How to play poker

How to play poker

One of the most important aspects that those new to playing poker should pay attention to is the percentage of hands that should be played.

This specifically relates to the pre-flop game-play. The percentage of hands that you play in poker determines whether you play tight or loose. When you play the majority of hands that are dealt, you are playing loose, but when you play a small percentage of hands dealt, you are playing tight.

Intermediate Poker Strategy – What Percentage of Hands to Play?

Players new to poker should ideally play a tight game, as their experience with the post-flop game may not be sufficient for winning. This could result in them making mistakes that could be costly. Here are a few guidelines that can be applied when playing the game:

At cash games (full-ring – 9 to 10 hands)

Play less than 20% of your hands when you are at a table against 9 to 10 players. If you prefer a tight style of playing, use only 10% of your hands before reaching the flop. This may give you the experience and control required to win the game at a low-stakes table. Ideally pre-flop, if your hand appears strong, you should raise. Avoid open limping to the pot if you are new to the game. Also, when you play at a full ring cash game, have a reason for calling a bet – if you do so.

Cash game (6 hands)

If you are in a cash game with 6 hands, your chances of winning are relatively higher than at a 10 handed table. So, you can opt to play a loose game occasionally. If you are to the left of the big blind, raise as few hands as possible – only those that appear strong. When you are at the button or cut-off positions, you can opt to raise more than when you are under the gun. This is because, at this position, you get the opportunity to make your move after you see the flop.

Multi-Table Tournaments

Ideally, at the early stages of the tournament, play a tight game, especially if the blinds are not equal to or higher than your stack. At this point in the game, you should play between 10% and 15% of the dealt hands. When the blinds rise such that they are comparably higher than your stack and can be profitable when stolen, you can start playing more hands. Use this strategy when you are in late position.

During the game, the value of each hand will change. When the stack is shallow, the value of the medium pairs, big pairs and high unpaired cards rise. On the other hand, the value of small pairs, suited connectors and suited aces (small) fall at this point. This is owing to the fact that the hands are those with implied odds, and have good value only when the ratio of the pot to stack is high.

Sit n Go Tournaments

At a sit n go tournament, play few starting hands as the value of the blind is rarely high enough to play for at this point in the game. When the blinds are high in comparison to the stack, you can opt for the all-in strategy. This way you can go all-in to get the big blinds. As independent chip modelling calculations are applied to these tournaments, the EV of a situation can change from being positive to negative.

Texas Holdem is the best-known and most popular form of poker. The WSOP Main Event is a no-limit Texas Holdem tournament, as are all the WPT TV final tables. Doyle Brunson went so far as to dub Texas Holdem “the Cadillac” of poker in his book Super/System. With so much popularity surrounding the game, it’s no wonder that players the world over are interested in learning how to play Texas Holdem.

In Texas Holdem, each player gets two cards (their “hole cards”). The table gets five community cards. All active players share the community cards, starting with the flop, then the turn, and then the river. At showdown, each player makes the best five-card poker hand they can from any combination of their hole cards and the community cards.

As with all poker games, a round of betting breaks up the sequence of play. Betting rounds are where strategic decisions are made.

Why do they call it Texas Holdem?

The origins of the name “Texas Holdem” are obscure.

Popular folklore has the game created in the early 20th Century, by Blondie Forbes, a road gambler.

The state of Texas claims that Robston, Texas is the game’s birthplace. But the most likely story is simply that the game became associated with Texas due to its popularity with Texas road gamblers. Regardless of where the game got its name, let’s go over some Texas Holdem rules.

Texas Holdem Rules

Texas Holdem can be played by between two to twenty-two players. Though a more typical game range would be from six to ten players.

“Heads-up” Holdem games (1-v-1 games) have also become increasingly popular since the early 00s.

In Texas Holdem, players receive two hole cards face down, then five community cards face up. Players can use any combination of board and hole cards to make the best five-card hand they can.

