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Friday, October 3, 2008

Learn to play Poker

Don’t play the cards – play the person

That’s just about the best statement about poker. It is never about the cards you get, rather what you can do with them. That’s the beauty of this game - skill, not the luck.

OK. Now, here is a short course – if you want to call it that – for the beginners. I’ve focused on Texas Hold’em Poker, which is the most popular and most widely played game of poker today.

Here we go.

Cards and their values

Texas Hold’em is played with a standard deck of 52 cards with the order being the usual order – I need not mention this unless you’re from Mars. But in any case, it is Ace through deuce (oh, that is the card 2 btw – I will put a list of common poker terms at the end of this post so that you won’t look like a dumbass when you play your first game), Ace being the highest and deuce being the lowest valued.

And of course there are four suits, namely





For convenience (my convenience, that is) from here on in card values will be referred to as “rank” and the suits will be, just that – “suits”.

Objective and Hands

Each player is dealt two cards, and another five cards on the table ( called "Community Cartds" ). The objective of the game is to end up with the highest valued five-card hand using the community cards as well. Following are the hands that you would get, from best to worst.

Royal Flush

Straight Flush

Four of a Kind

Full House



Three of a Kind

Two Pair

One Pair

High Card

Royal Flush

A, K, Q, J, 10 of the same suit.

10 J Q K A

10 J Q K A

To give an idea how rare this hand is, it has a mathematical probability of 1/2,598,960.

That is once in 2.5 million times!!!

Straight Flush

Five consecutive cards of the same suit.

4 5 6 7 8

9 10 J Q K

But a sequence like KA234 – which is called a “wrap around” – is not valid. In case of there is more than one person having a Straight Flush, the person with the hand ending with the highest card wins.

Four of a Kind

That is four cards of same rank and another random card.

6 6 6 6 J

Q Q Q Q 3

Full House

Three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank. Suit doesn’t matter.

J J J 4 4

5 5 5 A A

If there is more than one full house on the table, three cards of same rank gets the priority over two cards.

For example, K-K-K-3-3 beats Q-Q-Q-A-A, which beats Q-Q-Q-7-7.


Five cards of same suit – rank is irrelevant.

2 4 7 J K

5 6 7 8 Q

If there are two Flushes, hand containing the highest card wins.


Same as Straight Flush ( now you realize where the term came from, don’t you? ) except for the fact that suit doesn’t matter. Again, no “wrap around”.

7 8 9 10 J

3 4 5 6 7

Three of a Kind

Three cards of same rank and two random cards that is NOT a pair – if it is a pair then the hand becomes a full house, just in case you fail to notice the bleeding obvious.

10 10 10 3 Q

2 2 2 8 9

Again, if there are two such hands, one with the highest three of a kind wins.

Two Pairs

It’s just that – two pairs with another random card. In case of two people having two pairs, hand with the highest pair wins.

7 7 J J 5


One Pair

Do you really need an explanation? OK. It’s just a pair with three other random cards of different ranks.

8 8 5 K 3

2 2 3 4 5

High Card

If none of the above combinations are there, then the hand with the highest card wins.

2 4 5 10 Q

2 8 9 10 J

And believe me, such hands come more often than you think.

Was that hard? Not really was it?

If it was, forget poker and go play some pinball or something. Because the hard part is yet to come.

So, that’s it for today. Now turn off your computer and try to remember those combinations – by heart. You don’t really want to be looking at a piece of paper while playing poker, do you?

Basic rules will be introduced by next post. Until then, have a “Royal Flush” time!

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