The Mechanics of Online Poker

Now that your account is set up, you are able to start playing. Well, except for one small detail: the ranks of hands and the various actions a player is able to take while playing. If you know these things, then by all means skip this chapter. If not, read on! By the end of this chapter, you will know

✦ The ranking of poker hands.
✦ The purpose of antes and forced bets.
✦ The various actions available to you during the hand.
✦ The concept of “table stakes” and its application to poker.

Poker Hands’ Rankings

The good news is that you’ll be able to learn in the play money games until you have this and the other basics mastered to an appropriate comfort level. Please don’t play for real money until you know this and, preferably, more about the relative strength of your hand at the various stages of the hand. It’s not only about the strength of your starting cards; each new betting round brings a new opportunity to evaluate where you are relative to the remaining players and to decide which action is best (discussed later in this chapter). We’ll get to the Kenny Rogers “know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em” analysis later! As for what beats what, here it is from high to low:

✦ Straight Flush. All cards are of the same suit and are in sequence. Another way to think of it is as a “suited straight.” An Ace-high straight flush is the “Royal

Flush,” and it beats all other hands. Example: T♠ J♠ Q♠ K♠ A♠. As a slightly bitter aside, Doug lost with a Queen-high straight flush at the Borgata poker room a few weeks before this chapter was written. The other guy had a Royal Flush. Ugh. Congratulations, by the way, as you may have just been subjected to your first “bad beat” story! A bad beat is when you have a winning hand but lose when someone gets very lucky or when your 400-lb. gorilla hand loses to an 800-lb. gorilla hand. The result: People get to hear about it for hours and hours and weeks and weeks and years and years. Doug’s had his fair share of giving other players bad beats, though. If you’re good, maybe later on we’ll tell you about how he hit the longest odds possible to win a hand.

✦ Four of a Kind. Also known as “quads,” this hand is another “monster” and will win the pot 99.9999 percent of the time. Example: A♠ A♥ A♦ A♣ K♠.

✦ Full House. This hand features three cards of one rank and two of another; it is also known as a “boat” or a “full boat.” The proper way to describe the hand is to say the rank you have three of is “full of” the rank you have two of. Example: A♥ A♦ A♣ K♠ K♣ is read “Aces full of Kings.” There will at times be two or more players with full houses. In this case, the first tiebreaker is the rank of the three-card “set.” Thus, A♥ A♦ A♣ 2♥ 2♣ beats K♥ K♦ K♣ Q♦ Q♥. When both players have the same set of three cards, you look to see what the players are “full of.” (OK, keep it clean!) For example, K♥ K♦ K♣ Q♦ Q♥ beats K♥ K♦ K♣ J♣ J♥. If you’re noticing each player is using the same three Kings to make their hand, and you don’t see how this is possible, be assured that it will be explained later. (Preview: It’s possible in Hold ’em and Omaha, but not Stud).

✦ Flush. This is when all five cards comprising your hand are of the same suit but are not in sequence. Example: A♥ T♥ 9♥ 5♥ 3♥. A flush is properly read as a(n) “___-high flush.” In this case, the example is an Ace-high flush. The person with the highest card wins. In case both have the same high flush card, one looks at the next-highest card in the players’ hands until the tie is broken.

✦ Straight. To make a straight, the player must have five cards in sequence but not all of the same suit. Example: 5♥ 6♣ 7♦ 8♠ 9♥. A straight is properly de- scribed as being “_____-high.” The example given is a Nine-high straight.

✦ Three of a Kind. Also known as “trips” or a “set.” This is when a player has three cards of the same rank. Example: 2♦ 2♠ 2♥ K♥ 6♣ would be declared as “trip Deuces” or “a set of Deuces.”

✦ Two Pair. For this hand, a player has two cards each of two different ranks. Example: A♥ A♦ K♦ K♣ Q♦. This hand would be read as “Aces up” or “Aces and Kings.”

✦ One Pair. This hand is two cards of a single rank. Example: K♦ K♣ Q♦ T♥ 4♠. This hand may be read as “Kings” or “Kings with a Queen.”

✦ High Card. This hand has no two cards of the same rank and not all are of the same suit. This is a very common hand, unfortunately. Two particularly an- noying examples are A♠ K♠ Q♠ J♠ 2♦ and 5♥ 6♣ 7♦ 8♠ T♥. Get used to seeing these hands and others like them. The first hand is read “Ace high,” and the second is “Ten high.”

One final point to address is how ties are broken when the hands are otherwise identical. Say, for instance, that the following hand occurs:

Player 1: K♦ K♣ Q♦ T♥ 4♠

Player 2: K♠ K♥ T♠ 4♦ 3♦

In this case, Player 1 is the winner, as the next highest card she holds is higher than Play- er 2’s next highest card (a Queen being of higher rank than a Ten). The next card after the “made hand” (the pair of Kings) is known as a “kicker” and comes into play in hands in which a “five-card hand” (a straight, a flush, a full house, or a straight flush) has not been made. Player 1’s pair of Kings with a Queen kicker beats Player 2’s pair of Kings with a Ten kicker. Table 3.1 provides a summary of the hand rankings.

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