The game of Poker is played with an ordinary pack of fifty-two cards.
The number of players is limited only by the number of cards,
but in practice it is found better to limit each table to five,
or at most six, players.
The cards have the same values as at Whist, i.e. ace is the highest
in each suit; then follow king, queen, knave, ten, etc., down to two.
In "sequences," however, the ace is the lowest card, and the king the
The suit of hearts, ceteris paribus, takes precedence of other suits.
Before beginning play, it is customary and advisable to agree upon a
sum (technically called the "limit" or "rise") which shall be the maximum
stake permitted to be made by a player at one time; or, in other words,
which shall be the greatest sum by which he may increase the stake at
any one time.
The "limit," of course, does not refer to the total amount of a player's
stakes, and it is understood that a player may stake less than the limit
at any time, but not more.
After being seated, the players cut for the deal, and the player who
cuts the lowest card deals first. If two or more players cut equal
lowest cards, these players must cut again for the deal.
The duty of dealing in each game after the first, devolves upon the
player to the left of the previous dealer.
Before beginning play, every player has a right to shuffle the pack;
the dealer has a right to the last shuffle. After being shuffled,
the pack must be cut by the player to the right of the dealer.
The player to the left of the dealer then stakes a certain fixed sum
(generally small in comparison with the limit) which is called the "ante."
This initial stake must in every game be laid by the player to the left
of the dealer, before the cards are dealt. He is, in fact, identified
with this initial stake, and is known as "ante" throughout the game.
After "ante" has staked, the player to his left, who is called No. 1,
has the option of "straddling," i.e. of staking a sum double that of
the ante. If No. 1 does not straddle the ante, no other player may do so,
and the dealer proceeds to deal the cards.
If No. 1 straddle the ante, the player to his left has the same option, and
may increase the straddle by the amount of the ante. This may go on round
the table, each player in turn having the right to increase the straddle
before the deal; but the ante may not be increased by any straddle,
or by successive straddles, to an amount exceeding one-half of the limit.
To illustrate this, let us suppose the limit be two shillings and the
ante be one penny. This latter sum is staked (i.e. placed in the
middle of the table before him) by the player on the left of the dealer.
No. 1 then has the right to straddle the ante, and he may stake two pence.
No. 2 then has the same option, and may, if he wish, increase the straddle
by one penny. When the sum staked in this way by successive players
reaches one shilling (half the limit), the straddling must cease,
and the cards must be dealt. It should be fully understood that if
No. 1 does not exercise his right to straddle, no other player may do so.
The dealer, beginning with the player at his left hand, then deals one
card, face downwards, to each player (himself included) in succession,
until every player has received five cards.* He then places the remainder
of the pack before him on the table, face downwards. After the cards
have been dealt the betting before the draw begins.
*These five cards constitute the "hand," and in no case may
a player have a greater or less number of cards than five.
If the ante has not been straddled, the player to the left of ante
has the "say," and may begin the betting before the draw.
He looks at his cards, and may either--
(a) Reject them, and elect not to play.
(b) Accept them, and so "open the game."
If (a) he reject his cards, he throws them, face downwards, on the table,
and is out of the game until the next deal.
If (b) he accept his cards, he must stake a sum at least twice the amount
of ante. He may, of course, increase the ante by any sum not exceeding the
limit; but it is not usual or advisable to do more than double the ante.
No. 2, who is the player on the left of No. 1, has now the same option.
He looks at his cards, and may reject them without staking (throwing them,
in this case, face downwards, on the table), or he may accept them and
elect to take part in the game. In this latter case he must stake a sum
equal to that staked by his predecessor, or he may increase this sum by
an amount not exceeding the limit.
Each succeeding player, including and ending with the dealer, has,
in his turn, the same privilege. He must either reject his cards and
not play until the next deal, or accept them and stake a sum at least
equal to that staked by his predecessor.
It is not advisable for any player to increase the stake on this first
round, since to do so would probably cause succeeding players with moderate
hands to reject their cards and not stake. The dealer or last player
frequently, however, raises the stake with the object of inducing ante,
who may hold a weak hand, to relinquish his initial stake.
Ante is the last to look at his cards, or in other words, has the last say.
If he pass, i.e. elect not to play, he throws his cards, face
downwards, on the table, and retires from the game until the next deal,
losing his original stake. If he accept his cards and elect to play,
he must make his stake at least equal to that of the player on his right.
If the ante has been straddled, the player to the left of the straddler
(or of the last straddler, if there be more than one) has the say,
i.e. has the option of beginning the betting before the draw.
He may, after looking at his cards, either
(a) Throw them, face downwards, on the table, and elect not to play.
(b) Accept them and "open the game."
