The easy access afforded by the internet has allowed poker games to flourish online, and more people are trying out this classic card game than ever. Even though it is wildly popular, it can be challenging and daunting to play poker if you’re not up to speed on poker rules, terms, variants and everything else in between! This article will go through the basics to learn how to play poker games.
THE HISTORY OF POKER IN A NUTSHELL
Despite its current popularity as perhaps the most recognisable card game at casinos, it wasn’t commonplace to play poker games until the late 1970s. Back then, the version of the game that everybody wanted to learn how to play was Seven-Card Stud poker. That changed in the early 2000s when online casinos helped propel Texas hold ’em to the top of the list.
HOW TO START PLAYING A POKER GAME
A great way to learn how to play poker is to practise with online poker demo play, as you’ll have everything you need on the game’s interface. You can also play alone, with a computerised algorithm as your dealer. Before you place your wager, look through the game’s rules, payouts and hand rankings. Once you’re comfortable with the gameplay, observe how the rounds unfold on Live Dealer tables. This will help you get a better idea of the game’s pace and timing — you’ll notice that in any given poker game, all actions must be made within a limited time frame.
HOW TO PLAY POKER AND WIN AGAINST OTHERS
Playing poker online is a lot different than playing poker games in an actual land-based casino, as online poker has many differences, including the poker rules. For this reason, it’s good practice to always check out the basic poker rules before diving in, whether you’re a beginner or not.
Additionally, many poker games will feature different hands and bets, which may initially seem confusing. To learn how to play poker hands correctly, it’s recommended to use a strategy when you play poker games.
That said, the best strategy is having a good grasp on hand rankings. From the lowest to the highest rank, standard poker hands are as follows: high card, one pair, two pair, three-of-a-kind, flush, full house, four-of-a-kind, straight flush and royal flush. Remember that you can try out multiple strategies, but none will guarantee who finally wins the pot.
WHAT ARE THE BASIC POKER RULES?
The objective is to build the best five-card hand out of the player’s two cards and the five community cards over several rounds of betting. In addition, most poker variants are understood in relation to Texas hold ’em when it comes to poker rules, betting rounds and more (as you’ll see below).
Whether you play online or at land-based casinos, you should take a moment to look at the basic poker rules. First, we’ll cover some need-to-know terminology. The best place to start is with the name for each betting round, followed by the table positions in a poker game.
EVERY ROUND OF BETTING IN POKER
Not all actions are available during every betting round; reading through the game rules is imperative before playing. This game structure is identical in tables like Texas hold ’em and Omaha hold ’em poker, consisting of:
- The pre-flop — Begins when all punters receive their hole cards before community cards are dealt.
- The flop — Commences after the three community cards are dealt.
- The turn — Commences after the fourth card is dealt.
- The river — Begins once the fifth and final card is placed on the table.
POSITIONS AT THE POKER TABLE
To understand how to play poker, it’s vital to understand the positions a poker table is divided into. Each has its benefits and drawbacks, as you’ll see later on. These four are:
- Under the gun (Early position)
- Hijack (Middle position)
- Cutoff (Late position)
- Button (Late position)
- Small blind
- Big blind
Your table position affects how well you’re positioned within the game. It determines how much leeway you have in the way you can play. The better your position, the more confident you’ll be in how you play your hand.
You would be disadvantaged the most when acting first, as you would have no idea of what hands your opponents have. On the other hand, acting last gives you a major advantage as you will see how every other player acts and moves before it’s your turn. This would give you an idea of where each opponent stands and, ultimately, helps you determine your winning poker strategy. The dealer always acts last in a poker round.
WHAT ARE THE BLIND ANTES AND DEALER BUTTON ANTES?
Your poker table strategy depends on your position in a game. Classic community card poker includes a button, small blind and big blind. The dealer position will be whoever holds the button. The big blind is a forced bet seated two positions clockwise from the dealer button and left of the small blind.
At first, this forced bet pays the total blind amount towards the pot of the poker game, generally twice the size of the small blind. The small blind and big blind are positioned to the left of the button and act first after the flop.The BB acts before the small blind in both pre-flop and post-flop stages.
LEARN THE LANGUAGE OF POKER
Once all cards have been dealt, a round of betting commences. Once the betting time expires, players will be able to take the following actions:
- Check — Pass the action to the next player without placing a wager. Checking is only available when a bet hasn’t been placed yet.
- Bet — If a bet hasn’t already been placed, you can place your wager. Once you’ve placed your bet, other players must respond.
- Fold — By folding, you forfeit your hand automatically and withdraw from the round.
- Call — Respond to another player’s bet by matching it.
- Raise — Respond to another player’s bet by raising the stake.
FLOP OR PRE-FLOP — WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
We’ve covered the positions, game rounds and actions, so without further ado, let’s get into the gameplay.
