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Laws Of Poker

There are several worthy sets of poker laws. It is not so important that players adopt any particular set of laws as that they adopt some set of written laws and follow it strictly. If players wish to add house rules or special customs it is their privilege to do so but these too should be written. The following laws are recommended because experience has shown that they answer virtually any question that is likely to arise in a poker game.

The laws have three main sections: General laws, applying to all forms of poker; laws applying to draw or closed poker; and laws applying to stud or open poker.

PENALTIES for breaches of law represent a problem that has never been satisfactorily solved in any poker laws. A penalty can punish an offender but it cannot restore the rights of players who were damaged by the irregularity. Therefore no penalties are provided by the following laws; in extreme cases the players can constitute themselves a kangaroo court and make some equitable adjustment, but generally the following laws are confined to rectification rather than penalization of irregularities.

General Laws

(This section covers the pack of cards; the rank of hands; the shuffle, cut, and deal; the betting; and the showdown.)

1.    Players. Poker may be played by two to ten players. In every form of poker each plays for himself.

2.    Object of the game. The object of poker is to win the pot, either by having the best poker hand (as explained below) or by making a bet that no other player meets.

3.    (a) The pack. The poker pack consists of 52 cards, divided in four suits: spades hearts diamonds , clubs ♣ In each suit there are thirteen cards: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

(b)    Joker. The joker may be added to the pack as a wild card.

(c)    Wild cards. The joker or any other card or class of cards may be designated as wild by any of the following methods. The method must be selected in advance by the players in the game.

(1) The wild card may be designated by its holder to represent any other card that its holder does not have.

(2)    The joker (in this case called the bug) may be designated by its holder to represent a fifth ace or any card needed to complete a straight, a flush, or any special hand such as a dog, cat, etc.

(3)    Any wild card may represent any other card, whether or
not the holder of the wild card also has the card designated. [This permits double- or even triple-ace-high flushes, etc.]  A wild card,  properly designated, ranks exactly  the same  as a natural card.

4.    Rank of cards, (a) A (high), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2; A (low) only in the sequence 5-4-3-2-A.

   Optional. The ace may rank low in low poker (lowball)
or in high-low poker. When the ace is by agreement designated as low:

(1)    In low poker, the ace is always low, so that A-A is a lower
pair than 2-2.

(2)    In high-low poker, the holder must designate the relative rank of the ace at the time that he shows his hand in the showdown, e.g., by saying "aces high" (in which case A-A beats K-K for high) or "aces low" (in which case A-A beats 2-2 for low but loses to 2-2 for high).

(c)    In any pot to be won by the high hand, the ranking follows subsection (a) of this law, so that for example between two little dogs, 7-6-4-3-2 beats 7-5-4-3-2.

5.    Seating, (a) Players take seats at random unless any player demands, before the game begins, that the seats of the respective players be determined as provided in the next paragraph.

(b)    When any player demands a reseating, the banker has first choice of seats. The first dealer (see paragraph 7) either may take the seat to left of the banker or may participate with the other players in having his position determined by chance. The dealer then shuffles the pack, has the cards cut by the player to his right, and deals one card face up to each player in rotation beginning with the player at his left. The player thus dealt the highest-ranking card sits at the right of the banker, the player with the next-highest card at the right of that player, and so on. If two players are dealt cards of the same rank, the card dealt first ranks higher than the other.

(c)    After the start of the game no player may demand a reseating unless at least one hour has elapsed since the last reseating. A player entering the game after it begins must take any vacant seat. A player replacing another player must take the seat vacated by that player. Two players may exchange seats, after any showdown and before the next deal begins, provided no other player objects.

(d) When there is no banker, the dealer has first choice of seats.

6.    The shuffle and cut. Any player on demand may shuffle the pack before the deal. The pack should be shuffled three times in all, by one or more players. The dealer has the right to shuffle last and should shuffle the pack at least once.

(b)    The dealer offers the shuffled pack to his right-hand opponent, who may cut it or not as he pleases. If this player does not cut, any other player may cut. If more than one player demands the right to cut, the one nearest the dealer's right hand shall cut. Except in case of an irregularity necessitating a new cut, the pack is cut only once.

(c)    The player who cuts divides the pack into two or three portions, none of which shall contain fewer than five cards, and completes  the cut by placing the packet that was originally bottom-most on top. [If a card is exposed in cutting, the pack must be shuffled by the dealer and cut again. Irregularities requiring a new shuffle and cut are covered here.

7.    The deal, (a) At the start of the game any player shuffles a pack and deals the cards face up, one at a time to each player in rotation beginning with the player at his left, until a jack is turned up. The player to whom the jack falls is the first dealer. Thereafter, the turn to deal passes from each player to the player at his left. A player may not voluntarily pass his turn to deal.

(b) The dealer distributes the cards from the top of the pack, one card at a time to each player in clockwise rotation, begin¬ning with the player at his left and ending with himself.

