This is an Official Player's Guide from the Pirates Online Website.
Most taverns offer a game of chance. Just approach the gaming table and a label will tell you what game is in progress. Join in whenever you wish, and keep track of which taverns offer which games.
The goal? Win the pot (all the gold bet by you and by other players). A Pirate doesn't necessarily have to have the best hand (combination of cards) to win -- you can always bluff and simply convince everybody else that you have the best hand. A skilled player soon learns when to go for an actual win, when to bluff, and when it's time to fold (quit).
Usually poker games begin with an ante –– that is, everybody contributes a little to the pot before each game starts so that there's a nice amount of gold for the eventual winner. But there's a special rule in the Caribbean. Two players are chosen at random to provide what's called the Small Blind and the Big Blind. The term "blind" is used because these two players are forced to bet before ever seeing any cards –– in other words, they must bet "blind." The Small Blind is usually one gold, the Big Blind two gold, so that every game begins with three gold coins in the pot. Don't think you're being cheated by having to pay a blind –– everybody has to pay blinds equally throughout gameplay.
Below are the basic poker hands. In most cases, if two players have the same kind of hand, the ranking (numerical value) of the cards will determine the winner.
Tortuga Hold 'em
This form of poker uses seven cards. The dealer begins by giving each Pirate two cards face down. These hole or pocket cards are only seen by their Pirate holders until the final showdown of the game. Next comes the first round of betting, beginning with the Pirate to the dealer's left and going clockwise from there. Betting continues until all bets are matched. Pirates may fold at any time.
Note that during a round of betting, you have several options in the panel on the bottom of your screen, depending on the stage of the game. If you are first in any betting round, you can Bet (put a certain amount of gold into the pot that everyone else must match). You can Call (match the bet of the previous player in order to stay in the game). You can Raise (call the previous bet and add more, which everyone after you must match). And you can Check (not bet any money, though this option is limited). And, of course, you can always Fold (withdraw from that game) if you think your hand is bad enough that you have no hope of winning. If you have cheat cards, you can also Swap 1st Card or Swap 2nd Card (see Cheating section below for details).
After the first round of betting, the dealer then deals out three community cards face up on the table. These cards are usable by all players, in combination with their two hole cards, to make a five-card poker hand. A second round of betting follows. Then the dealer deals out a fourth community card face up on the table. A third round of betting follows. The dealer then deals out the fifth and final community card face up on the table, and the fourth and last round of betting follows.
Easy as pie, this game is. Your aim is to collect enough cards to equal 21 points, or as close to 21 points as you can get without going over. If you go over 21, you lose. Here's how to count them:
When you sit down, you'll be asked to Bid (ante up a gold coin or two into the pot for starters). The dealer deals out two cards to each player, and then your options begin. You'll see several buttons at the bottom of your screen. As the dealer deals out cards, you can Bid (put more gold into the pot, which other players must match). You can Stay (keep your current cards and do nothing, which is wise if your total is 21 or close to it). You can Hit (ask for another card if your current cards total substantially below 21). If your first two cards are of equal value (two Jacks, two Fives), you can click the Split button and create two hands that you can play at once. You can Double Down (double your initial bet, but make this choice carefully -- if you double down, you get only one more card, which may or may not bring your total close enough to 21 to win). If you have cheat cards, you can Swap Card (see Cheating section below for details). And, of course, you can always Leave (quit the game and leave the table).
All pirate card games require skill, but one of the most important skills is the ability to control yourself. If you've got a winning hand, it's hard not to grin like a fool or throw your arms up in the air in glee. You might as well just tell everybody what your hand is. Likewise, even small gestures can give away your emotions and thus tell other players how good or bad your hand is. These little gestures -- for example, slumping when you have a bad hand, or raising your eyebrows when you have a good hand –– will lower your chances of winning. Such little gestures are called "tells," and sometimes players just can't resist showing them.
On the other hand, it's jolly good when other players display tells. Especially when you play poker, keep a weather eye on your opponents. If you see a tell, you'll have a hint at how good that player's hand is, and you can play your own hand better.
No matter what card game you play, you can be sure that the dealer isn't going to cheat. No dealer in the Caribbean wants a bunch of angry pirates going for his throat. So the only cheating you have to worry about is that of the players … such as yourself.
You can cheat by swapping out cards in your hand with ones up your sleeve. You earn these cheat cards by completing special Quests. As you play, you'll see buttons at the bottom of the screen that read Swap Card (blackjack) or Swap 1st Card and Swap 2nd Card (poker). If you have earned cheat cards, you may click on these buttons to improve your hand. It takes practice and skill, but you can reap great rewards. Just remember –– if you're caught cheating, you'll lose your gold!