For the level of interest, pure fun and excitement it provides, poker may be the best deal in card games.
Around since the early days of American settlement, the first modern poker card games were reportedly played in the early 19th century -- and spread from Mississippi riverboats to points West where poker was naturally played as a big part of California gold rush fever.
Today, poker is as popular as ever, thanks to online gaming and poker TV tournaments, as well as the annual World Series of Poker held in Las Vegas where world champions gather to vie for millions of dollars in prize money.
How to play poker for beginners - five card draw
Families, friends, neighbors, couples, or even large groups (such as in Texas hold 'em) can take part in a game of friendly poker or, if everyone is feeling lucky, in high stakes betting to see who wins the "pot."
The object of the game? Strategize or get lucky enough to hold or discard playing cards resulting in matching pairs, three-of-kind, and other valuable combinations of cards (see below) to ultimately take the win!
Like any card game, poker begins with the shuffling of the deck by the dealer. The player to the right usually cuts the deck, and the dealer distributes cards to everyone, beginning with the player to his left.
Although there are many variations to the game, basic five-draw poker (the variant that most new players first learn) requires all cards to be dealt face down. Players hold their cards close so no one else can see their hand, and a round of betting begins.
Depending on the cards dealt, a player may win immediately and take the pot. Otherwise, the "draw" phase begins as players discard one or more cards. Each player is then dealt the exact number of cards they have discarded so everyone remains with five cards.
As the game progresses, players with no valuable card combinations will "fold" and discontinue play, while those with potentially winning hands take part in a showdown as players show what they've got. The one with the most highly-ranked hand wins.
Poker hands - who wins with what
Even those with little knowledge of poker might be familiar with the game from James Bond movies or old Westerns featuring plot-twisting terms like "royal flush" or "full house". These are the names of the card combinations for which a player has to be on high alert in order to win a poker pot.
Simple combinations such as "one pair" or "three of a kind" may be self-explanatory, but it may get a little more involved from there. A "four of a kind" hand will win over a "full house", for example, and "Ace high" royal flush will beat a straight flush.
Here, reading from left to right, are winning poker hands ranked in descending order of importance:
"Ace-high" royal flush
The highest ranking hand in poker
is: 10, Jack, Queen, King, and
Ace, all of the same suit.
5 cards of the same suit,
in sequence (example: 6,7,8,9,
and 10 of Clubs)
Four of a kind
Four cards of one rank (example:
5 of Diamonds, 5 of Clubs, 5 of Hearts,
and 5 of Spades with the last card discarded)
Three matching cards of one rank and two
matching cards of one rank
(example: three 2's and two Aces)
All five cards of the same suit,
but not in sequence (example:
Ace, 3, 5, 6, and 8 of Clubs)
Five cards in sequence in at least two different suits (example: Ace and 2 of Hearts, 3 of Clubs, and 4 and 5 of Diamonds)
Three of a kind
Three cards of the same rank (example: 2 of Clubs, 2 of Hearts, and 2 of Spades with the two
remaining cards discarded)
Two pairs of cards of the same rank (example: a pair of 4's and a pair of 9's, with the last card discarded)
One pair of cards of the same rank (example: a pair of 10's with the remaining cards discarded)
NOTE: if two players have the same winning hand, the higher numbered (ranked) cards will always take the win. For example, a pair of Queens will defeat a pair of Jacks, three 8's will win out over three 7's, etc.
More about poker around the Web:
Once you have five-draw poker under your belt, you may want to move onto Texas hold 'em or 7 card stud. Meanwhile, the Web is a prime source of insider tips to help improve your luck with any variation of poker -- and there are many!
So get ready to put your poker face on for a whirlwind virtual tour of the
world's most popular card game. That rules and strategies, the latest championships, news and TV schedules of popular poker programs, along with a bit of related poker history and trivia ...
Poker Tips - Hands down our pick for the best site in the category - offering current updates, online poker site reviews, pot odds calculator, complete rules for dozens of poker variants, and complete TV schedule for... Bravo's Celebrity Poker, ESPN's World Series of Poker, the Travel Channel's World Poker Tour and the UK's Challenge World Poker Tour... overviews of favorite poker movies, poker history and trivia, and a FAQ.
Church of Texas Holdem - Hallelujah, an out-loud funny but expert guide to the game including weekly "sermons", how to's for online play, insider tips and features, related links & forums, free weekly e-zine. With thanks to Dougglug for the site recommendation. Biblical...
Card Games : Poker - Check out a comprehensive resources for everything you ever wanted to know featuring online resources to poker rules and info, poker variants, face to face poker games, online poker, related software, books and equipment.
Pocket Fives - Online place to play, join a league, find tools and articles to improve your game or enter the forum to talk about anything poker related - thanks to Ghostbet for the site recommendation.