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The best known version of Poker is Texas Hold'em, and many people know only this game, but there are many different types of Poker, with ancient origins in China and Persia.
In 17th century France a game called Pogue became popular, and this is the likely origin of the modern name.
Many modern casino games were brought to the United States by French immigrants, and Poker is no exception, with its popularity spreading from Louisiana to the West, and experiencing a boost during the Civil War period in the 1860's. It was during this war that some of the rules and game versions that we see today, such as Stud Poker, Draw Poker and the straight were developed.
Early in the 20th century, the game of Texas Hold'em was developed in the Texas community of Robstown, but it did not become well known until 1967 when the Golden Nugget casino in Las Vegas began to feature the game. When the first Texas Hold'em tournament was held at the Dune Casino two years later, people really began to take an interest in it.
The World Series of Poker can trace its origins back to 1970 when the Binion brothers bought the Gambling Fraternity Convention, and decided to make Texas Hold'em the game played at the Main Event. This had a big impact on Poker, and online Poker in particular.
Televising the WSOP brought Texas Hold'em to millions and soon it was established as the most popular form around the globe. When online casinos and Poker sites began to open in the 1990's, that position was reinforced and now hundreds of millions of players enjoy the game on a regular basis.
Poker has its own terms and phrases associated with it, and these should be learned before playing a game. Some are generic, others apply just to Texas Hold'em.
Blinds: Bets that are required to start the game. The player to the immediate left of the dealer places a small blind, the one to the left of him places a big blind bet.
Bluff: A bet placed by a player with a weak hand to force other players to fold and exit the game.
Buy-in: The amount in playing chips that are needed to join a game.
Community Cards: The first five cards dealt out to each player in a game of Texas Hold'em.
Flop: Three community cards placed face up for use by any players.
Flush: A five card hand where all cards are from one suit.
Hole Cards: Two cards received by each player.
Pair: Two cards of equal value such as a pair of 2's or a pair of Jacks.
Pot: The sum of all bets made on a hand of Poker.
Rake: The amount taken by the House out of each pot. As there is no house edge in Poker, this is how the house makes its money.
River: The last community card dealt out.
Round of Betting: During each point of the game players can either check, call, raise or fold to complete a round.
Royal Flush: The best hand in Poker, although it very rarely occurs. Made up of a Ten, Jack, Queen, King and Ace, all from one suit.
Straight: Five cards from any suit in consecutive order, such as 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen.
Trips: Three cards of the same type, such as three 2's or three Kings.
Turn: The fourth community card that is dealt out.
To start a game of Texas Hold'em, the dealer, (who may also be a player), shuffles a 52 card deck. Two bets are then made, with the player to the left of the dealer making the small blind bet of half the minimum bet size, and the one to the next left of him making the big blind bet of the minimum value. Two 'hole cards' are then dealt out to each player, left to right.
The initial betting round then begins, with the player to the left of the one who posted the big blind making the first bet. Each player has four options. They can Check, if they have already matched the current maximum bet, Call, and match the maximum bet, Raise to increase the size of the maximum bet, or Fold and leave the game, while losing any bets already made.
The subsequent rounds then start with the flop, where the dealer 'burns' or removes, the top card remaining in the deck, and deals out three community cards into the middle of the table. The player to the dealers left then begins another betting round. This is followed by the turn, where the dealer hands out a fourth community card, and then the river round begins, with the fifth community card dealt out. Players make their final bets and cards are then revealed.
Should more than one player have hands of equal value, the dealer reveals the community cards to decide a winner, who is the player with the best hand made up of two hole cards and the community cards.
The following are the best Poker hands, starting with the best possible one:
Royal Flush: Ace-high straight Flush, all of the same suit.
Straight Flush: A hand consisting of five consecutive cards of same suit.
Four of a kind: A hand consisting of four cards of same value and one other card.
Full House: A hand consisting of three cards of one value and two of another.
Flush: A hand consisting of five unmatched cards of the same suit.
Straight: A hand consisting of five cards of sequential rank of different suits.
Three of a kind: A hand consisting of three cards of the same value and two others.
Two pair: A hand consisting of two pairs of cards with same value and one other card.
Pair: A hand consisting of two cards with the same rank as each other.
High Card: Should no player have at least a pair, then the player who holds the highest value single card wins the game.
Poker, including the Texas Hold'em game, requires players to use a combination of skill, maths and strategy to win. New players should learn the basic strategy to determine if their hand is worth playing or whether they should just fold and sit out the rounds.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to fold if you are dealt two cards of different ranks and both are less than 10's. If one of the cards is worth at least 10, or there are any pairs dealt to you, it could be worthwhile staying in the game, at least for the first rounds, just to see what happens. Players must also balance the cost of staying in the game with the risks involved, and this all depends on the cards being held and how high the stakes are. On some occasions it can be worth paying to stay in, on others, it is best to quit before you have bet too much.
- Even the best players won't win every hand, so don't feel you are doing anything wrong by folding. It may go against the competitive spirit in all people, especially Poker players, but with practice, you will learn when to raise and when to fold.
- If the stakes are getting uncomfortably high, don't just keep playing simply because you have already invested some time and money. This goes for many things in life, not just Poker games, and you should learn when it's better just to quit.
- Play with a calm, clear attitude. Pay attention to the game and don't let yourself get in a bad mood, or play when stressed, drunk or otherwise impaired.
With practice, you should be able to get some idea of your best possible hand, and your opponents best hands by studying the community cards. So keep an eye on these cards, and concentrate.