Poker Tutorial, History, Strategy, Rules and Odds

What is Poker?

Poker is a card game that has many variants. The one thing in common between the different variants is that the winner is determined according to his poker hand. At the final showdown, the player who has the best poker hand will win. According to the procedure of each game, there are cards that are hidden until the end of the game, there are community or shared cards that everyone can use and see and some cards are revealed during the game play. The wagering procedure differs from one game to another but most games start with a forced bet that players have to place, it is called an “Ante” bet. Also, most games include several betting rounds between each stage of the game.

The History of Poker

According to Joseph Crowell, an actor from England, the game of poker used to be played in 1829 in Louisiana. This game consisted of twenty decks of cards and involved four players. The book of Jonathan H. Green that was entitled An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling stated that the game started to spread from Louisiana in New Orleans to the rest of the United states through the river boats of Mississippi that were known for their gambling activity.

The game started to evolve and went through many phases especially during the Civil War in America. This contributed in creating numerous poker versions such as straight poker and stud poker. The game continued its development and many versions followed such as the introduction of a wild card, split pot poker, community card poker and lowball.

The popularity of poker skyrocketed in 1970 when the first WSOP (World Series of Poker) took place. It was the first poker tournament on a wide scale. The winners of the early tournaments include big names in the world of poker such as Amarillo Slim, Doyle Brunson, Puggy Pearson and Bobby Baldwin. The first book to talk about poker strategy was written by Doyle Branson, it was entitled Super/System.

The introduction of poker into mainstream media occurred in the 1980s. Poker was portrayed as a recreational activity. For instance, it was played in more than ten episodes of Star Trek, the hit TV sci-fi show. It was portrayed as a weekly game that was enjoyed by the senior staff of the space ship. In the 1990s, gambling starter to spread across the states, including poker, especially in the state of New Jersey in Atlantic City.

The popularity of poker spiked in the first years of the 21st century. The main reasons behind that were the introduction of internet poker and the hole-card cameras. The cameras turned poker into a spectator sport that enabled players to follow poker games that are played by top names in the sport. Online poker enables players to enjoy poker through their computers without having to leave the comfort of their home. With the popularity of poker on the rise, numerous poker tours started to emerge. These poker tours included the European Poker Tour and the World Poker Tour. These two tours were sponsored and televised.

The first ever poker-governing body was established in 2009 in Switzerland, this body is the International Federation of Poker. This federation announced plans for two brand new events in 2001. One of the events was The Nations Cup.

The Different Poker Hands

As mentioned above, the pot of any poker game, regardless of the version, is awarded to the player who has the best poker hand. The ranking of the poker hands does not differ from one version to another. Here is the ranking of the different poker hands in an ascending order:

High Card
If no players have any poker hands, the player who has the highest card will win.

A Pair
When players have two cards of the same value such as 2 7s, 2 8s, 2 Js or 2 Aces, it is called a pair. The strength of the pair against other pairs depends on the cards that are forming this pair. For example, a pair of aces will beat any other pair and a pair of 10s will beat a pair of 8s and so on.

Two Pairs
It is self-explanatory; it is when players have two pairs such as “2 aces + 2 10s” or “2 8s + 2 7s” and so on. The strength of the Two Pairs against other two pairs depends on the highest pair. For example, a hand of “2 aces + 2 tens” will beat a poker hand of “2 kings + two jacks.”

Three of a Kind
It is when players have three identical cards such as 3 aces, 3 kings or 3 sevens.

Straight
Straight is when players get five consecutive cards of different suits. For example, getting “2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6” or “8 + 9 + 10 + Jack + Queen” and so on.

Flush
Flush is when players get five cards that have the same suit regardless of their order. For example, 7 + 9 + A + 3 + J, all Spades.

Full House
Full house is when players get a pair + three of a kind. For example, a poker hand that consists of “2 aces + 3 tens” or “2 10s + 3 4s” is a full house.

Four of a Kind
It is when players get four identical cards such as 4 aces, 4 tens or 4 jacks and so on.

Straight Flush
It is a mix between straight and flush, hence the name of the poker hand. It is when players get five consecutive cards of the same suit. For example, a poker hand that has “9+ 10 + J + Q + k” all diamonds.

