An Introduction to Poker

If you think poker is a game played in the shadows only by criminals and con artists, you probably time traveled from the past. That reputation of the card game is on its way out if it isn’t already. Today, the game is enjoying a considerable popularity, and still increasing, as it is played by people even their homes.

This is an introduction to poker. You will see the basic things you need to know about the game whether you’re interested in playing it or just looking for more information.

A Brief History

poker old gameThe game, as well as playing cards in general, has an origin that is hard to exactly pinpoint. Theories abound. You may hear that it came from the Chinese, when they thought of something to replace dominoes. The tarot cards popular in fortune-telling is clearly related. Playing games is such a part of human culture throughout the world that the playing cards we know today had different versions from different cultures.

One theory for the game is that it is an incorporation of two games: poque and âs, from the French and Persian sailors, respectively. Poque involved betting and bluffing while âs is a game using a deck of five suits. It is theorized that the game changed as it spread up the Mississippi River because the travelers taught it to each other while putting their own rules to fit their needs. Con artists back then utilized the game to take cash (or “poke”) from their victims. At an unknown point in time, the game was called poker, with the first written account traced to 1834.

The game spread fast to the “wild west” in the 1800s. At that time, it would be rare to find a saloon without a dedicated table.

Benny Binion, a famous casino owner from Las Vegas, hosted a tournament for the game inviting best players in the world. This game is now broadcasted by ESPN.

A game has rules. While there is no regulating body and rules are only passed on via experience and tradition, there are standard rules that serve as a viable foundation. Just remember that there may be house rules. It’s best to know them before you join in a game.

Mostly, money is traded for chips that the players would use for betting. They are then traded for money again after the game.


The definition of terms can be enough to understand the basic rules of the game.

  • Ante – This is a bet that all players place before any hand is dealt. You can think of it as a “cost” for playing in that hand.
  • Bet – The act of putting money into the pot.
  • Blind – Instead of an ante, the game may use a Blind instead, which is a bet that the player immediately to the left of the dealer places before a hand is dealt.
  • Bluff – When a player bets a large amount even with a weak hand, bluffing occurs. The objective is to make the other players fold.
  • Bug – The joker card. Some games allow its use as a wild card. It can be limited (only represents an ace) or more flexible (the joker may act as the last card necessary for a complete flush or straight).
  • Buy-in – The amount of money required to enter a game.
  • Call – When you call, you place a bet that matches the previous bets from that round. If the player before you bets $5, you will also need to bet $5 to “call”.
  • Check – To bet nothing. The player who has the turn to bet may opt to bet nothing if there’s no bet made yet by any player for that round. If all players checked, the round ends.
  • Fold – This means you drop out of the current hand. You place no more bets and you forfeit the chance to win for that round.
  • Hand – Combination of cards, mostly five. These hands are compared to determine the winner. A hand also means a single round.
  • Pot – The total prize for a round. This is the antes or blinds together with all bets for the round.
  • Raise – When you raise, you increase the betting amount for that round by placing a higher bet than the player before you. The next players to you would have to call the increased amount to keep playing in the hand.
  • Showdown – Basically, the end of the round. All players who didn’t fold show their cards to determine the winner.
  • Wild Card – This is a card that the holder decides what value it has.
  • All-in – When a player bets everything he currently has, he is “all-in”. He can only win the part of the pot that has his “all-in” bet. There would then be a side pot for any other calls or raises by the other players.

Hand Ranks

The rank of hands determines the winner of a poker round. They’re listed below from lowest to highest. Some games may use other hands but these are the standard.

  • poker hands rankingsNothing – All cards don’t make a relation at all. In a tie, the ranking would be determined by its highest card.
  • One Pair – Two cards of equal value with the remaining three cards unrelated.
  • Two Pair – Two pairs of equally valued cards with the remaining one unrelated.
  • Three of a Kind – Three cards of equal value plus two unrelated cards.
  • Straight – Five cards with their value in a straight order, any suit.
  • Flush – Five cards with the same suit, of any value.
  • Full House – Three cards of the same value plus two cards of the same value.
  • Four of a Kind – Four cards with the same value with any one card.
  • Straight Flush – A set of cards in the same suit with a straight order.
  • Royal Flush – Actually just a Straight Flush that involves 10-J-Q-K-A. But since it’s a surefire winner, it is widely considered as a separate hand.

Now, there you have the basics of poker. You are only starting. If you want to get into more advanced levels, you have to get more into etiquette, strategy, cheat prevention, and several types of games.

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