Poker is a card game which has been extremely popular for centuries, but the last 10 years has seen an absolute explosion in its popularity all over the world thanks to the huge technological advances of the Internet.
Unlike many other casino games, the game of online poker does not require wagering money against a bank or dealer, instead each player bets against the other players at the table. All players have the same percentages and odds of pulling out the best or worst hands, as they play from the same deck. Therefore the casino has no edge in a game of poker, but don’t let that lead you to believe that the house makes no money, as if that would ever be the case! In poker there is what’s called the rake, this is the house percentage take from every pot played at the table. It is basically like a commission for dealing the cards and handling the game on behalf of the players.
In a deck of cards there are 52 playing cards. Certain versions of poker make use of several decks and some even include jokers or wild cards. The rating or score of the individual playing cards, from highest to lowest, is Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, and two. In poker the ace can either be high or low, when it is low it represents a one, for example in a straight you could have ace, two, three, four, five. At the other end of the scale you could have 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace.
In a pack of cards there are four suits of spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs. All suits are ranked equally. In traditional poker, every player is dealt five cards which are referred to as a hand. The highest ranked hand wins the pot. Inserting games wild cards and even jokers are included that may be labelled as any suit and rank that the holder desires. If a player has more than five playing cards, for example when community cards are included like Texas Hold ’em, he can only use five cards to make up his hand, so even if there are seven or eight or more cards to choose from only the best five can form his hand. The others are all discounted.
In Texas Hold ’em, which is the only game I bother playing and the only one I suggest you play if you want to join the ranks of the big leagues online, you are dealt two cards which are called your hole cards, and then five more cards are dealt and laid face up on the table for everyone to use to form their best hand. These are called community cards. However they are not all laid out in one go. Instead all players at the table are dealt their two “hole” cards, and are then given the chance to bet on the strength of those two cards, this is the first round of betting. Once everyone has bet or called someone else’s bet, or folded their cards, that round of betting has concluded and the game moves on to what is called the flop.
The flop is where three cards are dealt by the dealer face up into the middle of the table. These are the first three of the five community cards. Once the flop has been dealt, again all players have a chance to bet on the new picture as it appears to them. You can bet, raise, call or fold. Once this round of betting is complete, then comes what is called the turn card or Fourth Street. This is one more card followed again by a round of betting, at the end of which follows the fifth and final card which is most commonly referred to as the River. After the river card has landed on the table everyone gets one final chance to bet and all players who call to see everyone else’s cards now reach what is called the Showdown.
It is not normal for all players on a table to reach the showdown, often it will only be two or three. At this point the players must show their cards and the dealer will decide who wins, or in the case of an online casino the software decides who wins and the money is sent straight to them.
The only exception to the above process, is when someone performs an All in Bet. Going All in means a player has pushed his entire stack of chips into the middle to bet on his hand. This could be because he has an extremely strong hand, but it could just as easily be a bluff, and this is where the game begins to get extremely interesting and great fun to play. If someone bets all in, let’s say for $100 which is his full stack, and you are sitting next around the table from him after he bets all in and your stack is $200, you must push in $100 to call his bet, or you could if you like raise his all in with your all in and push your whole $200 stack into the middle.
What this would mean is that the bet is now $200 to see any more cards or reach showdown, and anyone sitting after you round the table in a clockwise direction, must put in $200 to stay in the hand. Since the guy before you only had $100 and he has already put it all in, he cannot put any more in but he can still reach showdown because he went all in. How this works is, if he were to have the best hand at the table at showdown, he would take $100 of everyone else who is in the pot, the remaining surplus will go to the next best hand.
In online poker and off-line poker, the ranking of poker hands are listed below. Obviously the best hands are the statistically least likely to come out of a normal deck of cards.
At the top of a straight flush is what’s called a Royal flush and this is the best straight flush you can have, therefore it is the absolute best hand anyone can ever have on a poker table.
I have only seen one of these a few times in over 10,000 games of poker. It Consists of 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace of the same suit. The chances of it being dealt from a deck of cards are way below 1%.
Four of a Kind – this is fairly self-explanatory, it consists of four cards of the same rank, for example four twos is four of a kind. As is four cards of any other value. The best being four Aces.
Full House – this is three cards of the same rank plus two cards of the same rank. For example three tens and two aces, this would be called a full house of tens over aces. The best being aces over Kings.
Flush – this is five cards all of the same suit but the ranks don’t matter. The best flush is an ace flush where one of your cards is an ace of whatever suit the other four match.
Straight – this is five cards in running order, the same as a straight flush but without any need for them to be in the same suit.
Three of a Kind – this is a set of three cards sometimes referred to as trips, for example three aces which would be the best three of a kind.
Two Pairs – fairly self-explanatory, two cards of the same rank plus another two cards of the same rank.
Pair – two cards of the same rank.
High Card – in a pot where nobody has any pairs or above, the highest card in everyone’s hand is taken into consideration. So if you have for rubbish cards and an ace, you have what is called ace high, ace being your highest card. If someone else has ace high, then the next highest ranked card in both of your hands will compete to see who wins the pot.
Texas no limit hold ’em is by far the most enjoyable game in any casino in my opinion. Not only that, but it is also a professional way to make money from many many people the world over. Playing poker professionally takes a huge amount of experience and practice, and no small degree of skill either.
There are mathematical calculations to make, complex psychological triggers to learn and read, and various other aspects which make this game both complicated but beautifully simple at the same time.
Some players, especially the grinders as they are called, play up your mathematical poker where they calculate the odds on their required cards coming out at each stage of the betting and they bet in accordance with those odds, most of the time folding everything in sight. This is quite boring hence why it is called grinding, but if you are playing for six or even 10 tables simultaneously, as many professionals do with online poker, and which was never possible until online poker came along, you can make a serious amount of money.
On the other hand some professionals choose to play the person and not the cards, so they spend their time learning the skills of reading people’s psychological triggers, and learning which people will fold to a strong bluff, which people are too aggressive and therefore need calling even with weak cards, and many many more principles like this. It’s all just great fun!