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Learn How to Play Poker - Beginner’s Guide

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A well-known saying among experienced poker players is that poker is relatively easy to learn, but it takes a lifetime to master. Compared to other casino games, poker depends a lot on a player's skill. Mastering poker will require a great deal of patience. Practice and persistence will also improve your game a great deal. If you want to become a successful poker player and learn how to play poker yourself, it is important to learn the basics first. The simple poker tips for beginners in this article will help you on your way to understanding this game of skill.

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Basic Poker Rules

In most poker games it is all about holding the best five cards on the table. The most popular version of the game is Texas Hold’em. For that reason, we want to explain the basic rules of the game by using this specific variation as an example. If you want to learn how to play poker this is a good starting point. Most of the rules can be easily translated to other variations later on.

Dealer, Small Blind, and Big Blind

One player is the dealer. The dealer shuffles and deals the cards. The player to the dealer's left is the small blind and the player next to that player is the big blind. When you are in the small blind you have to make a mandatory bet. This mandatory bet is, for example, 50 points. The big blind is usually double the small blind. In this case 100. The blinds are meant to encourage players to take part in the game by building a small initial pot. The height of the big blind determines the minimum bet during the game. The minimum bet is always one big blind. In Texas Hold’em each player receives two cards. This amount of cards can vary in other variations of online poker but everything else stays the same.

Pre-Flop Betting Round

After the cards have been dealt by the dealer, the game begins with the first betting round. We call this the pre-flop betting round. This betting round starts with the first player to the left of the big blind. The player can fold, call or raise. You can find more detailed information about each specific betting option later on in this guide. Betting continues until all remaining players have bet the same amount. 

The Flop

After the first betting round is over, the dealer deals three cards face-up on the table. These are the first three community cards. Before these three, the top card of the deck must be discarded. Now the second betting round begins. Namely, the Flop betting round. The first player to the left of the dealer gets to make a decision first. This player may check or bet. There is no mandatory bet on the flop. So checking is free and if everyone else checks you can see the next card without any additional bets. If the player wants to bet, he must bet at least one big blind. When all players check we move on to the next card and the next betting round. If a player is betting, all players must fold, call or raise. This is similar to the pre-flop betting round. The second betting round is over when all remaining players have bet the same amount again.

The Turn

Now that the second betting round is over, the dealer must again discard one card face down. Then the dealer places one card face up on the table. We call this the Turn. We have now reached the third betting round. This is exactly the same as previously described. 

The River

After the third betting round, the dealer discards one card face-down again and then places the fifth card face-up on the table. This is called the River. After the River is dealt there is a fourth and final betting round. This fourth betting round is played out the same way as the two previous betting rounds.

Showdown

When there is more than one player left after the last betting round, the remaining players must show their cards. The player with the best poker hand wins the pot! Each player can form the best possible five-card hand combination by using any number of the five community cards and their hole cards. It is also possible for someone to make a raise or a bet during the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th round of betting that no one wants to call. In that case, the remaining player automatically wins the pot before it comes to a showdown.

Online Poker Betting Options Explained

When learning how to play poker it is very important to understand how betting works and what options you have when it’s your turn. Let’s have a look:

Bet

A bet is the most basic form of putting down a wager in poker. A player can decide to open the betting round with a simple bet. In most variations of the game, the size of the bet must be a minimum of one big blind.

Call - What Is Calling in Poker?

If a player in front of you has made a bet already and you like your hand you can simply decide to call his bet by putting the same amount of chips on the table. 

Fold - What Is Mucking in Poker?

When a player in front of you made a bet and you don’t want to continue your hand you have the option to fold your hand. This means that all of your previous wagers will be lost. Folding can be the best option if you are facing a large bet or a raise but have a relatively weak hand. Sometimes this is also called “mucking your hand”.

Check - What Is Checking in Poker?

If nobody has made a bet yet you have the option to check. This means that you are passing on the decision to the next player without making a bet yourself. If all players are checking the betting round will be closed. If a player decides to make a bet after you checked your hand, you can either call or raise the bet or fold your hand if you don’t want to continue.

Raise

The last option is to raise the pot. If a player has already made a bet and you think you have a strong holding, or if you want to bluff, you can raise their bet by putting more chips into the pot. The player must then decide whether to fold to your raise or to call. It is also possible to raise once again which is called a “re-raise” or a “3-bet”.  

Hand Rankings - The Best Cards in Poker

One of the most important things that new players should memorize is the hand rankings. This is vital to make an educated decision of how well your holding is staking up against the cards of the other players. Here is a list of all possible card combinations from the best holding to the worst. This applies to almost all variations of poker alike:

  1. Royal Flush:  A, K, Q, J, 10, all in the same suit.
  2. Straight flush:  Five cards in a sequence, all in the same suit.
  3. Four of a kind: All four cards of the same rank.
  4. Full house:  Three of a kind with a pair.
  5. Flush: Any five cards of the same suit, but not in a sequence.
  6. Straight: Five cards in a sequence, but not of the same suit.
  7. Three of a kind: Three cards of the same rank.
  8. Two pair: Two different pairs.
  9. Pair: Two cards of the same rank.
  10. High card: When you haven't made any of the hands above, the highest card counts.

How to Play Poker Online - FAQ

What Is Tilt in Poker?

In poker, you are at your best when you know how to calmly make the best decisions and wait patiently for your chance. However, the moment you lose out with a beautiful hand, emotions can cloud your decision-making. Generally, this is referred to as “tilt”. If you want to become a solid poker player it is important to learn how to control your emotions even after a bad beat.

Even the best players in the world go on tilt sometimes. This can have terrible consequences as they can’t make any rational decisions anymore. As a result, tilting players often lose a large number of their chips. However, if you can spot another player on the table that is on tilt it might turn into a lucrative opportunity for you to take a stab at their chips.

How Many Chips Do You Start With in Poker?

A lot of beginners are wondering how to play poker with chips and how much each player should receive. Generally, this depends on the format that you are playing. Most online poker cash game tables are played with 100 big blinds. This is referred to as a “stack”. It is often possible to buy in with less than 100 big blinds and in some cases more is also possible

How Many People Can Play Poker?

The most common table sizes in online poker range from four to ten players. There are also heads-up tables where two players face off against each other. Theoretically, the amount of players on a single table is only limited by the number of cards in the deck. For practical reasons, and to keep a steady game flow, it is limited to a maximum of ten players for the most part.

However, there is a very popular game format where unlimited players can participate. It is called MTT or Multi-Table Tournament. In a tournament format like this, players are spread out over multiple tables.

Andreas Schmidt
Andreas SchmidtUpdated: 06 Jun 2022
Andreas gained a lot of experience with the gaming industry during his student days. He regularly played poker with his fellow students and quickly realized how much strategy was p...
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