Poker Basics (3)


The ranking of hands in poker is based on mathematics. The lower the odds of a player getting a certain hand, the higher their ranking and the more likely they are to win the pot. For example, a player should not expect to have a Straight Flush more than once in 65,000, but the odds of having two pair in his hand is once in 21.

Unless a player is planning to bluff, he should not place a bet without having a hand that he considers to be the best. No poker player can bet intelligently unless he knows what constitutes a good hand, a fair hand, and a bad hand. There are tables showing the various hands in poker and the number of combinations of each in a deck of cards.


By unanimous or majority agreement, players may establish a special fund called the kitty. Usually the Kitty is constructed by “cutting” (taking) a low value chip from each Pot in which there is more than one raise. The Kitty belongs to all players equally, and is used to pay for new decks of cards or for food and drinks. Any chips left in the Kitty when the game ends are divided equally among the players still in it. Unlike the rule in some other games, such as Pinochle, when a player leaves a poker game before it is over, he or she forfeits his or her share of the chips in the kitty.


Poker is almost always played with chips. For a game with seven or more players, there must be at least 200 chips. Usually, the white chip (or the lighter colored chip) is the lowest value unit and equals the minimum bet; a red chip is worth five white chips, and a blue chip (or some other dark colored chip) is worth 10, 20 or 25 white chips or else 2, 4 or 5 red chips.

At the start of the game, each player “buys” a certain number of chips. All players normally purchase equivalent chips of the same amount.


One player should be designated as the Banker, who keeps track of the stock of chips, records how many have been issued to each player, or the amount they have paid for their chips. Players must not make private transactions or trades with each other; a player with surplus chips may return them to the Banker and receive credits or money for them, while a player who wants more chips must obtain them only from the Banker.


There are different ways to set a betting limit. Some sort of limit is always necessary, otherwise a player with more money would have, or be perceived to have, an unfair advantage.

Once set, the limit must remain unchanged throughout the game, unless the players unanimously agree to change the amount of the bets. Here are some of the more common limit systems:


No one may bet or raise more than a set number of chips, for example, 2, 5 or 10. This limit usually varies with the stages of play. In Draw Poker, if the limit is 5 before the draw, it can be 10 after the draw. In Stud Poker, if the limit is 5 on the first four betting intervals, it will be 10 on the final betting interval (and often 10 whenever a player has a pair or better to show for it).


Any bet or raise is limited by the number of chips in the Pot at that time. This means that a player raising can count as part of the Pot the number of chips needed for the Pot to call. If there are 6 chips in the Pot, and a bet of 4 is made, the total is 10 chips; 4 chips are then required for the next player to call, making a total of 14; the player may then raise to 14 chips. But even when the Pot limit is played, there must be an upper limit, such as 50 chips.


The limit for each player is the number of chips he has in front of him. If the player has only 10 chips, he cannot bet more than these 10 and can match the bet of any other player to that extent. In Table Bets, no player may remove chips from the table, or return chips to the Banker, until he leaves the game. A player may add to his stack, but only between the finished game and the start of the next.


In a fixed limit game, it is often agreed that after any very good hand – a Full House or better, for example – there should be an agreement by each player with Jackpots, in which all before doubles and the betting limit is doubled in these agreements as well.


A maximum limit is placed on the number of chips any player can lose. Each one withdraws one stack of chips at the beginning; if he loses that stack, the Banker issues another to the player, without charging for it, and in many cases, the player can still get a third stack free before leaving the game (some limit must be placed on the number of free stacks so that players are encouraged to play carefully).


In these sessions, the sky is the limit, but such games are rarely played these days.


In almost all games today, there is a limit on the number of raises at each betting interval, this invariably being limited to three.

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