The game of poker is now more than a century old. Still, it manages to enthrall generation after generation of new players, and it will surely continue to do so in the future. Why so many people are willing to spend long hours at the poker tournament, wiping the sweat from their brows? I mean – besides all the money? Join us for a quick inside look into the fascinating world of poker.

What is poker, exactly?

There is a simple answer to this question and a not-so-simple one. Let’s start with simple: it’s a popular game of cards, played with the standard 52-card deck, probably having its origins somewhere in the XIX-century United States (although other theories also abound). It consist of wagers, dealing the cards, ranking specific set of cards handled by players according to agreed-upon principles, and a system of different game actions, which players can undertake to influence the course of the game.

The single round of poker may last only a few minutes or much, much longer, whereas the whole game, consisting of several rounds, may take and evening or even a whole day (as is the case with some tournaments). And what about this complicated answer? Poker has endless variations, including some convoluted and perplexing sets of rules.

You can play it with your cousing at the family gathering, but if you think about competing with professional players in tournaments, your party-poker skills probably won’t help you much. Poker can be deadly serious – and can bring you both extra cash and utter financial ruin. The secret is this: your proficiency in the rules doesn’t matter. In reality, the most important moves you make are mental ones.

So… how many pokers are there?

Depending on where you have learned to play, you probably have your own internal idea of what constitutes a basic poker variant, regarding all the others as derived from it. It may or may not be accurate. For example, a huge group of American players are used mainly to the Texas Hold’em, which is immensely popular poker type, often played in the course of tournaments. In Europe it’s very common to play draw poker instead, including the five-card draw.

The versions and variations are endless, but they can be divided roughly in three distinct categories: draws, studs and community card pokers. In draws, you can replace several cards from the hand you have, drawing from the communal pile or being dealt new ones while discarding the old ones.

The draws generally call for a hand to be private, distinct for every player and showed only in a case of a call. In the stud poker, some of your cards are hidden, but the others are visible to other players, and theirs to yourself. The community card pokers offer a whole bunch of interesting possibilities – each player has a hidden hand and a shared hand. The latter lays flat on the on the table, shared among all the players.

A handful of poker terminology and how it works

Bet, fold, call, blind…. Lots of game-specific terms, familiar to all who play poker but sometimes really obscure to the rest of us. You can easily write a whole dictionary about them. However, for the scope of this little article, let’s take a closer look on the bare basics. At the beginning of most poker games, the players are invited to place a blind. It is a kind of bet you make before you can see your cards.

So unless you’re playing a community card poker, you can’t base your betting appraisal on anything other than pure luck. The money or casino chips which represent it are added to the pot – the total sum of all the bets, waiting for the winner. The bets are continued in the several rounds after you’ve seen your cards, but you can opt out, i. e. fold (of course, you lose what you’ve put in the pot!).

The cards you’ve been dealt are organized in a form of hands, a hand being a set of cards you have access to. The hands are ranked according to the seniority of the individual cards (e. g. the Ace is higher than a Queen) and additionaly, to the value attributed to the specific combination of cards (e. g. full house beats three of a kind). It’s pretty easy to know who the winner is during showdown, and he or she takes the pot!