How to Play Poker – Step by Step Guide to Playing Poker – Poker 101
Are you interested in learning more about the most popular casino game in the world? If so, then you’re in the right place.
My detailed guide to poker is a useful resource for anyone interested in playing the game.
I’m going to show you how to beat the odds in poker through simple rules and moves. More specifically, you’ll learn:
- How many decks of cards are used in poker
- What are the card rankings in poker
- How betting works in poker
- What are the most significant poker terms and definitions — poker glossary
- How to play the most popular poker varieties
- How to play poker tournaments
- Basic poker tips and tricks
- Where to play poker online.
Without further ado, let’s get down to business.
How to Play Poker for Beginners
To get a grasp of how to play poker, you must first start from the basics. Poker is played with a standard 52-card pack. In general, poker is a one-pack game, but nowadays almost everyone plays with two packs to speed up the game.
If you happen to sit on a poker table that utilises two packs, the procedure is as follows:
- While the croupier deals one pack, the other is reshuffled and prepared for the next deal;
- During the card dealing, the previous croupier gathers all cards, shuffles them, and places them to the left;
- When the round finishes, the next dealer takes the shuffled deck and starts dealing the cards for the next round.
In most poker games in which two packs are used, the dealer’s left-hand opponent cuts the pack, as opposed to the right-hand opponent which is standard for a one-pack game.
How to Play Poker: Learn the Hand Rankings
One of the things most beginners struggle with is learning which hand of cards wins. So, before you even consider sitting at a poker table, you should get the hang of the basic poker hand rankings.
Between straights and flushes, it can get a little tricky. For that reason, I suggest that you study the rankings guide below, and then move on to the next chapter of this poker lecture.
It’s actually not all that difficult, especially if you played other card games. Here’s it how it goes, from the strongest to the weakest:
- Royal Flush — A straight from a ten to an ace, all of the same suit e.g. 10 , J , Q , K and A . In poker, all suits are worth the same.
- Straight Flush — Any straight that has all five cards of the same suit e.g. 5 ,6 , 7 , 8 and 9 .
- 4 of a Kind — Four cards of one rank + any other unmatched card e.g. A , A , A and A + 9 .
- Full House — Three matching cards of one rank + two matching cards of another rank e.g. Q , Q , Q + J and J
- Flush — Five cards that are of the same suit, but not in sequential rank e.g. A , J , 9 , 6 and 3
- Straight — Any five consecutive cards that are not of the same suit e.g. 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 and 9
- 3 of a Kind — Any three cards of the same rank. The remaining two cards are not of this rank nor are they the same with each other e.g. 2 , 2 and 2
- 2 Pair — Any two cards of the same denomination + two cards of another denomination e.g. A and A + K and K
- 1 Pair — Any two cards of one rank e.g. A and A
- High Card — Five cards that don’t fall into any of the categories above e.g. 5 , 6 , J , Q and A
At first glance, this might seem confusing, so take your time to absorb this information. In poker, no one will be rushing, and you take all the time you want. Better safe than sorry, right?
You know how the old saying goes — repetition is the mother of learning. This saying can be applied to poker as well. After a couple of rounds, it will all come together. And even if you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself about it. Nobody is born with an innate knowledge of poker. If you’re a sore loser, this article may prove useful.
If you’re an auditory learner, you can watch the tutorial below that will help you get started:
How Does Betting Work in Poker?
Learning how betting works in poker is essential. After all, poker is a game of chip management. In one poker hand, there will be one or more instances in which players can place bets on their hands. The goal is to minimise losses with lousy hands and to maximise profits with good hands. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but it is the core principle of betting in poker.
Before the cards are dealt, each player is required to put an initial contribution, called an “ante” Depending on the position, the ante is worth one of two chips.
After the initial cards are dealt, the first betting interval begins. A player is allowed to bet one or more chips. Then, each player on the left has three choices:
- Call — put the same amount of chips on the pot as the player who placed the initial bet;
- Raise — put more chips on the pot than the player who placed the initial bet;
- Fold — forfeit the round by deciding to put no chips on the pot.
When a player folds, they lose only the ante. Unless you’re willing to put into a pot at least as many chips as the preceding player, you’re out of betting until the next deal.
