Poker is called the national card game of the United States, and has been so called for a hundred years, yet its growth in popularity has never been so rapid as in recent years, when new millions have discovered its appeal to ladies as well as to men, and its suitability to casual play in homes as well as to serious play in clubs. Nearly every American either understands Poker, or wants to; and part of the charm of the game is that it is so easy to learn and to play enjoyably.
While Poker is played in innumerable forms, it is really necessary to understand only two basic things:
1. The values of the poker sequence.
2. The principles of betting in Poker.
A player who understands these can play without difficulty in any type of Poker game.
In Poker, everyone plays for himself (in fact, partnerships of any sort are strictly forbidden by the laws) and the object of each player is to win the pot. The pot is the accumulation of all bets made by all players in any one deal. Every chip a player puts in the pot means he bets so much that he has, or will have, the best Poker hand around the table. After that betting is over, the hands are shown (called the showdown) and the best Poker hand wins the pot.
A typical poker hand consists of five cards. The value of a hand depends on whether it contains one of the following combinations:
• Straight flush, the highest possible hand: all five cards of the same suit and in sequence, as the 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 of diamonds. The highest-ranking straight flush is the A, K, Q, J and 10 of one suit, called a royal flush.
• Four of A kind rank net under a straight flush; as four aces, or four sixes. It does not matter what the fifth, unmatched card is.
• A Full house is three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank, as 9-9-9-5-5, and ranks next under four of a kind.
• A flush is five cards of the same suit, but not all in sequence, and ranks next below a full house.
• A straight is five cards in sequence, but not all in the same suit. It loses to a flush or higher hand, but beats anything else.
• Three of a kind rank next under a straight.
• Two pair, as K-K-8-8-5, rank next under three of a kind.
• One pair beats any hand containing no pair but none of the higher making combinations named above.
• And below the rank of hands containing one pair are all the no-pair hands, which are rated by the highest card they contain, so that an ace-high hand will beat a king-high hand, and so on.
The first thing a beginning player should do is to learn and remember these combinations and their relative values. For in Poker, one hopes to hold a higher-ranking hand than anyone else, and one bets on his hand if he think it is the best, or throws it away if he thinks someone else has him beaten.
The ranking of Poker strategy, given above, is not arbitrary. The less likely you are to receive a certain hand, mathematically, the higher it ranks and the more likely it is to win if your do get it. For example, you should expect to be dealt a straight flush only once in 65,000 hands; but you should be dealt two pair once in every 21 hands, and you should have a least one pair once in each two hand you hold.