Playing 5 Card Draw
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Learn the basics of poker. Using the standard 4-suit 52-card deck, there are many variations of the game. For example, the ace normally plays high, but can sometimes play low (as the one card). A joker or other wild cards may be agreed upon. At the end of a game at the showdown, those players still remaining compare their hands according to the hand rankings (explained below). Suits are not used to break ties, nor are cards beyond the fifth (don’t draw to break the tie); only the best five cards in each hand are used in the comparison. In the case of a tie, the pot is split equally among the tied/winning hands.
Wild cards introduce an additional hand, “five of a kind,” which normally ranks above a “straight flush”. When a joker is in play, it usually can only be used as (1) an ace or to (2) complete a straight or flush. It is not used as a true wild card.
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Print out a ranking of the poker hands and memorize the hands. Become familiar with the names and meanings of poker hands and their variations. The person who wins is the person with the highest-valued hand. You can’t win, if you don’t know which hands will take the pot. If two players have hands with the same name (e.g. two “full houses”) or no one has an obviously winning hand, then the player with the single highest value card in their hand wins (Ace is normally the highest).
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Chip in. Place an “ante” (pronounced ant-ee), the minimum or “token bet”, “pay to play,” into the pot (usually a spot at the center of the table, although you can use a container/pot, if you wish). Every player places an agreed, equal amount of whatever your currency (poker chips, coins, bills, items of agreed value…). Whoever wins takes it all.
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Deal or be dealt with. After shuffling (showing off), the dealer distributes the cards face down starting with the player to his or her immediate left and continuing clockwise, one card at a time until everyone has five cards. The deck is placed in the middle of the table.
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Look at your cards. Keep them close (some people like to put them in order), while everyone else looks at theirs. This is the time to evaluate how strong your hand is. Players often show the strength of their hand with a “tell”. Some tells include shallow breathing, lack of eye contact or more than usual, facial muscle flexes (to relax or cover-up a smile), neck tension, rapid plush seen in the neck or temple, etc. Trying to deduce these will give you a better chance to know who seems thrilled or disappointed when reacting to cards. Keep your usual “poker face”; don’t show a response. Some players wear large sunshades, a hat pulled low, a neck scarf to cover muscle tension, and try to have deadpan facial expressions and to conceal reactionary breathing/gasping.
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Take turns shuffling and dealing unless the house furnishes the dealer. The person to get to start the round is usually the player on the dealer’s left (or the person who was dealt the first card). That player can decide to:
Open – Place the first bet. Or, “check” and so pass the chance to open to the next player. If everyone checks, then it is time to draw replacement cards (explained below). But, once the pot is opened, by a bet (e.g. placing a nickel in the pot), then all of the players, including those who already had their turns have three new options, at their next turn:
Fold – Quit the game by putting your cards face down on the table to avoid putting more into the pot; whatever you have put in the pot stays in the pot.
See/call – Stay in the game by betting/putting the equivalent amount into the pot. After they’ve made their choices in the first round, everyone who hasn’t folded may still have those options.
Raise – Instead of merely calling, sweeten the pot by raising, by putting in more than the last person put in the pot (to get the others to pay that much or fold). “After the open, a call or a raise”, players must have their turn in order to decide whether to (1) call (pay that same amount into the pot) or (2) fold, then the next person has his or her turn.
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Draw replacement cards. Once everyone has had a turn (even if everyone checked) get rid of up to three cards (turned face down onto the table), or keep them all. Discard ones you don’t think will help, and have them replaced. This is done in turn, in order going clockwise. Be sure no one can see what you had/have.
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Go through another round of betting after the draw. As before, the first player can either open/bet or check, and the checking can continue until someone opens, after which players can see/call, raise or fold. Players will start folding once they realize their weak hand isn’t worth the additional bet.
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Showdown: Expose your cards only when there is no more reason to bet. Everyone who has not folded turns their cards over to see who has the winning hand. Winner takes all, unless there is an absolute tie, then split the pot.
