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Las Vegas Direct Gaming Center: Poker Rules

Card Ranking  Card Odds  Betting  Texas Holdem
  Poker Dictionary

What Beats What
The first step in getting your feet wet in the game of poker is understanding the rank and suits of the cards and how they combine to make hands. The following is the hierarchy of poker hands, from best to worst. Poker changes from one table to the next, but the following is constant:
 

Royal Flush

This is the most valuable hand in all of poker. A Royal Flush is composed of 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace, all of the same suit. It's the toughest hand to get.

Examples:

HAND 1:   10 J Q K A
             
HAND 2:   10 J Q K A

Straight Flush

A Straight Flush is comprised of five cards in numerical order, all of the same suit. It's not allowed to "wrap around," such as Q-K-A-2-3. This is also very rare. If you get two of these in a row, you are cheating. If there are two Straight Flushes at the table, then whichever hand's Straight Flush reaches the highest card value wins. So in the examples below, Hand 2 (which has a King) would beat Hand 1 (which only goes up to 8).

Examples:

HAND 1:   4 5 6 7 8
             
HAND 2:   9 10 J Q K
 

 

Four of a Kind

Four cards of the same numerical rank and another random card. If there are two or more hands that qualify, the hand with the highest-ranking Four of a Kind wins. In the examples below, Hand 2 would beat Hand 1.

Examples:

HAND 1:   6 6 6 6   J
               
HAND 2:   Q Q Q Q   3
 

Full House

Of the five cards in your hand, three have the same numerical rank, and the two remaining card also have the same numerical rank. Ties are broken first by the Three of a Kind, then the Pair. So K-K-K-3-3 beats Q-Q-Q-A-A, which beats Q-Q-Q-7-7.

Examples:

HAND 1:   J J J   4 4
               
HAND 2:   5 5 5   A A
 

Flush

A Flush is comprised of five cards of the same suit, regardless of their numerical rank. In a tie, whoever has the highest ranking card wins. In the example below, Hand 1 (with a King) beats Hand 2 (with a Queen).

Examples:

HAND 1:   2 4 7 J K
             
HAND 2:   5 6 7 8 Q

 

Straight

Five cards in numerical order, regardless of their suits. Just like with the Straight Flush, a Straight cannot "wrap around." In a tie, whoever's Straight goes to a higher ranking card wins (so in the examples below, Hand 1 beats Hand 2).

Examples:

HAND 1:   7 8 9 10 J
             
HAND 2:   3 4 5 6 7
 

Three of a Kind

Three cards of the same numerical rank, and two random cards that are not a pair.

Examples:

HAND 1:   10 10 10   3 Q
               
HAND 2:   2 2 2   8 9

 

Two Pair

Two sets of pairs, and another random card.

Examples:

HAND 1:   7 7   J J   5
                 
HAND 2:   Q Q   K K   A


One Pair

One pair and three random cards. If more than one person has a One Pair, then the person with the highest ranking pair wins.

Examples:

HAND 1:   8 8   5 K 3
               
HAND 2:   2 2   3 4 5


High Card

If none of the players have anything of value, the player holding the highest-valued card wins, with the 2 as the lowest card, and the Ace as the highest. In the case of a tie, you move to the next highest card, and continue.

Examples:

HAND 1:   2 4 5 10   Q
               
HAND 2:   2 8 9 10   J

POKER CARD ODDS

High Hands Approximate Deals
per Pat Hand
Hands Possible
Total hands 1 2,598,960
No pair 2 1,302,540
One pair 2.5 1,098,240
Two pair 20 123,552
Three of a kind 50 54,912
Straight 250 10,200
Flush 500 5,108
Full house 700 3,744
Four of a kind 4,000 624
Straight flush 70,000 36
Royal straight flush 650,000 4
Five aces (with joker)* 3,000,000 1

Low Hands Approximate Deals
per Pat Hand
Hands Possible
Ace high (+) 5 502,880
King high (+) 8 335,580
Queen high (+) 12 213,180
Jack high (+) 20 127,500
Ten high (+) 37 70,360
Nine high (++) 36 71,860
Eight high (++) 70 35,840
Seven high (++) 170 15,360
Six high (++) 500 5,120
Five high (++) 2,500 1,024


(+) No straights or flushes. Ace is high.
(++) Including straights and flushes.Ace is low.



