Poker is a card game with many variations, most of which are played with a single deck of 52 playing cards. It is usually played for money (often in the form of "chips") but can also be played for scoring tokens of some kind. Poker is normally played by a group of between two to ten players; it cannot be played "solitaire". There are many variations of poker, but all are based on the same fundamental principles.
- No House Advantage
Unlike most gambling card games played for money, there is no "house advantage" in poker. If the cards are shuffled and dealt fairly, no player at the table has any statistical probability of winning more than any other player. This is as opposed to a traditional gambling card game like Blackjack, where the person acting as "dealer" has a large statistical edge in the game.
- Skill Versus Luck
In most forms of poker, players have a number of opportunities during play to make decisions which affect the outcome of the hand being played. Because correct decisions made at the correct times can increase a player's winnings at the game and decrease their losses, the skill of an individual player plays a large part in determining the overall outcome for a player. While luck determines the individual cards dealt to the player (and to the other players), in the long run, luck will tend to average out for all players - but each player's skill in playing the various hands they are dealt will determine their overall net winnings.
The more decisions a player must make to play a particular variant of poker, and the more information available to assist in making those decisions, the more that an individual player's skill will affect their winnings. Poker, more than any other gambling card game, provides a vast array of decisions for a player to make, and therefore a much higher probability that a skillful player will win.
The Principles of Poker
A standard poker hand consists of five cards. The possible poker hands rank from High Card (the lowest rank) to a Straight Flush (the best type of hand possible).
Players are given the opportunity to place bets on the relative strength of their hands (to bet that their hand is the best amongst all the players in the game). The money a player bets is placed in a central area along with all other bets and forms the prize which the eventual winner of the hand will win, called the "pot." To continue to play in a hand, a player must at least match any bet made by any other player. At the end of a hand, all the remaining players show their cards and the player with the best hand wins all the money in the pot. If only one player remains in the hand (that is, no other player was willing to match their bet), that player wins the pot no matter what cards they hold - this is what gives the opportunity for bluffing!
Each poker player must therefore try to make accurate judgements about how likely they are to win the pot. He must decide when to fold (drop out of a hand) and when to bet as well as how much to bet.
Good players make a profit by losing as little money as possible when they don't have the best hand, winning as much as possible when they do have the best hand and winning the occasional pot by bluffing - i.e. by betting without a good hand and convincing everyone else to fold.
The ability of a player to make good decisions will depend on their understanding of two main areas: probability and psychology. Probability helps players decide things such as how likely it is they will get the cards they need to make a better hand than the other players. Psychology helps them work out what cards the other players have through interpreting the available clues - such as their opponents' betting patterns and their body language. It also helps players recognise good opportunities for bluffing and, perhaps most crucially of all, helps them understand their own psychology - self-awareness is critical to poker success!
- PokerRookie - contains a more detailed guide to the principles, rules and strategies of poker.
- How to play poker - blog with tons of poker strategy, official rules of poker, and all of the information you need to become a successful poker player whether you play online or live.
- Poker guide - poker guide with rules for several poker variations, poker tips, poker strategy and much more information about poker and online poker