How to Play Poker – A Complete Guide

Poker is by far one of the most popular casino games there is. The reason for this stems from the fact that it offers versatility in its different styles, while all the while keeping the same high-octane pace that ensures a thrilling experience time and time again. It also takes the most skill, not only in regard to the moves you make while playing but also in the ability to hold your nerve. One thing that you don’t want to be nervous about though is finding a best poker site. Find a free poker site to get started or dive straight in with some of the best poker casinos today:

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How to Play Poker

Despite what it might look like, poker is a very simple game to understand. There is no need for in-depth poker training, it will only take a couple of hands before you are able to able to grasp basic gameplay.

So, how do you play poker?

Well, the basic poker rules vary depending on the style. As such, you need to be aware of poker terminology and which style you are playing before getting started to ensure you minimize losses. We will attempt to teach you the basics of three of the most common types of poker you will find:, Texas Hold’Em, Omaha, and 7-Card-Stud in this quick and easy to understand poker for dummies guide.

Grab your deck, a pen and paper and see if you can learn how to win at poker at some of the great casinos on our list above.

How to Play Poker – Basic Overview

For more in-depth look at how to play each poker variation will find online take a look at the different Types of Poker.

How to Play Texas Hold’em Poker

The most common way to play poker is Texas Hold’em. This is the default poker game at nearly all online and offline venues, unless stated otherwise. As such, if you are looking for basic poker rules, this is the jump-off point.

The game begins by everyone placing a blind bet (a bet which you place before you get your cards). There will be a small blind and a big blind, the latter being essential for everyone who wants to carry on playing and buy-into this round of gameplay. Once this has been done, everyone who bet will be dealt two cards.

Everyone will then be asked whether they want to play on and match the bet, known as a call, or give up their bet and fold. If it’s the latter, then you will no longer be playing and will lose your blind. If you carry on playing, you have the choice to raise the bet or keep it the same, known as a check (by knocking the table). What is essential to know is you must always be playing with the same minimum bet as the others around the table. As such, if anyone raises, then everyone who wants to stay in the game must raise. Bear in mind, raising can happen an infinite amount of times until every player chooses to check.

After this, four cards will be taken from the deck, one is burnt and out of the game, while three will be shown face-up on the table, this is known as the flop. You then see if your hand will be strong enough to win or not when combined with the newly dealt cards. Then the same routine will happen, i.e. you either, check, call, raise or fold. The third round then begins. This time two cards will be dealt. One is burnt and one is placed in the flop. You then bet again as you have in previous rounds.

If you are still playing at this point and not folded, then you have made it to the last round. Two more cards will be dealt, one is burnt and the one final card will complete what is known as the river, the 5 cards on the table in-play. Again, you have the same playing options check, raise or fold.

Finally, everyone shows their cards and the person with the best hand when the cards are combined with the river, takes home all the bets wagered.

Omaha Poker Rules

When it comes to the poker basics of Omaha, it is very similar to Texas Hold’em in that the flop remains, i.e. everyone plays with community cards. However, the key difference you will notice in the poker game rules of Omaha is that you are dealt four cards, rather than two. It is then up to the player which two they want to use to make a good hand when combined with the community cards. Sounds easier, right? Well, not quite. This is because players MUST use the two cards they are dealt to make a hand, as opposed to Texas Hold’em where you are under no obligation to use either of your cards if you don’t want to.

7- Card Stud Rules of Poker

From the outset, the poker game rules of 7-card Stud are different to Texas Hold’em as each player is dealt three cards, two face-down, known as the hole, and one up. It will be the player with the lowest face-up card who must begin the first round of betting, known as third street.

After this, betting is the same and so you either check, call, raise or fold. If you are still playing, you enter fourth street, the next round and are dealt another face-up card. Again, the same thing happens, and the lowest face-up card must bet first. Everyone must then check, call, fold or raise again.

