The term "Poker" refers to the array of betting card games in which players compete against each other for the collection of wagers made during the course of the hand. While each type of poker game contains a unique structure that sets it apart from the others, most poker games
share common poker rules, attributes and deviations from the norm that may be present in any of the major forms of poker.
The objective of every poker game is to form the best ranking hand at the table in order to win the pot. The majority of poker games which reward
the highest hand generally uphold the same ranking system, though some deviations do exist. High hands in poker are ranked, in descending order, as such: Straight Flush, Four-of-a-Kind, Full House, Flush, Straight, Three-of-a-Kind, Two Pair, One Pair, and High Card. Ties that cannot be broken by the highest card generally result in a splitting of the pot, however, a few poker forms do employ a suit ranking system in order to resolve ties.
Low poker variants, often called Lowball, offer an interesting alteration to the poker rules, rewarding the player with the worst hand. Low poker rules vary on how Aces, straights, and flushes are treated. Some low variants ignore straights and flushes, naming Aces as the lowest card; while others employ the same traditional hand rankings as high variants, simply inverting the ranking system to determine the winner.
Every poker form requires some manner of forced bet before the cards are dealt in order to establish a stake in the pot. The size of these forced bet are often relative to the betting limits (the lowest and highest allowable wagers) imposed on the poker variant being played. Almost every contemprary poker game utilizes either an ante, or blind bets.
Antes are forced bets common to Draw and Stud poker games, obligating every participant to contribute a small, previously determined, wager to the pot prior to receiving any cards. The ante is usually equal to the lowest chip value, or a percentage of the minimum bet allowed. Antes provide an impetus for each player to participate in most hands, as opposed to the frequent folding that is seen in many "blind bet" structures.
Blinds are customarily implemented in community card poker games, requiring one or more players to furnish a forced bet before each hand is dealt. There are several variations on the handling of blind bets that are intrinsic to specific poker variants. The most widely utilized practice is that of two players contributing the forced bets; the small blind and the big blind. In this blind bet structure, the player to the left of the dealer position is designated the "small blind," and must post a forced bet that is often equal to half the amount of the minimum bet. The player to the small blind's left must post the big blind, usually equivalent to the minimum bet.
The crux of every poker card game is the element of wagering. With game play rotating clockwise around the table, each player is required to "act" during the betting rounds of any poker game. The options available to a player vary depending upon any prior actions that have been taken by players in the round.
Until a player opens the bet by placing a qualifying wager, every player has the opportunity to "check", "bet" or "fold" when it is their turn to act. It is not uncommon for every player to "check" in a betting round, keeping their cards in play without contributing any more chips to the pot. However, if a player chooses to open the bet, every player dealt into the hand no longer has the ability to remain in play for free.
Once a wager has been made, every player must make the choice to either "call" by matching the bet, fold their cards to avoid paying more money into the pot, or raise the bet - thereby increasing the cost to stay in the hand. Any players who have checked or placed a bet that is less than the current bet amount will be required to either call the present bet, fold their hand, or re-raise the bet. Action continues around the table until every player who has not folded has contributed an equal share to the pot.
While online poker
games simply do not allow players to act out of turn, it is important to note that acting out of turn is against poker rules. In live games, accidentally acting out of turn once may be corrected and overlooked in home games, or elicit a warning in card rooms. However, deliberately acting before it is one's turn, even if it is simply to fold, can possibly result in being ejected from a casino poker room.
There are many poker rules of conduct that apply to both live and online poker rooms, as well as others that are implemented at the discretion of the management. It is advisable to acquaint oneself with the card room's rules, or terms of service, before ever engaging in a poker game. Home poker games, generally focused more on fun and entertainment than on turning a substantial profit, simply require that "guests" exercise basic rules of social etiquette in order avoid alienating oneself from future gatherings.
Cheating in any form, such as collusion, the use of forbidden software programs or any other devices that give players an unfair advantage can result in banning, confiscation of winnings, and potential blacklisting. Players who wish to utilize poker tracking software and related programs are recommended to thoroughly read their online poker site's terms of service to ensure that the program does not violate any rules.
Profanity, obscenities, creating a disturbance, and verbally or physically threatening any player or staff member is grounds for immediate removal from a brick-and-mortar casino. Most online poker rooms
give players the ability to ignore the chat text of players who are abusive, annoying, or otherwise intolerable. Other activities that violate live poker rules, but do not necessarily apply to online poker games include, destruction of cards or other casino property, possession of a weapon or illegal substances, using a cell phone at the table, and deliberately splashing the pot.