How to Play Poker Card Games

By Lisa Nelson
Chips, various colors, poker
playing poker image by Goran Petak from

Poker involves skill as well as luck. It can be learned in less than one hour, but it can take a lifetime to master. That is one of the reasons it has become such a popular card game in recent years. The rules of five-card draw poker, one of the most common styles of the game, are fairly easy to learn.

Memorize the ranking of the different poker hands. These are the possible combinations of cards that can be held by a player. Knowing which hands are better than others is essential to understanding the game. The rankings, from worst to best, are: high card, one pair, two pair, three of a kind, straight (five cards in increasing order, for example 4, 5,6, 7 and 8), flush (five cards of the same suit), full house (three of a kind and a pair), four of a kind, straight flush (a straight and a flush, for example 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, all of which are hearts), royal flush (a straight flush with ace, king, queen, jack and 10). The GotToGet website, linked in the Resources section, lists poker hand rankings, which can be printed to keep handy while you practice.

Toss an "ante" into the pot. This is a pre-arranged sum that each player must put into the pot at the beginning of every hand. Poker chips represent sums.

Deal each player five cards from the shuffled deck. The dealer must deal one card at a time to each player, starting from his left and moving clockwise.

Place a round of bets. The first player to act is the one to the dealer's left. He may choose either to "check," which passes his turn, or to bet a certain amount and add it to the pot. If he bets, the next player must "call" (match) his bet in order to stay in the game; otherwise, he must fold his hand and be out for the rest of the round. He also may "raise"--call the previous bet and bet more. The betting goes around until every player has either matched every bet or folded.

Exchange up to three cards, unless you have an ace, in which case you may exchange four cards. Place the cards that you choose to exchange on the discard pile. From the top of the deck, take the same number of cards that you discarded.

Place another round of bets, as done before, with each player betting, calling or folding.

Show the hands. Every player who hasn't folded reveals her hand, and the person with the best hand takes the pot. The round is now over. To play another round, the dealer shuffles the deck and deals each player five new cards.

About the Author

Lisa Nelson has been writing since 2005. After completing an intensive post-high school Judaic studies program, she served for more than two years in the Israel Defense Force. She first began writing for her school paper, and has since then written countless articles and short stories.