Poker - The Card Game Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Poker - The Card Game

4 Conversations

A full house.

Card Games | All Fives | Auction Pitch | Bezique | Blackjack | Bull/Cheat | Cover-cover
Cribbage | Egyptian Rat Screw | Euchre | Goofspiel | Hearts | Kalabriasz | Mao | Mau Mau
Poker | Runger | Russian Crazy Sevens | Skat | Spades | War | Whist

Poker is a card game that will forever be associated with hard-faced gamblers in the Old Wild West or in some gangster's speakeasy. It's a game of chance and skill that requires an exceptional amount of nerve, and a memory like an elephant for all the different terms and variations. This entry will introduce you to the game of Poker to you with a number of the terms and variations. However it won't tell you how to deal with a shootout if your caught cheating.

How Play Works

In this section we will look at the essential aspects of playing a game of poker, and we will cover where the game changes for the variations.

Banker - The banker is not really a banker, but more of a supervisor managing the stock of chips, the chips given to each player (including themself, if playing), and generally oversees play to make sure there is no cheating. A player may buy chips from the stock via the banker, and may sell excess chips back to the stock.

The Dealer - This job seems fairly self explanatory, and it is, except in the case of 'dealer's choice' rounds. In dealer's choice rounds, by agreement from all the players the dealer can set:

  • The form of poker to be played, either:
    • Standard
    • A known variation on the game
    • An easily explained variation
  • What are 'wild cards' eg 'Jokers are wild'

But the dealer cannot:

  • Alter any of the betting limits
  • Add or remove cards from the deck
  • Alter the basic rules of poker

The Pot - This is the area in the centre of the table of play where bets (in the form of chips) are placed. It is located in plain sight of all players to discourage cheating and perception of cheating.

The Kitty - This is basically an amount of money set aside for drinks and new decks of cards (if it is a very long game). The money for the kitty is usually taken from any pot where there has been more than one raise, the amount taken is usually one betting unit, but the details are set by an agreement with all the players overseen by the banker at the start of the game.

The end time for the game should be clearly agreed before the start of play to avoid arguments and games going on so long it effectively means the players have permanently changed address.

One of the least well known rules is the decision making time limit, which is five minutes. If you fail to act in that time your hand is considered dead.

Pre-Game Checklist

The following should be agreed on before play:

  • The betting limit, and whether players are allowed to check (See the section on betting).
  • The form of the game (except in dealer's choice).
  • Who the banker is. This is usually chosen by either drawing lots(eg cutting the cards) or by agreement.
  • Wild cards and their use.
  • The value of each type of betting chip.
  • The 'freezing the raise' rules.
  • A limit on raises
  • Bonuses for certain hands (optional).

Pattern of Play

Play goes around clockwise, and follows the following pattern:

  • Choice of dealer is ironically done by dealing, one of the players agreed upon by the group deals a card per player face up around the table and the first one to get a jack is the dealer.
  • The round starts when the dealer deals out the hand. The hand consists of five cards unless otherwise stated, but to be honest most of the details of the hand like what the hand looks like (what cards are face up or down, or whatever) and the size are variation specific.
  • Now actual play is where the game tends to vary, but it is made up of betting intervals (see the section on betting), and card exchanges (Whether this happens depends on the form of poker).
  • The showdown (see betting).
  • The deal passes one person clockwise to the next player.
  • Next round.

General Rules

Remember this game developed into its present form in the Wild West, you and your fellow card slingers have to outplay, bluff and bet your way to the showdown when we see how strong your nerve or your hand is. But there are a few rules to remember. What follows is a list of rules that, if in the old west and you didn't follow them, it would mean you'd be shot or hung from the nearest high object:

  • Don't make private agreements with other players.
  • Don't skip your turn as dealer unless you are missing limbs or have some other very good reason.
  • Don't look at any discarded cards (either before, during or after showdown), undealt cards, other players cards, or at any cards other than yours or those you are specifically allowed to look at.
  • Don't take any chips from the pot during play unless as agreed change for a bet.
  • Don't leave the table taking your cards no matter how good the reason, if you have to leave get another (non active is best) player to play your hand, or your hand is declared dead.


Now this is one of the fun points of poker, you can say what you like about your hand true or not, play wrong reactions, give false impressions, discuss false strategies, heckle, be sarcastic, make up a short piece of music for banjo, praising or condemning the virtues of your hand, or buy a round to show your confidence at winning. The only thing that is inadvisable is to either always lie or always tell the truth as your cover will soon be blown and you will be left without a pot to micturate in. Also help is not allowed!

Winning Hands

This is a list of possible hands starting with the best possible hand right the way down to the lowest value hand.

Name of HandDescriptionComparing two hands of this type
Straight FlushFive cards in numerical order, if this runs Ace to 10 it is a Royal Flush.The hand with the highest card in the sequence wins it.
Four of a kindFour cards of one value. The hand with the highest value for the four cards wins.
Full HouseThree cards of one type, two cards of another type.The hand with the highest three of a kind value wins.
Flushfive cards of same suit, but doesn't have to be in numerical sequence.The hand with the highest value of card wins, if there are two equal value high card look at the next highest, and so on down until someone gets an advantage.
StraightFive cards in numerical sequence, but doesn't have to be all the same suit. as for straight flush
Three of a kindThree cards of one type. as for four of a kind.
Two pairsTwo sets of two cards of one type.The hand with the highest ranking pair wins. If highest pairs the same the next highest pairs are compared, if they are the same the remaining card is compared, if they are the same either someone is cheating or your very unlikely.
PairOne set of two cards of one type.The hand with the highest ranking pair wins. If highest pairs the same the next highest individual cards are compared, if they are the same you keep going down the pecking order until an advantage is gained, if they are the same right down to the last card either someone is cheating or your very unlikely.
High cardFive unmatched cards. as for flush

Using Wild Cards

What is a wild card? Well there are two possibilities:

  • 1) A wild card can represent any card of any denomination or suit that isn't in your hand.

