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Poker

Poker is not a difficult game to learn, but by no means an easy one to play well because skill at the game is born only of experience coupled with some knowledge of arithmetic.  Fundamentally, poker is a game of calculating chances.
            The parent game, commonly called straight poker, but more correctly straight draw poker, is played with the 52-card pack by any reasonable number of players: five, six or seven is considered the ideal number.


            Each player is dealt five cards face downwards, and the object of the game is to make the best hand by an exchange of cards, and then bet on it against the other players.
            The cards rank in the order from Ace high to 2 low, suits are equal and in ascending order the nine classes of poker hands, together with the approximate odds against their being dealt to a player, are:

            Highest Cardany five odd cards.  Evens.
            One Pair:  two cards of the same rank and three odd cards.  15 to 11.
            Two pairs: two cards of the same rank, two other cards of the same rank and an odd card.  20 to 1.
            Threes:  three cards of the same rank and two odd cards.  46 to 1.
            Straight:  any five cards in sequence, not of the same suit;
            An Ace may be either high or low.  254 to 1
            Flush:  any five cards of the same suit.  508 to 1.


            Full House:  three cards of the same rank and two other cards of the same rank.  693 to 1.
Fours:  four cards of the rank and an odd card.  4,164 to 1.
            Straight Flush: a sequence of five cards all of the same suit;:  an Ace may be either high or low.  64,973 to 1.

Examples of each hand are illustrated.  They are valued on the highest combination, and if the combination of two or more players is equal, by the highest odd card.  In the event of two or more players holding exactly equal hands the stakes are divided.
            The player on the left of the dealer begins the game by putting up an agreed amount, known as the ante.  For convenience we will assume that it is 1 chip.  The player on his left then puts up a straddle of 2 chips*.

            The dealer now deals, face downwards, to each player five cards.  After looking at his cards, the player on the left of the straddle has the option of playing or not.  If he decides not to play he throws his cards face downwards towards the centre of the table, and takes no further interest in the deal in progress.  If he decides to play he puts up 4 chips.  The player on his left now has the choice of  throwing in his hand, coming into the game for 4 chips, or doubling (i.e. coming into the game for 8 chips).  In the same way, in turn, every player has the choice of throwing in his hand, coming into the game, for the same stake as the previous player, or raising the stakes until the agreed maximum is reached.

* Throughout the game every player puts his chips on the table in front of him.

         

            When staking reaches the ante and straddle, they can either throw in their hands and sacrifice what they have already put up, or come into the game by raising their stakes to the appropriate amount.
            If no player comes into the game, the straddle recovers his 2 chips and takes the 1 chips put up by the ante.
            Staking continues for some little time, because if a player has come into the game and a subsequent player has doubled, it is open to those who have already staked to increase their stakes, and this progressive staking continues until no-one increases the stakes or the agreed limit is reached.
            When all have staked, those left in the game have the chance to improve their hands by exchanging cards.  The dealer ignores those who have already thrown in their hands, but gives all the other players in turn as many cards as they wish after they have discarded those cards that they do not wish to retain.  A player may discard any number of his cards, but no experienced player would remain in the game to exchange four cards, and only one who has taken leave of his senses will do so to exchange all five cards. Most players will exchange one, two, or three cards.
            When cards have been exchanged, the player who was first to come in begins the betting.  Either he throws in his hand (sacrificing the stake he has already made to come in ) checks (signifies his intention to remain in the game without increasing his stake) or raises (increases his stake to any amount up to the agreed limit),

            If he checks, all the players who follow him have, in their turn, the same choice.  If no-one raises those left in the game show their cards and the player with the best hand takes all that has been staked.  If a player raises, the subsequent players, in turn, have the option of throwing in their hands, putting up sufficient chips to meet the raise, or raise still further.
            In this way the betting continues until the final bet is either called or not.  If the final bet is called, the player with the best hand wins all that has been staked.  If a player raises, the subsequent players, in turn, have the option of throwing in their hands, putting up sufficient chips to meet the raise, or raise still further.
            In this way the betting continues until the final bet is either called or not.  If the final bet is called, the player left in the game show their cards and the player with the best hand wins all that has been staked: if the final bet is not called, the player whose bet has not been called wins all that has been staked with no need to show his hand.
            Poker falls naturally into two parts:  the staking and the betting.  The staking is the easier part of the game because it is open to a precise arithmetical analysis.  We may suppose that a player is dealt:

