group of friends playing poker with beers and potato chips on the table

What are the Most Basic Elements of Poker?

Although we don’t list them as among our many great Intertops Casino promotions, the fact that we also offer a poker room and an online sportsbook are two “promotional” reasons why Intertops is considered a top casino online.  In this article we will try to take a non-mathematical approach to the basics of poker.

Almost Everyone Loves Poker

We remember the great poker episode from Friends.  The women, as cliché as could be, were treating poker like a game of Fish.  Actually, at Intertops Casino we offer a game called Fish Catch which is as much fun to play as poker and is as far from poker as a game could possibly be!

The gist of the Friends story was that the women came to love poker and played it as sharply as if they were seasoned veterans of the game!

Almost Everyone Hates Bluffs

A lot of people who love poker hate the whole notion of bluffing.  They don’t like to bluff and don’t like to try to figure out if their opponent is trying to bluff them.

Gamers who love poker but not bluffing usually love video poker.  We offer many kinds of video poker games and we also offer multi-hand video poker.  There is nothing quite like the continuing kaching moment when you’re dealt a good hand in multi-hand video poker and you can listen to every hand winning after the draw!

The Fundamentals of Poker Come before Bluffing

Yu can’t learn to bluff or to read a bluffing opponent until you learn the most basic fundamentals of poker.  Unless you’re a true poker pro, you might never have delved into the most basic elements of poker.  So, here goes!

The Hierarchy of Hands

We all know the hierarchy of poker hands.  What most players don’t realize is that two pair is a lot better than one pair.  That doesn’t mean that two pair is a great hand; it simply places it high above the lowly one pair which is itself high above the super-lowly high card hand.

In order to fully understand poker, you need to see the hierarchy of hands as a tower.  As every hand that is one step above the hand below it is actually far above that hand, the poker hand tower stretches far out into the clouds. 

We learned the hierarchy of hands as a list way back when.  We needed to see it then as the giant tower it is.

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The Highest “Common” Hand

In any seven card game, a full house is not a rare hand.  It is neither common nor rare.  Four-of-a-kind, a straight flush, and a Royal Flush are very rare indeed.  This change, from uncommon but not rare to very rare demonstrates just how high up the poker hand tower actually rises.

The Chances of Improving Our Hand

When you do delve into the mathematics of poker, which you eventually will have to do if you want to get really good at the game, you will learn to evaluate your chances of improving your hand with the next card.

The Non-analytical Approach

YouTube is full of poker clips in which players are “taught” the analytical approach to the game.  This is fine as far as it goes.  The problem is that the analytical approach discounts the non-analytical side of poker which is what used to be the only way poker was played.

The analytical approach takes away the intuitive side and the creative side of poker.  The intuitive side is where the tower and our sense of it is.

The intuitive side is also where we learn to read our opponents.  If you see bluffing as intuitive and creative, you will be a lot less afraid of it and you’ll enjoy the game a lot more.

There is a great deal to say for bluffing against strong players when you’re quite sure that they don’t have a much better hand than you but you can fool them into thinking that you have a much better hand than they have.

The analytical side looks at hand strength, position, and players’ tendencies.  The non-analytical approach appreciates the importance of position but doesn’t place as much importance to it as the poker scientists do.

You might limp into a hand in first position.  It doesn’t cost much to do so, especially in a low stakes game.  So, why should you follow rigid rules about folding most hands in first position?  You can fold later on in the round when someone raises and you don’t want any of their action.  Limping in is a small price to pay to possibly see the flop and get a hidden solid hand.

Playing Low Stakes Poker

Like anything else we spend money on, poker can be an inevitable cost like rent or a mortgage, or it can be an entertainment like going to a sporting event, a concert, or a fine restaurant.

For as long as you take the non-analytical approach to poker, you should play in low stakes games.  This doesn’t have to be penny ante but it should be well within your entertainment budget.

Some poker players stay with the low stake games forever.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that as long as you play within your financial means.

Play Several Different Variations of Poker

Since you’re playing in low stakes games anyway, it is a great way to get educated about both poker and people by playing a wide variety of poker games.  You can play Texas Hold’em until the cows come home and you won’t play a single game against a player who loves high-low poker.

There are so many variations of poker and each has its devoted followers.  The variety of game play and the variety of opponents makes playing in many different games a real education.  The famed American novelist, Ernest Hemingway, was once asked about how a writer should approach writing a novel.  His answer was to set out the plot of the story and then “put in everything you know about people.”  Sage advice both for novelists and for poker players!

Play Poker as Game and Play Poker as a Calling

At the end of the day, poker is a game, albeit a game that involves winning or losing money.  It will always remain a game as long as you treat it as such.  For low stakes players, the non-analytical approach is better in one major regard: no one else in the game is using the analytical approach unless they are on their way to playing for much higher stakes.

A few years ago a beer vendor from Chicago put together a book about the Amazing Wrigley Field Vendors.  Every spring, when a game at the iconic Wrigley Field was rained out, a group of seven vendors would get together to play poker.  They pitched in for food and beer and played until the following morning.

These guys knew how to keep poker as a game even though some won and some lost.  When the game was over, many hours after it started, the winners took the losers out for breakfast.  This is the quintessential non-analytical approach to poker and to gaming in general!  It's just good, clean FUN!

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