Playing Texas Hold’em
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Understand the basic rules of Texas Hold’em. Each player is dealt 2 cards face down, and 5 community cards will be shown face up. Players try to make the best hand possible out of their 7 cards.
Each player takes a turn being the dealer. In Texas Hold’em, blinds take the place of an ante. The player to the left of the dealer is the small blind, and the next person is the big blind. The big blind is the minimum bet, and the small blind is half of that.
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Begin play. Play begins with the first player to the left of the big blind. That player either calls the big blind (plays the minimum bet), raises, or folds. Play continues around the circle, with each player having to match the previous bet, raise, or fold. If no one raises, the big blind can check or raise before the next round.
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See the flop. After the first round of betting has been settled, the dealer reveals the first 3 of the 5 cards placed face up on the board, called the flop. The dealer places the top card off the deck face-down, this is referred to as a Burn card (discarded). The next three cards from the deck are displayed face-up. Each player now has 2 cards in their hold (personal hand) and 3 community cards. Another round of betting begins, starting with the player to the left of the dealer.
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See the turn. After the second round of betting, the dealer burns (discards) the next top card and then reveals the 4th card of the hand, called the turn. The remaining players bet again, starting with the player to the left of the dealer.
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See the river. After the third round of betting, the dealer burns the next card and then reveals the 5th and final card of the hand. Players bet on their hands, and the winner takes the pot. If a player bets, and the rest fold, then the winning player does not need to show his or her hand.
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Know your starting hands. When you’re starting your initial round of betting, it’s important to know whether or not the hand you have is worth playing. In Texas Hold’em, you have two cards to start, and you’ll need to decide if you should play them or fold.
Hands to raise: Pairs of tens, face cards or Aces are almost always a good hand to raise with. An Ace and a King or an Ace and a Queen are strong hands as well. If you have these hands, bet before the flop to raise the value of the pot.
Hands to call: An Ace with a face card, or two consecutive face cards of a different suit are strong hands to call with. Two consecutive non-face cards of the same suit can work in your favor. Low pairs should call, but not raise.
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Know when to hold and when to fold. The key to being successful at poker is knowing when to fold your hand and accept a smaller loss, or when to hold onto it and risk a larger loss knowing that you have a good chance to win the pot. If the flop comes and you’re holding a hand that doesn’t play, check and fold. You don’t want to keep betting money at a hand that won’t win. If the flop comes and you have a strong hand, bet at it. This will force weaker hands out and raise the value of your pot.
If your hand could play if the right cards come up, then you’ll want to determine if it’s worth holding out for them. Calculating pot odds can go a long way towards helping you make these decisions.
Pot odds are calculated by determining the percentage chance that you have to draw the card you need. To calculate them, count the number of outs you have. These are cards that will improve your hand. Multiply the number of cards times two, then add 1 to get the percentage. For example, if there are 10 cards in the deck that could improve your hand, you have about a 21% (10 x 2 + 1) chance of getting a card you need.
Next, you’ll need to determine if it is worth betting. Calculate the pot+bet, which is the pot total plus the bet to call. So if the pot is $120, and the bet to call is $20, then the pot+bet is $140. Multiply your percentage of your outs with the pot+bet. In the previous example, a 21% chance with a pot+bet of $140 would look like 0.21 x 140 = 29.4. This means you should call bets lower than %29 of the pot, or around $40. 
Working out the pot odds is only a guideline and doesn’t take a lot of variables into account. Use it as a basis to judge the worthiness of a hand.
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Understand the psychology. Playing your opponent is arguably more important than playing your cards in poker. You have to be able to read what your opponent is doing, as well as trick them into not knowing your plan.
Don’t let emotions cloud your judgment. You will lose hands, it’s guaranteed. Don’t let setbacks affect your attitude and playstyle.
Change up your pace. If you’ve been playing your cards close, and not betting wildly, start bluffing a bit more. If you’ve been bluffing, go back to playing tighter. Switching often will keep opponents from being able to predict your actions and guess your cards.