Royal Flush
It is the highest poker hand. It is when players get a Straight Flush from Ten up to Ace.
There is something called the kicker. This card is the referee between Pairs, Two Pairs and 3 of a kind hands. For example, a hand that consists of “10 + 10 + J + 2 +3” will beat a hand that consists of “10 + 10 + 9 + 5 + 2”. The kicker in that case is the Jack. So the first hand wins because it has a pair of tens and a J kicker.

The Different Poker Variants

There are many poker variants that are enjoyed by millions of poker players around the world. Here are some of the most commonly played versions:

Straight Poker
This is one of the basic forms of poker. In this game, each player will get five cards after they place the ante bet. After the players see their cards, players can raise and re raise. After the betting round is over, the players who did not fold will show their hands. The player who has the highest poker hand will be declared the winner. It is a very straightforward version of poker. This is why most casinos and all tournaments do not play this kind of poker. They play other advanced poker versions that involves strategy, tactics and more bluffing such as 5-card draw poker or Texas Hold’em Poker.

Texas Hold’em Poker
This is one of the most commonly played versions of poker around the world, whether in land-based casinos, online casinos or poker tournaments.

A Texas Hold’em Poker table can involve up to eight players besides the dealer. In this game, the dealer does not take part in the game. Players will have to pay an initial bet, called an ante. After players place this bet, each player will be dealt 2 cards, these two cards are facing down and only players can see their own cards.

After players see their two initial cards, a round of betting will begin. Players will decide if they want to fold their hand, if they want to raise or if they want to call a raise or re raise. After players raise and re raise or fold, the dealer will deal three cards facing up on the poker table. These cards are referred to as the flop, and then another round of wagering will begin. The dealer will then place another card facing up on the poker table and another wagering round will begin. Then the dealer will place the last card, also called the river card. Then the most vicious wagering round will begin. The players who did not fold and make it to the last round will participate in the showdown. Each player will show his hand, the player who has the best five cards from the seven cards (2 initial cards + 5 cards on the poker table) will claim the pot.

Five Card Draw Poker
In this game, players will place an ante and then each player will be dealt five cards. A round of wagering will begin. Players will place bets, raise them and re raise them. After this wagering round, each player will be able to choose a number of cards that he wants to replace. The dealer will then replace those cards from the deck. Then another round of wagering will begin. The players who reach that final round will then show their hands. The player who has the highest poker hand will claim the pot.

7 Card Stud Poker
7 card stud poker is a variant of stud poker. Before Texas Hold’em Poker became this popular poker game around the world, 7-card stud poker was the most commonly played poker game.

In this game, players place an ante and each player will get 2 cards facing down, each player will only be able to see his two cards. A round of wagering will begin then each player will be dealt one card facing up, it is called the third street. A round of wagering will begin. Another card will be dealt to each player facing up; it is called the fourth street. Another wagering round will begin. A fifth and a sixth and a seventh card will be dealt facing up to each player with a wagering round between them. These cards are named the Fifth Street, the Sixth Street and the Seventh Street respectively. After the seventh card, a very vicious wagering round will begin and the showdown follows. The player who has the best poker hand will win.

Some games use community cards. The community cards are shared cards that are dealt facing up on the poker table that can be used by all of the players at the table. This resembles the concept of Texas Hold’em Poker.

Terminology

There are many terms that poker players use; we are going to discuss some of them:

The Flop: the first three cards that the dealer puts on the poker table during a poker game.

The Pot: the total wagers of all of the players that the winning player will claim at the end of the game.

The River Card: the 5th and the last card that the dealer puts on the poker table.

The Ante: an obligatory bet that players have to place before any cards are dealt in order to participate in the game.

The Showdown: occurs at the end of a poker game where all players show their cards so the best hand and the winner can be determined.

All In: when a player raises by using all of the available chips and cash that he has on the poker table.

Bluffing: when a player who has a low hand, probably a losing hand, raises the bet forcing other players to fold thinking that he has a good hand.

Folding: when a player decides to give up his hand. Players do that when someone raises the stake while they have a weak poker hand.
 

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