Welcome to the free poker school. The first lesson discusses what cards make up the various hands, the ranking of cards and hands, and then how to play the game of Texas Hold’em.
Five cards make up a typical poker hand. Individual cards have a rank, an ace is the highest valued card and a two is the lowest valued card (exception: an ace can be a low card in straights). Every hand (5 cards together) has a rank and a higher ranked hand beats a lower ranked one. Table 1 shows the hand rankings from highest ranked to the lowest ranked. If you want to play poker, you must memorize hand rankings, because you need to know the rank of your hand instantly upon inspection.
Table 1: Poker Hand Rankings
Notes and Explanation
|Straight Flush||All cards in consecutive order and of the same suit||A “royal flush” consists of ace, king, queen, jack, ten of the same suit. It is the highest hand in poker.|
|Four of a Kind||4 cards of the same value||4 aces beat 4 kings, etc|
|Full House||3 cards of the same value and another 2 cards of the same value||The 3 card base gives the rank of the hand, so a “boat” of 3 kings “full” of twos, beats 3 queens with 2 aces.|
|Flush||All cards of the same suit||An ace high flush beats a king high flush|
|Straight||5 consecutive cards of any suit||Such as Ace, King, queen, jack and ten. This is referred to as an “ace high straight”. An ace can be a low card when it is used to form a straight or straight flush (A, 2, 3, 4, 5 makes the lowest possible straight)|
|Three of a kind||3 cards of the same value||Also known as a set|
|Two Pair||4 cards containing 2 pairs||Such as two aces and two kings|
|Pair||2 cards of equal value||Such as two aces|
|High Card||Highest card i.e. an ace beats king||2 is low, Ace is high|
Texas Hold’em has three table positions that rotate clockwise as the hands are played. The positions: dealer, little blind, and big blind (in that clockwise order) set the order of betting. The blinds are antes (up-front payment) by two players sitting at the table. The little blind is half the amount of the big blind. If you continue to attend the free poker school you will learn a lot more about the positions and strategy for each position.
Each player receives two cards face down from one deck of 52 cards. Each player then looks at their cards and puts them back face down on the table. Betting starts before any other cards are dealt with the player sitting to the immediate left of the big blind. The bet must at least match the amount of the big blind, so if the player does not like the prospects then the player folds. In “no limit” Texas Hold’em a bettor can put all his chips into play at any time. In “limit” Hold’em a player can only bet up to the value of the pot, which is the sum of the blind amounts for the first bettor when no cards have been seen.
The players sequentially either bet or fold as the opportunity to bet proceeds clockwise until it is betting time for the player sitting at the big blind position. The player posting the big blind can either match a higher bet, check (i.e. neither bet nor fold) if no player raised, or fold if there is no desire to match a raise.
The dealer then lays three cards face up on the table. These three cards are known as the flop and they can be used by any player to form a hand. The betting now starts with the little blind and continues with each player remaining in the hand until the dealer (the last player in the betting rotation) has had an opportunity to raise, check, or fold. A fourth card (known as the turn) is dealt, followed by a round of betting. The fifth and final card (the river) follows the turn and the players make their final bets. The player with the highest 5 card hand formed from the two cards dealt initially and the five common cards on the table wins the chips in the pot for that game. In case of a tie, the players with the same hands split the pot. On completion of the game the dealer, little blind and big blind positions rotate clockwise by one position.
Your homework is to memorize the hand rankings and the mechanics of Texas Hold’em. The free poker school will talk about the strategy of on-line Hold’em when class convenes again.