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.
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
section covers the pack of cards; the rank of hands; the shuffle,
cut, and deal; the betting; and the showdown.)
Players. Poker may be played by two to ten
players. In every form of
poker each plays for himself.
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.
Joker. The joker may be added to the pack as a
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.
The wild card may be designated by its holder to represent any other card that its holder does
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.
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.
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:
In low poker, the ace is always low, so that A-A
is a lower pair than 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).
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.
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
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.
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.
When there is no banker, the dealer has first choice of seats.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rank of hands. Poker hands rank, from highest to
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.]
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.]
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.]
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.
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.
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.]
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.
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.
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.
hands that are identical, card for card, are tied, since the suits
have no relative rank in poker.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
If any player bets, each active player in turn
after him (including players
who checked originally) must either drop, or call, or raise.
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
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.
two players may play in partnership, and there may be no
agreement between two or more players to divide a pot.
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.