Poker Basics

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Hand Rankings

The deck used in most Internet poker is a standard 52-card deck with no wild cards or jokers. It has four suits: spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. There are thirteen ranks in each suit.
The ace is the highest-ranking card, followed by the king, queen, jack, and ten through deuce, in descending order. In split-pot games, an ace is also used as the lowest-ranking card for forming a low straight or a low hand. In such "split" games, an ace is like two cards in one; it's simultaneously the highest and lowest card in the deck. Because of this unique dual attribute, an ace in your Omaha/8 or 7-stud/8 hand is a decided advantage.

Hand rankings are arranged in order of probability. The rarer the hand, the more valuable it is, so the higher it's ranked. Here are the rankings. in descending order from highest to lowest:

Royal flush: A royal flush is simply an ace-high straight flush (see below). It's the best possible hand in poker. There are only four: A?K?Q?J?T?; A?K?Q?J?T?; A?K?Q?J?T?; and A?K?Q?J?T?. You can go a lifetime and never get one - but we hope you do!

Straight flush: This thrilling holding is made up of five sequenced cards, all of the same suit, such as 8?7? 6 ?5?4 ?or Q?J?T?9?8?
Four-of-a-kind: Four-of-a-kind, or quads, is a five-card hand containing four cards of any rank, plus one unrelated card, such as 9?9?9?9?3?. The higher the rank, the better the hand. For example, four queens beats four deuces.

Full house: Three cards of any given rank, along with a pair of another, comprise a full house. The rank of a full house is determined by the three-card grouping, not the pair. A hand like J?J ?J ?4?4? is referred to as "jacks full of fours." If you held 4?4?4?J?J?, it would be called "fours full of jacks."

Flush: Any five cards of the same suit make a flush. The cards do not have to be sequenced - if they were, you'd have a straight flush. If there are two or more flushes at showdown, the winning hand is determined by the rank order. For example, an ace-high flush is better than one that is king-high

Straight: Five sequenced cards, not of the same suit, make a straight. If there's more than one straight, the high cards in each sequence determine the winning hand. A nine-high straight beats a six-high straight.

Three-of-a-kind: Three cards of the same rank plus two unrelated cards is called three-of-a-kind. Sometimes you'll hear players refer to it as trips, or a set. If your best five-card hand was K?K?K?2?4?, you could call it "a set of kings," or "trip kings." It's all the same hand.

Two pair: Two cards of one rank, two cards of another, and one unrelated card make two pair. If two players each have two pair, the highest-ranking pair held by either one determines which hand is superior. If each player has the same high pair, the rank of the second pair determines the winner. If both hold the same two pair, the rank of the unrelated side card, or kicker, determines the winner. If both players have identical hands, they split the pot - that's pretty rare.

One pair: One pair is two cards of one rank and three unrelated cards. If two players hold the same pair, the highest side card determines the winning hand.

No pair: No pair is five unrelated cards, with the rank order determining the winner. For example, if Rick has A-K-8-5-3 and Stan has A-J-T-7-3, Rick wins. (A-K is higher than A-J.)

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