Poker is one of the most popular and fun card games in the world.
Whether you’re a complete beginner that wants to play casually with friends or a wannabe card sharp that wants to win big at the tables, you will need to know the basics behind how to play poker.
Poker is an easy game to grasp but a hard game to master. This is what makes it so challenging and popular.
It’s a game that relies on a bit of luck and a lot of skill to be successful but don’t let this dissuade you from picking up some cards!
In this article, we will run through the basics of how to play poker. We will explain the terminology you need to know, the different hands, and also the different types of poker you can play.
Let’s get started!
How To Play Poker
Poker Hand Rankings
The most important thing for beginners to learn is how the different hands in poker rank.
Once all of the bets have been taken and each player has decided whether they will play or fold, the winner of each poker game is the person left with the best hand.
How strong your hand is will dictate how you play each game and so many mistakes made by beginners come from thinking that their hand is better (or worse!) than it really is.
Make sure that you remember and are comfortable with this order as soon as possible and ideally before you start playing.
We’ll rank them in order, from strongest to weakest.
1. Royal Flush
Nothing can beat a Royal Flush! This consists of the cards A (Ace), K (King), Q (Queen), J (Jack), and T (Ten.) The cards must all be in the same suit as well, making this a very difficult hand to get!
2. Straight Flush
A Straight Flush also consists of five cards of the same suit, only this can be any sequence of cards. For example, you could have 9-8-7-6-5 or 6-5-4-3-2.
3. Four of a Kind
For this hand, you need all four cards of the same value. For example, A-A-A-A or 3-3-3-3.
4. Full House
This hand matches three of a kind with a pair. For example, K-K-K-7-7.
For this hand, you need five cards of the same suit but they don’t need to be in sequential order. For example, a flush could be J-9-6-3-2 as long as they are all the same suit.
All of the cards in this hand must be in sequential order, but they don’t need to be in the same suit. For example, 6-5-4-3-2 where the cards are different suits.
7. Three of a Kind
For this hand, you need three cards of the same value. For example, 8-8-8 or 3-3-3.
8. Two Pair
A Two Pair hand is one that contains two separate pairs of cards. For example, 8-8-3-3 and a random fifth card.
This is a hand that has a single pair and three random cards. For example, 8-8 or 3-3.
10. High Card
This is the lowest-ranking hand in poker. If you can’t make any of the hands listed above, then your hand will be ranked by the value of your highest card.
Keep in mind that not every card hand is equal. Your Three of a Kind might not beat another player’s Three of a Kind as the value of the cards is also important.
A Three of a Kind that consists of three Kings will beat a Three of a Kind that consists of three Sevens, for example.
When you play poker, you will take a seat at the poker table and remain in that same seat unless you decide to leave.
Although your physical position at the table doesn’t change, your position in relation to the person dealing the cards does. This is what we mean by poker positions.
In games between friends, the responsibility for dealing cards usually moves around the table and the other positions follow it.
However, if you’re playing in a casino setting with a dedicated dealer, a Button is used to denote the player positions and ensure that they change after every deal. This keeps things even and fair.
- Early Position – this is the player that starts the action and gets to play or bet first
- Late Position – this is the player that is the last to take an action
- Middle Position – this is the player(s) that are neither Early nor Late and are in the middle
Your position in a hand is very important as it can greatly influence how you play the hand.
Players that are in Early Position have to lead the betting with little to no information about how the other players will play. They won’t be able to assess how strong the hands of the other players are.
Let’s look at the stages of a poker game.
This is the first stage of the game. The two players left of the dealer will both place mandatory bets (known as a blind) before the cards are dealt.
Each player then gets dealt two cards face down and the third player will start the betting.
The dealer lays out three community cards, face up. Players can use these cards with their own cards to make their hands. The action moves around the table as players decide whether to bet or fold.
An additional community card is dealt and a third round of betting occurs.
This fifth and final community card is dealt. This is the final betting round and players will need to decide if they want to take their chances in the Showdown or fold.
Any players that haven’t folded show their cards. The best hand wins the betting pool.
Basic Poker Rules
The aim of poker is to have the strongest five-card hand you can. This is where the rankings we shared earlier are important.
If you don’t have a strong hand, you can try to convince the other players that you do. Most of the fun in poker comes from bluffing your way to victory!
When it is your turn to play (your ‘action’), you have the choice of making a bet, calling or raising existing bets, or folding.
If you fold, you place your cards down and remove yourself from the hand and the rest of the action.
Bluffing that your cards are better than they are can make other players decide to fold. If everyone else folds and you’re the last player left standing, you will win regardless of how good your cards are!
There are many different types of poker that have slightly different rules.
For beginners, we highly recommend starting with Texas Hold ‘Em as this is not only the easiest, but is also the most popular form of poker. You will never be short of poker-playing buddies if you play Texas Hold ‘Em!
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