10  ♠  6  ♠  5  ♠  2  ♠  9  ♥

Since a pair of 10s is of small value, the player’s aim must be to discard the 9 of Hearts hoping to draw a Spade to fill the flush.
            There are 47 cards from which to draw, and of them only 9 are Spaded, the other 38 are non-Spades.  It follows, therefore, that the odds against drawing a Spade are 38 to 9, or approximately 4  ¼ to 1.  If three players have come into the game with 4 chips each, making 15 chips on the table with the ante and straddle, it is not worth while playing because it costs 4 chips to come in so that the table is offering odds of 15 to 4 (3 ¾ to 1) and the chance of improving is 4 ¼ to 1.  If, however, four players have come in it will be just worth while coming into the game, because now there will be 19 chips on the table so that the table is offering odds 4 ¾ to 1, which is better than the odds against improving.

           

Poker players should study very carefully the mathematical chances, because the whole theory of staking may be summed up by asking oneself two questions:  What are the chances of improving my hand?  What odds are the table laying me?  Then, if the answer to the first question is greater than to the second the player should come in, if it is not he should throw in his hand.
            The betting is the more difficult part of the game because it is largely psychology.  At the same time, a player has to be gifted with the quality that we call judgment because his betting must be dictated by the manner in which the other players are betting, and how they, on their part, will interpret his betting.  Particular note should be taken of the number of cards drawn by each of the other players and deductions drawn from the information gained.  The subsequent betting should go a long way towards confirming whether the deductions are correct or not, and whether the player has improved on the draw.


            A good poker player is inscrutable and unpredictable, because he varies his game to make the most with his good hands and lose the least with his bad ones.  He profits by the advice of Saint Matthew –‘let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth’ – and he is always imperturbable, because there is no future in gloating over a win and wailing over a loss.  If he thinks that he holds the best hand he bets on it boldly: if he thinks that he is beaten he throws in his cards and cuts his losses.
            Pot-Deals, commonly called Pots, are widely played, and are an important feature of all variations of the game.  When a pot is played there is no ante and no straddle; instead every player contributes an agreed amount to a pot, or pool, that is independent of the staking and betting.  The player on the immediate left of the dealer has first decision whether to open the game by staking or not.  If he does not open, the option passes to the player on his left, and so on.

            The essence of a pot is that a player is debarred from opening the game, by putting up a stake, unless his hand qualifies him to do so by a pre-arranged standard. If no player opens, the deal passes, and the players sweeten the pot, by adding to it, for the next deal.  If the pot is opened, other players may come in even if their hands are below standard, and he who wins the deal also wins the amount in the pot as well as all the stakes put up by the other players.  The player who opened the game must show that his hand qualified for opening.
            In a Jackpot a player must have a pair of Jacks, or better, to qualify for opening.
            In Progressive Jackpot, if no-one opens the first deal, the second deal is a Queen pot, and if no-one opens it the next is a King-pot, and so on.  Some stop at Ace pots, others continue to two pairs before beginning again at a Jackpot if no-one has opened the game. 
            In a Freak Pot, a player must have a pair of Jacks, or better, to qualify for opening.
            In a Progressive Jackpot, if no-one opens the first deal, the second deal is a Queepot, and if no-one opens it the next is a King-pot, and so on.  Some stop at Ace pots, others continue to two pairs before beginning again at a Jackpot if no-one has opened the game.
            In a Freak Pot, sometimes called Deuces Wild all the 2s are wild cards and may be used to represent any cards that the holder chooses.  Fives (five cards of the same rank) is now a possible hand, and it is classed above a straight flush, but is beaten if the straight flush is headed by an Ace.
            In a double Pot, or Legs, any type of pot is chosen, but a player must win it twice before he may take his winnings.

WILD WIDOW is a variation of the parent game, but, after four cards have been dealt to each player, a card is turned face upwards in the centre of the table and is left there for the duration of the deal.  The dealer then gives each player one more card, and the game is played with the three other cards of the same rank as the exposed card wild.

