Poker 1: Mastering The Basics

Poker is arguably the most popular game in casinos today. And the reason for this is because the game has an element of energy and emotion you won’t find in most other casino games. You play against other players at poker tables rather than the house. Your opponents are staking their money with one ultimate goal – to take your money. And this tends to elicit raw emotions and disappointments from poker players when they win or lose. 

If you are familiar with poker, you’ll know that there are several playing styles and strategies. This combined with the diverse personalities of poker players means the game extremely entertaining. But before you rush to your local casino and join a poker table, you need to have a thorough understanding of the basics of the game. If not, you’ll just be losing your hard-earned money. 

Unraveling the ABCs of Poker

Poker has several variants and I’ll be talking about two of the most popular variants in this subheading. And they are Seven-Card Stud and Texas Hold’em. I also intend to talk about other variants of the game in a separate article. The fundamentals of poker are the same regardless of the variant you are playing. I’ll also be talking about how casino poker differs from the poker you play at home with your friends. 

Below are a few poker basics you’ll do well to remember:

– There is only one goal in poker – and that’s to win the pot of money. You win the pot by having the highest or lowest hand. And this depends on the variant of poker you are playing. But you see, the player with the best hand doesn’t always win the pot. You can go home with the pot by allowing your opponents to believe you have the best hands. 

– Betting is an integral part of poker.

  • You can’t bet with cash at poker tables. Players can only bet with chips. 

– A professional dealer oversees all poker games.

– The dealer distributes the cards clockwise to the left using a standard 52-card deck.

– Poker tables sit seven to ten players depending on the variant of the game. 

– You have to speak to a floor supervisor or poker-room host before joining a poker table. And The floor supervisor or host will find a seat for you or add you to the waiting list. 

Poker Hand Hierarchy

Understanding the basic order of cards is very important before you can play poker. If you don’t know the cards, you have no business sitting at a poker table. Most poker games use a standard 52-card deck which consists of four suits:

– Clubs

– Diamonds

– Hearts

– Spades

A 52-card deck consists of 13 cards of every suit (A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2), and all suits are equal in value. Also, more than 2 million five-card combinations can be made from a 52-card deck. The value of a poker hand is determined by how likely you are to hold the hand. 

The ace is the highest-ranking card in most variants of poker. You have to understand what nuts mean to understand the game. Nuts, however, refer to the best possible hand. Poker hands are ranked from highest to lowest and these rankings are fairly consistent throughout all variants of the game. Below are some poker hands ranking from the highest to the lowest:

– Royal Flush

– Four-of-a-kind

– Full House

– Flush

– Straight

– Three-of-a-kind

– Two pair

– One pair

Poker Hand Rankings Explained

Royal flush

This is the best possible poker hand. A royal flush consists of an ace-king-queen-jack-10, all of which belong to the same suit. Should two players end up with royal flushes, the hands tie. An example of a royal flush is A♦ K♦ Q♦ J♦ 10♦.

Straight flush

You have a straight flush when all your five cards in numeric order are of the same suit. An example of a straight flush is 10♣ 9♣ 8♣ 7♣ 6♣. 


Sometimes called quads, a four-of-a-kind consists of four cards of the same ranks. For example, when you have four 3s, four kings, and so on. The rankings of the cards matter because the hand gets better the higher the cards are ranked. And this means that four queens are better than four jacks. 

Full house

This hand consists of three cards of the same rank which are combined with a pair of other ranked cards. For instance, three 3s and a pair of 6ds or three kings and two 8s. The value of a full house is determined by the ranking of the three cards and not the pairs. This means that three 5s and a pair of 3s will outrank three 4s and a pair of aces. Yes, aces are the highest ranked cards, but the three cards are considered here, not the pair. 


Any five cards of the same suit that are not in numeric order is a flush in poker. If more than one player ends up with a flush, then the player whose flush has the single highest-ranking card is the winner. However, if the high cards are the same, the next ranking card is used, then the next until a winner emerges. 


This is consists of five cards that are not of the same suit in numeric order. However, should two players both end up with a straight, then the straight with the highest-ranking card wins. An example of a straight is 10♥ 9♠ 8♣ 7♣ 6♦. 


This hand consists of three cards that are of the same rank combined with two other cards that are not paired. However, should more than one player end up with three-of-a-kind, the highest-ranking card out of the three is used to determine the winner. For example, 6♥ 6♦ 6♠ Q♣ 4♠ ranks higher than 3♦ 3♠ 3♣ K♠ 2♠.

Two pair

This is a poker hand that consists of a pair of one rank, two cards of another rank and one card of a third rank (the kicker). An example is J♥ J♣ 4♣ 4♠ 9♥ (“two pair, jacks and fours” or “two pair, jacks over fours” or “jacks up”). But it ranks below three of a kind and above one pair.

One pair

This hand contains two cards of the same rank combined with three cards of different ranks. However, if two players both have one pair, the highest-ranked pair wins. If the pair are the same, the next highest card is used to determine the winner. An example of one pair is 4♥ 4♠ K♠ 10♦ 5♠. 

High card

This is the lowest ranking hand in poker and is made up of five unmatched cards that are not of the same rank. An example is K♥ J♥ 8♣ 7♦ 4♠. 

Who’s the Dealer?

A poker dealer is a casino staff that oversees the game and distributes the card. The dealer also has no financial interest in the game. And his/her job is to ensure the smooth running of the game and that players abide by the rules. Also, the dealer takes the house cut out of the pot. 

The position of the dealer is important. This is because the dealer deals the cards in a clockwise manner. And players that are in the middle/late position relative to the dealer tend to have a slight advantage. This is because they would have seen some action unfold and will therefore have more information to make a decision. To make the game fair, the position of the dealer is usually rotated. 

Basic Poker Etiquette

To avoid making notice mistakes and disrupting the flow of the game, it’s important to know the etiquette of poker. The following tips will help ensure you stay out of truble whenever you are playing poker:

– Shield your cards to hide them from other players. However, do not take them off the table. 

– Always fold your cards face down. 

– Protect your cards when you have good holdings i.e good hands. 

– Always announce your intention to raise. 

– Never put your chips at the center of the table near the pot. 

– Never add chips to the amount in front of you during a session. 

Betting in Poker

Betting is an integral part of poker that differentiates it from other table games. And betting skills is among what differentiates poker pros from the rest of the players at the tables. There are different betting strategies due to slight differences in variants of the game. Some poker games require you to pay an ante before you receive cards. There are usually several betting rounds in poker. And you can take any of the four actions below after you receive your card. 

– If you think your hand is no good, you can fold. This means you discard your card and you are out of the game. 

– You can Check which this means you are choosing not to bet yet but you remain in the game. 

– There is also the option to Call which means you bet the same amount as the original bet. 

– You can also call Raise the amount wagered, This means you are increasing the original bet. 
Most poker games have betting limit, except for no-limit poker where you can wager any amount of chips anytime.

There is also the bluffing part in poker where you make other players believe you have the best hand. This is why the players with the best hand don’t necessarily win the pot.

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