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So you want to play poker do you? Beware, it's not often a game for the weak of heart, but also, be aware, it's likely your best chance to make some serious money at the casino. Most casino games pit the player against the house, in a game that holds a 'house edge'. Poker rooms pit player against player, and when you play poker, you're not bound by any percentages held by the house.

To learn to play poker is to learn more than one could know. There are so many variations of poker it almost seems a new game appears each time some boys get together and play. It's these general principles, which bind all of these games, that truly is poker. Learning those principles isn't so hard, but mastering them in practice takes a lot of time at the table.

So generally, the object of poker is to win the money in the pot during a round of play by having the best poker hand when all of the betting is done. It's also possible to win the pot by being the only player left, if you've made everyone else fold. The pot contains all of the money contributed during a hand, including all of the bets and the original 'ante' from each player. The ante is what each player must contribute at the beginning in order to get in on the hand.

Most poker games use a regular 52-card deck. There are four suits (hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades) and each suit contains 13 cards. These cards rank in value from highest to lowest as such: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. Depending on where you choose to play poker, the Ace may be interchangeable as the lowest value card.

Each hand of poker is essential a self-contained game, where the entire pot is won at the conclusion. At the start of a hand the dealer gives everyone a set number of cards (depending on which variation of the game you're playing). Then, each player in turn (clockwise from the dealer) may choose to bet or pass (check). If a player makes a bet, the next player has the choice to call the bet, raise the bet, or fold their hand. A fold means that the player has decided to forfeit the pot, seeing no chance of winning it, and lay their cards down with no participation. A call means that the player stays in the hand by betting an equal amount to what has been bet, but not any more. A raise is the choice by the player to meet all bets to that point, and add more.

The betting ends when all who wish to call the highest bet have done so, or when only one player is left. At the end of the last betting round everyone left playing is part of the showdown. The last person who bet or raised is obliged to show their hand first, then the remaining players show their hands clockwise around the table. If a player knows they have been beaten they do not need to lay their cards down face up.

The player with the highest ranking poker hand wins the pot. To read up on each hand and how they rank, read our poker hands page.



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