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Poker School

About Poker

The Greatest Card Game

Poker is a classical game of cards, played all over the world in countless variations. Usually, your goal as a player is to assemble the best five-card poker hand.

A Game of Betting

But poker is also a game of betting. In order to get the cards you need, you will have to pay a price. That price is decided by the bets put in by yourself and the other players around the table. The bets make up the pot, which in the end is won by the player with the best hand.

A Game of People

Therefore, one of your main challenges when playing poker will be to understand why the other players bet the way they do, or why they don't bet. It is sometimes claimed that poker is in fact not so much a game of cards, as a game of people.

Determining the Winning Hand

Although hundreds of poker variations are played around the world, most of them agree on one point: The ranking of the five card poker hands.

The following poker hand ranking is almost universal, and it is the one fundamental piece of knowledge you absolutely have to master when you start out on your poker career.

Hand ranking

This list is used to decide which of two poker hands is the highest:

Straight flush

The best possible poker hand is the straight flush. That is, five cards in sequence and of the same suit. It is very rare.

If two players both hold a straight flush, the one with the highest card wins. If the highest card is the same, the hands are equal. Different suits do not have different values in poker hands, so a straight flush of hearts does not beat a straight flush of clubs.

A straight flush with an ace high is called royal flush.

Four of a kind

The second highest poker hand is four of a kind, that is, a hand with four cards that have the same face value.

If two players have four of a kind, the one with the highest four cards wins. For example, four tens beat four eights. If two players have four of a kind with the same four cards, the one with the highest fifth card wins. The fifth card is called a side card, or kicker. If the side cards are of the same face value as well, the hands are equal and the pot is split.

Full house

A full house is a hand with one three of a kind and one pair.

If two players have a full house, the one with the highest three of a kind wins. If the three of a kinds are the same, the one with the highest pair wins. If the pairs too are the same, the hands are equal and the pot is split.

Flush

If all five cards are of the same suit, the hand is a flush.

If two players have a flush, the hand with the highest card wins. If these are equal, the one with the highest second card wins, and so on. If all cards are equal, the hands tie and the pot is split. There is no order between the suits in poker.

Straight

For a hand to be a straight, all five cards must be in number sequence.

If two players have a straight, the one with the highest card wins.

If both straights have the same highest card, the hands are equal and the pot is split.

Three of a kind

If three cards have the same face value, you have three of a kind - given that the remaining two cards do not constitute a pair.

If two players have three of a kind, the one with the best three cards wins. If the three cards are the same, the hand with the highest side card wins, or if the highest side cards too are equal, the one with the best second highest side card wins. If both second side cards are equal as well, the hands are equal and the pot is split.

Two pair

Two pair is just what it sounds like, two cards of one face value and two cards of another.

If two players have two pair, the player with the highest pair wins, or if these are equal, the player with the highest second pair wins. If the highest and lowest pair are equal between the hands, the hand with best highest side card wins. If these too are equal, the hands tie and the pot is split.

Pair

If two cards in the hand are of the same face value, and none of the hands above can be combined, the hand is a pair.

If two players have a pair, the one with the highest pair wins. If the pairs are of the same face value, the hand with the highest side card wins, or if these too are equal, the one with the highest second card wins, and so on. If both pairs and all side cards are equal, the hands are of equal value and the pot is split.

The hand with the highest card

If no hand contains any of the combinations described above, the hand with the highest individual card is the highest hand. A hand containing an ace is higher than a hand with a king high. A hand with a king is higher than a hand with a ten high, and so on. If two hands have the same high card, the hand with the highest second card wins, and so on. If all five cards are equal, the hands are equal and the pot is split.

High and low poker

In some variations of poker, the lowest hand actually wins the pot (low poker), or part of the pot (split poker). When playing low poker, use the list above to decide which of two hands is the highest. Then the other hand is the winner.

For example, of the two hands 8-5-4-3-2 and 7-6-5-4-2, the hand with the 8 is higher according to this list, so the other hand is the best low hand.

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