If he open the game, he must stake a sum at least equal to double the
ante and straddles together, and he may also, if he choose, stake a
further sum not exceeding the limit. Whichever he elect to do, the say
afterwards passes to the player at his left hand, who has a similar option;
and so on round the table. The last straddler has thus the last say.
Beginning with ante, or with the first player on the left of the dealer,
each player may then exchange all or any number of the cards he holds for
others from the remainder of the pack. He must first throw on the
table, face downwards, the number of cards he wishes to exchange (this is
called "discarding"), and the dealer then gives him an equal number from
the top of the pack. Before exchanging any of his cards, however, each
player must make his stake equal to that of ante, or of the last player.
It is not compulsory for a player to exchange all or any of his cards;
but he must exercise or relinquish the privilege of doing so when his
turn comes, once for all; and he cannot afterwards modify his choice,
nor take back any card or cards he may have discarded.
Whether he exchange any of his cards, or whether he retains the hand first
dealt out to him, each player must make his stake equal to that of ante,
or of the last player, so that when all players have been supplied with,
or refused, new cards, the stakes are all equal, and are all placed in
To give a practical illustration of this process, let us suppose that there
are five players taking part in the game, that the ante is fixed at
threepence, and the limit at a shilling. The players cut for deal, and the
deal falls to A.
(No. 1) C / D (No. 2)
(Ante) B / E (No. 3)
B then is ante, C No. 1, etc.
B (ante) stakes threepence.
C, who has the right to straddle the ante does not do so, so no other
A then deals five rounds of one card each to each player, beginning
with B, and then puts the remainder of the pack on the table.
C (No. 1) then looks at his cards, elects to play, and stakes
sixpence (double ante's stake).
D (No. 2) looks at his cards, rejects them, throwing them face
downwards on the table, and retiring from the game until the next deal.
E (No. 3) looks at his cards, elects to play, and stakes sixpence.
A (dealer) looks at his cards, elects to play, and stakes one shilling
and sixpence (he must stake sixpence, but he raises the stakes by the
maximum amount allowed).
B (ante) looks at his cards, elects to play, and stakes one shilling
and threepence, making his stake equal to A's. B then discards two
of his cards, places them face downwards on the table, and receives from
A two in their place.
C (No. 1) adds a shilling to his stake, making it equal to A's and
B's, and throws down all his cards, receiving five new ones in their
E (No. 3), rather than increase his stake to one shilling and sixpence,
relinquishes his hand, throwing down his cards, and losing the sixpence
he has already staked.
A (dealer), who has already staked one shilling and sixpence, throws
down one card and takes another in its place from the top of the pack.
There are now three players, A, B, and C, each of whom has staked one
shilling and sixpence on his hand, and there is a sum of five shillings,
including E's first stake in the pool.
No. 1 then begins play by betting a sum not exceeding the limit.
He may, if he choose, "stand," decline to bet until the next round, or he
may throw his cards face downwards on the table and retire from the game,
losing the money he has already staked. The turn then passes to No. 2.
Let us suppose, in the first place, that he does bet.
The next player on his left must then--
(a) Make his stake equal to that of No. 1, in which case he is said
to "call" No. 1, and he has the right to see No. 1's hand when the game
is over, or--
(b) Make his stake greater than that of No. 1 by a sum not exceeding
the limit, in which case he is said to "raise" No. 1; or--
(c) Resign the game, place his cards face downwards on the table,
and lose the sum he has already staked.
Each player in succession has a similar choice. He must--
(a) Call the preceding player; or
(b) Raise the preceding player; or
(c) Resign his stake and the game.
If No. 1 had "stood," i.e. not bet when it was first his turn to play,
he would have to do so when the turn came round to him again,
or else relinquish his cards and his stake.
When all the stakes are equal, each player throws his cards face upwards
on the table, and the player with the best hand takes the pool and all
It will be seen thus that there is no play of the cards in Poker, as
in most other card games. The best hand exposed wins the game and takes
the stakes; and the play of the game consists in estimating the probable
value of the opponents' hands as compared with the player's own hand.
To resume our illustration (page 36).
C begins play by betting sixpence.
A also bets sixpence, making his stake equal to C's, and by doing
so is said to call C.
B bets one shilling and sixpence, i.e. raises C a shilling.
He makes his stake equal to C's and A's, and has exercised his
right to increase it by a sum not exceeding the limit.
C, whose turn it now is again, adds two shillings to his stake,
raising B a shilling.
A will not stake more, so relinquishes the game and his stake,
placing his cards face downwards on the table.
B adds one shilling to his stake, making it equal to C's,
and C is therefore compelled to show his hand. It happens to be
better than B's, so C claims B's stake (two shillings and sixpence)
and the pool (five shillings and sixpence); and the game is over.
Next: Value Of The Hands