IN SPIT IN THE OCEAN only four cards are dealt to each player.  A card is then dealt face upwards in the centre of the table.  Each player considers this card as the fifth card of his hand.  It is a wild card, as also are the other three cards of the same rank.

STUD POKER is a variation of the parent game the main feature of which is that some of the cards are dealt face upwards and some face downwards.  There are several ways of playing the game.
            In Five-card Stud there is no ante unless agreed on.  The dealer gives each player a cared face downwards (it is known as the hole card) and then a card face downwards (it is known as the hole card) and then a card face upwards.  The deal is then interrupted for a betting interval.  After the betting interval the dealer gives each active player another three cards face upwards, and after each there is a betting interval.  If two or more players remain in the game after the last betting interval, they turn up their hole cards and the player with the best hand wins.


            Each betting interval begins with the player who holds the best combination of cards exposed, and if two or more players have equal combination the one nearest to the dealer’s left bets first.  At the first betting interval the player who opens must make a bet; at subsequent intervals he may check.  Any player who drops out of the game must turn his exposed cards face downwards.
            Seven-card Stud, sometimes called Down the River, or Peek Poker, is played in the same way as five-card stud, except that the dealer first deals to each player two cards face downwards and one card face upwards.  There is a betting interval, and, after this, the active players are dealt three cards face upwards and one face downwards, with the deal interrupted for a betting interval after each round of dealing.  At the showdown, a player exposes his hole cards and selects five of his seven cards to form his hand.

WHISKY POKER is so called because it was originally played in the American lumber camps to decide who should pay for the drinks.
            Every player contributes an agreed amount to a pool.  The dealer deals an extra hand (widow) to the centre of the table, immediately before dealing cards to himself.  The player on the left of the dealer, after looking at his cards, may either exchange his hand for the widow, pass (in which case the option of taking the widow passes to his left-hand neighbour) or indicates, by knocking the table, that he will play with the cards dealt to him.

            If the player on the left of the dealer (or any subsequent player) takes the widow, he puts his own cards face upwards on the table as a new widow.  The player on his left may now either take the whole of the exposed widow in exchange for his own hand, take one or more cards from it in exchange for cards in his hand, or knock.  A player, however, cannot draw cards from the widow and knock at the same turn, and the option to exchange the widow or cards with it, continues until a player knocks.  As soon as a player does so, the remaining players have one turn each to exchange their hands or cards of for it.  After the player on the right of the knocker has had his turn, the players expose their cards and the best hand wins the pot.
            If no-one takes the widow before it is the turn of the dealer, he must either take the widow or turn it face upwards on the table.  Even if he decides to knock, without making an exchange, he must still turn up the widow.

In KNOCK POKER every player puts up an ante.  The dealer gives every player five cards, as in the parent game, and the rest of the pack (the stock) is placed face downwards in the centre of the table.  The player on the left of the dealer draws the top card of the stock and discards a card from his hand.  Thereafter each player in turn draws either the top card of the stock or the top card of the discard pile, and discards a card from his hand.
            At any time after drawing a card and before discarding one, a player may knock the table.  He then discards a card from his hand.  The other players have one  more turn each to draw and discard a card, or drop out of the game by paying the knocker has drawn and discarded, or dropped out of the game, all players remaining in the game show their cards and settlement is made as follows:

  1. If the knocker has the best hand, all who are in the game pay him twice the ante.
  2. If the knocker and one or more other players have equal hands they divide the winnings except for the amount paid to the knocker by those who dropped out of the game.
  3. If the knocker does not have the best hand he pays twice the ante to every player remaining in the game, and the player with the best hand wins the antes.

HIGH-LOW POKER.  Any variation of poker may be played high-low.  As a rule the hand is played as a pot.  The player plays his hand for either high or low, but does not have to announce which until the last card is dealt.  The highest and the lowest hands divide the pot between them.  An Ace is always high and cannot be counted as a low card except as a part of a sequence in the high hand.

In STRIP POKER the dealer deals five cards, face downwards, to each player.  There is no ante and no straddle.  After an exchange of cards (as in the parent game) the players expose their cards and the one with the worst poker hand pays the table by removing an article of clothing.
            The game, with all its voluptuous prospects, is said to be at its best in mixed company during a heat wave!

 

 

 

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