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Poker has achieved worldwide appeal in the last few decades. While it was mostly played in smoky poker rooms in the past, it is now played online by all kinds of players in the comfort of their own homes. While live card rooms still draw plenty of players, the bulk of poker is now played online.
The most popular form of online poker is Texas hold 'em. This game looks different to the 5 card draw poker that most people are used to, but the hand rankings are the same. The following is a simple example of how a hand of no limit Texas hold 'em is played:
- First, one player antes the minimum bet (the Big Blind) and the player to the right of the Big Blind antes up half that amount or another standardized amount (the Small Blind).
- Two cards are now dealt to each player, and the first round of betting begins, moving from the player to the left of the Big Blind and around the table in a clockwise direction. Each player may choose one of three options: fold, where they forfeit their hand and lose any stake in the pot; call, where they put in an amount equal to the highest total bet; raise, where they put in an amount that is larger than the current total bet; or check, if the player has put enough money in the pot already for a call, yet still has an action to take (when the action reaches the Big Blind without a raise, for example). Every time someone raises, all the other players need match that bet or raise to stay in the game. Otherwise they must fold or go 'all-in' – they only put in as many chips as they have left, yet are considered as remaining in the hand.
- If more than one player is left after the first round of betting, and all remaining players have called, then 3 cards are dealt face-up to the middle of the table. A Texas hold 'em poker hand is comprised of any combination of 5 cards that a player holds and/or the cards on the table. The first deal of 3 cards to the table is called 'The Flop', and it is followed by another round of betting.
- Once that round of betting is over, another card is dealt to the table, called 'The Turn', which is followed by a round of betting.
- The last card is then dealt to the table, known as 'The River'. There is then one final round of betting, and once players have called, they must show their cards. The highest ranked hand wins the whole pot (though someone who went all-in can only win shares of the pot that matched the all-in bet). In the case of a draw, the pot is split between the winning players. The dealer, Big Blind, and Small Blind all then move one player to the left, and a new hand may begin.
The cards on the table are known as 'community cards', and they add an extra element of suspense to the game. Players have more information to work with, making for very tense (and exciting) decisions. Texas hold 'em is the king of poker games for now, as other variants just aren't as popular.
The element of skill is what makes poker so compelling. The top players, like Phil Ivey, regularly win millions in cash games on the Internet. While amateur players might wail at bad strokes of luck and give up, professionals take it in their stride and make a pretty penny with consistently good poker play.
The biggest event in the poker calendar is the World Series of Poker - a series of live poker tournaments that attract the best players in the world. Millions of people watch the Main Event each year on ESPN. Despite being such a major poker tournament, unknown talented amateurs have nevertheless won the Main Event on occasion.
The other tournaments in the World Series of Poker are also very important to the serious players, as a great deal of prestige comes with winning a WSOP bracelet. Players generally need to beat the best players in their chosen games to win a WSOP event, so these tournaments are usually incredibly challenging.
It is easy to get started playing poker online, as there are many poker sites to choose from. In fact, there are so many that it is often a good idea to visit a trusted poker portal first to get help with making a decision about the right online poker room for you.
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