Betting
So, how do you bet? Poker is, after all, a gambling game. In most games, you must 'ante' something (amount varies by game, many games are typically a nickel), just to get dealt cards. After that players bet into the pot in the middle. At the end of the hand, the highest hand (that hasn't folded) wins the pot. Basically, when betting gets around to you (betting is typically done in clockwise order), you have one of three choices:

Call
When you call, you bet enough to match what has been bet since the last time you bet (for instance, if you bet a dime last time, and someone else bet a quarter, you would owe fifteen cents).
Raise
When you raise, you first bet enough to match what has been bet since the last time you bet (as in calling), then you 'raise' the bet another amount (up to you, but there is typically a limit.) Continuing the above example, if you had bet a dime, the other person raised you fifteen cents (up to a quarter), you might raise a quarter (up to fifty cents). Since you owed the pot 15 cents for calling and 25 for your raise, you would put 40 cents into the pot.
Fold
When you fold, you drop out of the current hand (losing any possibility of winning the pot), but you don't have to put any money into the pot.
Betting continues until everyone calls or folds after a raise or initial bet.

Some Standard Betting Rules

Example: Ante is a nickel. The maximum first bet is fifty cents, and the maximum raise is fifty cents. However, during one round of betting, raises may total no more than one dollar. Ante amounts, maximum bets, and total raises vary based on where you are playing. We are just describing some of the more common examples. We later describe Texas Holdem, which is a variation of standard five card draw poker.

An Example Five Card Draw Hand.

Five card draw is one of the most common types of poker hands. Each player is dealt five cards, then a round of betting follows. Then each player may discard up to 3 cards (4 if your last card is an ace or wild card, in some circles) and get back (from the deck) as many cards as he/she discarded. Then there is another round of betting, and then hands are revealed (the showdown) and the highest hand wins the pot. So you are the dealer at a five card draw game (against four other players, Alex, Brad, Charley and Dennis (seated in that order to your left). Everyone puts a nickel into the pot (Ante) and you deal out 5 cards to each player.

You deal yourself a fairly good hand Ks-Kd-Jd-5c-3d. A pair of kings isn't bad off the deal (not great, but not bad). Then the betting starts...

  • Alex 'Checks' (checking is basically calling when you don't owe anything to the pot).
  • Brad bets a dime.
  • Charley calls (and puts a dime into the pot).
  • Dennis raises a dime (and puts twenty cents into the pot).
  • Well, it's your turn. Twenty cents to you. You can fold, call or raise. Like I said before, pair of kings isn't bad, not good but not bad. You call and put twenty cents into the pot.
  • Back to Alex, who grumbles and tosses his cards into the center of the table, folding. (Note, when folding, never show your cards to anyone).
  • Brad calls. The total bet is twenty cents, but he had already bet a dime, so he owes a dime, which he tosses into the pot.
  • Charley is in the same position as brad, and tosses a dime into the pot.
The round of betting is over. After Dennis's raise, everyone else folded or called (there weren't any raises) so, everyone is all square with the pot. Now everyone can discard up to 3 cards. Brad discards 3 cards, Charley discards one card, Dennis discards two cards. (You deal replacements to everyone) and now it's your turn. You have a pair of kings, three spades, and no chance for a straight. It's best to just keep the two kings and hope to get a 3rd or fourth king. You discard three cards, and your new hand is: Ks-Kd-Kc-4c-8h. Three Kings! A nice little hand.

What do you suppose the others were trying for? Well, Brad kept two cards, so he probably had a pair (just like you) but it probably wasn't aces, so even if brad got a three of a kind, you probably beat him. Charley kept four cards, so he was probably trying for a straight or flush. (If Charley had four of a kind, he might have bet much harder). The big problem is Dennis. He raised earlier, and only drew two cards. He might be bluffing, but he could have had three of a kind off the deal... In any case, the second round of betting starts (with dealers left).

  • Brad bets a nickel.
  • Charley folds (I guess he didn't get his straight or flush).
  • Dennis raises twenty cents (to a quarter total).
  • You call.
  • Brad looks at his cards, then calls (betting twenty cents).
  • Again, everyone called Dennis's raise, so the round of betting is over.
Well, the betting is over, everyone reveals his hand:
  • You had Ks-Kd-Kc-4c-8h.
  • Brad had Jh-Jd-3c-3s-Ah.
  • Dennis had Qh-Qs-Qd-As-7s.
Well, the highest hand is three of a kind, and the highest three of a kind is your three kings. You win!

Texas Hold'em Poker

Texas Hold'em poker is a variation of standard poker and is very popular now. The game goes as follows:

1. The betting structure can vary. Sometimes antes are used, but most games start with two players to the left of the dealer placing out a predetermined amount of money so there is an initial amount to get things started. This is called posting the blinds:

Poker Blinds
Before cards are even dealt in a game of holdem, it is important to have some initial money in the pot. Otherwise every player could just wait for aces in the pocket before making any investment. It would also make pot limit games a little difficult to get going. The two ways to start this are antes and blinds and we'll go into each in detail.

