Your poker career should begin by making sure you understand the rules. Here are the key concepts you need to know: how a poker hand is played out and what are your options throughout.
The two players to the left of the dealer must post these compulsory "blinds" - so called because they are placed before anyone even sees their cards. The player on the dealer's immediate left posts the "small blind" and the player one further seat round the table posts the "big blind", which is usually twice the size of the small.
In the illustration, the dealer is in seat five with the button in front of him. The two seats to his left are "in the blinds".
After every hand is complete, the dealer button moves clockwise one position around the table, which means that players take turns to be the dealer, the small blind and the big blind.
After the blinds have been posted, all players are dealt two cards face down. These are known as "hole" cards, and can only be seen and used by one player. By the end of the hand, five more "community" cards may have been dealt, face up in the middle of the table, which are available for all players to use.
The first three of the community cards are exposed together (known as the "flop"), then a fourth card (known as the "turn") is dealt individually, and then a fifth (known as the "river") is exposed. A betting round separates each deal.
The aim of poker is to make the best five-card hand out of the seven available - two in an individual's hand and the five community cards.
If a hand of poker is played all the way to its conclusion, there will be four betting rounds - or four periods during which players can commit their chips to the pot. A player can also "fold" their cards and leave the action at any time (see below).
A betting round must be concluded satisfactorily before the remaining players see more cards and another betting round begins.
The first betting round takes place before the first three community cards (the "flop") are dealt. This action is described as "pre-flop" and at this stage players are wagering based solely on the strength of their two concealed "hole" cards.
The player sitting to the left of the big blind acts first - a position known as "under the gun". Players then act in turn, moving clockwise around the table.
You have the following options when it is your turn to act:
When all bets have been made in the second betting round, and at least two players still have cards, the fourth community card is dealt. This is known as the "turn". Another round of betting begins, starting with the first player still in the hand to the left of the dealer. Play progresses exactly as it did after the flop.
When all bets have been made in the third round of betting, the fifth and final community card is dealt. This is known as the "river". A final round of betting begins, again starting with the first player to the left of the button.
Any players still with cards go to a "showdown".
In the example pictured, Player 1 has two pair: kings and queens, with a seven. The five best cards available to him are the two kings on the flop, the two queens (his own hole cards), and the seven. (Remember all poker hands have five cards.)
The player in the Big Blind has three of a kind. He has one king "in the hole" which he matches with the two kings on the flop. His other cards are the seven and the six, which were the turn and river.
Three of a kind is better than two pair and so player Big Blind wins.
If more than one player has the same winning hand, the pot is split evenly among all the players with the winning hand.
When the current hand is complete, the dealer button is passed one position to the left and the next hand begins.
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