Poker In the 21st century has gained a massive boost in popularity.

There was a time when poker was played by a small group of enthusiasts and was nowhere near the most popular game in casinos around the world.

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However, now, poker is played, online and at casinos,

by 60 million in the US and over 100 million people worldwide. So, why has poker grown in popularity so much since the turn of the millennium?

Well, the introduction of online poker certainly has helped. It means people can play poker in the comfort of their own home or when they are out and about on their mobile or tablet. However, poker is a sport that has received more television coverage.

The use of hole-card cameras at tables have turned poker into a spectator sport

Where viewers can see the professionals’ cards and easily get wrapped up in the emotion of the game.
Added to that, numerous poker guides from top players, such as Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu and Mike Sexton, have helped make them game easier for the beginner to understand.

Poker also received a massive spike in popularity in 2003 when Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event. Going into the tournament, Moneymaker was an accountant, who had never played poker professionally.

However, by winning the 2003 tournament he collected .5m, and made the sport’s riches seem like they could be claimed by anybody; they only needed a little bit of luck and a desire to learn the game.

So how do the basics of poker work?

Well each player at a table is dealt two hole cards that they get to see before any betting is made. They place these cards face down so nobody else can see them. Two players at the table post mandatory bets, at this stage, called the blinds, but after that any other player at the table has three options; they can raise, call or fold their hand.

After the first round of betting has been matched the competitors go to what is known as the ‘flop’. This is when three cards are placed face up in front of all the players and those left in the hand can use these cards as a community board.

Another round of betting follows and as long as more than one player is left in the hand, when all the bets are matched, then a further card, the turn, is placed face up in front of the players. More betting follows, before the river card is dealt face up on the community board.

After this, the players have to work out the strength of their hand,

Based on using five of the seven cards available to them. They have one more round of betting before all the hole cards a turned over and the winner is declared. Three-of-kind beats two-pair and a flush beats a straight. However, there are lots more combinations and rules to be learned than this in poker.

So what do you want to be looking for in a good starting hand, when the hole cards are dealt, in poker? Well, two aces is the best hand you can be dealt at the start of the hand. These are known as pockets or pocket pairs, because you have already got a hand which is concealed to the rest of the table.

Aces are the best because they are the highest, but pocket kings and queens are very top ranging starting hands as they have a good chance of still being ahead when the flop, the first three cards are dealt.

Pocket jacks are also good,

But if you raise with this hand and high flop comes down high, for example one containing a queen and an ace, it is likely that your hand will be still ahead.

This is the case for most pocket pairs below a jack and with those hands it makes better sense to call pre-flop, especially with pocket pairs below 7s, and hope to hit on the flop by making trips or three-of-a-kind. If you don’t hit you can fold and you haven’t lost too much money.

Ace-king and ace-queen as starting hands are also considered to be very strong. This is because they have a good chance of being ahead if you pair your card on the flop, turn or river.

If these cards are of the same suit - hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades – they are known as suited cards. This gives them a higher chance of making a flush, five cards of the same suit. This is a very strong hand in poker and as a result it gives the cards some extra value and therefore there is even more reason to raise the flop.

Connected cards, are hole cards that are close to each other in number, for example nine-ten or jack-queen. If you get cards like this then it makes it easier for you to get a straight, which is better than three-of-kind, but below a flush. As a result these can also be profitable hands to play.

If your cards are suited and connected then

Aas long as the pot is not raised too much pre-flop, it can be very profitable to play these types of cards.

Generally though a successful strategy in poker is not to play too many hands; you can’t win them all. Good poker players are generally described as tight, but aggressive. This means they don’t get involved in many pots, but when they do they raise big and generally have good hole cards.

By doing this they are placing more money on the hands that have statistically more chance of winning and less or no money on the ones that don’t. Any mathematician would tell you that this is a successful formula. However, all good poker players will mix up their game now and then, so they don’t become easy to read as this can mean they are easy to bluff off certain pots by more skilled players.