The Objective of Poker

Basic poker strategy knowledge is critical for any poker player. If you have no basis for making decisions about whether to call, fold, raise, or reraise,then you might just as well play the lottery. Sure, you’ll win occasionally because everyone gets lucky now and then. Without  poker strategy and knowledge,you’ll exercise no control over your destiny as a card player.

If you picked 100 poker players at random and asked them about the objective of poker, most would say something about winning the pot, but they couldn’t be further from the truth.The objective of poker – in addition to the enjoyment of playing the game -is winning money, not pots. If your objective of poker was to win the most pots, that would be easy to do. Just play every hand and call every bet and raise until the bitter end. You’d win a lot of pots. In fact, you’d win every pot you possibly could.
But you’d lose money. Plenty of it, and rapidly.

So the objective of poker is to win money. And that means tempering enthusiasm with realism by being selective about the hands you play. There’s no need to play every hand. The very best players play relatively few hands,but when they do enter a pot they are usually aggressive and out to maximize the amount they win when the odds favor them.This is the essence of poker: Anyone can win in the short run, but in the long haul,when the cards even out – the better players win more money with their good hands, and lose less with weak hands,than their opponents.

Because of the short-term luck involved, poker is a game where even very poor players can and do have winning streaks. This is not true in most other competitive endeavors.Most of us would not have a prayer going one-on-one with Usain Bolt in the 100 metres, or attempting to hit a 95 mph bigleague fastball. What’s more, we realize it. Yet most of us think we are good poker players.If you took a poll at any poker table, the majority of players would rate themselves significantly above average. But that’s not the case. It can’t be. ln the long run, good players beat bad players -though the bad players will win just often enough to keep them coming back for more.

It’s this subtle blend of skill and luck that balances the game. That balance also rewards good players who are realistic about how they assess their ability and that of their opponents.

Poker is not one game but a variety of games that employ hand rankings, betting, and bluffing as strategic and tactical elements. ln some forms of poker, like SevenCard Stud, Texas Hold’em, Five-Card Draw poker, and Omaha, the best poker hand wins. What’s the best hand? The rarer the hand, the higher it’s ranked. Thus a straight flush, which is much less likely to occur than a full house, is ranked higher. That’s why three-of-a-kind beats two pair, which in turn beats one pair.
In other games, like Lowball, Razz, or Deuce-to-Seven Kansas City Lowball,
the lowest-ranked hand wins. In all but Kansas City Lowball, a hand composed of 543-2-A – called a wheel or a bicycle – is the best possible hand.
ln Kansas City, where straights and flushes count against you and an ace is
always a high card, the best hand is 7-543-2. But don’t worry about that
game, it’s not played very often. When it is, it’s generally a high stakes, no limit game – one you’d be better off avoiding for a long, long time.
If this isn’t enough to confuse you, there are also split games, in which the
highest and lowest hand split the pot. These games are usually played with
an “8 qualifier.” In order to split the pot, the low hand needs to be composed
of five unpaired cards with the rank of 8 or lower. If there is no low hand, the
high hand scoops the entire pot.
In casinos the two most popular “split” games are Omaha 8-or-Better,
High/Low Split (usually abbreviated as Omaha/8) and Seven-Card Stud, h r –
Better, High-Low Split (usually abbreviated Seven-Stud/8).