Any number of players from two to 14 may play in one of the various forms of Poker, but most experienced players consider five to eight players ideal. Everyone plays for himself. There are never any partnerships in Poker.
The standard 52-card pack, sometimes with the addition of one or two jokers, is used. Poker is a one-pack game, but today, in virtually all games played in clubs and among the best players, two packs of contrasting colors are utilized in order to speed up the game. While one pack is being dealt, the other is being shuffled and prepared for the next deal. The procedure for two packs is as follows: While the deal is in progress, the previous dealer assembles all the cards from the pack he dealt, shuffles them, and places them to the left. When it is time for the next deal, the shuffled deck is passed to the next dealer. In many games in which two packs are used, the dealer’s left-hand opponent, instead of his right-hand opponent, cuts the pack.
In clubs, it is customary to change cards often and to permit any player to call for new cards whenever he wishes. When new cards are introduced, both packs are replaced, and the seal and cellophane wrapping on the new decks should be broken in full view of all the players.
Object of the Game
The goal of each player is to win the pot which contains all the bets that the players have made in any one deal. A player makes a bet in hopes that he has the best hand, or to give the impression that he does. In most Poker versions, the top combination of five cards is the best hand.
While Poker is played in innumerable forms, a player who understands the values of the Poker hands and the principles of betting can play without difficulty in any type of Poker game. Except in a few versions of the game, a Poker hand consists of five cards. The various combinations of Poker hands rank from five of a kind (the highest) to no pair or nothing (the lowest):
1. Royal Flush
2. Straight Flush
3. Four of a kind
4. Full house
7. Three of a kind
8. Two pairs
9. One pair
10. High card
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. Betting is the key to Poker, for the game, in essence, is a game of chip management.Minimizing losses with poor hands and maximizing winnings with good hands is the underlying skill that Poker requires.
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, or round, begins when a player, in turn, makes a bet of one or more chips. Each player to the left, in turn, must either “call” that bet by putting into the pot the same number of chips; or “raise,” which means that he puts in more than enough chips to call; or “drop” (“fold”), which means that he puts no chips in the pot, discards his hand, and is out of the betting until the next deal.
When a player drops, he loses any chips he has put into that pot. Unless a player is willing to put into the pot at least as many chips as any preceding player, he must drop out.
A betting interval ends when the bets have been equalized – that is, when each player has either put in exactly as many chips as his predecessors or has dropped. There are usually two or more betting intervals for each Poker deal. After the final interval there is a “showdown,” which means that each player who remains shows his hand face up on the table. The best Poker hand then takes the pot.
If a player makes a bet or a raise that no other player calls, he wins the pot without showing his hand. Thus, in Poker, there is a bluffing element, and the best combination of cards does not always win the pot! Bluffing is one of the key reasons why Poker is so popular.
If a player wishes to remain in the game without betting, he “checks.” This means, in effect, that the player is making a “bet of nothing.” A player may check provided no one before him in that betting interval has made a bet. If another player has bet, he cannot check but must at least call the bet or drop. A player who checks may raise a bet that has been raised by another player. This is called “sandbagging,” which is allowed, unless it has been decided beforehand that this practice is forbidden. If all players check during a round of play, the betting interval is over, and all the players still in the pot remain in the game.
In each betting round, one player is designated as the first bettor, according to the rules of the game. The turn to bet always moves to the left, from player to player, and no one may check, bet, or even drop, except when it is his turn.