Antes
Antes are a set amount put in the pot by every player in the game prior to cards being dealt. This amount does not count toward your bet on the first round of betting, unlike blinds. This simple method is used primarily in home games. This method also is not very common with texas holdem specifically, it's more often found in games like five-card stud or draw. Antes are also used in conjunction with blinds in the later stages of a tournament.

Blinds
Based on the limit of the game, the player to the left of the dealer's button (the small blind) and the player two to the left of the button (the big blind) are required to put up mandatory bets before the cards are dealt. The big blind puts up a bet equal to the small limit. The small blind puts up half that amount. So if the limit is $5/$10, the big blind is $5 and the small blind is $2.50.
These blinds do count toward your total investment toward the first round of betting. So if the pot isn't raised pre-flop, the small blind will only have to put in another half a bet to call. Likewise, the big blind won't have to put anything more in the pot, although the big will have the ability to raise his own blind. In an unraised pre-flop pot, this is referred to as the “option”.

Blinds and Antes in Tournaments
The way holdem tournaments are structured, the blind and/or antes go up after a set period of time, called the “escalation”. Each group of time where the blind/antes stay the same is called a “level”. Usually when players go up a level, the blinds double or less. If antes are introduced, they usually do not double every level.
Sometimes to start a tournament, the big and small blind are the same amount and at the next level the big doubles.

For example, on the first days of the World Series of Poker (2004), blinds escalated every two hours and looked like this...

1st Level

No Ante

Blinds $25/$50

2nd Level

No Ante

Blinds $50/$100

3rd Level

No Ante

Blinds $100/$200

4th Level

$25 Ante

Blinds $100/$200

5th Level

$50 Ante

Blinds $150/$300

2. The dealer shuffles up a complete deck of 52 playing cards.

3. Each player is dealt two cards face down. These are called your hole or pocket cards.

4. Then there is a round of betting starting with the guy to the left of the two who posted the blinds. This round is usually referred to by the term pre-flop.

5. The amount betted depends on what kind of game it is:

Texas Holdem Betting Versions -
A term that typically refers to the money/betting aspect of a game is the game's limit. High-limit games are ones that involve a lot of money. Low-limit games are the opposite. As far as how the betting amounts go we have...

Structured Limit
This means that the amount that can be bet is set. These games will be called things like $1/$2 or $20/$40 games. In Hold 'Em, the amount that can be bet pre-flop or on the flop is the first number. In a $5/$10 game, you'll be betting $5 at a time. On the turn and river, the amount doubles. In that same $5/$10 game, players bet $10 at a time after the turn card is dealt.
There is a limit of four bets per player per betting round. That means a player can bet, get re-raised, re-raise again, and be re-raised.
You may encounter a structured game with three betting amounts, like $5/$10/$20. This is the same as before except on the river. On that round of betting, players can bet either of the two final amounts. In the case of a $5/$10/$20 game, that means a player can bet $10 or $20 on the river.

Spread Limit
This is where players can bet within a certain range of amounts. In a $1-$5 game, a player can bet between $1 and $5 during any betting round.
If there are four amounts, like $1-$5-$10-$10, that means you can bet between $1 and $5 pre-flop and on the flop. On the turn it goes up to the 3rd number (between $1 and $10), and on the river it goes up to the last number (between $1 and $10).
If there are three amounts, like $1-$5-$10, that means that you can bet from $1 to $5 during any betting round, but on the river you can bet between $1 and $10. This would be the same as a $1-$5-$5-$10 game.

Pot Limit
This is where a player can bet any amount between the cost of the big blind and the size of the pot on any betting round.

No Limit
This is where you can bet any amount between the cost of the big blind and the amount of money you have at the table on any betting round.
 

6. Much like most games of poker, players can check, raise, or fold.

7. After the betting round ends, the dealer discards the top card of the deck. This is called a burn card. This is done to prevent cheating.

8. The dealer then flips the next three cards face up on the table. These cards are called the flop. These are communal cards that anyone can use in combination with their two pocket cards to form a poker hand.

9. There is another round of betting starting with the player to the left of the dealer.

10. After the betting concludes, the dealer burns another card and flips one more onto the table. This is called the turn card. Players can use this sixth card now to form a five card poker hand.

11. The player to the left of the dealer begins another round of betting. In many types of games, this is where the bet size doubles.

12. Finally, the dealer burns a card and places a final card face up on the table. This is called the river. Players can now use any of the five cards on the table or the two cards in their pocket to form a five card poker hand.

13. There is one final round of betting starting with the player to the left of the dealer.

14. After that, all of the players remaining in the game begin to reveal their hands. This begins with the player to the left of the last player to call. It's called the showdown.

