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Poker is a very famous card game worldwide. Poker is not a single game, and it actually has many varieties, and most of these variants usually share a common betting system and a hierarchical hand rankings. However, different poker games also differ in many different ways, like how the cards are dealt, how the hands are formed, and many others.

Today, poker is receiving very special attention from the public. Online poker games have their own websites, known as poker rooms, separate from other casino games. Live poker game tournaments, particularly the World Series of Poker (WSOP) are the most popular casino game tournaments. And there are lots of people who consider this game as a sport, since skill is a very important ingredient in playing the game.

Short History of Poker

There has been a lot of debates and arguments about the origin of the poker game, since the game's history is very unclear. One of the earliest form of poker dated back during the 15th century, in a German game called Pochspiel, which features the incorporate betting, hand rankings, and bluffing, the known attributes of the game today.

When it was first played in the US, this game was noted by R. F. Foster, in the 1937 edition of the Foster's Complete Hoyle, to resemble the Persian As Nas game undoubtedly which exists around 1890. Also, there are some evidence that a game called poque in France is very similar to poker, thus, believed to be the region where the game (as well as the name) originated. The name poker might also be taken from the Irish Poca (means 'pocket') or the German pochen (means 'to brag as a bluff' or literally 'to knock').

How To Play Poker

In the casinos as well as in online poker games, the game is played with the house acting as the dealer. Before the game starts, a forced bet (called an ANTE or a BLIND) is made usually by one or more of the players. The cards are shuffled by the dealer, then the player on the chair to the right of the dealer cuts the cards. Next, beginning from the player seated to the left, the dealer deals each player with appropriate number of cards, one card to each player at a time.

Depending on the variant of the poker game, cards may be dealt either on face-up or face-down positions. After the initial deal, the betting rounds then begins. Between each round, the hands of the players develop in some way, such as by being dealt with additional cards or replacing cards that are previously dealt. All the bets are gathered in the center of the table, known as the 'pot', after each betting round.

When the last betting round ends with more than one player remaining, there is a showdown. The players reveal their cards and evaluate their poker hand ranking. The player with the best hand based on the game variant wins the pot.

Poker Hand Ranking

Most poker games follow a common standard hand ranking system. The player with the highest ranked hand usually wins the game, but there are other variants that allows a player to win or tie on the lowest hand ranking obtained. Most games uses five cards in evaluating the ranks. The card face values and suits are used in forming patterns that determines the hand ranking. The face values are the numbers 2 to 10, Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces, arranged from the lowest to the highest order, and the suits are Spades, Hearts, Clubs, and Diamonds. The standard hand rankings used in most poker games are as follows, arranged from the highest to the lowest rank.

Royal Flush - the highest ranked hand in most poker game. It is a hand that contains a 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace, all of the same suit. It is a special case of the Straight Flush.

Straight Flush - a poker hand that is composed of five cards of consecutive face values (except for the royal flush), all having the same suit.

Four of a Kind - a poker hand that is composed of four cards of the same face value. It is also popularly called as quads, with a fifth different card.

Full House - a poker hand composing of three cards having the same face value and another two cards also having another same face value.

Flush - a poker hand composing five cards having the same suit, but are not consecutive in face values.

Straight - a poker hand that has five cards that have consecutive face values, but with one or more of the cards wearing a different suit.

Three of a Kind - a poker hand, popularly known as trips, which is composed of three cards having the same face value and another two cards of different values.

Two Pairs - a poker hand that has two cards having the same value and another two cards also having another same face value, with a fifth single card known as the kicker. The kicker is used to determine the winner between two hands having the same set of two pairs.

One Pair - a poker hand composing of two cards having the same face value and three unmatched cards serving as the kickers.

High Card - a poker hand that does not form any of the pattern above. The winner between two or more high card hands is determined by the highest valued card.

Poker Betting Rounds

The game of poker largely revolves around betting, thus, there is a protocol that has been developed for a faster game play, lesser confusion, and increased security during the game. Each player act in turn to bet, in a clockwise rotation. There are five major choices that a player can do with regards to betting.

Open - to open is to make the first voluntary bet, termed as "opening the round". In poker games where there is an enforced blind bet, the opening on the first betting round is called "opening the pot", and the players can call and/or raise the big blind bet.

Call - to call is to match a bet or a raise made by the previous poker player by an equal amount. If no player choose to call the most previously made bet, the player who made that bet wins the pot.

Check - a player may pass or check if no one has opened the betting round yet. It is equivalent to calling the current bet of zero. In this option, the player declines to place a bet and does not wish to open the round, but will still keep his cards and can call or raise later in the same round when another player opens. However, players cannot check if the poker variant is played with blinds. Blinds are considered as live bets, thus, they must be called or raised in order to retain the player's hand.

Raise - to raise is to increase the size of the bet in order to stay in the pot. This forces the poker players who will act next to call on the new amount so that they can still keep their hands. If the current bet is zero, raising is considered as opening the betting round. Making a second or subsequent raise, not counting the open, in a betting round is called as a re-raise. The amount of the raise in standard poker rules must be greater than or equal to the amount of the previous bet or raise.

Fold - to fold is to discard a player's hand and forfeit the interest in winning the current pot in poker. By folding, there are no further bets that are required from the player who folds, but that player cannot win.

Bluffing in Poker Games

Players can win in poker even though they have very inferior hand through the skill known as bluffing. To bluff is to make a bet or raise despite of having a hand that is not thought to be the best hand. In actual poker games, the term known as the "poker face" comes in this situation. If the player has a very established poker face, his bluff will not be discovered, causing other players to fold and for him to win the pot.

Pure Bluff - a pure bluff is a bluff made on a very inferior hand that has a little or no chance of improving. The only way for the player making this bluff is for all the opponents to fold, or if other players also try to bluff with more inferior hands until the showdown.

Semi-bluff - it is a bluff made on multiple betting rounds where an inferior hand has a higher chance of improving and a chance to become a very good hand during the showdown.