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    Playing poker info

    Why poker is so popular

    Poker became the national card game of the United States because it so well suits the American temperament. It is a game for the individual. In it, the player is on his own, the master of his own fate.

    There are other reasons why Poker is such a timeless favourite. It fits any situation, whether it is a serious game among expert players or a hilarious game for the entertainment of family and friends who just want to have a good time. Almost any number of persons can play in the same game. Poker is an easy game to learn, and once learned is never forgotten. And the cost of the equipment is inconsiderable; there is no more economical form of recreation than card-playing.

    "Another good thing about Poker," wrote Ely Culbertson in a foreword to the book Fortune Poker by George S. Coffin, "is the many variations that have been grafted onto the original game. Variety is the spice of life. The use of wild cards and tricky rules increases a player's chance of holding a good hand, and everyone likes to hold good cards.

    "Nowadays you will find refined ladies (whose grandmothers would have shuddered at the very thought of `that rough, horrible game') playing Poker, enjoying it, and learning to their pleasure that they don't have to gamble to have a good time. "A real game of skill, despite myths to the contrary, never requires a gambling element; and though many people are surprised to learn it, Poker is a game of skill second to none."

    Public opinion polls have shown in recent years that Poker, despite the almost universal popularity it already enjoyed, has been growing in favour more rapidly than any other game. More persons are playing Poker, and are playing it more often, than ever before.
    Every American should understand Poker. Nearly every American does understand Poker, or wants to. And it is part of the charm of Poker that it is so easy to understand.

    For beginners: How to learn poker

    While Poker is played in innumerable forms, it is really necessary to understand only two basic things:

    1. The values of the Poker hands.
    2. The principles of betting in Poker.

    A player who understands these can play without difficulty in any type of Poker game.

    Object of the 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 the betting is over, the hands are shown (called the showdown) and the best Poker hand wins the pot.

    The poker hands

    A 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, Q, J and 10 of one suit, called a royal flush.
    • Four of a kind rank next 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 8-8-8-4-4, 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 of 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 Q-Q-7-7-4, rank next under three of a kind.
    • One pair beats any hand containing no pair but none of the higher-ranking 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 thinks it is the best, or throws it away if he thinks someone else has him beaten.

    The ranking of Poker hands, 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 you 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 at least one pair once in each two hands you hold.

    How the poker betting works

    In the course of each Poker deal, there will be one or more betting intervals in which the players have an opportunity to bet on their hands.

    Before the cards are even dealt, the rules of the Poker game being played may require that each player put an initial contribution (called an ante) of one or more chips into the pot, to start it off.

    Each betting interval begins when any player in turn makes a bet of one or more chips. Each player in turn after him must either call that bet (by putting into the pot the same number of chips) ; or may raise, which means that he puts in more than enough chips to call; or may drop, which means that he puts no chips in the pot, discards his hand, and is out of the betting until there is another deal and he receives a new hand.

    When a player drops, he loses all chips he has previously put into that pot. Unless a player is willing to put into the pot at least as many chips as any player before him has put in, he must drop.

    A betting interval ends when the bets have been equalized-that is, when each player has put into the pot exactly as many chips as each other player, or has dropped. There are usually two or more betting intervals for each Poker deal. After the final betting interval, each player who has met all the bets shows his hand face up on the table, and the best Poker hand takes the pot.

    If at any time a player makes a bet or raise that no other player calls, that player wins the pot without showing his hand. Check is a Poker term that means the player wishes to remain in the pot without betting. In effect, it is "a bet of nothing." A player may check provided no one before him in that betting interval has made any bet. If any other player has bet, he must at least call the bet or drop. If all players check, the betting interval is over.

    In each betting interval, one player is designated as the first bettor, according to the rules of the game. The turn to bet moves from player to player to the left, and no one may check, bet, or even drop, except when his turn comes.

