Currently, there are literally dozens of versions of the game of poker. The most popular version in the world right now by far is Texas Hold’ Em, so this article will focus specifically on the rules of that game. However, before we delve into the rules of Texas Hold ‘Em, let’s explore some universal aspects of the game of poker that are the same no matter what version you are playing.
First of all, the hands, or groups of cards that you use to play against other players, always have the same value. A royal flush, or a hand consisting of an ace, a king, a queen, a jack and a ten, all with the same suit, is always the best hand a player can have. Nothing beats it. This is followed by a straight flush, or a group of five cards in sequential order that all the same suit. It is important to note that a straight flush of 7, 8, 9, 10 and jack is better than a straight flush consisting of a 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 because the numbers of the first straight flush are higher than the numbers of the second.
After that, four of a kind is the next best hand, and then a full house. A full house is a hand of five cards that consists of three of a kind and two of a kind. The next best hand is a flush, which is a group of cards that all have the same suit. After that is a straight. A straight is a group of five cards that are all in sequential order, but do not have the same suit. Again, if the cards also had the same suit, then the hand would be a straight flush.
After a straight in order of value comes three of a kind. Next up is the hand that has two pair, and then after that is one pair, and then, if a hand has no pairs or matching suits, the lowest hand a person can have is known as the high card. This simply means that the hand can only win if you are playing someone who also has no pairs of any kind and their highest card is lower than your highest card.
For more about hand rankings, see our detailed feature article about poker hand rankings here.
Another universality across all versions of poker is the ability of players to play psychological games with each other. One form of this is known as “bluffing.” Bluffing means that a player is purposely misrepresenting what they have in their hand. For instance, if a player wants to win a pot (we’ll get to what a pot is shortly) but doesn’t have a good hand, then they can bet a lot of money, or chips, to make the other players think that their hand is much better than it really is. Bluffing can also work the other way too.
In the game of Texas Hold ‘Em, it typically takes five or more players to make a good game. The players all play around a single table, and each player takes turns dealing the cards to all of the other players. The first dealer is usually selected by whoever draws the highest card in a mixed up pile of cards on the playing table.
Once a dealer is established, each player buys in for an even amount of chips. The chips are divvied out and then play can begin. The player to the left of the dealer is the small blind, and they put up half of the minimum bet before any cards are dealt. The player to the left of the small blind then puts up the total of the minimum bet, and this is known as the big blind.
After the blinds are thrown into the pot (this is the pool of money in the center of the table that anyone can win. It can either grow or remain at the amount of the total of the big and little blind, depending on whether or not anyone else bets in the round), the dealer deals two cards to each player.
Depending on how good the cards are, this is how each player will decide if they want to proceed. For instance, if a player receives two aces for their first two cards, then they are definitely going to want to stay in the round by betting at least the minimum bet, which is the total of the big blind. If a player doesn’t have good cards and does not want to bluff the other players, they may choose to much their cards, or get rid of their hand and not play for the rest of the round.
Once all of the players have decided whether or not to play, then the dealer burns, or discards the card from the top of the deck. After that, he turns the next three cards face up and puts them in a line in the middle of the table. This is known as the flop, and these three flop cards are community cards that all of the players use to combine with their two personal cards to make the best hand possible.
After the next round of betting, the dealer burns the next card face down, and then turns the card after that face up and places it next to the flop cards. This card is known as the turn, and it is also a community card that all of the players use.
After another round of betting, the dealer burns one more card facedown from the top of the deck and then turns a final card over face up and places it next to the turn card. This card is known as the river card and it is the final card in the community group of cards. Once all of the players who are still in the game have completed their final round of betting, then the cards are turned over to see who has the best hand and subsequently wins all of the money in the pot.