The general populace tends to view “table stakes” as standard for Texas Holdem. Also known as “no-limit,” table-stakes indicate that players can bet, raise, and lose anything up to the number of chips (which represent real money) they have in front of them on the table.

In practice, both fixed-limit and — to a lesser degree — pot-limit games are common variants in most places.

Learning how to play Texas Holdem

If playing live, players usually draw cards for their seats, and for the dealer button. In online poker, the software will automate this for you.

A hand of Texas Holdem begins with the player left of the button beginning the first round of betting. They post a forced bet called the small blind. Then the next player to the left of the small blind posts the big blind (usually this is twice the big blind, but in some cases, it can vary).

Players post antes at this point, which is the minimum bet for playing a round, if the game includes antes.

The dealer then gives each player a starting hand two cards face down. Players can look at their cards from this point on, but may not show them to other players.

A betting round begins, starting to the left of the big blind. Players can either “call” the big blind (i.e. put in chips equal to the big blind), they can “raise” the bet (increasing the stakes), or they can “fold” (in which case they relinquish their hand).

If the pot is unraised, the big blind has the option to raise their “bet” when the action reaches them or to “check” (which is to pass without folding).

The dealer burns a card, and deals out three community cards face up in the middle of the table (this is the “flop”). A second betting round begins with the first player from the left of the dealer. As there are no blinds, all players may have the additional option to “check,” providing no player has made a bet before them in that round.

The dealer then burns and turns the fourth community card face up (the “turn”).

The remaining players partake in another betting round. If playing with fixed limits, this is the round where the bet increases.

The dealer burns and turns the fifth card, which is the final community card (the “river”). The final round of betting takes place.

After the final round of betting is finished, the remaining players show down their cards. This starts with the last player to make a bet or raise that round. Or from the left of the dealer if there was no betting.

At showdown, players can use any five of the seven available cards (two hole cards, and five community cards) to make the highest hand and win the pot. After the winning hand, the dealer button then moves one space to the left, and the next hand begins.

What’s the Difference Between Texas Holdem and Poker?

“Texas Holdem” is one of many kinds of “poker.”

Poker is a term for a group of vying-games (i.e. raise or fold games) that use a shared set of rules for betting and the same standard set of hand rankings.

Texas Holdem is a specific kind of poker. It uses two hold cards and five community cards which distinguishes it from other flop games, like Omaha Holdem which uses four.

Having community cards is what makes Texas Holdem a flop game, and distinguishes them from the other two categories of poker games: stud games and draw games, where cards are not shared between players.

Texas Holdem’s rules are most similar to the other poker variants: Omaha Holdem and seven-card stud.

Where to Play Texas Holdem Online

Thanks to the enormous popularity of Texas Holdem, almost all online poker websites and offline poker rooms offer a Texas Holdem option.

They also tend to offer a wide variety of stakes. Although, you may have to go to one of the major sites for high-stakes games. All sites will offer low to mid-stakes players plenty of options. This is true regardless of whether they play cash games or tournaments.

Stud and draw poker games are the basis for many poker games played on home tables and casino felts throughout the world.

How to play poker


A standard deck of cards (no Jokers)
At least 2 players
Poker chips or substitute (optional)

Basic Poker rules

Learning to how to play basic poker is not nearly as hard as many people imagine. There are generally two types: Stud Poker and Draw Poker. The rules for these games are almost identical and both are presented here.

In Stud Poker, each player is dealt five cards (or seven for some games). Players then assess the relative strength of their hands and wager chips accordingly. The player who bids the most chips wins unless someone else is willing to match the player’s bet. In that scenario, the two (or more) players remaining will show their cards. The best hand wins all the chips.

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In Draw Poker, each player is dealt five cards, and a round of betting ensues. The remaining players then may attempt to improve their hands by trading as many as three cards for a new three from the deck. If a player has an Ace, he may trade all four of his other cards if he so desires.

