How To Play Poker
Poker is one of the most played online casino games because it has one of the best combinations of skill and luck. There’s also an element of fun – nothing like getting the best hand and playing it to perfection to win the pot! You may have also seen the televised poker tournaments, where big stars in the game gather to win and wager large sums of money. If you’re intrigued by the game and want to learn how to play poker, this guide will teach you everything you need to know to get started with the game, whether that’s Texas Hold’em, Three Card poker, or Omaha style.
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Poker Basic Rules
Before diving into each game style, it’s first worth looking at the basic rules of poker. That is, what does each version of poker have in common? At its core, the game of poker is quite simple: the person with the highest-ranking hand (that’s still in the game by the last round of betting) wins the pot of money.
Poker games at online casinos tend to follow the same general format. Each round starts with two players putting in a big blind and a small blind. These are two bets, such as €2 and €1, to provide some money for the pot, the amount of money the winner will receive at the round’s conclusion. Each player can bet the big blind amount or the last highest bet on the table. You can raise the stakes by betting more than the blind or the previous wager if you have a good hand. Some games have a maximum you can bet in each round. If you don’t feel you have a good chance of winning, you can fold your cards which means you’re out of contention for the pot of money.
When all the bets conclude, there are typically more cards dealt. In five-card poker, you put a certain number of cards down and draw more. In Texas Hold’Em, the dealer draws extra cards face-up. However, after each dealing of more cards, there’s another betting round.
After the final betting round concludes, those still in the game reveal their cards, and the player with the highest hand wins!
Players can win the pot if they get everyone else at the table to fold their hands. So, as a quick example, suppose there are four players. Player A has a big blind of €2, and player B has a small blind of €1. The betting goes to Player C, who bets €50. Players D, A, and B fold their hands, so Player C wins the pot of €53 (€50 from their own money and €3 from the blinds).
Of course, each game has nuances and variations, but at its core, the above “flow” of the game is how to play poker.
The Poker Hands, Ranked from Best to Worst
In poker, the player with the best hand wins the round (or they make everyone else fold). As such, if you want to learn how to play poker, it’s best to understand the rankings of the poker hands so you can know whether your hand is competitive.
These are the poker hands, ranked from best to worst:
- Royal flush (A, K, Q, J, 10, all of the same suit)
- Straight flush (five cards in a sequence, all of the same suit)
- Four of a kind (the hand has four cards of the same rank, e.g., four Aces or four sevens)
- Full house (three of a kind of one rank and a pair of another, e.g., three Kings and two Queens)
- Flush (five cards of the same suit, but not in sequence)
- Straight (five cards in sequence, but not of the same suit)
- Three of a kind (three cards with the same rank)
- Two pairs (two pairs in the hand, e.g., two Aces and two Queens)
- One pair (two cards of the same rank, e.g., two Aces)
Before going to real-money tournaments, please memorize these hands and their rankings. Making a mistake in thinking a hand outranks another (like assuming a flush beats a four-of-a-kind, for example) is common when learning the game. Unfortunately, such a mistake can be costly if you play for real money!
How To Play Poker For Beginners
While some of the above may sound intimidating – especially if you are a first-time poker player – it’s straightforward and intuitive once you get the hang of it.
The best way to learn to play poker if you are a beginner is to join a game online! In the beginning, join one of the free poker sites, or if you have a smartphone, you can download a poker game for free. Many of these games have tutorial modes that will walk you through the play and help you understand the game. Even if they don’t, once you play a few rounds for free, you’ll get the gist of it pretty quickly!
One thing that beginners should keep in mind is that the difference between playing for real money and playing for fun is vast. Players typically put a significantly higher thought process into playing for money, even if that’s as little as 10 cents. There’s more competitiveness, and players don’t do as many outlandish things, like going all-in all the time just because it’s free and there’s no cost to doing so.
Bluffing at Poker
If you have ever watched poker on TV or watched games with friends, you’ve invariably heard of the concept of bluffing. Bluffing is when players make aggressive bets when they don’t have the hand to back it up. For example, a player might go all-in with a 2-3 off-suit in Texas Hold’em.
Bluffing is an element in poker, but, as a beginner, it’s essential first to learn the game’s mechanics and then learn how to bluff over time. Bluffing too much or too little is ineffective and should not be the first thing you study. Instead, focus a little more on going with the odds, where your position is (are you first to bet or last to bet), and learning to read other people’s playing styles, including when they might be bluffing. Learning how to read others will help you a long way as a beginner to understand what players are doing. That can help you avoid their pitfalls and show you where their successes lie!
How To Learn How To Play Poker
Learning to play poker is relatively straightforward. Usually, the best way to learn how to play poker is to practice! Load up your favorite online casino and try to play for yourself. At first, you should play for as little money as possible (preferably free) to get the hang of playing. Once you feel more confident about the game’s flow, you can try games for more money.
Another way to learn how to play poker is to watch some games on TV. For Texas Hold’em especially, numerous televised games will help you understand the game’s flow. Check those games out on your local television stations!
How To Play Poker Texas Hold’Em
Texas Hold’em is a relatively straightforward game, which explains why it has found so much popularity on the poker tournament circuits.
The beginning of each round usually starts with both a big blind and a small blind. Each player receives two face-down cards (these are the hole cards). There is a round of betting where players can either call the big blind, raise to a higher amount, or fold their cards.