    The two main types of poker

    It is best for the beginner to learn one type of Poker first, then learn the other Poker variants one by one. The main types of Poker are two: Draw Poker and Stud Poker. In Draw Poker, all cards are dealt face down. In Stud Poker, a player receives one or more cards face down and his other cards face up. (This does not materially help the other players to know what he has; for suppose a player has two queens, a six and a four face up, and one card face down: with out knowing what his facedown card is, you cannot tell how good his hand is. If it is a queen, it gives him three queens; if it is a six or a four, it gives him two pairs; if it is any other card, he has only a pair of queens).

    In Draw Poker, each player is dealt five cards. Then there is a betting interval. After this betting interval, each active player may discard any of his cards and the dealer gives him other cards to replace them (called the draw). There is then a second betting interval, after which there is a showdown among the active players and the highest hand takes the pot.

    In Stud Poker, each player is dealt one card face down, called his hole card, then one card face up. There is then abetting interval, after which each active player is dealt another face-up card. Another betting interval, another round of face-up cards; and another betting interval, and a final round of face-up cards. Each round of new cards is dealt only to players who have not dropped. Each of these players now has a full five-card Poker hand, with one card face down and the other four face up. There is a final betting interval, and then a showdown in which each active player turns up his hole card and the highest Poker hand takes the pot.

    On these two main branches of Poker have been built a large number of variants. All are described in the following pages. The principal ones are:

    • Jackpots. Draw Poker in which no one may "open the pot" (make the first bet) unless he has a pair of jacks or better.
    • High-Low Poker. In the showdown, the highest Poker hand and the lowest Poker hand divide the pot equally.
    • Seven-card stud. Each player is dealt seven cards, two down, then one up, followed by a betting interval; then three more up, with a betting interval after each; then one more down, with a final betting interval. Now of his seven cards (of which four are face up and three are face down) each player in the show- down selects any five to be his Poker hand.

    And, of course, regular five-card Draw and five-card Stud retain their popularity among the main variants.

    How to become a good poker player

    The first step is to learn the values of the Poker hands and to study the principles of bet- tin g until you are sure you understand it thoroughly. Then deal out hands, face up-the hands of six or seven players, as they would be dealt in a game. Notice the Poker combinations. Decide what you would discard and how many cards you would draw, if you were playing Draw Poker. Observe how many poor hands and how many good hands show up ; this will give you an idea what to expect other players to hold in an actual game.

    Read the rules of the various Poker games on the following pages, and the advice on skilful play. Most important of all, play Poker in actual games. No amount of study compares with actual play for learning a game.

    Preliminaries to the poker game

    Type of game to be played

    The players should first decide (unless the host or club has established the custom) what game is to be played-for example, Jackpots with an occasional round of Stud; or whatever else best suits the majority. The decision, once made, should be final except by unanimous consent. The number of players affects the choice of game. For example, ten layers could readily play five-card Stud, but seven-card Stud would be impossible and Draw Poker would be unwise.

    Laws

    A code of Poker laws should be adopted and should be final for settling all questions. No Poker laws are universally followed, there being many local customs and preferences; but the laws on this site have been prepared to suit the widest possible following and are recommended for adoption. Any exceptions made to these ("house rules") should be written down in advance and posted or put on the site.

    Time limit

    Before play begins, the players should set a time limit and stick to it. Violation of this principle may eventually break up the game, or turn pleasant sessions into unpleasant ones.

    Poker ethics

    Approved Poker ethics, in various groups, range from the hard-boiled code in which anything short of cheating is permissible, to the strict standard that is traditional in such games as Bridge.

    Poker cards

    Any standard 52-card pack of playing cards is suitable for Poker (with or without the joker as a fifty-third card, as the players prefer). In clubs, it is customary to permit any player to call for new cards if he is willing to pay for them. Though Poker was once sons-pack game, it is increasingly common to use two packs to speed up the game, one pack being shuffled and prepared for the next deal while the other pack is being dealt.

    Poker chips

    Seven or more players should have a supply of at least 200 chips-usually, 100 whites, 50 reds and 50 blues. The white chip is the unit, one red being worth five whites and one blue being worth ten whites or two reds. (These proportions may be, and often are, varied to suit the convenience of the players.) Each player should be issued the same number of chips (takeout) at the start-say, ten whites, four reds and two blues, 50 units in all.

