Poker uses a standard pack of playing cards, 52 cards (there are some poker games that uses more or less depending on the variations such as adding wild cards like joker). The card ranking is as follows Ace (the highest), King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 (the lowest), Ace (this may also be the lowest card depending on the variations you are using, but it is usually the highest).
There are four suits (spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs). No suit is higher than another. All poker hands contain five cards, the highest hand wins.
The use of Wild Cards depends on the variations, wild cards take on whatever rank or suit you want it to take. A wild card can either be a separated card added like a joker or you may specify a certain card in the standard deck to be wild like deuces, or whatever else.
The number of cards dealt is dependant on what type of game you are playing: 5 card stud, you are dealt five cards and 7 card stud, you are dealt seven. I know this is obvious, but I don’t want anyone to get confused. Five card draw is the standard poker game where 5 cards are dealt with each player face down.
Ranking of the hands -it wouldn’t be a bad idea to print a copy of this for use during your first poker game, but I would recommend memorizing it to prevent uncontrolled laughter from your opponents.
1. Five of a Kind – A five of a kind, only possible when using wild cards, is the highest possible hand. If more than one hand has five of a kind, the higher cards wins, five Aces will beat five kings, which beats five queens, and continues on by the ranking of the cards.
2. Straight Flush – A straight flush is the best natural hand. A straight flush is a straight (5 cards in order, such as 7-8-9-10-J) that are all of the same suits. As in a regular straight, you can have an ace either high (A-K-Q-J-T) or low (A-2-3-4-5). You can not use the Ace in a wraparound and example would be K-A-2-3-4, which is not a straight. An Ace high straight-flush is called a Royal Flush and is the highest natural hand.
3. Four of a Kind – Four cards of the same rank like four Aces or Four Kings. If there are two or more hands that qualify, the hand with the higher-rank four of a kind wins. Very rarely, I mean really rarely, if you are playing a game with a lot of wild cards, you may have two four of a kind with the same rank. In this case you use the High Card rule (number 10 on this list).
4. Full House – A full house is a three of a kind and a pair, such as K-K-K-2-2. When there are two full houses the tie is broken by the three of a kind. An example would be J-J-J-5-5 would beat 9-9-9-A-A. If for some reason the three of a kind cannot determine the victor then you go to the pair to decide (this would only happen in a game with wild cards). An example of this would be K-K-K-A-A would beat K-K-K-J-J.
5. Flush – A flush is a hand where all of the cards are the same suit, such as A-J-9-7-5, all of Diamonds. When flushes ties, follow the rules for High Card.
6. Straight – Five cards in rank order, but not of the same suit (it can be any combination of the four suits). An example of a straight is 2-3-4-5-6. The Ace can either be a high or low card, either A-2-3-4-5 or 10-J-Q-K-A. Wraparounds are not allowed (an example being K-A-2-3-4). When two straights tie, the highest straight wins, K-Q-J-10-9 would beat 5-4-3-2-A. If two straights have the same value, AKQJT vs AKQJT, the pot is split.
7. Three of a Kind – Three cards of any rank with the remaining cards not being a pair (that would be a full house if it were). Once again the highest ranking three of a kind would win. K-K-K-2-4 would beat Q-Q-Q-2-3. If both are the same rank (only in a wild card game), then the High Card rule comes into effect with the remaining two.
8. Two Pair – Two distinct pairs of card and a 5th card. The highest ranking pair wins ties. If both hands have the same high pair, the second pair wins. If both hands have the same pairs, the high card wins.
9. Pair – One pair with three distinct cards. Highest ranking pair wins. High card breaks ties.
10. High Card – When a hand has none of the above qualifications of any of the ones listed above, nobody has even a pair or better, then it comes down to who is holding the highest ranking card. If there is a tie for the high card then the next high card determines the pot, if that card is a tie than it continues down till the third, fourth, and fifth card. The High card is also used to break ties when the high hands both have the same type of hand (pair, flush, straight, etc).
Those are the types and rankings of the different hands. Now let’s get down to betting.
Betting-In most poker games you start the betting with an ante just to get the cards dealt. The ante is dependent upon who you are playing with, a friendly game would usually have an ante of a penny, nickle, or dime, I personally like a nickle ante when playing with friends. The money is put in the center of the table and is called the pot. At the end of a hand the highest hand, of the players that remain (some may have folded), wins the pot.
You have three choices when the betting gets to you (betting is handled in a clockwise order) and here they are:
1. Call – betting enough to match what has been bet since the last time you bet. An example would be if you bet 25 cents and somebody then bid 35 cents when to you you would owe 10 cents. If you Call than you would put the amount that you owed into the pot and you would stay in the hand.
2. Raise – when you raise you first put enough in the pot to match what has already been bet and then you would raise the pot by putting an additional amount in (a friendly game would usually have a limit to how much money you could raise). So let’s say the initial bet was 25 cents, you would have to put in 25 cents and then say I’ll raise you another 25 cents. Now the other players will either Call, Raise, or fold.
3. Fold – dropping out of the current hand and losing the possibility of winning the pot. You don’t have to put money in and you would only lose the ante, if it’s on the first turn, or whatever you put in the pot later. As the Kenny Rodgers song says, “you gotta know when to fold them.” Sometimes it is just better to get out than waste good money on bad cards.
Betting is always dependent on the people you are playing with and the rules that they prescribe. Games between friends should always have low limits set on the ante, the amount you could raise, and the top amount the pot could grow to. These rules are best because winning a big pot is never worth losing a friend over. So set the ante at a nickle, the raises at a quarter, and don’t let the pot go over a few dollars. This is the best way to handle a friendly game.
A quick example of a game of Five Card Draw
Everyone puts in the ante and five cards are dealt face down to each player. Then a round of betting occurs. Then the player can discard up to three cards (4 if your last card is an ace or a wild card, this rule is set by the players) and get (from the deck) as many new cards as they discarded. Then there is another round of betting, and then hands are revealed and the highest hand wins the pot.
There are the basics, use them wisely, learn the strategy of poker, and have fun.