A Game Guide to Poker
Poker is one of the most well-known casino games. It’s timeless and has been part of casinos for decades so it’s no wonder it can be played online now!
Its popularity has led to dozens of variations, each more fun and exciting than the last. However, we understand that for a beginning player poker may seem overwhelming and confusing, which is why we’ve created this handy guide to help you out.
The exact origin of poker remains a mystery. What people do know, however, is that the game originates from a 16th century Persian card game called As Nas and a European card game called Primero, which was popular during the Elizabethan time. Bluffing was an important part of As Nas and it grew in popularity throughout Europe.
The game was eventually brought to America in the 1700s by French colonists who arrived to settle Louisiana. Back then, the French called the game Poque, but it was quickly changed to Poker by the Americans and has been played ever since.
Poker is popular among casino gamblers and those who enjoy playing online. The endless variations offer new and exciting gameplay, but before anyone can even think of playing around with those, it’s important to know the rules of poker.
How to Play Poker
Ultimately, the objective of poker is to win money, represented by the chips at the centre of the table. However, there aretwo ways of doing this: Having the highest five-card combination at the end of the game OR persuading all the other players to fold, believing you to have the best hand, even if you don’t.
A typical Texas Hold’em poker game, the most popular variation of poker, can be played by anything between two to ten players. To win, players are required to make the highest possible hand ranking by using the two cards dealt to the player and the five cards placed in the middle of the board.
Before the game starts, players are normally required to spend a round betting. There are two bets available to players at this moment, antes and blinds. Antes bets are small bets that all players will be required to make regardless of their position or amount of chips. Blinds, however, are larger bets but are only required by the two players sitting to the left of the dealer.
The player closest to the dealer will make a small contribution, known as the small blind, while the player to their left will make a larger contribution known as the big blind. The big blind acts as the minimum bet that following players must match or exceed in order to continue.
After this, the dealer, marked by the dealer disc, deals two cards to each player starting with the person on their left before ending on themselves. The player on the dealer’s left then starts the game with a choice of betting, the amount players can bet depends on the game variation, or check, which means to do nothing.
Following this, other players have the option to call, match the amount bet into the pot, fold, give up their hand and all their chips into the pot, or raise, add more chips to the pot. The round continues until everyone has called. After this, the dealer will deal three cards face-up on the board called the flop. These are called community cards which anyone can use.
Starting from the dealer’s left, players then get a second chance to bet, raise, check or fold. After that, the dealer places a fourth community card on the board known as the river. After this, players get another chance to bet, raise, check or fold. A fifth and final community card is placed on the board, this time known as the river. Players then get a final chance to bet, raise, check or fold and if more than one player is left after the final betting, all cards are exposed and the player with the highest ranking cards wins.
But how are hand rankings calculated?
Now you know the rules of poker, it’s worth memorising the basic poker hand rankings. It’s important to take a look because the most common mistake first-time players make is assuming they have a winning hand when they actually don’t.
Take a look at the following hand rankings and try to memorise them:
Royal Flush: Cards that all equal the same suit and must be in the Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten sequence.
Straight Flush: Any sequence of cards in the same suit, such as 6-4-5-3-2.
Four of a Kind: Four cards that are the same value, such as 4-4-4-4.
Full House: Three of a kind and a pair.
Flush: Cards that are all the same suit.
Straight: A basic sequence, such as 8-7-6-5-4.
Three of a Kind: Three cards that all have the same value, such as 3-3-3.
Two-Pair: Two pairs of cards at the same time, such as 6-6 and 3-3.
Pair: Any pair of cards, such as 8-8.
High Card: Whatever your highest card is high cards range from Ace (the highest), King, Queen, Jack and then numerical cards (the lowest).
Now you understand the various hand rankings, you need to figure out which rankings beat which. In poker, a flush actually beats a straight. Meanwhile, a straight flush beats both rankings and a three-of-a-kind ranking will always beat a two-pair.
It’s also important to remember that you may develop a high flush, meaning a flush with a high card such as an ace. So, if another player has a flush, but you have an ace-flush, you automatically beat them.
Bluffing is an important part of poker. It basically sees a player betting or raising with a hand thought to be weak. Bluffing is the act of making the bet and the objective of bluffing is to make other players believe you have a strong hand so they’ll fold.
Now, there are two types of bluffs. There’s the pure bluff, also known as the stone-cold bluff, in which a player bets or raises with a weak hand. These players believe the only way they can win would be if all other players fold.
A semi-bluff is bluffing on one round with a weak card that may improve later on. A player making a semi-bluff can win by either persuading the other players to fold or by being dealt a card that improves their hand.
How Does Dealing Work?
As mentioned above, dealers begin by dealing cards from the player on the left. They then work around the circle before ending on themselves. Depending on the type of poker game being played, the number of cards dealt to a player can range from two to five.