Then, the same process happens again, fifth street, and then again, sixth street. In the final round, players will then make the best hand possible out of their 7 cards and naturally, the winner is one with the best-combined hand. As you can see, the biggest difference in the poker game rules is the absence of community cards, the flop, with everyone playing with their individual cards.

Online Poker Strategies

It goes without saying: you play poker to win. Just because playing online is faster and potentially less-intimidating than visiting a brick-and-mortar casino doesn’t mean you can simply leave your luck to chance. One great strategy is to start small. This sounds obvious, of course, but it’s absolutely crucial – keep your bets low and avoid getting drawn into ever-bigger wagers in your desire to win big prizes. There will be time for that as you get better and better at online poker.

Another strategy is to limit yourself to just one table to start with. While you can play at multiple tables at the same time, this is best reserved for more-experienced online poker fans, as you’ll need to be familiar with the game’s flow and your own skills. The key takeaway is not to spread yourself too thin. Become familiar with the different playing styles of online poker. Generally, these include:

Tight: this usually involves playing cautiously, only playing a few hands and avoiding risks. If you prefer to play tight, you’ll find that folding before than you’d like might be the best option.
Aggressive: these players go after the pot with all they have, placing plenty of bets and raising the stakes to test other players’ own styles.
Passive: these players are more likely to call instead of betting, allowing their opponents to take the big decisions throughout the game; passive might be the best style for newcomers unsure how to take more of an active role in the game.
Loose: if you’re a loose player, you’ll be a big risk-taker – you’ll chase big bets and throw yourself into gambling whenever you can, with little thought to the risks.

The more you play online poker, the more you’ll develop your own distinctive style of play. While there’s a great deal of skill involved (knowing when to raise, when to call etc.), online poker is largely a game of chance. Take your time, study the rules, and build your bets up steadily – don’t dive in and start upping the stakes without knowing exactly what you’re doing.

A Key Poker Skill: Bluffing

Bluffing is a key part of the game, and while it isn’t exactly one of the poker game rules per se, it is one of the poker basics. Essentially, it is pretending you have a better hand then you do, in order to entice other players to fold. This is done by betting more, even though your hand is unlikely to win. It is part of the mind games of poker and there are various tactics to it.

While in real life it is all about body language, when you play poker online, no-one can see you, so it is basically all about your betting behavior. However, it should be used with caution as obviously, if you don’t have a good hand and you bluff big amounts and the other players call you consistently as they genuinely have good hands, you will lose a lot of money. This said, the opposite can happen and if you bluff a win of a big amount, you will be laughing all the way to the bank.

How To Win at Poker

If you are looking to win at poker, there are ten different possible winning hands. You will find them below, ranked highest to lowest in value.

  • Royal flush
    A, K, Q, J, 10, all the same suit.
  • Straight flush
    Five cards in a sequence, all in the same suit.
  • Four of a kind
    All four cards of the same rank.
  • Full house
    Three of a kind with a pair.
  • Flush
    Any five cards of the same suit, but not in a sequence.
  • Straight
    Five cards in a sequence, but not of the same suit.
  • Three of a kind
    Three cards of the same rank.
  • Two pair
    Two different pairs.
  • Pair
    Two cards of the same rank.
  • High Card
    When you haven’t made any of the hands above, the highest card plays.

You will be given a new hand in each round and through this, your odds will be determined.

Poker Tips

While there are specific tips relevant to different games, here are 5 quick tips that can be applied to any style.

1) Keep your head in the game – This applies to ensuring that you keep track of what cards are on the table and what other players are doing. Sloppy mistakes can be costly in poker and the best way to avoid them is to always make sure you know exactly what is going on around you at all times.

2) Don’t play every hand, but when you do, play to win – There is no shame in folding early on and you should only play if the juice is right to squeeze. As such, if you have a good feeling about your hand, play it and play as best as you can, but playing every round is not necessary.

3) Don’t keep playing just because you’ve committed – So, you started off strong with a good first deal and raised early on but things have switched and the flops not looking great. Don’t feel pressured to carry on playing because of this. Feel free to fold as and when you want, don’t be scared of losing face, as it’s a lot worse losing money.