What Happens Next?
The first betting round ends when all bets are settled, that is when each player has put in the pot the same amount of chips or has folded. There are usually two or more betting rounds in each poker deal.
The final round is called “the showdown”, and that’s when the remaining players show their hand face up on the table. The best poker hand wins and takes the chips on the pot.
Do I Have to Show My Hand?
If you raise and no one calls, you can win the pot without showing your hand. In poker, there is a bluffing element, and the best cards don’t always win the round. If you want to learn how to bluff like a pro, take a look at this piece talking about the top 10 bluffs caught on camera in professional games.
If you want to continue the second round of betting without investing more chips, you can “check”. That means that you’re content with how things are and would like to move on to the next round.
Keep in mind that you can check only if no other player on the table has raised a bet. Remember, each player must put in the pot the same amount of chips. If someone bets more chips, you can either “call” the bet or fold.
If all the players during a round check, then the game moves on to the next segment, and all the players that are still in the pot remain in the game.
In each betting round, one player is designated as the first bettor. The turn to bet always moves in a clockwise direction, and no one can take any action except when it is their turn.
How to Play Poker — Glossary of Basic Poker Terms
If you’re a poker rookie, it’s important to learn the vocabulary of the game. Below, I’ve listed the most significant terms used in poker:
- Blinds — Before any card is dealt, two players (on the left of the dealer) are forced to put the blinds. The “small blind” is worth half the minimum betting amount and the player who puts it sits to the immediate left of the dealer. The “big blind” is worth the full amount of the minimum bet, and the player who puts it sits two places to the left of the dealer.
- Button — In casino games with a house dealer, a button is a marker that indicates the player who acts last on the deal. This plays a significant strategic role. It’s often synonymous with dealer.
- Hole cards — Also called “pocket” cards, hole cards are the first two cards dealt to each player.
- Community cards — Community cards are cards dealt face up in the center of the table and shared with all players. Players combine their private hands with community cards to form the strongest hand possible. Community cards are dealt after three actions — the flop, the turn, and the river.
- Flop — Flop refers to the first three face-up cards on the board.
- Kicker — This is also called a side card, and it’s used to break ties between hands of the same rank.
- Turn — The fourth community card in poker, dealt after the flop betting round.
- River — River is the last card dealt.
- Suited — When you have two cards of the same suit. “I had 7-8 suited”
These are the most commonly used poker terms. If you come across some words that are unfamiliar while playing poker, take a look at this guidebook that contains all the poker popular terminology & slang.
How to Play the Most Common Poker Variations
We can talk about poker tips and tricks all day long, but at the end of the day, it all depends on the version you’re playing. Different variations of poker come with different sets of rules and wagering rounds.
To help out our fellow poker aficionados, we’re going to talk about the gaming process of the two most popular poker versions.
Texas Hold’em Poker
Texas Hold’em is hands down the most played poker version in the world, in both land-based and online casinos.
The game starts with two players sitting to the left of the dealer placing the small and the big blind. The dealer then deals two cards which are intimate to its owners. The betting round begins as the players sitting to the left of the big blind consecutively decide whether to call, raise, or fold.
Once players turn a full betting circle, the dealer deals the flop — three community cards placed on the table. Then the next betting round begins for the players that remained in the hand, starting with the active player sitting left to the dealer.
Once all bets in this round are settled, the fourth card (the turn) is dealt. The next wagering round takes place, and then the last card (the river) is dealt.
The last and the most aggressive round takes place after the river is dealt. The remaining players then reveal their two cards. The player with the best 5-card hand combination wins the round.
These are, of course just the basics. To solidify the knowledge, my advice is to take a look at the video below:
7-Card Stud Poker
Before Texas Hold’em became a thing, 7-card was the most prevalent poker game in the world. In this poker version, players start the game by placing an ante, and they also receive one face-up card and two down-facing hole cards.
The player with the lowest face-up card is required to make a forced “bring-in” bet. Then, the rest of the players can choose to call, raise, or fold. The dealer deals another face-up card, and the player with the highest-ranking face-up cards is the one that begins the betting rounds from thereon.
