How to play poker
- Poker rules, and step by step information on how to play a hand
- An overview of poker hand rankings, as well as what makes up the best poker hands
- Some key poker terminology, like limits and pot odds, and what it all means
How does poker work?The reality is that each variation of the game, from HORSE to Omaha, has its own poker rules and gameplay quirks. Despite this, learning how to play basic poker is pretty simple. In almost every case, the aim of the game is the same: put together a stronger poker hand than your opponents.Let’s take a look at how to play Texas Hold‘Em poker, one of the simplest and most popular variants. The five basic steps are as follows:
- 1Players are dealt their cards, and initial bets are placed
- 2Community cards are dealt, followed by a round of betting
- 3Fourth card is dealt, then another betting round
- 4Final card is dealt, then one more round of betting
- 5During the showdown, players still in the game reveal their hands
How to play poker step-by-stepWe'll now take you through a more detailed version of how to play poker for beginners, again based on a game of Texas Hold 'Em. The following steps can be applied to most poker variants, but make sure you always check for any variant-specific rules before you start playing.
Place your bets
Before the cards are dealt, players will place their bets. These can include ante bets, where all players put in an equal amount of money, and blinds, where the player immediately to the left of the dealer places a small bet and the player to the left of them places a larger one.Players then receive two hole (face down) cards each. At this point, players must decide if they’re going to check (decline the opportunity to start the betting), bet/call any bets (match another player's bet), or fold if they have a weak hand. Each time a player decides to check, the opportunity to bet or check is passed on clockwise to the next player. Once a player makes the first bet, all remaining players must call, to match that amount.
The community cardsOnce betting has concluded, the flop (three face up cards) is dealt. Players can now get a better idea of their hand strength, and another round of betting takes place
Time for the turnNext, the turn (a fourth face up card) is dealt and can be used by players to build a better hand. Bear in mind that a hand consists of only five cards. This then is followed by another round of betting.
Hands Are FinalizedThe river (a fifth face up card) is dealt, and players who are still in can see the actual strength of their hand. Before the showdown, it’s time for one final round of betting
The Winner is revealedNow it’s time for the showdown, when players reveal their poker hands to see who has won the pot. A kicker, the highest card, may be used to break ties.
What are winning poker hands?
A - K - Q - J - 10A, K, Q, J, and 10 all in the same suit
Q - J - 10 - 9 - 8Five cards in sequence, all in the same suit
J - J - J - J - 3Four cards of the same rank
J - J - 5 - 5 - 5Three of a kind and a pair
J - 10 - 4 - 6 - 3Any five cards in the same suit, not in sequence
6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10Five cards in sequence, not in the same suit
7 - 7 - 7 - 9 - 3Three cards of the same rank
K - K - 2 - 6 - 6Two cards of one rank, and two cards of another
J - J - 2 - 7 - 4A pair of Jacks, Queens, Kings or Aces
5 - 5 - 2 - 7 - 4Two cards of the same rank
Download our poker hand rankings chart
How to play poker in a casino
You’ll find playing poker in a real casino similar to playing online, especially if you’ve played with a live dealer before. The table set-up is the same as a virtual table, but the dealer is, of course, a real person. One key difference you’ll notice is the speed at which the game is played. Poker in a land casino is played at a much slower pace, and you can only play at one table at a time. As a result, you’ll end up playing fewer hands.Another big difference is that you’re able to see the other players – something you can use to your advantage. By keeping an eye on their body language and playing style, you can try to figure out their next move or when they’re bluffing. It’s also a good idea to check the casino’s rules, which should be visible in the poker room. Although the basic steps for how to play still apply, you should still make sure you’re familiar with the specific variant offered by your chosen casino and any other house rules. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to start playing.
What makes a good starting poker hand?Understanding hand strengths is hugely important for becoming a better poker player.Playing with cards that have poor poker odds is rarely a good idea. You'll most likely find yourself eating away at your bankroll as you stay in the round trying to put together a decent hand. To increase your chances of success, use the information below to recognise which hands are worth sticking with, and which to simply throw away.
Medium Strength Hands
What are some basic poker rules?Once you’re familiar with how the game is played, there are still some poker rules that you should know about before you start to play for real money in an online casino. The exact details of the rules listed below may differ between variants, but these are the typical things you should be aware of:
BlindsMost forms of poker have big and small blinds. These are sums of money that must be paid by two players each hand, to boost the value of each pot. This is totally normal and isn’t something you can avoid; just hope you have a good hand when it’s your turn to pay blinds.
DecksIn virtually all forms of poker, a single deck of cards is used. This is to prevent bizarre hands like 5 or 6 of a kind emerging. Measures like shuffling and burning mean that players still can’t accurately predict what cards will come out next.
RakeWhen playing in a land-based venue or in an online casino, the house will take a certain percentage of the pot or the tournament buy-in to generate profits. This figure could be anywhere between 3-10% and is completely above board and difficult to avoid.
ChipsThe number of chips you get when you sit down at an online poker table can vary hugely. It will depend on things like table limits and whether you’re playing at a tournament or not. Check this out in advance so you don’t end up feeling like a fish out of water.
PeopleHow many people can play varies slightly from casino to casino. In theory, 20+ people could play at a single Texas Hold ‘Em table. In practice, most casino/online poker sites limit tables to around 10. Any more than 10 or 12 players at a table and hands simply take too long to play out.
CardsHow many cards you get, and whether they’re face up or face down, varies widely depending on the poker variant you’re playing. Make sure, before you start playing, that you understand all the rules of your chosen variant.
What are pot odds?Pot odds are the ratio of the current size of the pot to the cost of a call the player is facing. In a nutshell, pot odds can be used to help a player decide whether or not it’s a smart move to place a bet, based on the cards they need to complete a winning hand. They’re definitely worth getting familiar with as you learn about poker online.
Putting your poker knowledge into practice
When it comes to playing poker online, we think it’s wise to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. We’ve covered everything from the basic rules of online poker in 2022 to poker hand rankings (including the highest hand in poker), to put you in the best position possible to start playing poker and winning. If you want to put your skills to the test, discover more about pai gow poker or poker freerolls, then take a look at the pages listed below, where we also recommend the best casinos for real money play. Good luck!