Learning to play poker means understanding that every poker hand and every game are unique. This ancient card game includes dozens of different elements, such as knowing when to fold, when to bluff, memorizing the odds of getting a specific hand, and more.
Observing seasoned pros create the most exciting way to play this game can be stimulating, but remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. With our online glossary and guide below, you will create a solid foundation for honing your poker skills in time. Let’s begin.
Learning To Play Poker: Starting With The Basics
Today, online poker exists in numerous variants, each with a slightly different set of rules, hand rankings, and other aspects. Regardless, the core game is the same, so we’ll focus on No-Limit Texas Hold’em as one of the globally popular game variations. You’ll learn:
- Betting options
Basic Poker Rules
When you hear “no limit” poker, this means that the poker game does not include a maximum bet. In other words, when it’s your turn to act, you can bet all of your chips and go all in.
The two players sitting to the dealer’s right make the initial mandatory bet before players receive their cards. These bets are called the small and big blind, and the pre-flop is the first stage of a poker game where players receive their “hole” cards. These cards remain with the players throughout the game.
The action begins with the player sitting to the left of the big blind. This player can choose to fold, raise, or call. The remaining players follow this player and select one of these three actions when it’s each of their turns.
Then it’s time for the flop. This step involves the dealer placing three community cards face-up on the board. These cards contribute to each player’s hand. If no one has made a bet, players can also choose to check during this round. The player sitting to the dealer’s left is the one starting the action.
Next is the turn, where the dealer deals a fourth community card. Following the same sequence as in the flop, players participate in another betting round. Dealing with the last community card starts the River, where players have one last chance to place bets.
After all, betting has finished, it’s time for the Showdown. As the name implies, players show their hands, and the player with the strongest five-card hand wins both the game and pot. You can significantly improve your chances of poker success by learning when and how to bluff.
Betting Options In Poker
The available betting options represent your weaponry arsenal when learning to play poker. Remember that betting rounds exist in every poker hand. Proceeding to the next round of the game involves players matching the agreed price. However, you can also put in all your remaining chips in if you cannot afford to match the agreed price.
Your betting options will include:
Raising means you are increasing the initial bet’s size by placing a bigger bet. Keep in mind that you must “raise” in one move and cannot do so gradually. Calling happens after placing a bet during a poker round. When you “call,” you are matching the current bet. Betting is available if no one has made a bet, but if they have, all other players can only raise, call, or fold. The minimum bet amount always matches the big blind.
If you choose to fold, you are giving up your cards until the next hand/deal. Remember that folding is only an option when you are facing a bet. Some circles forbid players to fold out of turn, while others label it as bad etiquette.
Conversely, if you don’t want to bet but want to keep your hand, choose “check.” This option enables you to pass the action to the next player. However, if the current round has seen a bet occur, you cannot check.
Understanding Poker Hands
Even beginners who are only starting to play poker know the importance of a winning poker hand. A hand is a combination of the cards in your hand and those on the table (community cards). The hand rankings are the most vital aspect to memorize and represent the bread and butter of even professional poker players.
Here is each poker hand:
- Royal Flush
- Straight Flush
- Four of a Kind
- Full House
- Three of a Kind
- Two Pair
- A Pair
- High Card.
Whether or not you know how to play poker, you probably know that the strongest and most popular hand is the royal flush. This unbeatable combination includes a 10, jack, queen, king, and ace of the same suit.
There are five identical suit cards in a straight flush, all of which line up in numerical order. An excellent example of a straight flush is a hand that consists of the following cards: 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2 of hearts. If you find yourself in a tie-breaker, remember that the highest rank at the top of the sequence is the winner.
Four of a Kind
You will need four cards of the same rank to create a four-of-a-kind hand (4 aces, for instance) and a “kicker” (one side card). Similar to the previous hand, the highest kicker is the winner in a tie-breaker.
There are three same-rank cards in a full house and an additional two matching rank cards. If you’re in a tie-breaker, you will win the pot only if you have the highest ranking three matching cards. In case there are two players with the same three matching cards, that’s when the two matching card or pair comes into play (highest pair wins).
If you land five cards in the same suit, you’ve got a flush. An example would be a 2, 4, 6, 7, and queen of diamonds. The highest-ranking card wins the pot in the case of a tie-breaker, and the additional cards’ ranking can also serve to determine the winner during subsequent ties.
Suits don’t matter when it comes to a “straight” hand, which only involves five cards in a sequence. A straight hand can include 6 of clubs, 5 of diamonds, 4 of spades, 3 of clubs, and 2 of diamonds. The win goes to the highest-ranking card at the top of the sequence if there is a tie.
Three same-rank cards alongside two unrelated side cards comprise a three-of-a-kind hand. The highest-ranking of the three cards wins if there is a tie.
This hand is self-explanatory and involves two matching rank cards and another two matching rank pair, with a kicker or unrelated side card. Ties feature the highest value pair taking the win.
There are two matching rank cards in this hand, such as two aces, for example, and three unrelated side cards. The win goes to the highest pair in the event of a tie-breaker.
This hand is the simplest when learning to play poker. The player with the highest-ranked card is the winner under the condition that no one at the table has a pair. Suits do not matter in this situation, and if there is a tie, the win goes to the player with the next highest card.