4) Don’t bluff too much or too little – Bluffing is a great way to make something out of nothing, but doing it too often can result in you losing more often if you play against people who have good hands and aren’t afraid to go all the way. On the flip-side, not doing it enough can make you predictable and of course, poker is all about mind games.  As such, it should be used with caution.

5) Play responsibly – Keep an eye on your gaming and make sure you aren’t spending more than you can afford to lose and certainly don’t play when you are drunk, as this will likely cause the first event to come to pass. This also includes playing at poker tables that have big buy-ins or a high skill level when you are a beginner. Take it easy. Poker should be a fun way to earn a bit of money on the side, not to ruin your life.

Is Online Poker Legal?

While this all depends on your location, in the UK and within the EU, for the most part, online poker is legal and you will have no issues whatsoever playing at licensed casinos, such as the ones in our toplist. If you are from Canada or the US, then things are less black and white and it varies from state to state. As such you should check if your location allows before playing.

The Beginnings of Online Poker

Online poker dates back to the late 1990s, when IRC poker was played by fans using the IRC chat protocol. This was a much more basic version of the games we enjoy today, but laid the foundations for the explosion of online poker than followed. In IRC poker, a program was created to deal hands and manage games, but no real money was used. The idea of playing poker without the chance to win money might seem off-putting to some, but it’s still possible today, as many new online casinos from 2019 allow you to play just for fun.

However, the first paid online poker site – Planet Poker – arrived on January 1st, 1998. While Planet Poker advanced virtual poker games further than IRC poker managed, it wasn’t until Canada’s Paradise Poker came along that things started to change. Paradise Poker enabled you to play such varied games as Seven Card Stud and Texas Hold ’em, which helped the site attract the attention of players from across the US. Over the next 10 years, the world of online poker transformed – by early 2010, around 545 online poker websites were available.

Online poker can now be played at any time, any place at a mobile casino (provided you have an internet connection). Your smartphone or tablet will enable you to access some of the world’s biggest gaming websites or their apps, with online poker optimized for smaller screens. Further advancements will continue to transform the way we play poker online, not least virtual reality. VR might have been consigned to science-fiction once upon a time, but it’s now a fairly-affordable form of tech you can enjoy at home. More online casinos will embrace the power of VR, and allow you to interact with fellow players, speak with live dealers, and hold a hand of virtual cards just as you would at a real casino. It’s an incredibly exciting time, with the thrill of sitting at a poker table coming into your home with greater realism – reducing the need to actually visit a land-based casino!

How is Online Poker Different to Traditional Poker?

The most obvious difference between online and offline poker is the pace: it’s far faster. First and foremost, there’s no need to wait for a dealer to shuffle the deck, deal cards, or count chips – you can simply dive straight into the game. This makes online poker an ideal option for players who might become impatient during the game’s set-up, or have less time to spend playing poker than they might like.

Another critical difference is the lack of players all around you: at a traditional table, you’re surrounded by others with may or may not be far more experienced than you. These men and women will be able to read your expressions and body language, perhaps well enough to gain the upper hand. Online poker is a terrific way to get used to the game in a comfortable environment without having to worry about giving yourself away. This anonymity means you never really know how good or bad your fellow players are. You may well be competing with a world champion or someone who’s never even seen a poker table before.

Online poker games run on different software created by developers, with cards dealt according to a Random Number Generator (RNG), which leads to a more random outcome than hand-shuffling can allow. Encryption keeps your hand private from other players, and ensures nobody but yourself can see your cards. Creating online poker games demands that software developers put complex algorithms in place to facilitate such privacy, and must include other programs to handle such functions as the ‘rake’ (in which casinos take a small percentage of the prize pool for themselves) and payment processes. Some of the biggest developers creating online poker at casinos include BetSoft, Ash Gaming, NetEnt, and Evolution Gaming. Their work features at dozens of different online casinos, providing players with realistic visuals, smooth performance, and sound effects for an immersive gaming experience.

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