When a hand is completed, the responsibility of dealing will move to the player on the left, rotating around the group. A small plastic disc will move with the players, signalling which player is currently acting as the dealer. Rotating the responsibility of dealing will allow different players to be the first and last during each round.
In some variations of poker, such as Texas Hold’em and Omaha, the game will feature community cards which can vary in size depending on the game being played. The cards will be presented in a staggered manner on the board and shared by everyone.
Other variations of poker feature drawing rounds in which players can replace any cards they had been dealt. Players can turn in any or all of their cards during this round, which starts with the player sitting to the left of the dealer. Each player thereafter will have a chance to replace their cards, ending with the dealer.
We’ve explained this variation of poker above. It generally sees players attempting to create the best combination of cards by using the two cards dealt to them and the five community cards placed in the centre of the board.
Texas Hold’em games are frequently featured in films and television shows and remain the most popular form of poker to play.
Texas Hold’em is known for being a fast, action-packed game, but Omaha is even more exciting. The two games are similar to each other and share rules, but there are some slight differences.
In Omaha, players are dealt four cards rather than the two in Texas Hold’em. Five community cards are still placed in the centre of the board, but players are only permitted to use two of the cards to create a winning hand ranking combination.
Caribbean Stud Poker
Caribbean Stud Poker is a hugely popular form of poker, as players compete against the dealer rather than each other. The rules are similar to those of five-card stud, though the dealer is required to show on their cards throughout the game and it features a progressive jackpot.
In Caribbean Stud Poker, both the player and dealer are dealt five cards. If the player’s hand succeeds in beating the dealer’s, then the player wins 1:1 on the bet placed. However, if the dealer’s hand doesn’t qualify, players receive their bet back.
Casino Hold’em is similar to Caribbean Stud Poker, in which players compete against the dealer. However, the one difference between both games is that players and the dealer in Casino Hold’em are only dealt two cards.
If the player’s hand beats the dealer’s, they win.
Pai Gow Poker
The main objective of Pai Gow Poker is to beat the banker, represented by the casino or another player at the table. The game begins when players are dealt seven cards which must be split into a five-card hand and a two-card hand.
The five-card hand must rank higher than the two-card hand. To win the game, however, the player’s hand must rank higher than the banker’s. If one hand wins but the other loses, it becomes a push and the bet is returned to the player.
Pai Gow Poker is sometimes confused with the tile Pai Gow game which features similar rules but is played with Chinese dominoes.
Live poker is another popular variation of the classic casino game. Live poker is completely played online in which games are streamed directly to the player. The game is played in real-time and features real dealers who players can message through chat rooms. Dealers then reply to players via the stream.
Action: The action normally refers to bets that have been made or have yet to be made. Dealers will sometimes say “action to you” which means it’s your turn to check, bet or call.
Ante: Antes bets are compulsory bets that must be made by all players involved with a hand.
All-in: A bet in which a player places all of their remaining chips into the pot.
Bad Beat: Losing a game while holding a strong hand.
Bankroll: The money a player reserves for the poker game.
Big Stack: The player with the most chips at the table.
Blinds: Compulsory bets made by the two players sitting to the left of the current dealer. The player closest to the dealer with make a “small blind” while the player to their left will make a “large blind” which serve as the minimum bet for the rest of the table during the current hand.
Board: The area in which community cards are placed, available to everyone.
Button: The button is the small plastic disc passed around the table to signal which player is acting as the dealer.
Call: To match a previous bet.
Calling Station: A player who will call most bets but doesn’t raise bets themselves.
Check: A check is when a player declines to do anything and moves to the next player.
Dealer: The person holding the cards and dealing them out to players. The current dealer is always marked with the button.
Donkey/Fish: A weak player, can also be referred to as a “donk” or “fish”.
Draw Dead: A draw dead is when no combination of cards could give the player a chance to win.
Flop: The first three community cards placed on the board during a Texas Hold’em or Omaha game.
Heads Up: When only two players remain on the board.
Hole Cards: The two or more cards dealt face-down to players at the beginning of a round.
Maniac: A player who is aggressive and takes big risks. Most players would consider a maniac reckless.
Muck: Folding your cards without showing your hand, sometimes used in the phrase throwing your cards “into the muck”.
Nit: Players who are conservative and rarely take risks.
Position: The player’s seat location in relation to the dealer. Players sat directly to the left of the dealer have an early or “weak” positions, while those further away have a late or “strong” position.
Push: To move all-in.
Raise: To increase the current bent on the table.
Read: An understanding of another player’s hand strength.
River: The final community card placed on the board, available to everyone.
Shark: A player who is very skilled at poker.
Short Stack: The player with the fewest chips at the table.
Split Pot: When multiple players share the winning bet and divide the money evenly.
Tell: A movement or reaction from another player that allows opponents to judge their hand strength.
Turn: The fourth community card to be placed on the board.