The dealer then deals the third and the fourth face-up card, with betting rounds in between.
Finally, the third face-down card is dealt, and the final betting round begins.
Keep in mind that, in 7-Card Stud poker, the bets are made according to fixed limits, unlike the “No-limit” in Texas Hold’em.
Again, these are the basic principles of 7-Card Stud Poker. If you want to learn this poker variant, the video below might come in handy.
How to Play Poker TournamentsAside from a variety of poker games and betting variations, there are also different game formats. It’s of the paramount significance to understand the differences. The two main formats of playing poker are cash games and tournaments.Here are the main differences in poker tournament play and cash games:
- Cash games are always played on one table. Tournament games can be played on multiple games.
- In cash games, players exchange money for chips, and there are a minimum and a maximum buy-in amounts, depending on the stakes. In tournaments, all players receive the same amount of chips.
- In cash games, players can quit at any given moment and exchange the chips for cash. Tournaments end when only one player remains. Players are paid depending on their placement in the tournament.
- In cash games, the blinds remain the same, and they depend on the stake. In tournaments, the cost of the blinds increases, usually every 15 minutes.
- If you lose all the chips in a cash game, you can buy in and continue playing. In tournament games, if you lose chips, you’re out.
Clearly, there are some fundamental differences between tournaments and cash games and you can learn more about them in our top Poker Tournaments page
Elemental How-To-Play-Poker Tips & TricksIn the long term, poker is a 100% game of skill. With that in mind and with a proper strategy, you can win more than you lose. Here are a few tips that might help you get over the hump.
Position is EverythingThe concept of position is often overlooked by rookies, but it represents arguably the most significant factor in the game. The dealer button is the position in which you can take the most advantage of, as you’ll be able to act last for the rest of the pot.
It may be difficult to keep tabs of all the players if you’re a beginner. At least try to keep an eye on the two players on your left and the player on your right — these are the players you’ll likely be involved with.
Is the guy to your right overplaying too much? Are the guys from the left too passive or too aggressive? The ones that are aggressive can’t have monster hands every single time, so you should call them more when you’re in position, or raise occasionally to see how they handle the pressure.
Be AggressiveThe only way to win in poker is to bet, and the more you bet, the more you can potentially win. As you get the grip of the basics of the game, you’ll learn when to step it up a gear when it comes to being aggressive at the table.
Many novice players are being passive too much of the time. They will call when they should raise or check when they should bet. When you get solid opening hands, you should play more aggressively. There’s nothing worse than underplaying a pair of Aces only to be beaten by someone who checked the flop with a 7–4.
Be PatientBeing aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean that you should throw away money at every chance you get. You can’t just go all-in, hoping to catch a great card on the river. If you play this way, your bankroll will drop in a matter of minutes.
While it may sound boring, most professionals would tell you to fold more hands than you play. Wait for your chances, and go for it when the stars align.
Observe and React AccordinglyIn poker, you should play the player, not the cards. In other words, poker is based on the situation. Your hand is good only in relation to what other players have. If you have K–K, that’s a fantastic hand, but only if other players don’t have A–A, in which case your kings are losers 82% of the time.
How can you tell what other players have? By watching them, and learning how they play. Learn how to read other players and watch for “tells”. For example, if someone who has been folding all night long suddenly goes all in, they probably have an unbeatable hand.
Where to Play Poker Online?Now that you learned the basics, it’s time to test your newly-founded skills. For those who know the rules, poker sites are a great place to practice because you can play more hands per hour, and gain valuable experience more quickly. I’ve also highlighted five essential poker tips that can improve your odds when playing poker online.
I’ve tested and reviewed all the poker sites listed below, and you can rest assured that I have included only the best options on the list.
ConclusionThere are those who believe that poker is simply a game of chance and that skill plays a minor role in it. Well, they couldn’t be more wrong. In the long run, poker is 100% a game of skill. Luck plays a short-term role in poker and, in order to become a long-term money winner in this game, you have to be a patient student.
Hopefully, this guide will kick-start your journey to becoming a poker player who makes tons of money on professional tournaments and cash games. Should there be any poker issues that need to be clarified, please contact me in the comment section below.