An Introduction to Poker

By Tom "TIME" Leonard

Welcome to our first poker lesson. This is the introduction to a wealth of knowledge about the most exciting card game ever devised – poker. Either you already know it or will learn it as you go through these lessons offered up by The “it” I refer to is that poker is an incredibly enjoyable, challenging and addictive game. Once the poker bug has bitten you there is seldom a cure. If that is true, and based upon the number of years I have played and enjoyed the game, I believe it to be, then it is worth your time and effort to play the game well.

You will soon learn that there are many different variations of poker, but the one thing they have in common is that you have to use your best five cards to make your hand. All forms of poker use a fifty two card deck made up of ranks starting with a two, commonly called a deuce, and continuing by number through ten and then in order comes the Jack, Queen, King and Ace. There are four different suits; Spades; , Hearts; , Diamonds;  and Clubs; , all of which are of equal value in poker. So, four different suits of thirteen different ranks make the fifty two cards in a complete deck.

The Object of Poker

The object of poker is very simple – to win the money in the centre of the table, called the pot, which contains the sum of the bets that have been made by the participants of that hand. Players make their bets or wagers on the belief they have the best hand or in the hopes they can make a better hand give up, abdicating the pot to them. There is an old poker expression which states that a bet saved is a bet earned. This underscores the concept of discretion being the better part of valour and not continuing to call bets made by others, unless you believe you have the best hand. You may have heard the same concept expressed by the sage advice of “don’t throw good money after bad”.

Where did it Begin?

Some people believe the origins of poker reach back hundreds of years to Persia where a poker-like game was played. While this may be true, London based author Des Wilson’s Ghosts at the Table is a fascinating account of the genesis of poker which he has chronicled from the American Old West to the Mississippi riverboats to the Texas road gamblers to modern day Las Vegas. Of one thing there is no doubt – poker has become an international phenomenon. The World Series of Poker which is regarded by many as the Holy Grail of the game draws players from all over the world. The American Old West has turned global and poker is everywhere.

A Game of People Played with Cards

It has often been said that poker is not a card game but a game of people played with cards. Anthony Holden, British author of both Big Deal and Bigger Deal had this to say regarding people and poker:

“Whether he likes it or not, a man’s character is stripped bare at the poker table. If the other players read him better than he does, he has only himself to blame. Unless he is both able and prepared to see himself as others do, flaws and all, he will be a loser in cards, as in life”.

If you dedicate yourself to working through all of the offered lessons coupled with playing time to gain the requisite experience, you will come to recognize just how true Mr. Holden’s quote is.

Is Poker Luck or Skill Dependent?

Many people who are not familiar with poker and are generally anti gambling just lump poker with other games of chance and believe success in the game is largely dependent on luck. On the other hand, we here at Pokerology understand the game and, while granting that there is certainly an element of luck involved, believe knowledge and skill will prevail in the long run.

The best way to prove this assertion is to compare poker, a game of skill, to casino games which have a built in house advantage. Even in a casino game which cannot be beat over time, a player’s knowledge of the game coupled with the discipline to control one’s emotions will benefit that gambler’s likelihood of winning or at least minimizing his loses. Now the same can be said about poker in regards to a player needing to be knowledgeable and in control of his emotions.

The main difference in the role that luck plays between poker and casino games is the number of trials. In poker, while a knowledgeable player can lose in the short term he should be expected to win over time. This, of course, assumes that he is not playing with superior competition which is outplaying him. In casino games, while one can win easily in the short term, over time the house edge or percentage will grind a player down and ultimately he will lose.

The conclusion to this debate is simple – if you are truly a knowledgeable and disciplined poker player, you will have to be unlucky to lose while a player of games of pure chance needs to be lucky to win. You have come to the right place to deepen your knowledge of the game and hone the necessary skills to enable you to be a long term winner in the game of poker.

Is Poker Good For You?

Poker is good for you. A bold statement you say? I can name several ways this statement is true. The game of poker is challenging and therefore keeps your mental acuity sharp. It supplies the adrenalin rush of competition that most gamesmen crave. It can fill your time with a camaraderie that can be rewarding. Last but not least, played well, poker can provide you with the extra coin of the realm which one can always find a use for. All in all it’s not a bad group of rewards for playing a card game.

Getting Started…

If you’re totally new to poker then there is a lot to learn. I strongly recommend you work your way through the poker lessons on by following the study guide. The study guide has been carefully put together to help guide you step by step and acquire the knowledge that’s needed to become a winning poker player.

We also strongly recommend you take this opportunity to open an online poker account and start playing just as soon as you feel comfortable. There are many sites to choose from but please see our list of the top online poker rooms. Studying the poker lessons here at Pokerology is crucial, but you will learn so much more by combining this with actual playing time. If you’re worried about the money, then don’t be – it need not cost you anything since you can try your luck at the play money tables until you’re comfortable playing for real money

Poker professional Mike Sexton is fond of saying that poker “can take a moment to learn but a lifetime to master”. I agree, but I don’t share Mr. Sexton’s thought on the subject to dissuade you from moving forward but rather to encourage you to embrace the poker experience as it demonstrates just how rich and rewarding the game can be. The analogy I enjoy is that the game is like an onion – as you peel back each layer of knowledge you find another layer and another layer. Once you begin the journey you’ll never stop learning.

Enjoy the journey!

By Tom "TIME" Leonard

Tom has been writing about poker since 1994 and has played across the USA for over 40 years, playing every game in almost every card room in Atlantic City, California and Las Vegas.