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How to play poker: learning the poker rules

If you are new to poker and have your first game coming up or simply want to learn how to play poker quickly, then this handy 5 step guide will help you get to grips with the poker rules. 

Learn how to play poker in 5 simple steps

1. Choosing a poker set up 

Poker is an exciting card game that is played either online or live:

• Online: Online poker takes place around virtual tables with other players, strangers or friends. For that you need to install a poker software, download a mobile poker app or even create a private online game if you prefer to play in a close circle of friends. 

• Live: Live poker is the term used to describe the game of poker when you play in a brick-and-mortar venue. This may be at a casino or at home with friends. You need a poker chip set and a deck of playing cards.

It does not matter whether you play online or live, the rules of poker remain the same. 

The following points apply to two of the most popular games such as Texas Holdem and Omaha

Explore this how to play poker section to find rules and tips for other poker variants.

2. Understanding the positions at the poker table

A poker game requires a minimum of two players, but is more commonly played with six, eight, or nine players. The dealer (often called the button) deals the cards and manages the game. In an online poker game, the poker software acts as the dealer, so the process is automatic.

Players’ positions at the table can be broken down into four distinct sections:

• The blinds
The player to the dealer’s immediate left is called the small blind. 
The player to the small blind’s left is known as the big blind.

Both these players pay a forced bet before anyone receives any cards. The cost depends on the stakes played for, but the big blind is always twice the size of the small blind.

Early position: These are the next couple of seats to the left of the big blind.

Middle position: These players are seated a couple of seats to the left of early position.

Late position: These are the last couple of seats at the table and include the dealer.  

Your position at the table has a major influence over the strategy you employ. It is worthwhile reading up about the various positions here.

Don't forget, poker is considered a sport of the mind and the ultimate objective is to win the game by achieving the best card combinations and/or bluffing.  

3. Knowing the poker hands

Depending on the type of game, players need to form the best combination of 5 cards (hands) based on the 2 cards they receive from the dealer the "hole cards" (2 private cards dealt to each player) and the 5 "community cards" (5 cards placed in the centre of the table available to all players).

There are 10 poker hands that every player should know when learning how to play poker. Before even launching yourself into a game, you should know which combinations are the most valuable.

4. Cards distribution and blinds

The action of all poker variants moves in a clockwise direction around the table.

The two players to the left of the dealer start a new game by each paying a forced bet:

Small blind: This is paid by the player to the dealer's immediate left.

Big blind: This is paid by the player to the small blind's immediate left. The price of the big blind is twice the size of the small blind.

The dealer deals one card to each player starting with the small blind. The dealer then deals a second card to all the players, again, starting with the small blind. Players keep their own cards, known as hole cards, face down so their opponents cannot see them. 

It is time to start the betting rounds once every player has two hole cards in front of them.

5. Betting rounds during a game

In the most popular poker variants, a game consists of 4 rounds of bets:

A. Pre-flop

Preflop is the first betting round. The action starts with the player to the immediate left of the big blind.

They have three possible choices to make:

Fold: Folding is when you do not want to invest any more money in the hand, usually because you have poor hole cards. Folding sees you give your cards back to the dealer, and the action moves to the player to your left.

Call: During the preflop betting round, calling is matching the current largest bet at the table.

Raise: Raising is when you decide to increase the previous bet's size. You can even bet all of your chips, which is known as going all-in.

If you raise, the remaining players may call your raise (match its size), fold and give up their hand, or make a raise of their own.

B. The flop

The dealer deals the first three community cards onto the table once the preflop betting round concludes. This is called the flop and is a crucial stage of a poker hand because everyone can now make a five-card poker hand.

Betting follows a similar pattern to preflop, except players can now "check" if they do not want to bet and nobody else has bet before them. Once everyone has acted and there are at least two players remaining in the hand, the dealer deals the next community card.

C. The turn

Once all players have laid down their bets another community card is dealt and shown to the table. Another round of betting takes place before moving onto the final round.  

D. The river

There are now five community cards in view, plus your own hole cards for a total of seven cards. You must now make the best five-card poker hand. A final round of betting takes place, resulting in one of two things happening.

E. The showdown

If at least two players remain in the hand after betting is completed, the hand goes to a showdown. Here, the player with the best five-card poker hand wins the pot. If everyone but one players folds, the player who did not fold wins the pot without the need for a showdown.

Getting a grip on the main poker rules is not too complex. But to take your game to the next level, it is important to keep growing your poker knowledge, practice but also learn from your previous games and sharpen your poker strategy. 

Master poker easily with more poker rules, guides, and tips

There are of course many more things to know when learning how to play poker if you want to excel in the game. Whether you need to learn more on the different poker variants, the hand rankings, tactics or even understand the jargon, we gathered advice and tips from professional players to guide you throughout your learning process and help you improve your skills.

Browse the handy guides to uncover or revisit the main rules of poker and embark on your journey into becoming a potential poker legend!

Poker hands

The different poker games

One of the keys to success at the tables relies on the knowledge and understanding of the different types of poker games. 

You most certainly heard about Texas Holdem (the most popular game in the world) but if you don't know the other variants such as Omaha, this section will help you learn the rules and find out more about the different poker variations.

Advanced poker rules

Master the poker hands

In poker, the cards distributed to players form a set which is called 'hands'. The value of these hands is subject to ranking also commonly referred to as hand rankings (or order). 

Poker hands are one of the things that every aspiring or experienced poker player should know. Familiarise yourself with the 10 ranking categories.

 
Cash games

Tips for beginners

Before you join the action at the poker tables, it is important to master the fundamentals.

Our guides, perfect for those who are new to poker, will help you understand the main poker rules and all the necessary tips you will easily remember. 

Find out more on the poker basics and discover helpful tips for beginners.

 

Multi-table tournaments (MTT)

Advanced poker rules

There is a lot more in this game than simply knowing the rules.

Once the basics are assimilated, it is not only important for players to keep improving their skills but also to know how to adapt their game to their opponents and be more strategic. 

Whether it is about learning how to spot a fish, how to bluff, how much to bet or the poker odds, this section will help you upgrade your game and move to the next level.

Sit & Go tournaments (SNG)

How to play in poker tournaments

As you may have just started your journey into the poker world, tournaments can seem a bit daunting.

If you don’t feel confident enough yet to join some live or online poker tournaments, read more about how tournaments work, tips and even tactics in this dedicated section.

If you want to explore further, you can also browse helpful guides on how to play multi-table tournaments (MTTs) or how to play Sit & Go tournaments (SNGs).

Blackjack rules

Learn the poker terms

Not sure what a “shark” refers to? Or what “tilt” means and how it may affect your game?  

If you are still unsure of some terminology, why not browse the handy poker glossary to pick up useful poker terms that you may stumble across.