The rounds of betting work like this: Starting to the left of the dealer, each player has four options:

  1. Raise — A player who thinks he has a good hand (or who wants the other players to think he has a good hand) may increase the wager required to continue playing.
  2. Fold — A player who thinks his hand is not good enough to win and who does not want to wager the increased amount may lay down his cards. He cannot win the hand, but he also will not lose any more chips.
  3. Call — Once a player has raised the stakes, each player must decide whether to raise the stakes again, to give in and fold his hand, or to call, which means to equal the amount wagered by the player who raised.
  4. Check — If no one has increased the wager required to continue, a player may stand pat by checking, or passing on his option to bet.

While there are many varieties of poker games, the same basic rules apply to almost all of them. Typically, five or seven cards are dealt to each player. Players attempt to form the best five-card poker hand possible (see below). For every poker game, the same hierarchy of hands exists, and the better hands are rarer and more difficult to achieve than the lesser hands.

Individual cards are ranked from best to worst. The rank of a card often breaks the tie if two players achieve the same hand. The Ace is the most valuable card. From there, it goes in descending order: King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

The ranking of hands, from lowest to highest value:

  • High card. If no combination can be made, then a player’s hand is valued at the highest single card. If two players have the same high card, then the second highest card would break the tie.
    Example: 5♣ 8♦ 10♠ Q♥ A♠
  • One Pair. A pair is formed when you have two of any of the same cards.
    Example: 9♠ 9♦ 5♣ 8♣ K♥
  • Two Pairs. When more than one player has two pairs, the player with the highest pair wins.
    Example: 9♠ 9♦ 5♣ 5♥ 8♥
  • Three of a Kind.
    Example: 9♠ 9♦ 9♥ 5♣ 8♣
  • Straight. A straight is a five-card hand consisting of a running sequence of cards, regardless of suit. If two players have straights, the straight of the higher card wins.
    Example: 9♠ 10♠ J♦ Q♥ K♦
  • Flush. When all five cards in a hand are of the same suit, it is a flush. If two players have a flush, the person with the highest card in that suit wins.
    Example: 9♠ 5♠ Q♠ K♠ 7♠
  • Full House. When a player has three-of-a-kind and a pair in the same hand, it is called a Full House.
    Example: 9♠ 9♦ 9♥ 5♣ 5♥
  • Four of a Kind. If you are lucky enough to have all four of a given number, then you have a very powerful hand.
    Example: 9♠ 9♦ 9♥ 9♣ 5♣
  • Straight Flush. Even rarer than four of a kind, a straight flush is made up of five consecutive cards, all from the same suit.
    Example: 9♠ 10♠ J♠ Q♠ K♠
  • Royal Flush. The best hand of them all is this famous combination, formed by a Straight Flush that runs to the Ace, making it unbeatable. Odds of being dealt this hand can be as high as 1 in 650,000 deals.
    Example: 10♥ J♥ Q♥ K♥ A♥


Play these games together, without chips or money, and let the kids try to master recognizing the hands and playing correctly. Older kids often enjoy just playing for chips, with no money tied to them. Simply winning by acquiring the biggest stack is enough.

Play for a prize

One of the things older kids like about poker is all the fancy stuff that goes with it. They will love it if you break out a green felt and real poker chips and make a friendly home game feel like an event. Don’t make the chips worth any money, but give out a small prize to the person who ends with the most chips. Your whole family will have a great time.

Card games are timeless fun for the whole family. The Ultimate Book of Card Games, by Scott McNeely, is sure to offer fun to all ages, households and people who have a pack of cards and time to kill. Get this perfect gift for the game lover in your life here.

When making your Vegas bucket list, you have to make time for the fantastic shows, plan at least a few meals at the uniquely delectable restaurants, and make sure you save some energy for the word-class nightlife, but you also should make time to learn how to win at 3 card poker.

