3-10 players - 1 pack (52)
All forms of poker recognize the same range and relative ranking of card combinations which determine who has the best or worst hand. A Poker hand by definition consists of five cards (more may be dealt, but ultimately only five count). If some of these are related by rank or suit in certain prescribed ways, they form a Poker combination. This may, but need not, involve all five cards. Any that do not form part of the combination are idle or dead, though they may be called into account to decide between competing combinations of otherwise equal value. The rank of individual cards from highest to lowest is always AKQJT98765432, with ace alternatively lowest on certain occasions. From highest to lowest, orthodox Poker combinations are as follows. The figures following each are, first, the number of such combinations possible in a 52-card pack with none wild, and second the probability (expressed as a percentage) of being dealt such a combination straight from the pack.
STRAIGHT FLUSH (40 = 0.0015 per cent)
Five cards in suit and sequence. Ace may count high, as in A-K-Q-J-T (royal flush), or low, as in 54-3-2-A. As between two straight flushes, the one with the higher-ranking top card wins. A tie is possible.
FOUR OF A KIND (624 = 0.0240 per cent)
Four cards of the same rank, the fifth idle. One with a higher-ranking set of four beats one with a lower, and ties are impossible.
FULL HOUSE (3744 = 0.144 per cent)
Three cards of one rank plus two of another. One with the higher-ranking set of three beats one with a lower. Ties are impossible.
FLUSH (5108 = 0,1956 per cent)
Five cards of the same suit not in sequence. As between flushes, the one with the highest-ranking top card wins, or the second highest if equal, and so on. An all five-card tie is possible but extremely unlikely.
STRAIGHT (10,200 = 0,392 per cent)
Five cards in sequence but not of one suit. Ace counts either high (A-K-Q-J-T) or low (5-4-3-2-A). One with a higher top card beats one with a lower. Ties are possible.
THREE OF A KIND (54,912 = 2,13 per cent)
Three cards of the same rank, the other two idle and unrelated. Three of a higher rank beats three of a lower. Ties are not possible.
TWO PAIR (123,552 = 4,75 per cent)
Two cards of one rank, two of another, the fifth idle. To break ties, the one with the highest ranking pair wins, or the second highest if equal, or the higher idle card if still equal.
ONE PAIR (1,098,240 = 42,2 per cent)
Two cards of the same rank, the other three idle and unrelated. Ties are decided in favour of the highest-ranking pair, or best unmatched card if equal.
NOTHING (1,302,540 = 50,1 per cent)
Also called a “high card” hand because competition between combinationless hands is decided in favour of the one with the highest-ranking top card, or second highest if equal, and so on.
A wild card is one that may be used by its holder to represent any card he wishes. Originally the Joker was added as a wild card, but it is now more usual to specify as wild all cards of a particular rank, most frequently deuces. The effect of even only one wild card is to introduce additional combinations as follows:
Five of a kind: for example A-A-A-A-W or A-W-W-W-W represents five Aces. Five of a kind beats everything, though some schools artificially rate a royal flush higher.
Double Ace flush: for example A-J-9-3 of Hearts plus a wild card, in which the wild card is held by its holder to be another Ace of Hearts in order to beat say, A-K-J-9-3 of Hearts. It beats an ordinary flush. Although five of a kind is universally accepted, some players refuse to recognize the Double Ace flush. This point should be agreed before play.
As between tied combinations of the same rank, the one with fewer wild cards wins. Thus 9-9-W-5-2 (three Nines) beats 8-8-8-5-2 (three Eights) but is beaten by 9-9-9-3-2 (three natural Nines) or JW-W-3-2 (three Jacks). Some hold that any combination with wild cards is inferior to any of the same type without, by which reckoning the order of those quoted would be, from best to worst, 9-99-3-2, 8-8-8-5-2, 9-9-W-5-2, J-W-W-3-2. The first method of assessment is more logical, the latter more satisfying, and the point must be decided before play.
COMPETITIVE LOW HANDS
In Lowball and High-Low Poker it is necessary to determine who has the lowest poker hand. The basic method is simple: decide which of two hands is higher as explained above, and it loses to the other. By this method the lowest possible hand is a non-flush 7-5-4-3-2 (seventy-five). But it must be agreed before play which practice to follow in respect of Aces and straights. For example, is A5-4-3-2 a combinationless hand with Ace high, or is its owner obliged to declare it a low straight (54-3-2-A) and inevitably lose? Here are the options: (a) Ace is automatically high unless its owner wishes to call it low, which he may only do to make a straight. (b) Ace may be counted high or low as its owner pleases. In this case he may count a pair of Aces lower than any other pair, and the lowest combinationless hand is a non-flush 6-4-3-2-A. (c) Straights and flushes play no part in the game, and Ace is high or low ad lib. In this case the lowest possible hand is 5-4-3-2-A (a Wheel, or Bicycle) even if flush. Option (a) is for purists, (b) is most suitable for High-Low, and (c) for Lowball, in which there is no competition for high hands.
WILD CARD LOW HANDS
Wild cards in low hands are usually held to create pairs. Hence A-K-Q-J-9 would beat 7-5-4-3-W, which must be a pair of Threes at least.
Unorthodox Poker combinations such as the blaze, flash, zebra etc., are now little used in serious play.
Poker is properly played with counters or chips as follows:
White = 1 unit
Red = 5 (or 2,5 or 2)
Blue = 25 (or 20 or 10)
Yellow = 100 (or 50 or 25)
Yellows are optional and therefore blue chips are usually the highest (hence the phrase “blue chip”). Proper practice is for players to buy a fixed amount before play from the banker, i.e., the host or person running the game. Two hundred chips each should suffice; more, if needed during play, should be bought from the banker, not from other players. Throughout play, each player must keep all his chips on the table in full view of the others. Before play it is important to agree limits on permissible bets.