Assuming at least two people are still in the game at the end of this first round of betting, the dealer will then deal the flop. The flop consists of three cards in total. At this point, each player has a hand of five cards, the two they received face down to start and the three on the table.
Players then do another round of betting where they can call, raise, or fold, depending on what they think other players have.
After this second round of betting, the dealer puts down another card. This card is called the turn, and players now have six cards in their hand – four from the community set of cards and two from the cards they have face down. Players can take this extra card into account and form the best poker hand from their two cards, plus the community ones. There’s also another round of betting at this time.
Once all bets are in (and assuming there are still at least two people in the game), the fifth and final card goes on the table. This card is the river, and there’s a final round of betting after the river is on the table.
If there are at least two players in the game, it’s a showdown. The player who took the last action on the final betting round usually shows their cards first. They then select the best poker hand of the seven total cards (five community and two of their own). If the other players have this hand beat, they would reveal their cards to show the better hand. If not, they can choose to muck their cards (throw them face down) so as not to disclose their betting strategies.
To recap, each player receives two cards to start, and by the end of the game, there are five total community cards. There are four betting rounds, one pre-flop, one post-flop, one post-turn, and one post-river. Players then select the best poker hand from the combination of their hole cards and the community ones.
How To Play Three-Card Poker
Three-card poker is a table game based on poker. In this game, you won’t be wagering against other players. Instead, you’ll be wagering against the house, much like in any other table game (like blackjack, for example). While you may not be wagering money against other players, it is still an entertaining game to play once you get the hang of it!
In three-card poker, players put an initial bet down called the ante. Once all players have put their antes down, the dealer will provide each player with three cards (hence the three-card poker name).
Players can then look at their three cards to see if they want to add a bet. This extra bet is called the “play.” If they don’t put down the play bet, they must fold their hand and will lose the ante wager. Once all players with decent hands put their play bets down, the dealer will reveal their three-card hand. What happens next depends on the dealer’s cards.
Does the Dealer Play or Not?
If the dealer does not have at least Queen-high or better, the dealer will “not play,” and the ante wager the player made will win 1:1. The dealer will return the play wager. As a quick example, if the dealer has Jack-high, and the player puts €25 on the ante and play spaces, the dealer would pay a €25 win on the ante wager, but the play wager would return to the player.
If the dealer does have Queen-high or better, the player and dealer compare hands. If the dealer has a hand better than the player’s, the player loses both the ante and play bets. However, should the player have a hand better than the dealer, the player wins both those bets. The game pays a bonus on the ante bet if the player has a straight (1x bonus), three-of-a-kind (4x bonus), and a straight flush (5x bonus).
Three-card poker is a lot of fun, and it’s worth exploring when thinking about how to play poker. It’s a much more straightforward game than Texas Hold’em or Omaha!
How To Play Omaha Poker
Omaha poker has surged in popularity in recent years. While there are no concrete statistics to prove this, some people predict that Omaha may one day overtake Texas Hold’em as the most prevalent poker game in the world. Part of the reason for its popularity is that it is similar to Texas Hold’em but also very different in a few key areas.
Like Texas Hold’em, the dealer provides a set of hole cards at the beginning of the game. There’s a pre-flop betting round, a post-flop round, a round after the turn, and a final round after the river.
However, unlike Texas Hold’em, the player receives four hole cards instead of just two. To make a winning poker hand, the player must use precisely two of their hole cards. They cannot use one of them or all four of them. And, unlike Texas Hold’em, the hand cannot consist of just the community cards.
Cards in Omaha Poker
To illustrate this example, suppose a player has the following:
- Hole Cards: A, K, J, Q
- Community Cards: 10, A, 6, 5, 4
The player would have a stunning Ace-high straight with Texas Hold ’em rules. Under Omaha rules, though, we can only use two of the hole cards. So, we would only have a pair of Aces (our best hand is A-A-K-10-6). If you notice, there is a straight potential on the board. If the other player has a 7-8, 2-3, or 3-7 in their hand, they could form a straight and beat yours. Thinking this way takes a while – primarily if you are used to playing Texas Hold’em rules.
The betting rules are another substantial difference between Texas Hold’em and Omaha. Texas Hold’em is usually no-limit, meaning a player can go all-in with their chips at any time. However, Omaha games are often “PLO” (pot-limit Omaha). This restriction limits the amount a player can bet on any given round to the size of the pot.
As a quick example, suppose the game has €100 in the pot. One player bets €50. The other player intends to “raise the pot.” The maximum bet would be €250 for that raise. Here’s how the math goes: there is already €100 in the pot, and the player added €50 to it. Now the pool is €150. When the player wants to “raise the pot,” they’d have to call the initial €50, bringing it to a total of €200. Then, they would add their call to that €200 pot for a total of €250, which is the maximum bet the player can make to “raise the pot.”
It’s a little bit of confusing math, at least to start. Fortunately, all online sites automatically do all this math for you. Even in a casino, the dealer will help players ensure that all the math is correct and that all bets are proper!
Playing Poker Isn’t Too Challenging!
As you can see from this guide for how to play poker, playing the game is likely quite a bit more accessible than you may have thought initially. When you play online, the game itself will guide you through many of the game’s mechanics, including when to bet and when the dealer gives out more cards. Therefore, the best way to learn to play the game is to try one out online, preferably for little or no money, until you figure out the game.