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How To Play Basic Poker

Poker is played throughout the world and is probably the most popular card game ever.

Playing involves a certain amount of skill and, when high stakes are involved, nerves of steel.

All players, including the dealer, are dealt a number of cards. To win you simply need to be holding the best hand.

The two basics of poker are 'draw' and 'stud'. The difference between the two is that in 'draw' poker cards can be exchanged for new ones while in 'stud' poker exchanges aren't allowed.

Each basis has three different way of being played. These are:

• High - the highest hand wins
• Low - the lowest hand wins
• High/Low - both the highest and lowest hands win with the two players splitting the winnings.

To play the game in its simplest form, you do as follows:

• Deal the necessary number of cards (5 or 7) face down in front of each player.

• The player to the left of the dealer begins.

• Players either switch cards by throwing unwanted cards aside and drawing substitutes from the pack or, if playing 'stud', accept the cards they've been dealt.

• In 'stud', the game is already decided. The player with the best hand wins. In 'draw' each player continues to throw cards and draw new ones until either a) a player wins, or b) the beforehand decided number of rounds have been played, or c) there are no cards left to draw.

• A player who believes his hand has no chance of winning may throw down his cards at any point and leave the game, sacrificing any money already bet.

The most commonly played games are 'Five Card Stud', 'Five Card Draw', 'Seven Card Stud' and 'Texas Hold 'Em', all of which are variations of the above.

Hands (the cards a player's holding) are ranked according to their probability. This means that the fewer combinations available in a particular hand, the lower the probability will be. Hands with the lowest probabilities will always win when playing traditional 'high' hand games. However, if playing a 'low' hand game or a 'high/low' it's important to understand which hands have the highest probability and therefore give the lowest score.

Hands are ranked in the following way:

Hand
Combinations
Probability
Royal Flush
(10, J, Q, K, A of same suit)
4
1 : 649,740
Straight Flush
(eg 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 of same suit)
36
1 : 72,193
Four of A Kind
(eg four 8's)
624
1 : 4,165
Full House
(Three of A Kind + One Pair)
3,774
1 : 694
Flush
(any five cards of same suit)
5,108
1 : 509
Straight
(eg 3,4,5,6,7 of mixed suits)
10,200
1 : 255
Three of A Kind
54,912
1 : 21
Two Pairs
123,552
1 : 21
One Pair
1,098,240
1 : 2
No Pair
1,302,540
1 : 2

If you've understood the rules of 'hands' properly, you'll understand that in a 'high' game, a Royal Flush will beat a Full House which will beat Three of A Kind. In a 'low' game the opposite would be true.

Remember, if you're dealt a hand that has nothing in it, get out. Don't try to beat a better player - if you're lucky you'll win a little but it's more likely you'll lose a lot.

Play and enjoy!