    Banker

    One player must be designated as banker, to keep the stock of chips and the record of how many have been issued to each player. Players should have no private transactions or exchanges among themselves; a player with surplus chips may return them to the banker and receive credit for them, while a player requiring more chips should obtain them only from the banker.

    Betting Limits

    There are different ways of fixing a betting limit. Some limit is conceded to be necessary. Once fixed, the limit should be unalterable throughout the game. The limit may be any one of the following popular ones:

    1. Fixed limit. No one may bet or raise by more than a stipulated number of chips; for example, 2, or 5, or 10. Usually, this limit varies with the stage of the game: In Draw Poker, if the limit is 2 before the draw, it is 4 after the draw. In Stud Poker, if the limit is 1 in the first three betting intervals, it is 2 in the final betting interval (and, often, 2 whenever a player has a pair showing).
    2. Pot limit. The limit for any bet or raise is the number of chips in the pot at the time the bet or raise is made. (This means that a player who raises may count as part of the pot the number of chips required for him to call. If there are 6 chips in the pot, then a bet of 4 is made, the total is 10 chips; it requires 4 chips for the next player to call, making 14; and he may then raise by 14 chips.) When pot limit is played there should still be some maximum limit, such as 50 chips.
    3. Table stakes. This, and especially table stakes with pot limit, has become one of the most popular forms of fixing a limit. The limit for each player is the number of chips he has in front of him: If he has only 10 chips, he may bet no more than 10 and he may call any other player's bet to that extent. No player may withdraw any chips from the table, or return them to the banker, until he leaves the game. A player may add to his stack, but only between the showdown(or the time that he drops) in one pot and the beginning of the next deal.
      The custom of table stakes, in which a player may "call a sight" (that is, stay in for the showdown) for all the chips he has, produces occasional side pots. For example: A has 40 chips, B 80, C 150, D 200. A bets 20; B calls ; C raises 50. This bet taps A (requires him to put up all his chips to call). C puts only 40 chips in the pot, 20 to call, 20 to raise; the 30 chips that represent the remainder of his raise go into a side pot. D calls, putting 40 chips in the main pot and 30 in the side pot. A calls, putting his remaining 20 chips in the main pot. Now A can stay through to the showdown, regardless of the additional bets of other players, and if he has the highest hand he will win the main pot. B calls, putting 20 chips in the main pot and 30 in the side pot. In the next betting interval, A is not concerned. B checks and C bets 50, tapping B. Of C's 50 chips, 10 go into the first side pot and 40 begin a second sidepot. D calls, putting 10 in the first side pot and 40 in the second. B calls for 10, closing the first side pot. At the showdown, the highest of the four hands will win the main pot; the highest hand as among B, C and D will win the first sidepot; higher hand as between C and D will win the second sidepot.
      But when a player drops he loses interest in all side pots. Suppose in the example just given, there is still another betting interval, in which C bets 30 chips and D drops. By dropping, D loses his interest in the mainpot and the first side pot, as well as in the second sidepot; for he has conceded that C has a better hand, and therefore C succeeds to D's rights in all pots.
    4. Rangdoodles. In a fixed limit game, it is often agreed that following any very good hand-say, a full house or better-there will be a round of Jackpots in which everyone antes (even if that is not the custom in the game) or in which everyone antes double, and the limit is doubled for that round. A round means one deal by each player. When it comes around to the deal of the first player, the usual limit and customs of the game are resumed.
    5. Poverty Poker. A maximum limit is put on the number of chips any player may lose. Each takes out one stack at the start; if he loses that stack, the banker issues him another, not charging him for it; and, in many cases, the player can get still a third stack free before he drops out of the game. (Some limit should be placed on the number of free stacks so that a player will have the incentive top lay carefully.)
    6. NoLimit, Sky's the limit, Preezeout, and other methods appear frequently in the literature of the game and may once have been common; they are still played by a few; but from a practical standpoint they are obsolete.

    Limits on raises

    It is not unusual to limit the number of raises any one player may make to three (in some circles, two) in each betting interval. Almost equally common is to have a limit of three raises-no matter by whom-in any one betting interval.