Thursday, December 27, 2007

Before You Play Poker, Know The Hands

The first step in learning how to play poker, is to learn the poker hands. Poker games are normally played with a fifty-two card deck. A joker is sometimes used when playing Draw style games. A joker is not used when playing “flop games” like Texas Holdem, nor is it used in Stud-style games.
Cards are ranked with the Ace the highest card, followed by the King, Queen, Jack, Ten, Nine, Eight and so on down to the Two, known as a Deuce. In most games, an Ace can also play below a Deuce for straights (see below) or as the lowest card in Lowball style games.
All poker hands, even if you are playing a game like Seven Card Stud, consist only of the best five cards available. After all betting rounds are complete all players remaining in the hand showdown their cards (or discard them if they see a better hand has them beat). In order the poker hand rankings are:

1. If a joker or wild cards are used, Five of a Kind is the best hand, with five aces (the four natural Aces plus the joker) the best possible hand.

2. If there is no joker in play, the best possible hand is a Straight Flush: five consecutive cards of the same suit. (”Suits” are spades, hearts, clubs and diamonds.) The highest possible straight flush is a Royal Flush. A Royal Flush includes of Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten of the same suit.

3. Four of a Kind. Four cards of the same rank, for example four kings, plus any fifth card. As always, higher ranks are better — four tens would beat four sixes.

4. Full House. Three cards of the same rank, with a pair of another rank. For example, KKK33. The higher ranking three cards determines which full house beats another — 77766 beats 222AA.

5. Flush. Five cards of the same suit. For example, the Ace, Queen, Nine, Seven and Three of clubs. When comparing flushes, they are ranked from the top card on down. A9732 defeats KQJ85, while a QJ987 flush defeats a QJ983 one. If two flushes have exactly the same cards, like AJ976 of spades versus AJ976 of hearts, this is a tie and a pot would be split.

6. Straight. Five sequential cards of different suits. For example, 98765. When two straights are shown down, the highest card determines the winner — KQJT9 defeats 87654. An Ace can be used to make either a “Broadway” straight of AKQJT or a “wheel” straight of 5432A. “Around the corner” straights like 32AKQ are not allowed.

7. Three of a Kind. Three cards of the same rank, like 888 with two unpaired cards. As always, a higher ranked three of a kind defeats a lower ranked three of a kind — 99932 beats 666AK. In flop games it is possible for both players to have the same three of a kind, in which case the two unrelated “kicker” cards would determine the winner — QQQ92 would defeat QQQ87. If the two hands are identical, the pot is split.

8. Two Pair. Two cards of one rank, two cards of another rank and a kicker of a third rank. For example JJ882. KK332 defeats QQJJ9. 99554 defeats 9933A. 7766A defeats 7766Q. Two hands of the same ranks, like KKQQ5 versus KKQQ5 split the pot.

9. One Pair. Two cards of the same rank, and three unrelated cards. For example, JJK73. A higher pair defeats a lower pair. When players have the same pair, the unrelated “kicker” cards are valued in order, so 99Q32 defeats 99765.

10. No Pair, High Card. A hand with no pair or any of the other ranking values above. When comparing no pair hands, the highest card determines the winner, using each card in order if necessary, so AKQ94 defeats AKQ85.

Low Hand Rankings
Two principal ways are used to determine rank of low hands. The more common way is for an Ace to play low, and for straights and flushes to be ignored. Thus the lowest possible hand is a 5432A. The second low ranking method is “Kansas City” or “deuce to seven” method, where Aces are high and straights and flushes do count. With this method, the best possible hand is a 75432. In both cases hands are compared in terms of the number they create, from highest card to lowest — 87653 defeats 95432. If a joker is used, it serves as the lowest missing card.
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