Poker is fun.

Poker is lucrative.

Poker is frustrating.

Poker is a mystery.

Which statement best describes your understanding of the game?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last four years, you’ve most likely noticed a fundamental shift in the amount of attention the game of poker has been receiving. Recently, poker can be found on television at almost any time of day, on any one of at least 10 of the 500 or so channels offered by your local cable companies. Poker has evolved into a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Before this so-called poker “boom¬®, most people would have considered poker to be one of those games played in a dark smoke filled basement, or the back room of a ritzy country club, or on the rickety tables of some forgotten western saloon. These days it can be found just about everywhere games are played. It’s found not only in casinos but probably your neighbors well lit, fully finished basement. Local clubs sponsor poker events at all levels, and even offer seats to major televised tournaments to their winners. Even the video game consoles our kids play “all the time¬® offer poker games in one form or another. It can also be found on the most prolific media of them all, the internet. There are literally thousands of sites dedicated to play, education and promotion of this great American game.

The problem with most poker sites is the way they approach poker education. Most sites, will give you tips and tricks, some may even give you actual lessons, but nearly all of them begin your education with the basic premise that you know something about the game. Let’s face it, if you are reading this, you don’t know nearly as much as you need to in order to fully enjoy the game, to say nothing of making you efforts lucrative. DON’T FEEL EMBARASED, OR ASHAMED! There are 20 million people in this country who play poker on a semi-regular basis, and I can pretty much promise you NONE of them where born knowing how to play.

Keeping that in mind, I promise to treat you like children. Not because I’m better than you, but because I am early enough in my poker odyssey to remember being a “donkey¬® (that’s poker speak for moron). So sit back and prepare to have poker explained to you in the simplest terms this poker player can conceive of.

Let’¬¶s start at the beginning with Hand Rankings. What beats what? How do I know if I’ve won the hand? This is a list of hands from lowest to highest, along with a brief explanation of what they are in laymans terms.

– High Card. This is the worst hand to have. It is exactly as it sounds. If all you have is high card, you have nothing else, just a card that is higher than another. Such as an Ace, or a King (A,K). No pair no nothing, just a card.

– Pair. This one is also as it sounds. Its a pair of cards of the same rank, such as 2 Kings ( KK), or 2 10s ( 10 10). In the event two players both have a pair, the higher pair wins, for example, my pair of Queens beats your pair of 9s. If two players have the same pair I.E. we both have a pair Queens, then something called a “kicker¬® comes into play. A kicker is simply a tie breaker card that is left in your hand, or in the community cards (only used in specific poker games). Example: I have a pair of Queens with a King kicker, and you have a pair of Queens with an Ace kicker, YOU WIN!

– Two Pair. Again, don’t over think it. Two pair is just that, two pairs of cards. In the event two players have two pair, the higher pair is the winner. Example: My KK and 77, beats your QQ and JJ. Now if we both have two identical pairs, we look to the kicker.

– Three of a kind. Also known as “trips¬®, or “a set¬®. Way to easy I know. Three of a kind is three cards of the same rank, i.e. three 7s, or three Queens(QQQ). Because there are only four of each card in the deck, you’ll never have to worry about two players having the same three of a kind.

– Straight. This one can be tricky. A straight is five cards of consecutive rank, for example: 4 5 6 7 8, or 9 10 J Q K. The higher straight wins. In the event of two identical straights, we have what’s called a “split pot¬®. Both players equally divide the money in the pot.

– Flush. A flush is five cards of any rank, all of the same suit. Five clubs, five hearts, five spades, or five diamonds. Any rank, as long as they are ALL the same suit. Two flushes? The one with the highest card wins.

– Full House. Also called a “full boat¬®, or just a “boat¬®. This hand is made up of a three of a kind, and a pair, all in the same hand. Example: three kings and two jacks ( KKKJJ). In the event of two full houses, the one with the higher three of a kind wins.

– Four of a kind. This is also as it sounds, four cards of the same rank. Example: four 9s (9999). The higher four of a kind is the winner.

– Straight Flush. This one is hard to get, it almost never happens, and when it does its nearly bullet proof. It is five cards of consecutive rank that are all the same suit. For example: 4 5 6 7 8, all clubs. As with a flush or a straight, the tie breaker is the highest card.

– Royal Flush. The great grand poo-ba of all poker hands, the hand that is so rare, you could play for years without seeing one. This one is the highest five cards of any suit. Example: 10 J Q K A of spades. In the highly unlikely event there are two, split the pot between the two luckiest people in the world, because that’s who your dealing with at that point.

Another tip for beginners is to practice playing poker online. There are some helpful and reliable websites like where you can do some practice so you can have a strong background about the game and at the same time, you will be able to create your own strategy for you to win.

There you have it. Hope this helps on your way to enjoying one of Americas great pastimes.

In my next article I’ll cover the different types of poker games that can be found at home, in casinos or on the internet.

Until next time, remember: A good player can dodge bad luck, a great player doesn’t have to.