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Originally published on OnlyPlayers.com 

Perhaps you’ve recently watched Casino Royale and want to finally figure out the rules of poker. Poker is a beautiful blend of both brains and brawn, as few nights can top a poker night in with some friends. While seemingly complex, there are three main components you need to learn in order to understand poker: the order of a typical hand, the betting rules, and the rank of hands.

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Before you try and learn whether a “full house” beats a “flush” and the rankings of the different hands you can have, let’s first explain how a typical hand operates in Texas Hold Em. You are initially dealt two cards face down, which you are free to look at and should avoid showing to other players. Once everyone has paid his blind, (more on this in a second) there will be what is called “the flop.” What happens in the flop is the three cards placed in the center are turned over — these cards can and will be used by all players to attempt to make one of the previously mentioned combinations. After this flop, bets will be placed again and you can either fold, match, or raise the bet.

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Once all players have made their move, another card will be flipped for all remaining players. The betting process repeats itself once more, and then finally a fifth card is placed down in the center. Once this fifth card has been played, the betting process is conducted for a final time, and after that, all players must show their cards. The player with the best hand after this takes the entire pot that was bet in the round; poker is a zero-sum game.

A huge contributor to the drama and tension in poker is the betting format. Before you are even dealt cards, you usually need to pay a small amount called an “ante” to be considered for a chance at the pot. Two people are the blinds, which are the people that must put more money in upfront in each hand without having an opportunity to look at their cards — there is usually a big blind which is twice the size of the smaller blind. So if you were playing $5 a hand, the big blind would be $5, the small blind would be $2.50, and a potential ante amount would be $1 or $2 depending on what you decide on.

During each hand, the player who starts the betting has three main options when it is his turn. He can either raise the bet, or he can check, which means that he is neither raising the bet nor folding. Folding means they are exiting the hand. After the first person has placed the initial wager, each player must match the bet, which is known as “calling,” in order to stay in the hand, otherwise, they have to fold and exit the hand. When a player folds, all previous money that they had put into the pot is forfeited — that money goes solely to the winner.

Finally, knowing the strength of the card combination you currently hold is one of the most crucial elements of poker. There are ten different types of hands, which may seem intimidating, but once you start to familiarize yourself with them, you will likely find that the rankings are quite intuitive. For example, it makes sense that having two pairs is higher than having one pair. Additionally, it is also important to note that many of the top combinations on that list are highly unlikely to occur — a royal flush happens once about every 30,000 hands, so don’t expect to land one the first time you play!

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