Hot table game Three Card Poker has gained popularity not only because it’s fun, but because it’s also easy to learn. Three Card Poker is like getting two Las Vegas casino games in one. Not only can you play against the dealer, you can also win based on how good your cards are.

The object of the game is to make the best poker hand possible with only three cards.

How To Play 3 Card Poker

  • To start, the player places an ante wager and/or a pair plus wager, betting that they will have a hand of at least a pair or better.
  • Three cards are then dealt face down to each player and to the dealer. You are only playing the dealer and not other players at the table.
  • The player will then look at his hand and determine to place a play wager (equal to the amount they put as the ante wager) to pit his hand against the dealer’s hand or not. Optimum strategy says the player should “play” all hands greater than Queen, Six and Four and fold all hands worse.
  • If a player folds, the hand is over and the dealer will collect the player’s ante wager and pair plus wager. If the player places a play wager, the cards will be turned over to determine if the player has a better hand than the dealer.
  • If the dealer has a hand of Jack-high or worse, the play wager is returned to the player. If the dealer has a hand of Queen-high or better, both the play wager and the ante are paid out at 1 to 1 if the player has a better hand than the dealer.
  • If the dealer’s hand is superior, both the ante and play bets are collected. The pair plus bet is determined completely independent to what the dealer has.

3 Card Poker Payouts:

Pair plus payouts:

Straight Flush 40 to 1

Three of a Kind 30 to 1

Straight 6 to 1

Ante bonus payouts:

Straight Flush 5 to 1

Three of a Kind 4 to 1

Straight 1 to 1

The best thing about playing Three Card Poker? The chance to win a $100,000 through the six card bonus paytable, which hits if the dealer’s and player’s cards combine nine through Ace in a royal suit of diamonds.

Now that you’re a Three Card Poker pro, check out more "how to play" videos on Texas Hold ‘Em poker, Blackjack, Craps and Roulette.

Now that you’ve learned how to play 3 card poker and win, try your luck at the tables at any of these Caesars properties:

As a beginning player, you’ve already got a grasp of how a poker game plays out (see our poker rules guide for a refresher). But learning how to play poker well is your first big challenge.

Maybe you’ve read other strategy articles or watched some training videos, but these can seem overwhelming, using confusing language and aiming at more experienced players. To help you, Replay Poker, the home of free poker online, has compiled the five key factors that you must consider on every hand of poker you play.

Following this advice will put you on a solid foundation upon which you can build more in-depth strategies and will stop you from being an easy target in your early career.

1. Play Only Your Better Hands

When you’re new to the game, the first thing you want to do is dive in and get involved in as many hands as possible. The idea of folding hand after hand while the action goes on around you seems odd, but that is exactly what you should be doing as you learn to play poker.

Play too many of the wrong starting hands (your two hole cards) is a recipe for disaster as you’re likely to be losing out to another player from the start. With hands like 7-J and A-6, you will be dominated so often by players with better kickers. For example, calling a raise with A-6 and hitting an ace on the flop might look fantastic, but quite often the raiser will have a much better ace, playing for example A-K down to A-J. In this case, he has you dominated.

You must be selective in the poker hands you play. In most scenarios you can play any pair, your aces down to A-J or even A-10, connecting cards like 10-J, J-Q, Q-K, and then a wider selection for suited connectors, for example, 9-10 of diamonds. Connectors open straight possibilities, while suited connectors add flush chances, too.

So, choose wisely, especially at the start of a tournament. Why risk losing a huge pot, or worse your entire stack, on a weak hand that you could easily have avoided?

2. Importance of Position at the Poker Table

You’ve now got to grips with the range of starting hands you should consider playing. But before you jump in the next time a marginal hand like A-10 turns up, you must consider your position at the poker table.

By position, we mean where you’re sitting in relation to the dealer. If you’re in the blinds or the next seat along, you’re in early position. Next comes the mid positions in the middle of the table, and finally you get the dealer and the player to his right who are said to be in late position.

