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How to Play Poker for Beginners


The popularity of poker has exploded in recent years. Most poker rules aren’t too complicated to get to grips with, but before you start playing there are some key things you should know, such as poker hand rankings and different approaches to online play. Our guide covers:

  • Poker rules and game-play quirks for different game variations
  • A closer look at poker card rankings
  • Terminology commonly used when you play online
How to Play Poker for Beginners

Poker Rules - A Step by Step Guide

Texas Hold’em is the most popular variation of online poker, not to mention (arguably) the easiest to learn, which is why we’ve decided to focus on it in this section. Texas Hold’em offers an excellent gateway to other more complicated variations:

  1. All players are dealt two hole cards; i.e. cards only they can look at. Before any more cards are dealt, players can bet based purely on the strength of their hand, check, or fold if they’re not confident their cards will measure up.
  2. Next, three face up cards (known as the flop) are dealt and players can use them to figure out what sort of hands they might be able to put together. At this point, players have a couple more shots to secure the hand they really want.
  3. After another round of betting, during which players can check, raise or fold, the turn (another face up community card) is dealt. With only one more community card to go, players now have a pretty good idea of what their final hand might look like.
  4. Next comes another round of betting, during which players can once again check, raise or fold, before the fifth and final community card is dealt. This card is known as the river and determines the final value of all the hands at the poker table.
  5. After a final round of betting, it’s time for the showdown; the remaining players compare poker hands to see who wins the round and takes the pot. In the case of a tie, the pot is evenly split among the multiple players with the winning hands.

Poker Hand Rankings

Key Poker Terms You Need To Know

All-in

When players wager all of their chips on a hand


Ante

A small bet paid by all players to give the pot an initial value


Bet

When players wager chips on the strength of their hand


Big blind

A contribution to the pot made by the player second to the left of the dealer. The contribution must be made before the player has seen any cards relating to the round


Bluffing

This is when players act in such a way that implies the value of their hand is better than what it actually is


Burn

To burn a card is to discard it before the hands are dealt. This is to ensure that the next card played is concealed from everyone


Call

If other players have placed bets you’ll need to “call”, or match, their bet in order to stay in the game


Check

If you don’t want to bet and no players have done so before you, you can “check”. If anyone after you places a bet the action will come back to you and you’ll have to call, fold or raise


Community cards

As the name suggests, these are face up cards that all players can use when building their best poker hand


Fold

When players give up on their hand and place it face down on the table


Hand

Your hand may be made up of your pocket/hole cards and any community cards shared with the game’s other players


Limit

Some games will fix the maximum value at which players can bet and raise


No-limit

A no-limit game has no maximum bets, only minimum bet and raise levels


Pocket cards

Also known as hole cards, these are the cards that are dealt face down to you


Raise

When you want to bet more than a previous player has you can “raise” their bet and the minimum amount required to call


Rake

This is a percentage of each hand that the house takes to generate their profit


Showdown

When all players reveal their hands to determine who wins


Small blind

A contribution to the pot made by the player immediately to the left of the dealer. This must be made before the player has seen any cards relating to the hand


The flop

Three community cards that are dealt together after the first round of betting


The river

The fifth and final community card in Texas Hold’em. Dealt face up and on its own


The turn

The fourth community card in Texas Hold’em, dealt face up and on its own

Tips from Our Poker Experts

Members of our team have been playing poker, online and off, for many years. New players sometimes ask us what we wish we’d known when we were first learning how to play Texas Hold’em poker. The tips below represent our knowledge into just a handful of “must know” tips:

Tips from Our Poker Experts
Know when to fold

The more money you sink into a hand, the more unwilling players become to fold. That’s understandable, but knowing when to cut your losses and regroup for the next hand is also a valuable skill. Otherwise, you could end up wasting even more cash on a hand that’s becoming more likely to lose.

Understand the limitations of your bankroll

The bigger the pot, the more you stand to win. However, it’s also true that if you have the lowest bankroll at your poker table then you’re more susceptible to players flush with cash calling you out by forcing you to go all in. Stay a big fish in a small pond while you build up a bankroll that allows you to compete at a higher level.

Don’t get emotionally involved

It’s easy to become frustrated if you lose a few hands in a row, or overconfident if you win several in a row. When playing poker, it’s important to remain as neutral as you possibly can and judge each hand on its own merits, not by whether or not you’re on a streak.

Stay unpredictable

On the face of it, poker seems like an incredibly easy game; fold when you have a bad hand, bet big when you have a good one. Unfortunately, your opponents will see right through such transparent behaviour. As strange as it may be, good poker play involves being unpredictable, for example, raising slowly with some good hands, folding late on some poor hands - to keep your opponent’s guessing.

Play long enough to get a feel for your opponents

Just as your opponents are trying to figure out ways in which your behaviour is predictable, you should be doing your best to figure out quirks in theirs. For example, you might notice some take a long time to call/raise if they believe their hand is poor or only raise large sums of cash when they think their hand is great.

Know your game

It’s likely that you’ll have a favourite poker variation, (probably the one where you win most often!) and we recommend that you become as familiar with that game as possible.

Playing Different Poker Variations

There are various types of poker out there and each comes with their own unique set of rules. Let’s look at how to create the best hand possible in some of the other popular poker variations:

Texas Hold’em

Each player receives two hole cards and must use these in conjunction with up to five community cards to make the best hand possible. We say “up to” because, depending on how the betting rounds go, hands may end earlier than this.

Omaha

This game plays similarly to Texas Hold’em, but sees players receive four hole cards instead of two. With these cards, they must use two in conjunction with three of five community cards that are dealt to make the best hand possible.

5-Card Stud

Aside from one hole card, player hands in 5-Card Stud are dealt face up. This allows players to form a better idea of how strong their opponents’ hands are. But there’s still plenty of bluffing possible thanks to that single face down card everyone has. The best five card hand takes the pot.

7-Card Stud

With players receiving four cards face up and three cards face down, 7-Card Stud is an interesting variant. It plays like a combination of Omaha and 5-Card Stud, with players using 5 of their 7 cards to build a hand, which can make for some very intense playing sessions.

Play Poker Online

Now you’re armed with the knowledge above, you’re ready to try the game for yourself! We recommend that you play at tables with low blinds/limits while you’re still learning the ways of playing against other people.

When you have a better understanding of how to play experienced players, different poker game strategies and variations, as well as poker hand rankings, you’ll feel more comfortable wagering larger sums of money when you play poker online.

Play Poker Online