Read your opponent. Adjust your playstyle to your opponents’. Look for players that are betting carelessly, and try to trap them. Learn to see the tells, which can give you an estimation of their hand. Some basic tells: a hand over the mouth is usually concealing a smile; shaking hands is nervous, but that could be a good nervous or bad nervous; if a player glances at his or her chips when the flop comes, they probably have a strong hand; if a mediocre player is staring at you, he or she is likely bluffing.
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Think on your feet. Don’t get bogged down with systems, react to situations as they arise. Every poker situation is different because of the human factor.
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Plan your bankroll accordingly. When you are learning, you should never invest more than what you would consider “fun” to lose. Don’t add to your bankroll after losing everything you’ve invested. Wait until you are comfortable losing that amount again.
When you start winning on a regular basis, adjust your bankroll to maximize your earning potential. The general rule of thumb is you should be able to afford to lose 200 bets at the highest limit. So if the limit is $5 bets, then your bankroll should be $1000.
Track your wins and losses. This will help you figure out if you are winning or losing in the long run. Also, depending on where you live, you may have to pay taxes on your gambling income.
Poker Hands: Reference Sheet
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Royal Flush (10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace, all of the same suit) – Most valued because it’s most surprising when received. It is a common misconception that this is harder to get than any other set of 5 cards of one suit.
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Straight Flush (five cards in numerical order, all of the same suit) – Can’t contain a King as high card and a Two as the low number card in the same hand (e.g.: Q-K-A-2-3 is not a straight, there is actually a big gap). The straight can’t wrap around the end of the suit to line up lowest to the highest numbers.
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Four of a Kind (four cards of the same number and any other card) – ties are broken by the higher four cards of a kind.
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Full House (a three card set with the same number and two card pair with the same number) – ties are broken by the highest value card in the three of a kind.
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Flush (all five cards from the same suit) – Numbers and order don’t matter except the high card wins if someone else also has a flush.
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Straight – (all five cards in numerical order) – Suit doesn’t matter. Can’t contain a King and a Two in the same hand (e.g. J-Q-K-A-2).
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Three of a Kind (three cards with same number, two other random cards) – If the other two cards had the same number, it’s a full house (see above).
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Two Pair (two pairs with the same numbers plus a random card) — ties are broken with the highest 5th.
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One Pair (two cards with the same number, the rest of the cards are random).
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Below are the variations.
Straight poker – Five cards are dealt to each player with a round of betting after each. The best hand wins the pot.
5-card stud – This is similar to straight poker, where you are stuck with the cards that you are dealt except, in this variation, four of the cards are dealt face up for all to see. The person with the best hand wins the pot. The dealing goes as follows: One card is dealt face down (the hole card) to each person, then one card is dealt face up to each player and there is a round of betting; there are three subsequent rounds where another card is dealt face up to all who have not folded and this is followed by a round of bets. Once the final bet is made, the hole card is revealed and the person holding the best hand takes the pot.
7-card stud – Your goal is to make the best 5-card hand possible. In 7-card stud, players are given two face-down cards, then one up before the first round of betting. Another three rounds of one card face up go to each remaining player (who has not folded) with a round of betting after each dealing. The final card goes face-down followed by the final round of betting. In stud, the cards dealt face down are called “hole cards.”
Lowball – The goal is to get the hand with the lowest value.
Omaha – Four pocket cards are dealt face down, betting ensues, and then five community cards are dealt face up. A player must make a winning hand using two of the pocket cards combined with the three community cards.
Pineapple – Dealt three hole cards, discard one before the flop, play like Texas Hold’em.
Crazy Pineapple – Dealt three hole cards, discard one after the flop, play like Texas Hold’em.
Cincinnati – Four hole cards and four community cards with four rounds of betting.
Dr. Pepper – Five card draw with 10s, 2s and 4s wild.