Why is position important? Basically, because the later position you have, the more players must act before you. So, if you’re the dealer, you have much more information on other players and what they’re up to compared to someone in early position.

This means you get to bet last, so you can exert pressure on your opponents. In late positions, you can widen your opening hand selection. Let’s say that before the flop, everyone folds around to you on the button. You can pretty much try and steal the blinds by raising with a wide selection of hands. If they call you, they do so knowing they must act first after the flop and beyond, putting them at a disadvantage.

Simply keep in mind that if it’s folded around, the later you are the fewer people are still to act, so your hand value increases. It’s one of the basic concepts of how to play poker.

3. Risk v Reward in Poker

Now with starting hands and position taken into consideration, your next strategic decision is to note the size of your stack compared to those of your opponents. If you’re both ‘deep’, that is having large stacks and small blind levels in a tournament; then this is less important.

But if you are short-stacked and others have more, you can’t afford to dabble in speculative pots only to fold. Doing so risks your chips bleeding dry, or gets you pot committed, meaning you must pretty much play out the hand for all your stack, perhaps with a weak holding.

If short-stacked it’s better to grab an opportunity to push all-in, weighing up the risk v reward: the risk is you’ll be called and beaten, the reward is everyone folds, and you pick up the blinds, or someone calls and you double up.

On the flip side, if you’re in late position with a large stack and the big blind is short-stacked, open-raising (if everyone else folded to you) to try and steal the blind has more risk because the big blind might end up shoving all-in, possibly with the better hand. You might now be committed to calling and before you know it, you’ve doubled the player up.

You may also have heard of pot odds. Explaining this is a level above the requirements here, but you can grasp the principle behind it. If you can work out in percentage terms roughly how likely it is your hand will improve and win the pot, you must compare it in percentage terms with how many chips you’ll need to commit in relation to the total size of the pot.

In other words, if you have a 25% chance of making your hand, don’t call a bet equivalent of 50% of the pot!

4. Keeping Your Emotions Level

When someone asks how do you play poker, many would say it’s about keeping a poker face. This means your opponent can never be sure how strong or weak your hand is. It keeps them guessing. There’s another phrase you may have heard about – going on tilt.

This happens when you’ve experienced bad luck or feel you’ve been hard done by. You start to boil up inside and then lose all sense of playing correctly. You play way too many hands, bet too much, call off too many chips and, of course, lose more as a result.

Don’t be the player who goes on tilt, hard as it may seem when you first learn poker. If an opponent plays terribly and lucks his way to winning a big pot against you, don’t express your anger. These things happen, you just have to remember that over the longer term, you will make a profit in the same circumstances.

5. Your Table Image and Player Notes

On a similar theme, but a little more subtle is table image and notes. Always concentrate on what the other players are doing, because over time you’ll get a read on what sort of player they are. Do they play too many hands (loose), so you can give them less credibility for holding good starting hands? Perhaps they play too little, known as tight or a rock? If so, steer clear when they come out betting because they’ll only be playing something strong. And raise more to them pre-flop because the chances are they will fold.

Online poker software usually allows you to make a note next to a player at the table, so you can jot down observations of how the player bets or any other pattern you notice. The next time you come to play this opponent, you have a pre-existing read to use to your advantage.

While that’s all well and good, never lose sight of the fact that other players will also be observing you. Try to mix up your playing style a little, playing the odd loose hand if it’s cheap enough, and changing up your bet sizing so that it does not become predictable, offering clues to the strength or otherwise of your cards.

Now Try for Yourself with Free Poker

With these five how to play poker for beginners steps, you can put yourself in a much better position to become a winning poker player. It might seem a lot to take in at first, but before long, after a little practise on Replay Poker, it will become second nature.

Learn how to play poker with our guide to the concepts and rules on which all forms of the game are based, and access our guides to popular variations such as Texas Holdem and Omaha poker

T he rise of online poker has contributed to it becoming one the most popular card games in the world, but there are so many different types of poker that it can seem daunting to the beginner.

