it means that he or she doesn't want to open the betting, but doesn't want to quit either. It basically means "I'm not going to open the betting, but I'll stick around and see what happens."
Now let's say that someone opens the betting (at some point, it will occur). You now have three choices:
See: When you "see" another player, it means that you match their bet. So if someone bets $1 and you want to stay in the game, you have to "see" their $1 by putting $1 of your own into the pot.
Raise: When you "raise," it requires you to first "see" the previous bet, and then increase the bet. For example, if the previous person bet a nickel and you want to bet more than that, you would say "I see (match) your bet amount, and raise you (increase the bet) another amount."
Fold: When someone else opens, you can always "fold." This means giving up and placing your cards face down on the table. You lose whatever you've bet so far. Use this option when you think your hand is too weak to compete.
- At this point, all the players who haven't folded are allowed to get rid of the cards they don't want and take some new cards. A player is permitted to get rid of up to 3 unwanted cards and receive up to 3 new ones from the deck (as long as the player always has 5 cards total). No one sees what anyone else discarded (threw away) or drew (got as a new card). It's all done face down.
- After every player draws 0 to 3 new cards, the betting begins again. You have the option of opening or checking, and once someone opens, you can see, raise, or fold. The game ends when there are no more raises (everyone saw everyone else's bet), or everybody folds (except for the winner, of course).
- Now it's time for everyone to turn their cards over and see how they fared. The player with the highest hand wins the pot.
BUT you don't want everyone to know you have a great hand, or else they'll all fold, letting you win the tiny ante pot. The trick is to make everyone else bet a lot, and win even more money. It's all about being a good liar and a good actor.