  • 2) A wild card can represent any card of any denomination or suit even if you have that card.

In either case it has to be agreed upon before you start and the value you give your wild card means it effectively becomes that card without any differences.

Now, any type of card can be a wild card, despite what anyone may say, so long as all the players agree on it any card type can be a wild card. Now here are some popular choices:

  • The Joker or both Jokers
  • The 'deuce' (the two) of spades
  • All the 'deuces' (the twos)
  • All the 'deuces' (the twos) and all the 'treys' (the threes)
  • The red 10s

Hands with Wild Cards

It's important to remember that there is no difference between a wild card playing, for example, the four of hearts and the real four of hearts.


Well first let's look at when to bet, betting intervals tend to vary between the variations you play, but there is at least one betting interval (obviously) but in most games there tends to be two or more. Now after one of the players opens the betting each player has to 'fold', 'see' the bet or 'raise' the bet (remember you have to announce exactly what you are doing before you do it).

Fold - means 'I'm out of here, gone, too rich for me' etc. This ends any active role in the hand.

See the bet - to put up an equal amount to the last amount bet.

Raise the bet - to put up more than the previous bet.


This is allowed in several types of poker, what happens is on the first round of betting you are allowed to check, which means you don't bet but stay in. Now if everyone checks the hand is over as there isn't much point playing without anything to win, but if even one person bets, we go onto the second round of betting where no one is allowed to check. Remember checking is only allowed in betting round one.

When Does this Betting Madness End?

  • If everyone checks (which is very boring).
  • If only one player is left with an active hand making them the winner.
  • If the remaining players have all equalled the last person to raise the bets bet and the bet raiser has called for the showdown.

Betting Tactics and Prohibitions

Sandbagging is when a player checks to hide a good hand, or when two or more players keep raising the bet to force each other out of the game.

Freezing the Raise if two or more players are spending ages just raising and raising the bet. Freezing the bet comes in to play to stop everyone else falling into a coma before expiring from boredom. This happens when if after two or more raises any player who hasn't raised in this betting round says 'freeze the raise' or when one player on top of betting enough to stay in bets a previously agreed amount over the odds, usually two to five times the maximum bet, then the remaining players must drop out or equal the bet to stay in. Freezing the bet only lasts for one betting round.

A limit on raises is a better method of control and is agreed on beforehand. For example, a maximum of three raises by one player or in total by all players.

Bonuses are an optional idea where amounts are agreed for all players to pay for certain hands, for example 'Royal Flush'.

Betters must not:

  • Bet for someone else.
  • Borrow cash or chips from other players.
  • Take back a bet they have placed in the pot and removed their hand from.

Forms of Poker

The Difference Between Closed (Draw) Poker, and Open (Stud) Poker

Now there is several important reasons for explaining this distinction, as the different forms are suited to different circumstances. The two types are as follows:

Closed (Draw) Poker
  • Receive all cards face down.
  • After the betting interval they can discard any cards they don't want and get replacements from the deck.
Open (Stud) Poker
  • No card exchange.
  • Some cards dealt face up, some cards dealt face down.
  • Betting occurs at intervals during the deal.
  • In some versions after the deal the player can select which five cards make up the hand they play.
  • One last betting interval before showdown.
Comparing Open to Closed
  • Open is faster than closed.
  • Open is seen as needing more skill than closed.
  • The value of hands in open is lower than closed.
  • Open is better if there are four or fewer players, and five card Stud for nine or 10 players.

Five Card Stud

  • Up to 10 players
  • Open Poker
  • The hand comprises one card face down, four cards face up.
  • Wild cards are counted as higher than an Ace
  • Opening deal:
    • One card face down to each player (the 'hole' card)
    • One card face up.
  • Players examine there cards carefully so as to not alert the other players to the 'hole' cards value.
  • First betting interval:
    • The player with the highest ranking face up card opens the betting. (If two players have equally high cards, the person left of the dealer starts.)
    • The standard betting practice of drops, raises, etc, continues until the bets are all equal.
  • Play continues with dealing one card to each player face up from the top of a deck resting on the table, followed by a betting interval (starting with the person with the highest value hand of exposed card). The dealer announces the following at the start of each betting interval
    • The player with the highest ranking hand of exposed cards.
    • The remaining exposed hands, pointing out possible flushes, etc.
    • And points out exactly what cards each player got last deal.
  • After the betting interval after the fourth face up card is dealt you have the showdown and everyone exposes there 'hole' card.
Please note...
  • If all players check it marks the end of that round of betting and play continues.
  • If you drop out you have to place all the cards in your hand face down and you never show your 'hole' card.
  • If at any betting interval only one player remains they have won the hand.
  • If you get a hand consisting of four cards of the same suit plus another one it is called a 'four flush', which is better than a pair, but worse than two pairs.

Draw Poker

  • Up to ten players in the standard game, though no more than six in high stakes game.
  • The ante is a small compulsory bet made by each player.
  • The deal is five cards per player, dealt face down.
  • At the first betting interval, the person to the left of the dealer has the first bet, if they don't the other players bet in turn.
  • The draw bit is when each player discards one or more cards before replacing them with the same number of cards from the dealer. A player can decide not to draw (known as to 'stand pat').
  • At the second betting interval, the player who bet first last time gets to bet first, if they have dropped out the next active player to the left bets.
  • Showdown happens if more than one player is left after the second betting interval.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Edited Entry


Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Categorised In:

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more