Here, Telegraph Betting introduces you to the broad concepts that unite all forms of poker and shows you how they fit together to play one of the game’s most popular variants, Texas Holdem.

We’ll also discuss the four main types of poker under which all poker games can be categorised.

Then, once you’ve got to grips with the basics, you’ll find our guides to the specifics of how to play the most popular types of poker at the bottom of this piece.

How to play poker: concepts common to most types of poker

Poker-hand rankings

All games of poker are based around common poker-hand rankings which are used to decide which player’s hand wins in a game of poker.

Some poker game types will use the common hand ranking in different ways, such as making the lowest value hand the most desirable (low-ball poker).

Learn the order of strength of poker hands on our poker-hand rankings page.


It’s possible to win poker hands without holding the best hand by bluffing your opponents.

Bluffing usually involves projecting confidence in your hand by betting in a manner that suggests your hand is better than it is, in the hope that your opponents will believe you and fold rather than risk taking you on in the showdown.

Forced bets

Most forms of poker require some form of compulsory bet at the beginning of a hand usually referred to as the ‘ante’ or ‘blind’. Many forms of the game feature a small blind and a big blind, with the latter generally twice the size of the former.

The dealer

Whether you’re playing physical poker at home, at a bricks-and-mortar casino, or an online casino the role of the dealer determines the order in which the blinds are put up and players make their bets. The game usually unfolds in a clockwise direction starting with the dealer.

In both physical and online casinos the dealer is generally not one of the players so a token denotes which player is nominally the dealer for each hand. This then rotates clockwise from one hand to the next.

Betting options

Following the forced bets, the first round of betting begins. Players usually have the following betting options to use depending on their confidence in their hand.

  • Call — Matching another player’s bet or raise
  • Raise — Increasing the size of your existing bet in the same round of betting
  • Fold — To withdraw from the hand, sacrificing any bets already made.
  • Check — Until the first bet in a round of betting is placed, players can choose to check (decline to make a bet while reserving the right to bet later in the round).
  • All in — When a player doesn’t have enough chips left to call a bet they can play all their remaining chips. Subsequent betting takes place in a side pot and the all-in player can only win the amount of chips in the pot when they went all-in in any subsequent showdown.

Rounds of betting

In poker, each round of betting offers a chance to utilise the betting options outlined in the previous section, based on your confidence in your hand and your perception of the quality of your opponents’ hands. The latter can chiefly be gauged by seeing how much they are betting or raising.

All types of poker feature at least one round of betting, while the vast majority feature at least two.

These rounds usually take place before and after game events such as the dealing of the flop in Texas Holdem and allow for degrees of strategizing by players as the hand progresses. Texas Holdem and Omaha, which are so called ‘community card’ games, can feature up to four rounds of betting.

How to play in a poker in a nutshell: a game in brief

Here we illustrate how to play a game of poker in a nutshell. This is how to play the world’s current most popular type of poker, Texas Holdem.

  1. Dealer deals each player two cards
  2. The small blind is placed, followed by the big blind.
  3. The first round of betting ensues, players bet according to confidence in their hand
  4. Dealer deals three ‘community cards’ face up.
  5. The second round of betting begins
  6. Dealer deals the fourth community card, also known as the turn
  7. The third round of betting begins
  8. Dealer deals the fifth community card, also known as the river
  9. The final round of betting ensues.
  10. If two or more players still haven’t folded, all remaining players show their cards.
  11. The winner is the one with the best hand according to the poker hand rankings.

Betting structure/limits

There are various different ways in which betting can be structured in poker. The three structures below are the most common in online poker and are usually listed alongside the type of poker in online poker lobbies.

Pot limit (PL) — A player may bet or raise any amount up to the size of the total pot.

Fixed limit (FL) — Betting and raising must be done by fixed amounts.

