Learn How to Play Poker | Strategy, Terms & Betting
Are you new to poker and feel a bit overwhelmed by its seemingly complex rules?
We’re here to help you learn the basics so you can join millions of others playing this amazing game.
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We promise that you’ll pick up poker in a jiffy, and then you can learn some strategies and work on mastering the game.
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.
Poker Strategy ResourcesIf you want to take your poker game to the next level, we have a great range of strategy guides for both the beginner and advanced players listed below, take a look:
Texas Hold’em GuideTexas Hold’em is still by far the most popular poker variant in both online and land-based circles, which is why it’s our primary focus.
If you wish to learn everything about Texas Hold’em, from basic rules to different strategies, Top10PokerSites is the place to be.
Free Poker AcademyThere are plenty of sharks out there, so you can’t survive as a fish for long. Our poker academy is here to teach you about all kinds of poker strategies used by some of the game’s top players.
How to act pre-flop, when to raise first, and how risky is double-barreling after the turn? We go over all sorts of scenarios and use plenty of examples to pinpoint the effectiveness of each strategy.
The best thing about our academy is that it’s absolutely free. You won’t have to pay a dime, yet you’ll gain invaluable knowledge that can earn you some serious dough once you hit the tables.
Patience is key! Some of these techniques can seem confusing at first, so learning them can be frustrating. But just keep grinding, and we promise your efforts will pay off.
Tips & Tricks to Play Poker BetterIn 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.
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 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
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.
Poker Sites to Practice Your SkillsApart from explaining the game and providing tips on how to win, we’ll also share a list of sites that we think are the best places to play online poker for real money.
These sites are hand-picked by our poker experts, who have spent the last couple of decades playing on various online platforms. They know how to spot a worthwhile poker room by looking at key performance indicators such as:
- Software quality
- Player traffic
- Range of games
- Number of freerolls and tournaments
- Player promotions, and more
The most important thing to remember is that all poker sites we recommend are perfectly safe to join. Just choose a poker room from one of our lists, sign up, download the client (if necessary), establish a bankroll, and start winning!
My list of the best US poker sites which I consider to be the best rooms to play in 2023:
- BetOnline Poker
- Ignition Poker
- Everygame Poker
- Juicy Stakes Poker
- ACR Poker
- Bovada Poker
- BlackChip Poker
- SportsBetting Poker
100% Legal & Licensed Verified Bonus Mobile Friendly Advertiser Disclosure. Must be +18 to participate.
Poker BlogOur blog is where you can keep expanding your poker knowledge by reading through various interesting topics regarding terminology, myths, controversies, trends, legality, and more.
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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.