The word Poker encompasses a wide variety of games but the
general concept is the same in all of them. Poker involves two
or more players betting on the value of their hands, and the
person with the best hand wins. Depending on the game, the most
valuable hand dramatically changes. The concept of betting and
forcing the other players to either call your bet, raise or fold
is virtually the same in all poker games. In the event that all
players fold to the bettor, the bettor would win the pot.
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Poker has been around for a long time and it dates back
centuries. Five Card Draw was popularized during the American
Civil War. There are many different formats of poker such as No
Limit Texas Hold 'em, Limit Hold 'em, Pai Gow Poker, 2-7 Triple
Draw Poker, 5 Card Draw, Omaha, Razz, Omaha Hi/Lo, 7 Card Stud
and many more. The rules for these games vary but once you grasp
the concepts of one and start to improve your skills, the others
seem easier and easier to pick up.
The key thing for players to remember is that you must know the rules and basic strategy behind a poker format before you are able to even think about trying to make money at it. There are some poker formats such as H.O.R.S.E Poker that offer a variation on traditional poker. Horse Poker incorporates a rotational style that switches between Limit Hold 'em, Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Seven Card Stud and Seven Card Stud Eight or Better(7 Card Stud Hi/Lo).
Poker games are played either with blinds or antes and sometimes they use both. Most games, however, use one or the other. In Texas Hold 'em, there is a small blind and a big blind that sit to the left of the dealer. Each player gets two hole cards and a round of betting begins. After that, the flop is dealt. The flop is where the dealer burns a card and flips three community cards.
After another round of betting, the turn comes. The turn is one more community card dealt after a card is burned. Another betting round takes place and then finally, the river card is flipped (after burning a card). This is the final community card. A final round of betting takes place and if someone calls another player's bet in the final round of betting, the game goes to a showdown where each player's cards are shown. This format of dealing the flop, turn and river in succession is commonly used within quite a few variants of Poker.
In games such as 2-7 Triple Draw, the format is the same as Hold 'em in terms of blinds, but the draw phases replace the flop, turn, and river cards. You receive five cards. There is a round of betting and then you can draw. On the draw, you can discard no cards (standing pat) or you can discard all five. You receive an equal amount of cards to what you discarded. This is similar to the flop stage.
There is a second betting round followed by the second draw phase. The draw phase rules stay the same and this is like the turn phase. The third round of betting concludes and there is a third draw phase. This is the river phase followed by a final betting round that results in a fold, check-down or a showdown.
The hand strength, however, varies greatly between 2-7 Triple Draw and Texas Holdem. In Texas Holdem, the best hand you can have is a Royal Flush. A Royal Flush is A-K-Q-J-10 suited. However, in 2-7 Triple Draw, the best hand is 2-3-4-5-7. Aces are always high and straights and flushes count against you. The object is to get the lowest hand with all your cards being lower than eight. It's a form of lowball.
In games like Badugi and Pai Gow Poker, the rules are completely different. In Badugi, the best hand is A-2-3-4 with each card being a different suit. The hands in Badugi rank the same as the low hands of Omaha Hi/Lo. However, if you have one of each suit in your hand that is called a Badugi and the value of the hand is different. Any Badugi is better than a three-card hand.
In Pai Gow, you're dealt seven cards and create two separate hands, a two-card hand and a five-card hand. You compete against the dealer but also have the option to be the banker. This brings a whole different side to the game. The odds are more in your favor when you're the banker. You have to win both hands to win and so does the dealer. Needless to say, there are a lot of pushes in Pai Gow Poker.
There are a lot of variations on poker and the strategy
shifts from game to game. The most commonly played games in the
poker world are Texas Hold 'em and Omaha. Both of these games
are structured the same in terms of being flop, turn, river
community card games. The betting rounds are structured
identically as well.
In Texas Holdem and Omaha, players should be aware of their position. Omaha requires somewhat tighter play than Hold 'em. The concept behind this is that in Omaha, the focus of the game is to get the hand that has the nuts. This is also your objective in Texas Hold 'em; however, the hand that usually wins on average in Hold 'em is not the nuts.
In Hold 'em, you'll see top pair, bottom set, two pair and even high card win the majority of the hands on average. In other words, the monster hands win only occasionally. In Omaha, the case is different. For example, the chance of winning with a pair of Aces in Omaha is very slim. However, in Hold 'em a pair of Aces wins constantly.
You have to know your starting hands and which hands should be played from what position. If you're early to act, you may not play a certain hand that you would strongly consider or actually play if you're late to act. This is where understanding the importance of position play and being able to calculate pot odds comes in handy.
In Omaha you generally want to be shooting for major draws with your starting hand. Keeping in mind that you can only use two of your hole cards, connecting cards are good. For example, if you're holding 9,10,J,Q with two of them being suited gives you a lot of draws going into the flop. You have the flush and straight draw and a good selection of four cards to choose from when formulating your hand.
In Texas Hold 'em, being able to read your opponents and use your position to your advantage is essential. For example, a novice player will call the blinds with Q,J from any position. However, an experienced player would never call with Q,J from under the gun. These are differences that will be learned and implemented through time and experience. By learning the proper strategy and calculating the odds when your money is on the line, you have the best chance to succeed.
Poker is a general term that encompasses a multitude of games. Each game has variations in rules and basic strategies. However, many of the games have similarities as well. The variations are just deviations that have developed through time to create new and exciting poker environments.
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