No limit (NL) — A player can bet all of their chips any time it’s their turn to bet

The four main poker variations

The many different types of poker can generally be classified as falling into one of the following four categories:

Community card poker

Players are dealt a number of cards less than a complete five-card poker hand. A number of face-up community cards are then dealt with the objective that the players make the best possible five-card hand with some combination of their own cards and the community cards.

Famous varieties include: Texas Holdem, Omaha

Straight poker

The earliest form of poker, each player is dealt a full hand of five cards. A round of betting ensues in which players can raise and reraise until the game concludes.

Famous varieties include: five-card brag, three-card brag

Draw poker

Another poker variation in which players receive all five cards at the beginning of the game, draw poker then allows them to attempt to improve their hand by discarding cards and being dealt replacements.

Famous varieties include: five-card draw

Stud poker

In stud-poker games, players are dealt their cards one by one in a specified combination of face-up and face-down cards, typically with a round of betting between each card being dealt.

Famous varieties include: seven-card stud, razz

Learn how to play popular types of poker and the rules specific to each game

Want to know the rules specific to popular types of poker? Check out the links below.

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Take a look at our painstakingly researched list of the best poker bonus sign-up offers for UK players.

Poker games with four players or less are smaller than average, and as such offer opportunities to experiment with different ways of playing. Because smaller games move faster, you can explore lengthier games, such as seven-card stud and razz. And your strategy, especially in a one-on-one game–referred to in poker slang as “heads-up”–will have to be tailored to the habits of your opponent.

Before setting the table, make sure you have someone to act as a full-time dealer. Have your dealer shuffle one deck of cards while the other is in play, which will cut the wait time between hands. If you absolutely cannot find anyone to act as dealer, agree before the start of the game that the first player eliminated will deal.

When setting your table for the poker game, be sure to include a dealer chip. The dealer chip, a marker included with most poker chip sets, shows which player is considered the dealer. The dealer position is critical because the two players to the left of the dealer must post the blinds, which are antes made prior to the deal. In a smaller game, hands are dealt and end quickly, and without a dealer chip, you’re likely to forget who owes a blind. If you don’t have a special chip, any object can be a substitute.

Agree with the other players what poker games you will be playing over the course of play. Consider games with longer hand cycles: “triple draw” games such as two to seven lowball or badugi or seven-card games such as stud or razz.


Throughout the game, play conservatively. Don’t call another player’s bet unless you consider yourself to have a better than 50 percent chance of winning the hand. In small games, players tend to be more aggressive in their betting.

When you do have a strong hand, such as a high pocket pair in Texas hold ’em, lead with a bet that’s at least 15 percent of your stack. If you are re-raised, promptly put all of your chips in.

With three or four players, if you have a strong hand and are “short-stacked” (meaning you have the smallest amount of chips at the table), move all-in immediately. You have a good chance of taking the blind and ante money, and a reasonable chance of beating anyone who calls you.

Do your best to study the playing habits of each player. Unless you are knocked out early, one of those players will be playing against you heads-up shortly. You’ll want to know what their body language and different bets mean.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Two decks of cards
  • Poker chip set with dealer chip
  • Dealer

In smaller games, rotating game types every 10 or 15 minutes can be an enjoyable way to improve your poker skills.

Like all games, poker comes with a set of rules that make up the game. Now the rules may differ slightly with the variants, but essentially, they are all based on the same fundamentals. There is a defined set of winning hands, a mandatory blinds bet for every player whether he/she wants to play the hand or not, and the like.

Let’s start with the very basic, like the pack of cards used to play poker, and then make our way up with hand rankings, betting procedure, etc.

The Basics of Poker – Rules for Beginners

The Pack

Poker is always played with a standard 52-card deck. This comes with 4 suits – Hearts, Spades, Diamonds and Clubs – and cards are ranked from 1 (Ace) to King (13 cards in each suit). Some variants of poker have wild cards, which can be cards of a particular type (threes or Kings) or a particular suit. Sometimes, Jokers can be used.

