There are few games in existence that reward mental fitness and intelligence with monetary gains. Unlike traditional sports, which require natural athletic ability and physical coordination above what most of the population possesses, poker is a game that can be played by anyone at any time for virtually any amount of money. There is no limit to how much effort a player wants to put forth, or what their goals in the game are, and no player is ever turned away from playing, no matter what their capabilities or experience may be. Truly, poker is an “every-man’s game” (and woman’s as well) and learning how to play can be a very rewarding experience.
Poker’s first origins have been disputed by historians, but the general consensus is that the game was first played in the 1800s in the southern parts of the United States. Since the days of Mississippi River boat games and eventually the dusty back rooms in the “old west” of California, poker has come a long way. By the 20th century, poker was commonly played in homes games and for large stakes in casinos, and eventually spread to the mainstream with the emergence of online poker and the popularity of televised poker tournaments. It is now an international phenomenon that has captured the attention and endearment of players around the world.
Learning to play poker is a fairly easy proposition, while learning to play the game well can be another story altogether. When beginning a poker education from scratch, a person must first start with the basics; learning the poker hand rankings is a mandatory step, along with developing a general understanding of poker vocabulary (essential to understanding further poker articles and discussing the game with other players). Next, it is best to choose one game to start with and learn the basic rules. A good starting game is Texas Hold’em, as the rules are quite simple and it is easily the most widely played poker game in the world. Once you have a firm grasp on how to play the game, reading some basic strategy articles is recommended so that you can maximize your chances of turning a profit.
While reading and discussing strategies will certainly improve your game, there is no substitute for experience and therefor practice is essential to becoming a good poker player. Simply playing the game, or even watching others play, will vastly improve your abilities at the tables. Starting out online rather than in a live casino is a good option because there are very small stakes (called “micro stakes”) available for those who prefer minimal monetary risk while learning the basics.
For those who are poker novices, the following is a basic reference of the different types of poker games. Becoming familiar with these games will help you better choose which game you would like to learn first.
In Flop poker games, there are both hole cards, dealt face down to each player to be kept private, and community cards, dealt face up in the middle of the table to be shared by everyone. Players use a combination of their hole cards and the community cards to create the best poker hand. The first three community cards are dealt first, and these cards are cumulatively known as the Flop. The next card is called the Turn, and the final shared card is referred to as the River.
Most people understand how Flop games work because of the hugely popular Flop game, Texas Hold’em, which can be played with betting limits (called Limit Hold’em), as No Limit, Pot Limit, or Spread Limit. Another popular Flop game is Omaha, which can be played as a high/low split game (typically played as limit, but not always) and high only (which is very often played as pot limit, and often simply called Pot Limit Omaha or PLO for short).
In Stud poker games, players do not share community cards to create their hands, but are instead dealt some down cards (hole cards) and some up cards (which are face up for all players at the table to view). Stud games can be a challenge in that one has to rely on memory a great deal in order to keep track of which upcards have already been folded, and are therefore no longer in play.
Before the popularity of Hold’em, Seven Card Stud was the most popular casino poker game, and still remains popular today, especially among senior players. Stud High/Low, Razz (Stud Low), and Five Card Stud are all examples of popular stud games, but there are many Stud variations that are commonly played in private games, such as the games Chicago and English Stud.
Draw games differ from any other poker variation in that there are no cards dealt face up, and therefore players have even less information on their opponents’ holdings. In Draw games, players receive all of their cards face down and then have the opportunity to exchange some (or sometimes all) of their cards for new ones, which is called “drawing.” The number of draws allowed and the betting structure is determined by what game you are playing.
Examples of Draw games include Five Card Draw, Badugi, Lowball, and Baduci. Draw games are less commonly played than Flop and Stud games, but have been gaining popularity over the last few years due to the exciting action that they generate, as well as the new trend to see mixed events in large tournament series.