The Foundations of Poker

Chapter 2: The Rules of Poker

Poker consists of a number of games which all branch off from the same general rules. In this book, I will teach you through the single most popular game of poker, Texas Hold’em. Texas Hold’em can be played with between 2 and 9 players, and is one of the simplest games of poker to learn, is the easiest game to find, and has the most money in the game. To start, I am going to come up with a hypothetical game scenario, where we have 6 players in the game, otherwise known as a 6-max poker game.

The game is a full game, meaning every seat is occupied. Texas Hold’em is played 1 hand at 1 time. The labels are as follows:

BUT=Dealer button

SB=Small blind

BB=Big blind

EP=Early position

MP=Middle position

CO=Cutoff

Note: In the case of a professional dealer being present, the dealer button still goes to a player but the dealer deals the cards instead of the player with the button.

A hand works as follows:

The 52 card standard playing deck is shuffled before the start of the hand

Each player at the table, starting with the small blind, is dealt a 2 card hand by the dealer, which is either a professional dealer or the player with the dealer button in the absence of a professional dealer

The dealer deals clockwise 1 card at a time until all of the players have 2 cards in hand

The small blind places 1 chip out equal to half the big blind

The big blind, places out 2 chips, equal to 2 small blinds

The early position, also known as “under the gun”, opens the action.

To open the action, the early position player can do 3 things

Fold their hand without paying anything

Call the big blind by putting out 2 chips

Raise by putting in at least twice as many chips as the big blind, meaning they can put in 4 or more chips

Once the early position player acts, the middle position gets to act and do the same thing

Fold their hand without paying anything

Call the previous action

In the case of the early position player folding or calling the big blind, means that they only have to put out 2 chips

In the case of the early position player raising means that they have to put out 4 or more chips, the amount to which the early position player raised

Raise if the early position player had not raised or re-raise if the early position player already raised. The raise does not have to be twice as big as the early position’s raise, though the raise must add on at least 1 big blind on top of the previous raise, for example if the early position player raised from 2 chips=1 big blind to 5 chips, the re-raise could be anything greater than or equal to 7 chips.

Every position has the 3 options of folding, calling, and raising/re-raising though it must be noted that whenever a player folds their hand all the chips that they put in up until that point are lost, so for the small blind to fold they always lose the small blind=1 chip

This action continues until

Everyone folds but 1 player, in which case the action is ended

Classic example is when everyone folds until the big blind, where the big blind wins by default

Another example includes the early position raising and everyone folding to the early position, where they keep the small and the big blind=3 chips

A 3rd example is like the 2nd example except when the dealer button position 3bets the hand and everyone then folds where they keep the small blind, the big blind, the early position player’s raise, and any calls after the early positions raise. For instance, if the early position player raised to 5 chips and the middle position played called,

The players in the hand, between 2 and 6 all call (the big blind, the re-raise=3bet, 4bet etc.) which includes situations from above except where at least 1 other player calls the final raise, in which case the action continues

A player moves all his chips in

If 1 player calls, then the hand runs itself out

If more than 1 player call, and they have more chips, for example all-in player has 40 chips but the 2 callers each have 200 chips, they each put 40 chips in the pot then continue to play the rest of the hand between each other

If the hand continues, the top card of the deck is discarded (burned) and a flop consisting of 3 cards is shown and the players, starting with the first player still in the hand to the left of the dealer acts first with the options of

Checking, which is a free way to move the action on to the next player

Betting, which means they place in any number of chips greater than or equal to the big blind

Raising, which means they re-raise an already existing bet (though the 1st player to act will not have this option unless someone behind them raises and the action comes back to them)

Folding, which means they will discard their hand and opt out of the rest (which again the 1st player has the option to do so though would be foolish to do so given it is free to check)

If the hand continues, meaning at least 2 people are still in the hand after the flop, the top card of the deck is discarded (burned) and a single turn card is shown where the remaining players have the same options as they did on the flop

Lastly, if the hand continues after the turn, the top card of the deck is burned and a single river card is shown where the players have the same options as they did on the flop and on the turn

Lastly, if 2 or more players still remain after the river, whether they check it through or someone raises or re-raises=3bets or 4betc etc. and gets at least 1 other caller, the players turn over their hands in the order of

If it checks through, clockwise from the dealer

If someone raises with at least other person calling, the raiser/re-raiser/4-better etc. reveals their card with the following players doing the same in a clockwise fashion

Players who do not beat the hand shown are allowed to muck their hand, meaning discard it without showing others

When the hands are revealed, the strongest 5-card hands win with the order of strength from weakest to strongest shown below:

High card (2=lowest, A=highest)

Example on board of 258JK, a player with AT beats a player with QT, however a player with AQ beats a player with AT because their 5-card hand is AKQJ8 whereas the player with AT’s 5-card hand is AKJT8 and because Q>J for card 3 in the 5-card hand, AQ would win

Pair (2’s=lowest, A’s=highest), however like above high card come into play

Example, on board A56TJ, AQ beats A8 because AAQJT>AAJT8

2 pairs, highest pair in set followed by lowest pair followed by high card

Example: TT22Q>9988Q

Example: TT22Q<TT22K

Example: TT22Q<TT33Q

3 of a kind, followed by high cards (222=worst, AAA=best)

AAAKQ>AAAKT

888>666

Straight, 5 cards in a row (A2345=lowest, TJQKA=highest)

23456>A2345

56789<89TJQ

Flush, 5 card from one suit (spades, hearts, diamonds, or clubs)

Impossible to have 2 different suits of flushes in play because there are 5 cards on the board and 2 cards in a player’s hand for a total of 7 cards of which between 5 and 7 need to be from one suit and to have 2 suits there would need to be at least 10

Example: QT532(all hearts)>Q9532(all hearts)

Example: A7532 (all hearts)>KQ532(all hearts)

Full house, or 3 of a kind and 2 of a king in a single hand where the 3 of a kind matter first then the 2 of a kind come into play

Read as “(3 of a kind over 2 of a kind), i.e. kings over jacks in KKKJJ

KKKJJ<KKKAA

888AA<99922

4 of a kind, also known as quads where the kicker (highest card plays)

Example: 8888K>7777A

Example: 8888K<8888A

Straight flush, including royal flush which is where a player has both a straight and a flush such that the flush cards form a straight

Clarification: In the 7 card hand A234567 where everything but the 2 and 3 are hearts is a flush not a straight flush

Clarification: In the 7 card hand A234567, where at least 5 of the cards in a row are hearts, there is a straight flush

Example: A2345

Example: 23456

Example: 34567

The higher straight flush beats the lower straight flush, for example on the board 345 (all hearts)+KQ (any suit), a player with A2 (both hearts) in hand has a straight flush but a player with 67 (both hearts) in hand has a higher straight flush