So you've seen Rounders, and the idea of taking Matt Damon for everything he's worth seems appealing to you. Or maybe you haven't seen the movie and still find that appealing. Whatever your motivation, you want to learn how to play poker, a time-tested card game that has the distinction of being one of the most ancient forms of gambling. Good for you. But before you strap on the green visor and throw down your life's savings, you re going to have to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em.
Poker, at its very essence, is a simple game. Its countless versions can be quite complex, however, which is why we're going to focus on 5-Card Draw (a.k.a. "regular" poker), the easiest one for beginners to learn. Later we'll tell you about some of the other variations of the game, but for now, it's gonna be 5-Card Draw, so you're just going to have to deal. Get it? "Deal?" Sorry.
1. Understand the cards and their values
Poker is played with a standard deck of 52 playing cards (except for Ross Perot Poker, which is played with less than a full deck). The cards are ranked from high to low in the following order: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. Aces are ALWAYS high. Aces are worth more than Kings which are worth more than Queens which are worth more than Jack, and so on. The cards are also separated into four suits. The suits are:
But you already knew that from playing Go Fish, right? The suits are all of equal value, meaning that no suit is more valuable than another. It's a very democratic game.
Each player is dealt five cards. The object of the game is to end up with the highest-valued hand. From best to worst, hands are ranked in the following order:
Four of a Kind
Three of a Kind
This is the most valuable hand in all of poker. A Royal Flush is composed of 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace, all of the same suit. It's the toughest hand to get.
Examples:HAND 1:10 J Q K A HAND 2:10 J Q K A
A Straight Flush is comprised of five cards in numerical order, all of the same suit. It's not allowed to "wrap around," such as Q-K-A-2-3. This is also very rare. If you get two of these in a row, you are cheating. If there are two Straight Flushes at the table, then whichever hand's Straight Flush reaches the highest card value wins. So in the examples below, Hand 2 (which has a King) would beat Hand 1 (which only goes up to 8).
Examples:HAND 1:4 5 6 7 8 HAND 2:9 10 J Q K
Four of a Kind
Four cards of the same numerical rank and another random card. If there are two or more hands that qualify, the hand with the highest-ranking Four of a Kind wins. In the examples below, Hand 2 would beat Hand 1.
Examples:HAND 1:6 6 6 6 J HAND 2:Q Q Q Q 3
Of the five cards in your hand, three have the same numerical rank, and the two remaining card also have the same numerical rank. Ties are broken first by the Three of a Kind, then the Pair. So K-K-K-3-3 beats Q-Q-Q-A-A, which beats Q-Q-Q-7-7.
Examples:HAND 1:J J J 4 4 HAND 2:5 5 5 A A
A Flush is comprised of five cards of the same suit, regardless of their numerical rank. In a tie, whoever has the highest ranking card wins. In the example below, Hand 1 (with a King) beats Hand 2 (with a Queen).
Examples:HAND 1:2 4 7 J K HAND 2:5 6 7 8 Q
Five cards in numerical order, regardless of their suits. Just like with the Straight Flush, a Straight cannot "wrap around." In a tie, whoever's Straight goes to a higher ranking card wins (so in the examples below, Hand 1 beats Hand 2).
Examples:HAND 1:7 8 9 10 J HAND 2:3 4 5 6 7
Three of a Kind
Three cards of the same numerical rank, and two random cards that are not a pair.
Examples:HAND 1:10 10 10 3 Q HAND 2:2 2 2 8 9
Two sets of pairs, and another random card.
Examples:HAND 1:7 7 J J 5 HAND 2:Q Q K K A
One pair and three random cards. If more than one person has a One Pair, then the person with the highest ranking pair wins.
Examples:HAND 1:8 8 5 K 3 HAND 2:2 2 3 4 5
If none of the players have anything of value, the player holding the highest-valued card wins, with the 2 as the lowest card, and the Ace as the highest. In the case of a tie, you move to the next highest card, and continue.
Examples:HAND 1:2 4 5 10 Q HAND 2:2 8 9 10