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Want to Learn How to Play Poker?
If you recently watched the final table of the World Series of Poker and decided you want to learn to play the game—and take your shot at millions—here are some basic principles to get you started.
There are many different types of poker, but as the most common game is Texas Hold'em, that's the example we'll use for this tutorial. Also, due to the continuing battle to legalize online poker, we're also focusing on playing live.
When you sit down to the table, you'll "buy-in" for whatever amount of chips you want to start with. Most tables have a maximum and minimum you have to stay within, but make sure you have enough to be able to bet big if you get a big hand—usually at least 100 times the "big blind."
A blind is money put into the pot by two players prior to each hand, and each player takes turns as the blinds rotate around the table. The "big blind" pays the minimum bet size for the table, and the "small blind" pays half that. However, once play begins for the hand, for the small blind to continue, he or she will have to bet at least enough to bring their total money invested to the amount of the big blind. If they fold, they lose what's in the pot. Those playing the blinds in a hand get to act last on the first round of betting, but the big blind will start the betting for each round the rest of the hand, with the small blind second to bet, or second "to act" as we say in the game.
So, big blinds and small blinds are what determine the type of stakes at a particular table, and you will hear people referring to different tables as 2/4, 5/10, 50/100, etc. The first number is the small blind, the second, the big blind. So if you are buying into a 2/4 table (which is about the lowest stakes you will find live) a recommended buy-in is $400.
Individual bets can be limit, pot-limit and no limit. The last one being the most common, as in "No Limit" Texas Hold'em. Limit means you can only bet whatever the fixed amount is each betting round, while pot limit means you can only bet up to whatever total is in the pot on your turn. No limit means, well, no limit. It can mean losing all your money in one hand if you decide to try to play like the big boys and make an "all-in" move like you saw on TV.
You should also probably know your hand rankings—this may seem obvious, but I kept getting mixed up for a while on which was better, a flush or a straight. They are listed lowest to highest.
- High card when no pair present (ace is highest card possible)
- Two pair
- Three of a kind (a "set")
- A straight (five cards in chronological order)
- A flush (five cards of the same suit)
- A full house (three of one card and tow of another, also called a "boat")
- Four of a kind ("quads")
- A straight flush (cards in order and all the same suit)
- The Royal Flush (Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten of the same suit)
So, the first time you play, approach the poker room staff and ask for a seat at the stakes level you want to play. If a seat is available, they will show you to the table and you will buy chips from the dealer. You may have to wait a few hands till the big blind comes around to you to begin play. You will place your blind across the betting line of the table and the dealer will deal two cards to each player. The player to the left of the small blind player starts the betting, and it proceeds clockwise around the table. When betting is done, then the dealer will deal the "flop," which is three cards face up. Then another round of betting ensues, with you starting the round. If you continue, there are two more betting rounds with one card dealt face up each time. That's five cards on the table and two in your hand, but you can only use some combination of five cards to make the best hand possible. After betting is finished, everyone shows their hand, or, if you see you're beaten, you can "muck" your cards, turning them in face down so the other players don't know what you were holding.
If you have the best hand you win, if not you lose.
For more information on the basics of poker, try these sources:
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Diana Price has been a degenerate poker player for years, although at somewhat smaller stakes than the big guys you see on TV. Sometimes she wins, sometimes she loses, and sometimes she shows you that big bluff, just to put you on tilt by being beaten by a girl.
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