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Poker Rules

The Basic Rules of Poker

Poker is a very diverse game that has several types of variations in its gameplay, with the rules differing based on the type of poker played.  The initial rules of the game are established by the venue, the dealer, or through the agreement of other players. However, we’ll deal with the general rules for this article.

To begin, the overall heart of any poker game is the hands. Poker is played with a standardized set of 52 cards, with four “suits” (clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades) during play.  There are thirteen types of cards in each suit, which rank from highest to lowest: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2. In certain hands, the Ace card can also be used the low card (coming before the two). Please note that private games or certain venues sometimes signify certain cards as “Wild Cards”, meaning they can represent any card. Or they add jokers to the deck, which has the same purpose. However, this is not the norm in professional or tournament play.)
Regardless of how many cards a player may hold, all poker “hands” contain five cards, and the highest hand is the winner (in the case of seven card games, or community card games, you generally take your “best five” to make your hand.)

The hands ranked, in order from highest to lowest are as follows:

  • Straight Flush (with a “Royal Flush” being the highest straight flush)
  • Four of a Kind
  • Full House
  • Flush
  • Straight
  • Three of a Kind
  • Two Pair
  • Pair
  • High Card

Betting is a standard part of playing poker – indeed, players start the game by placing an “ante” (beginning) bet. Then cards are dealt, and more betting commences. Depending on the game, more cards may be dealt, with betting after each “round”. Betting usually starts with the highest showing hand (or, who bet highest last turn), and works its way around the table in a clockwise motion. When it’s their turn, each player has three options: Call, Raise, or Fold based on the quality of a player’s hand or amount of money they have.

Betting continues during a round until everyone calls or folds after raising or placing their initial bet. At the end of a hand, the player who holds the highest hand and hasn’t folded will win the pot. If two players have the same winning hand, a winner is determined based on the highest card (or cards) in the hand (two Kings would beat two Queens).  If all five cards are equal, the players split the pot.

These are the general rules of poker – specialized rules for specific games (like seven card stud or Texas hold em’) may be found in other articles on this website.