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A Beginner's Guide to Poker

January 21, 2020

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Not only is poker a fun game to play with your friends, but it’s one of the most popular video games in casinos and bars. For those who are new to poker, video poker is a great way to learn the basics of the game without the pressure of competing with others, and the video screen lists all the hands with associated payouts. But before we can get into that, you need to understand the basics.

How to play poker

Whether you’re playing with friends or at a video terminal, poker is typically played with a 52-card deck. Each card has both a numerical value (1 through 10), as well as a suit (hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades). Face cards have a higher value than the number cards, with the order being Jack, Queen, King, Ace. (Ace can also be a low card in a straight, but more on that later.)

One of the most basic and common versions of poker is five-card draw. To start, the dealer gives each player five cards. This is your “hand.” Each player has one opportunity to send back up to three cards to try for a better hand — and a better payout.

Poker hands explained

Below are the poker hands ranked from the lowest to highest payout. As the payout increases, the odds of getting that hand decreases, which is where strategy comes in.

  • Pair: Two cards with the same value
  • Two pairs: Two sets of pairs (e.g., two 9’s and two 5’s)
  • Three of a kind: Three cards with the same value
  • Straight: Five cards in sequential order, but not the same suit (e.g., 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  • Flush: All cards are the same suit
  • Full house: Three cards with the same value, plus two cards with matching values (e.g., three 9’s and two 5’s)
  • Four of a kind: Four cards with the same value
  • Straight flush: Five cards in sequential order — all the same suit (5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  • Royal flush: Ace, King, Queen, Jack and 10 in the same suit

Variations of poker games

When stepping up to the video poker terminal, there are a few variations to the standard five-card draw. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Deuces Wild: All number 2 cards are wild cards.
  • Jacks or Better: A pair needs to be a Jack or, you guessed it, better.
  • Double Bonus Poker: Variation of Jacks or Better but the payout is higher for a four-of-a-kind hand.
  • Joker Poker: There’s an additional wild card (the Joker), so you’re playing with a 53-card deck. A pair of Kings is the lowest pair that can win. With the wild card, you can potentially get five of a kind.
  • Triple Ace Poker: A winning pair must be Aces and any Ace in your hand can result in extra free games.

Ready to try your hand at poker? Find a video poker game near you or leave a comment below with questions or strategies that have worked for you.

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