8.    Rank of hands. Poker hands rank, from highest to lowest:

(a)    Straight flush—five cards of the same suit in sequence. The highest straight flush is A, K, Q, J, 10 of the same suit, called a royal flush. The lowest straight flush is 5, 4, 3, 2, A of the same suit. As between two straight flushes, the one headed by the highest card wins. [When any card of the pack is designated as wild—see 3 (c)—a straight flush loses to five of a kind, which is the highest possible hand.]

(b)    Four of a kind—four cards of the same rank. This hand loses to a straight flush but beats any other hand. As between two hands each containing four of a kind, the four higher-ranking cards win. [When there are several wild cards, it is possible for two players to hold four of a kind of the same rank. In this case, the winning hand is the one with the higher-ranking fifth card.]

(c)    Full house—three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank. As between two full houses, the one with the higher-ranking three of a kind is the winner. [When there are several wild cards, two players may have full houses in which the three-of-a-kind holdings are of the same rank; the higher of the pairs then determines the winning hand.]

(d)    Flush—five cards of the same suit. As between two flushes, the one containing the highest card wins. If the highest cards are of the same rank, the higher of the next-highest cards determines the winning hand, and so on; so that   ♠ A K 4 3 2 beats ♥ A  Q J 10 8, and J 9 8 6 4 beats  ♥  J 9 8 6 3.

(e)    Straight—five cards, in two or more suits, ranking consecutively; as 8, 7, 6, 5, 4. The ace is high in the straight A, K, Q, J,  10 and low in the straight 5, 4, 3, 2, A. As between two straights,   the  one  containing the highest card wins,  so  that 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 beats 5, 4, 3, 2, A.

(f)    Three of a kind—three cards of the same rank. As between two hands each containing three of a kind, the one with the higher-ranking three of a kind wins.  [When there are several wild cards, there may be two hands containing identical threes of a kind. In such cases, the highest-ranking unmatched card determines the winner. If these cards are of the same rank, the higher-ranking fifth card in each hand determines the winner.]

(g)    Two pairs—two cards of one rank and two cards of another rank, with an unmatched fifth card. As between two hands each containing two pairs, the one with the highest pair wins. If the higher pairs are of the same rank, the one with the higher-ranking second pair wins. If these pairs too are of the same rank, the hand containing the higher of the unmatched cards is the winner.

(h) One pair—two cards of the same rank, with three un¬matched cards. Of two one-pair hands, the one containing the higher pair wins. As between two hands containing pairs of the same rank, the highest unmatched card determines the win¬ner; if these are the same, the higher of the second-highest un¬matched cards, and if these are the same, the higher of the lowest unmatched cards. For example, 8, 8, 9, 5, 3 beats 8, 8, 9, 5, 2.

(i) No pair. This loses to any hand having a pair or any higher-ranking combination. As between two no-pair hands, the one containing the highest card wins; if these two cards are tied, the next-highest card decides, and so on, so that A, 8, 7, 4, 3 loses to A, 9, 7, 4, 3 but wins from A, 8, 7, 4, 2.

Two hands that are identical, card for card, are tied, since the suits have no relative rank in poker.

9. Betting, (a) All the chips bet go into the center of the table, forming the pot. Before putting any chips in the pot, a player in turn announces whether he is betting, calling, or raising; and, if he is betting or raising, how much. A player may not raise by any amount less than the bet he calls, unless there is only one player besides himself in the pot.

(b)    If every player in turn, including the dealer, passes, there is a new deal by the next player in rotation and the ante (if any) is repeated. If any player bets, each player in turn after him must either call, or raise, or drop.

(c)    In each betting interval, the turn to bet begins with the player designated by the rules of the variant being played, and moves to each active player to the left. A player may neither pass nor bet until the active player nearest his right has put the correct number of chips into the pot or has discarded his hand.

(1)    In draw poker, the first in turn before the draw is the player nearest the dealer's left. The first in turn after the draw is the player who made the first bet before the draw, or, if he has dropped, the active player nearest his left.

(2)    In stud poker, the first in turn in each betting interval is the player whose exposed cards are higher than those of any other player. If two or more players have identical high holdings, the one nearest dealer's left is first in turn. In the first betting interval, the high player must make a minimum bet. In any later betting interval, he may check without betting.

(d)    Unless a bet has been made in that betting interval, an active player in turn may check, which means that he elects to remain an active player without betting.  [In some variants of poker, checking is specifically prohibited.]

(e)    If any player bets, each active player in turn after him (including players who checked originally) must either drop, or call, or raise.

(f)    No player may check, bet, call, raise, or drop, except in his proper turn. A player in turn may drop even when he has the privilege of checking. At any time that a player discards his hand, or permits it to be mixed with any discard, he is deemed to drop and his hand may not be reclaimed.

(g) Whenever only one active player remains, though every other player's having dropped, the active player wins the pot without showing his hand and there is a new deal by the next dealer in turn.

(h) No two players may play in partnership, and there may be no agreement between two or more players to divide a pot.

10. The showdown. When each player has either called the highest previous bet, without raising, or has dropped; or when every active player has checked; the full hand of every active player is placed face up on the table and the highest-ranking hand wins the pot. If two or more hands tie for the highest rank, they divide the pot evenly, an odd chip going to the player who last bet or raised.

Copyright 2006 - 2013 Content by Albert H. Morehead