The Basics of Poker

Poker is a card game played by two or more players. Each player antes an amount (amount varies by game, our games are typically a nickel) to get dealt cards. Once everyone has their hands they can bet into the middle (the pot). The highest hand wins the pot. Bets can be made by calling, raising or folding.

The game of poker involves a great deal of reading other players. This is because the game is largely situational and your card hand is only good or bad in relation to what the other players are holding.

You need to pay attention to the other players and pick up on their “tells” – things like nervous habits, fiddling with their chips or their betting patterns. Once you’ve picked up on these tells you can start to read them and change your strategy accordingly.

A huge part of poker is playing the other players, not their cards. New players often try to put their opponents on a particular hand and then play their cards according to that, but experienced players will work out the range of hands their opponent could have and work out how likely it is that they have one of those hands.

This means that if you have a pair of kings off the deal and the other guy holds A-A then your kings will lose 82% of the time. But if your opponent checks before the flop and you raise then they’ll have to call your bet and their chances of winning go up to 50%.

Once the betting round is over the dealer deals three more cards face up on the table that anyone can use (these are known as the flop). Again the players can either call, raise or fold. If you have a strong hand then you should raise and try to force out other players, especially those with weaker ones. There’s nothing worse than underplaying a pair of kings only to be beaten by someone who checked before the flop with 8-4 and caught a straight!

The final betting round is then over and the dealer puts another card on the table that any player can use (this is called the turn). Once again the players can call, raise or fold. Then, when the betting is over, the final cards are revealed and the person with the best five card poker hand wins! Of course, luck plays a large part in any game of poker but the better you can understand how to read your opponent and adjust your strategy accordingly the more likely you are to win. So, learn all you can about the different poker variations, etiquette and types of players and make sure to practice your strategy with friends before you head out to the tables! Good luck!