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The Forms Of Poker

Poker is a generic name for literally hundreds of games, but they all fall within a few interrelated types. There are high games like seven-card stud and Texas hold 'em, in which the highest hand in the showdown wins, and low games like draw lowball and razz, in which the lowest hand wins. There are also high-low split games, in which the best high hand and the best low hand split the pot. Among high, low, and high-low split games there are those like five-card draw, in which the hands are closed, and those like seven-card stud, in which some of the players' cards are exposed for all to see.

Jokers, wild cards, and special rules may be introduced into any of these games to create such aberrations as Baseball, Follow the Queen, Anaconda, and scores of other variations that have spiced up home poker for decades. Paradoxically, the two types of players who favor these exotic poker variations are generally amateurs who want a lot of action and hustlers who prey on these amateurs because their long experience allows them to adjust more easily to unusual games than their amateur opponents can. However, before a player can become an expert at exotic games, he must understand the basic concepts of standard games.

Another significant distinction among poker games is their betting structure. Most home games and most games in Las Vegas, Gardena, California, and elsewhere are limit games-that is, games in which limits are set on the minimum and maximum bets. Normally, in the smaller-limit games of Las Vegas, such as $1-$3 seven-card stud, there is no ante, and the low card starts the action for 50 cents. In subsequent rounds, the high hand on board may check or bet $1, $2, or $3. In the higher-limit Las Vegas games and in the limit draw games of the card rooms of Gardena, the betting is rigidly structured. In Gardena the bets double after the draw. In Las Vegas they double in the later rounds of betting. In $5-$10 seven-card stud, for example, there is a 50-cent ante, low card starts the action, or brings it in, for $1, and on the next round the bets and raises must be $5, no more and no less. With an open pair after four cards, a player generally has the option of betting $5 or $10, but anyone who raises must raise $10. After the fifth, sixth and seventh cards, the bets and raises must be $10 whether or not anyone has a pair showing.

In other poker games the betting structure might be pot-limit or no-limit. In pot-limit games, bets and raises may be for any amount up to the size of the pot. Thus, with a $10 pot, someone might bet $10 and be called by three players. The last player to call can raise $50, the current size of the pot. If one player calls the raise, the size of the pot would then be $150 so that in the next round the first bet could be anything up to that amount.

In no-limit poker, a player may bet or raise any amount up to what he has in front of him/her at any time. If he has $500 in front of him, he can bet that. If he has $50,000 in front of him, he can bet that. He cannot, however, raise a player with less money out. That player may simply call with the money in front of him and a side pot is created for any remaining players. If his hand prevails, the player who is "all-in" can win only the money he called in the main pot, and the best hand among those remaining wins the side pot. (The same mechanics apply to limit games when a player is all-in.)

Notwithstanding the great variety of poker games - high games and low games, stud games and draw games, limit games and no-limit games - there is an inner logic that runs through all of them, and there are general precepts, concepts, and theories that apply to all of them. However experienced a player may be with the rules and methods of a specific games, like, say, five-card draw, only by understanding and applying the underlying concepts of poker can he move confidently to the expert level. The principles of such stratagems as the semi- and slow playing are essentially the same in limit five-card draw poker as in no-limit hold 'em poker, and they are equally important.

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