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Revision as of 15:50, 5 January 2007

The basic principles of poker

Poker is a card game usually 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 tokens of some kind. Poker is normally played by between two and ten players. There are many variations of poker, but all are based on the same fundamental principles.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about poker is that it is a game of skill. Luck can clearly play a role in an individual hand, but in the long-run good and bad luck affect each player almost equally and so skill becomes the deciding factor in determining who makes a profit and who does not.


The principles of poker are quite simple: A poker hand consists of five cards. These rank from High Card (the lowest rank) to A Pair, Two Pairs, Three of a Kind, A Straight, A Flush, A Full House, Four of a Kind and a Straight Flush (the best type of hand possible).

Players are given the opportunity to place bets on the strength of their hands. The money they bet is placed in the "pot." To stay 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, he wins the pot no matter what cards he holds - 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. 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!


More Information

  • PokerRookie - contains a more detailed guide to the principles, rules and strategies of poker.
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