Poker - Rules

Most Poker games are played with a standard 52-card deck. The cards are ranked according to the value of the number on the card or the value of the face. The ranking, from highest to lowest, goes as such: ace, king, queen, jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2. Aside from being the highest card in the deck, an ace can also be used as the lowest to complete a low straight; A, 2, 3, 4, 5. In some games, one or more cards are declared wild, meaning that they can be used in place of any other card in the deck. As well as numbers and faces there are 4 different types of suits which are used to determine the value of a Poker hand.

These are: spades, clubs, diamonds, and hearts. Beyond determining that 5 cards of the same suit comprise a flush, suits have no further ranking.

Poker hands are valued based on their 5 card ranking.

The ranking of Poker hands, starting from the lowest, goes as follows:

Name of Hand

Cards Held


A hand with 2 cards of like rank

2 Pair

A hand with 2 groups of 2 cards of like rank

Three of a Kind

A hand with 3 cards of like rank


A hand with 5 cards in unbroken order but not of the same suit


A hand of 5 cards all of the same suit but not in sequence

Full House

A hand of 2 cards of like rank and 3 cards of another rank

Four of a Kind

A hand of 4 cards all of the same rank

Straight Flush

A hand of 5 cards all of the same suit and in unbroken order

Royal Straight Flush

A hand of 5 cards all of the same suit and in unbroken order but highest card must be an Ace

Five of a Kind

Only possible when using 'Wild Cards'; a hand of 5 cards all of the same rank.

High Card is a hand that is none of the above and it is a weak hand. If no player has a pair or a better combination, the hand containing the highest ranking card wins. If multiple players tie with the highest card, then the second highest card decides followed by the third and so on.

If 2 hands are tied in rank, the following rules apply:

  • If 2 players both have straight flushes, flushes, or straights, the highest card that is part of the hand determines the winning hand. If the highest card still results in a tie, then the next highest card will determine the winner.

  • If both players have a full house, then the highest three of a kind will determine the winner.

  • If both players have three of a kind, the highest ranking three of a kind will be determined the winner.

  • The highest ranking pair in the hand will decide 2 hands with 2 pairs. If this still results in a tie, then the remaining pairs will be compared and the highest ranking pair will then determine the winner.

  • If both players have a single pair then the highest ranking pair will win. If this is also a tie, then the next highest ranking single card will determine the winner. If this still results in a tie, then the next highest single ranking card will determine the winner.

  • 2 hands with no pairs, flushes, or straights are compared and the card with the highest-ranking single card will be determined the winner. If this still yields no winner, then the next highest card will be determined the winner.

The objective of Poker is to win the pot, which is the money that accumulates as players who remain in the game keep raising their bets. Unless a game of high/low Poker is being played, the player with the highest hand at the end of the game wins the pot. There are 2 ways to win, by holding the highest hand in the game, or by making your opponents think you've got the highest hand-in which everyone else folds leaving you to win the pot.

Poker games start with a shuffle and cut of the deck and then the players ante before the dealer deals a card. To ante, each player is required to put a small amount of money, usually a percentage of the minimum bet, into the pot. Games are played with colored Poker chips that correspond to different denominations of money. The dealer is responsible for dealing each round.

Strict rules govern the betting order, which also varies with the type of Poker game played. The betting order is important because the player who bets first has the disadvantage of providing other players with information about their hand before receiving any information about any other player's hand. The player who bets last has the advantage of seeing how everyone else bets before deciding whether or not to play their hand. In most games the dealer deals clockwise, starting with the player to the dealer's left.

There are different numbers of betting rounds in different Poker games. During each round, betting moves clockwise around the table and players can either check, call, raise, or fold.

Check   When you check that means you want to stay in the game, but don't want to bet. When you check, you forfeit the right to raise in the current round unless 'check and raise' is allowed in your game. After someone makes the first bet, all other players can only call, raise or fold.

Call   When you call, you match the most recent bet and place the appropriate stack of chips in front of you for the dealer to place in the pot.

Raise   Another option is to raise the amount of the bet by matching the previous bet and raising the amount by an additional amount. After the bet has been raised, all other players remaining in the pot must call with the higher amount of chips, or fold. In many Poker games, the bet can be raised only 3 times in the same betting round.

Fold   When you don't think that your hand is good enough to win and don't feel like bluffing, you can fold or drop out of the hand. Depending upon the game, there might be several rounds of betting, with a card or cards dealt between the rounds.

When 2 or more players remain in the game at the end of the last round of betting, each of the players show their cards in a showdown. The hand with the highest Poker value wins the pot. The house makes a profit by taking the rake, a percentage of each pot. The rake percentage varies from 2 to 10%, but in some cases there is a maximum dollar amount or a flat fee.

All the basic concepts of Poker have now been covered. Each variant of Poker alters these basics in different ways to create a complete game. The hand rankings are always the same but other Poker games generally have several rounds of betting. To win a round in these games, either everyone must drop out, or you must stay in the game until the last betting round. There will only be a showdown at the end of the last round.

Between each betting round, additional cards are dealt. Over time, therefore, you get more information about the shape your final hand will take.

For example, in Hold'em Poker, you start off with only 2 cards. 2 cards do not make a Poker hand but they do give you a clue as to the kind of Poker hand you can expect. In the next round, 3 cards are dealt. In the next 2 rounds, 1 card is dealt. At the end, you make the best possible 5 card hand from the 7 cards you now have available.

The cards in a Poker game can be dealt in 3 ways:

  1. They can be dealt to you, face down. In this case, only you will know what the cards are.

  2. They can be dealt to you, face up. Now everyone can see what the cards are, but they only form part of your hand.

  3. Community cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table, and are shared by everyone. Of course there would be no point in a poker game where all the cards were face up, but most games do have some cards showing.

If you are playing at a physical table rather than online, it is usual to 'burn' a card before dealing. That is to say, the top card from the deck is placed in the discards rather than being dealt to a player. This has no influence on the game; it is simply to make cheating more difficult.

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