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by: Glenn McDonald.
"A poker game without chips is not a poker game, and a poker game without cards is ten guys with sunglasses on staring at each other." This famous poker maxim is thought to have originated in Saigon, circa 1968, when the legendary gambler jean-Luc "Crocodile" LeFarge wagered $15,000 on a pair of-oh, who am I kidding? I just made it up.

But it's a good enough introduction to this chapter here on poker basics. Possibly the single most overlooked basic in beginner poker primers is this simple assertion: Poker is a game of cards and chips. This is the essential and mystical alchemy of poker. You can play with just cards, but it's not really poker.

Caveat Corner: Careful readers will note that poker is also a game of people. Quite right Poker Godfather Doyle "Texa5 Dolly" Brunson often said that when was really locked in and reading his opponents, he felt he could play an entire hand without even looking at his down cards. He would, however, have to move his chips....
As we've discussed, the act of wagering on your hand is integral to the game itself, and poker chips have come to be the accepted coin of the realm. You can use real coins, of course, or rolls of $1,000 bills if that's your thing. The chips can even be play chips, representing nothing but bragging rights, but there must be some basic unit of exchange within the structure of the game. For the sake of convenience, we'll refer to these units as chips, whether they be actual or digital, real money or fake.

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And, of course, there are the cards. Just about any poker game you're likely to run across uses the standard 52-card deck. Some forms of draw poker and lowball use a joker, or bug, but we'll get to that later. 52 cards don’t seem like all that daunting a number, but keep this in mind: There are 2, 598,960 possible five-card combinations in a standard deck.

The trick to playing good poker knows what to do with the cards you are dealt and the chips that you have. The cards you have will almost always inform what you do with your chips. But the amount of chips you have can also impact decisions on what to do with your cards. We're going to examine the fundamentals of cards ( hand rankings ) and chips (betting structures) separately, but always keep in mind that you can't have one without the other. Like love and marriage. (Insert your own cynical joke here.)


(© 2006 Deal Me In! Online Cardrooms, Big Time Tournaments, and The New Poker Book. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)

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