Poker – Learn How to Play

Poker is one of the most popular card games around. It’s a game you play against other players and not against the house. And massive tournaments have made it a widely accepted form of gambling as well. Here’s how you get started.

The basics of playing Poker

There are a few different Poker versions you can play. Most people first learn to play the game as teens, playing for cookies or Monopoly money. And at that age, playing a version of Five Card Draw is most common. It’s also a version you see on TV portrayed quite often.

There are three basic variations of Poker you can play:

Community Card Poker – Up to five cards are shared by everyone at the table. These shared cards are shown with the faces ‘up’. Additionally, each player holds two individual cards, though only five cards will determine the winning hand. Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hold’em are popular versions of this Poker variation.

Draw Poker – Each player holds individual cards only (at least 3, usually 5). Players can replace at least some of their cards, sometimes the entire hand in a set number of draws. When it is time for the showdown, all players still in the game reveal their hands. Three Card Draw and Five Card Draw are common versions, less well known are California Hi/Lo, Badugi or Baduci.

Stud Poker – In stud Poker each player holds their own set of cards, some hidden and some open to the table. Once all cards are dealt, bets are placed. The showdown is after the last round of dealing cards and final bets placed. Popular versions of this variation are Seven Card Stud, Six and Five Card Stud or Hi/Lo Stud.

Hand ranking

The value of the cards and how hands are ranked is very similar across most variations of Poker. The main difference may be in whether you collect high cards or low cards to win:

High Card – If players didn’t manage to collect anything of value, the highest card each remaining player holds determines the winner (A, K, Q, etc).

Pair – In this case, the highest-ranking winning pair wins the game. Should two players hold pairs of the same ranking, a third high-ranking card determines the value of the hand.

Two Pairs –Two pairs of cards win the game. The higher-ranking pair determines the winner if more than one player has two pairs. 

Three of a kind (set) – Now we have three cards of the same rank. Of course, the highest-ranking set wins.

Straight – A sequence of cards is called a straight (or street). Sequences can be 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or 7, 8, 9, 10, J. They do not have to be the same colour/suit (hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades). The highest-ranking sequence wins.

Flush – Cards must be of the same colour (suit), but not in sequence (3, 5, 8, 10, A of Hearts could be a winning flush). The highest-ranking card determines the winner.

Full house – Three cards combined with a pair makes a winning combination. The higher-ranking set determines the winner (QQQ44 beats JJJAA). However, if the three high-ranking cards are community cards, the higher-ranking pair will determine the winner (888QQ will lose to 888AA).

Four of a kind – Four cards of the same ranking.

Straight flush – A sequence of cards of the same suit, where the higher sequence wins. The best hand to achieve is the Royal Straight Flush from 10 to A.

How to play Poker

A good example to explain the game of Poker is Texas Hold’em, which is commonly played at casinos. You can play it as a Casino Poker version against the computer, at the live casino or in a Poker network against other players.

Getting started

However many players sit around the table, one of them is the dealer. That positions changes clockwise after each round.

Each player gets two cards face down. Then the player to the left of the dealer places a bet (small blind), which the next player after that will need to double (as per the rules of the game) unless they fold right away. All remaining players around the table will either call that bet (put down the same stake), raise it or fold.

The flop

After the first round of betting, the dealer places three cards into the middle of the table. They are the community cards that are essentially ‘held’ by everyone.

Once again, each player must decide what to do.

  • Place a bet: either calling the current bet or raising it.
  • Folding the hand: abandon the game as their cards are not good enough to win and they don’t want to bluff either

The turn and the river

After that, the final two community cards are dealt out, which are called the ‘turn’ and the ‘river’. Once again, each player has to either place a bet or fold.

The showdown

When all five community cards have been dealt and the final bets have been placed, the remaining players enter the showdown. Everyone reveals their two hidden cards and the hands are valued as per above.

Playing Poker strategically

First of all, learn the rules of Poker – of all Poker versions you enjoy playing. Once you have some experience, you can think about further strategies. There are books on the topic, of course. Here we simply want to give you some basic tips to help you along.

Your position at the table

What is your position in regard to the current dealer? If you are sitting close to their left (meaning in the clockwise direction), your position is quite weak. You’re among the first who need to make a decision whether to call, raise or fold and don’t know how confident the others may feel.

Smart players will be careful when placing their bet in a weak position. With a weak hand, you may even want to fold. Sitting in a middle or late position allows for riskier moves.

Thankfully, as the dealer position moves after every round, so will your position.

Manage your bankroll and size your bet

The stakes in Poker games can be very high. The recommendation you often find is to bet no more than 5% of your budget. Say, you have a budget of INR 5,000. In that case, your bet should not exceed INR 250.

That allows you to play longer, even if it sometimes means folding and losing some cash.

When you have to decide how much you bet, you can consider a few things:

  • Don’t bet too small. Other players will see this as a sign of a weak hand or that you are inexperienced and raise their bet intentionally to force you to fold.
  • Don’t increase your bet without good reason. Increase it, if you need to match it to stay in the game. But don’t increase it because you believe that you have a winning hand. Other players may abandon their hands and you won’t have won much
  • Don’t go all in or bet more than the pot currently holds.

Other tips

Stick to the following tips whilst you are still learning to play. Riskier moves are for experienced players only.

  • Fold a weak hand – You might want to fold as soon as the first two cards are dealt if those are weak. No need to lose money unnecessarily.
  • Don’t limp – This means, you simply follow what everyone else is doing. Raising the stake only when the previous player did so, but never raising it yourself.
  • Risk a raise –If you have a good enough hand, it is okay to raise the stake, if even just a little. It inspires confidence and earns you respect. Just don’t go all in.

Playing Poker Online

At betting sites, you may be able to play Poker four ways. It’s a good way to get to know many versions of the game and learn how to play. You can also try out some strategies, though that is less effective when just playing against the computer.

Keep in mind that whilst most betting sites offer some form of Poker, many don’t offer all four that are listed below and a few don’t have Poker options at all.

Video Poker

The most basic form of online Poker and often offering a small house edge. This is a version of Five Draw Poker, where you are dealt 5 cards and keep or discard any number of them. However, you only get dealt one round after the initial decision and whatever cards you hold on the second round, determine the value of the hand and your wins.

Casino Poker

You can play most Poker versions as Casino Poker games against the computer. Not as simple in design and setup as Video Poker.

These are better suited when learning Texas Hold’em, Red Dog or other Poker versions. Especially since you can play them in demo mode as well.

Live Dealer Poker

Offered in the live casino, you now play different versions of Casino Poker games against a live dealer. Small live casino may only offer Texas Hold’em or Caribbean Stud. Bigger live casinos have more options.

You are playing against the house and it is not possible to play for free.

Poker networks

Often, many hundreds or thousands of players are in a Poker network offered by various casinos. Any number of tables and Poker versions may be on offer here with table limits to suit every budget.

You play via a virtual interface, but you will be playing against other real-life players who could be anywhere in the world. You can chat to the players, join tournaments and enjoy just about every aspect of real Poker without even having to get out of bed.

Playing Poker mobile

Not having to get out of bed is made possible by the fact that you can play pretty much all versions of Poker on mobile devices as well. This includes joining a Poker network and playing it mobile. Some online casinos have dedicated apps for their Poker networks, which makes things very easy.

Playing Casino Poker against the computer or against a live dealer is possible at almost all betting sites we know of. The only exception can be Video Poker games as some older versions are not HTML5 compatible and therefore not available via mobile devices.