15. The player who shows the best hand wins! There are cases where players with equal hands share the winnings.

Tie Hands

What Happens when you both have the same hand? Well, in most cases there is a way to determine who wins after that. With tied hands, the higher the rank, the better. If you still have the same five card hand after evaluating the ranks, the pot is split evenly among all the winning players. The following are examples of split pots in Texas Hold'em.
      Player One                                                 Player Two
                                       
These players split the pot with a board of:


      Player One                                                 Player Two
                                       
These players split the pot with a board of:


      Player One                                                 Player Two
                                       
The above example splits the pot no matter what the board, unless the board has 4 or 5 cards of the same suit.

      Player One                                                 Player Two
                                       
These players split the pot with a board of:


      Player One                                                 Player Two
                                       
These players split the pot with a board of:



Kickers
Kickers are the leftover cards after a hand is declared. They determine who wins if players have the same hand. Since not all hands have "leftovers", kickers only apply to four-of-a-kind, three-of-a-kind, two pair, one pair, and high card situations.

In texas hold 'em you always use the best combination of five cards. Since a certain amount of cards are "used up" when you declare a hand, there can only be a certain number of kickers. Here's the short list…

Four-of-a-Kind has one kicker. In this example, the 5 of clubs is the kicker.


Three-of-a-Kind has two kickers. In the example below, the 9 of spades and the Jack of hearts are kickers.


Two Pair has one kicker. Below, the Ace of diamonds is that kicker.


One Pair has three kickers. In the example below, the 2 of hearts, 9 of clubs and the King of hearts are kickers.



Here are some examples to further explain kickers.
      Player One                                                 Player Two
                                       
With a board of:

In the above example, Trip Aces, King kicker beats trip Aces, Queen kicker. (Player One wins)



      Player One                                                 Player Two
                                       
With a board of:

In the above example, Two Pair, Jacks and Fives, King kicker beats Two Pair, Jacks and Fives, Queen Kicker. (Player One Wins)



Same goes for high card hands...
      Player One                                                 Player Two
                                       
With a board of:

In the above example, Ace High (Hand of AKQT5) beats Ace High (Hand of AKQT4). (Player One wins)



      Player One                                                 Player Two
                                       
With a board of:

In the above example, both players split the pot (both with hands of AKQT6).

 

Split Pots (Straights, Flushes, and Straight Flushes)

     In the case of straights, flushes, and straight flushes it's simply a matter of who has the highest ranked card(s) in their straight or flush. That means there are only nine different possible five-card straights. Same goes for straight flushes (including the royal straight). In a straight the suits do not matter. Here are some examples with straights and straight flushes.

      Player One                Loses to                     Player Two
                                       
With a board of:




      Player One                Loses to                     Player Two
                                       
With a board of:




      Player One                     Beats                   Player Two
                                       
With a board of:




     The same idea goes for flushes, except that if both players have the same high card then you compare the second highest card. If the second highest is the same you go to the third…until the five highest flush cards are compared. Here are some examples with flushes.

      Player One                     Beats                   Player Two
                                       
With a board of:




      Player One                     Beats                   Player Two
                                       
With a board of:




      Player One                Loses to                     Player Two
                                       
With a board of:

 

Full House Situations

A full house is made up of three-of-a-kind and a pair. In this boat...

...the three-of-a-kind is the three aces, and the pair is the two nines. When determining who wins when multiple players have a full house, you compare the rank of the three-of-a-kind. Whoever has the highest ranked set wins. If players tie for the highest ranked three-of-a-kind, then you evaluate the rank of the pair. Here are some examples...


Consider the following hand...

"Nines full of Sixes" beats "Sixes Full of Nines".



Consider the following hand...

"Threes full of Twos" beats "Twos full of Aces".



Consider the following hand...

"Jacks full of Nines" beats "Jacks full of Eights".




Two Pair Situations

When multiple players have two pair, you evaluate who has the highest ranked single pair first. If those tie, then evaluate the other pair. If those both tie, you use the last card as a kicker. Some examples…

"Aces and Twos" beats "Kings and Queens"



Consider the following hand...

"Kings and Queens" beats "Kings and Jacks".



Consider the following hand...

"Tens and Fives, Nine Kicker" beats "Tens and Fives, Seven Kicker".




In hold 'em you have to be extra careful with two pair, as they can be deceptively weak if the board has a pair on it. Look at these situations...
      Player One                     Beats                   Player Two
                                       
With a board of:




      Player One                     Beats                   Player Two
                                       
With a board of:




      Player One                     Beats                   Player Two
                                       
With a board of:


 


 


 

 



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