How to Play Poker
Rules to Poker
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Poker  as “any of several card games in which a player bets that the value of his or her hand is greater than that of the hands held by others, in which each subsequent player must either equal or raise the bet or drop out, and in which the player holding the highest hand at the end of the betting wins the pot”.  Each Poker Variant will have its own unique set of rules, however, most variants will share common rules with the goal to win the hand/pot.
Hand Rankings
The object of poker is to form the best hand to win the pot.  Most Poker variants will reward in the highest ranking order, while there are variants that will reward the lowest ranking hands and even further a split of the pot to the highest and the lowest ranking hands.  There may even be further special rules on how an Ace is treated or additions to the common ranking system.  Most Poker variants don’t rely on suits to decide a winner and a pot will be split if a hand is tied however a few variants do.  Here is a summary of the common ranking system used in most poker variants.

1. Royal Flush

This is the highest poker hand. It consists of ace, king, queen, jack, ten, all in the same suit. As all suits are equal, all royal flushes are equal.

2. Straight Flush

Five cards of the same suit in sequence

Between two straight flushes, the one containing the higher top card is higher. An ace can be counted as low, so 5-4-3-2-A all hearts is a straight flush, but its top card is the five, not the ace, so it is the lowest type of straight flush. The cards cannot “turn the corner”: 4-3-2-A-K is not valid.

3. Four of a kind

Four cards of the same rank – such as four queens. The fifth card can be anything. This combination is sometimes known as “quads”. Between two fours of a kind, the one with the higher set of four cards is higher – so 3-3-3-3-A is beaten by 4-4-4-4-2. It can’t happen in standard poker, but if in some other game you need to compare two fours of a kind where the sets of four cards are of the same rank, then the one with the higher fifth card is better.

4. Full House

This consists of three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank – for example three sevens and two tens (colloquially known as “sevens full” or more specifically “sevens on tens”). When comparing full houses, the rank of the three cards determines which is higher. For example 9-9-9-4-4 beats 8-8-8-A-A. If the threes of a kind were equal, the rank of the pairs would decide.

5. Flush

Five cards of the same suit. When comparing two flushes, the highest card determines which is higher. If the highest cards are equal then the second highest card is compared; if those are equal too, then the third highest card, and so on. For example K-J-9-3-2 all spades beats K-J-7-6-5 all diamonds because the nine beats the seven.

6. Straight

Five cards of mixed suits in sequence – for example Q-J-10-9-8. When comparing two sequences, the one with the higher ranking top card is better. Ace can count high or low in a straight, but not both at once, so A-K-Q-J-10 and 5-4-3-2-A are valid straights, but 2-A-K-Q-J is not. 5-4-3-2-A is the lowest kind of straight, the top card being the five.

7. Three of a Kind

Three cards of the same rank plus two other cards. This combination is also known as Triplets or Trips. When comparing two threes of a kind the hand in which the three equal cards are of higher rank is better. So for example 5-5-5-3-2 beats 4-4-4-K-Q. If you have to compare two threes of a kind where the sets of three are of equal rank, then the higher of the two remaining cards in each hand are compared, and if those are equal, the lower odd card is compared.

8. Two Pairs

A pair is two cards of equal rank. In a hand with two pairs, the two pairs are of different ranks (otherwise you would have four of a kind), and there is an odd card to make the hand up to five cards. When comparing hands with two pairs, the hand with the highest pair wins, irrespective of the rank of the other cards – so J-J-2-2-4 beats 10-10-9-9-8 because the jacks beat the tens. If the higher pairs are equal, the lower pairs are compared, so that for example 8-8-6-6-3 beats 8-8-5-5-K. Finally, if both pairs are the same, the odd cards are compared, so Q-Q-5-5-8 beats Q-Q-5-5-4.

9. Pair

A hand with two cards of equal rank and three other cards which do not match these or each other. When comparing two such hands, the hand with the higher pair is better – so for example 6-6-4-3-2 beats 5-5-A-K-Q. If the pairs are equal, compare the highest ranking odd cards from each hand; if these are equal compare the second highest odd card, and if these are equal too compare the lowest odd cards. So J-J-A-9-3 beats J-J-A-8-7 because the 9 beats the 8.

10. High Card

Five cards which do not form any of the combinations listed above. When comparing two such hands, the one with the better highest card wins. If the highest cards are equal the second cards are compared; if they are equal too the third cards are compared, and so on. So A-J-9-5-3 beats A-10-9-6-4 because the jack beats the ten.

Compulsory bets
Most variants of Poker will require a compulsory bet to be made prior to a
hand being dealt.  The size of these compulsory bets will depend on what the current betting limits are.  The purpose of this bet is to get the game moving and to avoid players folding every hand without cost.  There are typically 2 types of compulsory bets, Antes and Blinds.  The difference between the 2 are that Antes is a bet everyone at the table is required to make and is usually a percentage of the lowest minimum bet required.  Blinds are pre-bets placed by one or 2 people and typically sit left to the Dealer button and travel clockwise after each hand around the board. They come in the form of small and big blinds, small usually being half the value of the big blind and the big blind being equivalent to the minimum bet of the table.  Some variants adapt both Blinds and Antes into the same game  with sometimes Antes only coming in after so many Blind Levels in tournament games.  In tournaments, blinds and Antes increase at set time intervals.
The Deal
After the compulsory bets are made, depending on the variant of poker that is
being played, a number of cards are dealt to the players.  The order of the deal is made clockwise from the dealer button until all cards required are dealt.  Some games require 2 cards to be dealt, some 4 cards  and even 7 cards.
Rounds of Betting
After the deal has been made, a round of betting commences.  This usually happens from either left of the Dealer Button or left of the Blinds and moves clockwise.  It is important to note here that players should not play our of position, meaning you need to wait your turn until the person on your right has made an action and is considered bad etiquette.  There are a number of actions that can be made from players.  When it is their turn to act, they can choose from the following.  Check – can be made when a player does not need to call an existing bet, can not be made if a bet or raise has been made, these include any initial blind bets. Call – can be made when a bet or a raise has already been made during the round of betting and to stay in the hand, the player matches the value bet or raise.  Bet – made when the first person on any round of betting wishes to place a wager and no-one else has on the current round.  Raise – when a bet has already been made during the current round and the player wishes to bet more than what has been previously been bet during that round.  Fold – When a player does not want to participate any further in the hand, they may fold their hand.
Ending a hand
A hand will end when either 1 player remains in the current round of betting meaning that they win the pot, or a showdown will happen between players who have called the last bet/raise in the last round of betting.  If one player remains in the round of betting, they can elect to either show their winning hand or place their hand face down without showing anyone, this is called mucking or to muck a hand.  In a showdown, typically the first person left of the Dealer button still in the hand will be required to show their hand first and continuing clockwise.  Any subsequent players who have not beaten the first players hand shown can elect to show their hand or to muck.