The Poker Hand Ranking

There is a sequence of 10 winning hands for any poker game. The winning hand is always decided taking the 5 highest cards or 5 card sequence into consideration.

Let’s start with the lowest –

i. High card – This is where the player has not made any pair of his/her cards with the cards on the board. Here, the person with the highest card wins.

ii . One pair – In this hand, either two cards on the board, or one card on the board and one in the hole (player’s cards), or both hole cards make a pair.

iii. Two pair – Two different cards are paired in this hand. For example, you have a 3 and 5, and the board also brings a 3 and 5.

iv. Three of a kind – Also known as ‘trips’, in this hand, the player gets 3 cards of the same value. For example, you have a K and 9, and the board brings 2 more 9’s.

v. Straight – In this hand, the player makes a sequence 5 of cards. For example, 3,4,5,6,7 is a straight. A person with a higher straight always wins.

vi. Flush – Here, the player gets 5 cards of the same suit, but not in a sequence. For example, you have 3 and 7 of Hearts, and the board has 9,2, and Q of Hearts, then you have a flush. If all cards on the board are of the same suit, the person with the highest card wins.

vii. Full house – In this hand, the player has a pair of one card and trips of the other. For example, you have 8,K and the board is 4,8,K,9,K; here, you have a full house of K,K,K,8,8.

viii. Four of a kind – This hand is also called ‘quads’. Here, you get all 4 cards of the same value. For example, 4 Kings.

ix. Straight flush – This hand is a combination of the straight and flush. For example, you have a straight flush if you get 3,4,5,6,7 ALL of the same suit.

x. Royal flush – This is the biggest, and rarest, hand in all of poker. The royal flush is when you get 10, J, Q, K, Ace – ALL of the same suit.

How Betting Works

For every game, there is a pre-decided blinds structure. Tables can be of 50 cents/$1 blinds or $10k/$20k blinds – pretty much any amount. The dealer changes with every hand – the player next to the dealer becomes the dealer for the next hand.

The person next to the dealer puts in the small blind, and the person after that puts in the big blind. No one can bet an amount below the big blind in the first round. Here are some terms of betting –

Bet – Betting an amount when no one else on the table has.

Call – Matching the amount another player has bet.

Raise – Calling the bet and then raising the amount further.

Fold – Exiting the current hand by laying your cards face down.

Check – After the first round of betting, players can simply check and not bet, moving on to the next player. However, after one player bets, others can only call, raise or fold.

Types of Games

Limit games

In these games, you can bet only a set amount. For example, for a $5/$10 game, you can bet only in additions of $5 before and on the flop, and additions of $10 after the flop. If A bets $5 on the flop, B can only bet $10, not higher. C can bet $15.

No-limit games

These games have no betting limit. The minimum bet is usually the same as the big blind, and the max bet is betting the entire stack.

Pot limit games

Pot limit games follow the same format as no-limit games; the only difference is that the maximum bet a player can make is same as the amount already in the pot.

Ring games

These are cash games where players buy in and play with each other. Players can leave a table or game and return subject to some house rules.

Single Table Tournaments

STT’s are poker games where players buy into the game and play until one player remains. These games take place on only one table with specific number of players.

Multi-table Tournaments

MTT’s are like knockout games. Many players buy into the games, which run on various tables. The number of tables reduces as players leave, until the final table remains. The player who wins all the chips wins the tournament.

In Conclusion

There are some unsaid rules about poker as well. For example, it is unethical to win a big hand and then leave the table. It isn’t illegal, but is frowned upon as it does not give other players a chance to win their money back. Similarly, leaving a table and then returning with fewer chips than when you left is also considered bad etiquette, because it infers that you lost, and came to this table to make up for it.

The rules of poker are simple and straightforward, and yet this game is a science and an art. Once you get into the groove, you’ll be able to play both with your ‘brain’ and your ‘mind’.

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