Once two hole cards have been dealt to each player, the pre-flop action begins with the player seated to the left of the big blind. As each player takes their turn to act, they may choose to either fold, call or raise. The betting round ends once every player has made their move.
Once every player has acted, three community cards are dealt to the table. This is known as the flop. Once the cards have been dealt, another round of betting begins, where players can check, bet, call, fold or raise.
On the flop, the first player to act is not facing any bet; thus, they can check or make a bet. In turn, this means that it’s possible that the entire table checks on the flop. Once a player makes a bet, the rest of the table’s options will be limited to calling, folding or raising. A player’s action depends on the strength of the poker hand they hope to build.
THE TURN AND THE RIVER — THE THIRD AND FOURTH BETTING ROUNDS
The turn is signified by a fourth community card being dealt to the table, followed by another betting round. Now that you have four community cards and the two cards dealt at the start of the round, you should be able to determine where your hand may go.
Betting is similar to the pre-flop and the flop, allowing players to check, bet, call, raise or fold. Don’t forget that the first player to act isn’t facing a bet, and players can check until the first bet is made. After that, players can only call, raise or fold. The same applies to the following step, the river.
The river is the final step to a fully formed five-card poker hand with the fifth card. Here, you will be able to fully assess the strength of your hand. How you form your poker hand may depend on the poker variant you’re playing. Texas hold ’em, for example, allows you to form a hand out of one, both or none of your hole cards as well as the five community cards.
After the river, the final betting round takes place. The first of the remaining players (usually two or three) to act can check or bet, and once a bet has been made, the other players can call, raise or fold.
WHAT DOES SHOWDOWN MEAN IN POKER?
The showdown begins with at least two remaining players after the final round of betting. If nobody acted on the river, the first player to show their cards is the player who acted first. If there are more than two players left, then the next player to the left will reveal their hand and so on, clockwise. The player with the highest-ranking five-card hand wins the pot, and tied players split the pot.
The showdown is not all about showing cards! In competitive play, this is one of the most strategic stages of the game. If you see that an opponent has beaten your hand, you can choose to muck (discard) your cards instead.
The game can also end during any of the earlier betting rounds. If only one player remains, the pot is theirs, regardless of whether they show their cards.
Furthermore, there is a distinction between stud poker and draw poker games. Draw poker games involve the players concealing their hand until the showdown, whereas stud poker involves some cards dealt face-up.
WHAT IS A BLUFF POKER?
A poker bluff is when a player places a bet or raises to make their opponent fold to receive the prize pot by default. So, if a player obtains a low-valued hand, like a two pair, that player may raise the stakes to give off a certain persona that would make other players fold to avoid losing. Players may bluff at any point in time during the game. Experienced poker players bluff only at the best moment of opportunity — when they think their opponent is most likely to fold.
HOW TO CALL OR BLUFF WEAK POKER PLAYERS
Whether you show your cards or not also ties in with your strategy. Flex your bluff, and your opponents may pay you off when you have a strong hand. Showing a strong hand may put you ahead of the competition if you’re running a bluff the next time. Not showing at all may be even better; keep your opponents guessing!
CHOOSE THE RIGHT STRATEGY
Like all other casino games, poker is based on luck, so there is no certified winning method. As cards are dealt in a betting round, the odds of winning always vary.
For example, whether you show your cards or not is strategic: show your bluff, and you may get paid off on a strong hand; show a strong hand, and you may have the upper hand on a bluff the next time. Not showing at all and keeping the table guessing might be the wisest strategy!
Poker strategies may boost your chances, but remember to always play responsibly. For more tips on how to play poker with the right strategy for you, check out our article Poker Strategy Guide at our LV BET Casino blog!
WHAT ARE THE POKER HAND RANKINGS?
A solid knowledge of hand rankings is key to learn how to play your poker hands. Familiarise yourself with the hand rankings for a good chance of winning. Poker hands from highest to lowest are as follows:
- Royal Flush — Sometimes called the royal straight flush, this is the best possible hand you can earn. A royal flush comprises 10, jack, queen, king and an ace, all in the same suit.
- Straight Flush — A straight flush features five cards of the same suit in sequential order.
- Four-of-a-kind — Four of a kind features four cards of the same rank.
- Full House — A full house involves a three-of-a-kind and a pair, featuring three cards of one rank and two of another.
- Flush — Five cards of the same suit.
- Straight — Five cards not in the same suit in sequential order.
- Three-of-a-kind — Three-of-a-kind includes numerically matching cards and two kickers.
- Two Pair — Two cards of one rank, two more of another, and a kicker fifth card.
- One Pair — Any pair of cards of the same rank, it can consist of either two jacks, queens, kings or aces.
- High Card — The high card is the weakest hand you can earn as it does not fall into any of the above categories.
HOW TO BECOME A GOOD POKER PLAYER
We’ve covered the table positions, betting rounds, game actions, and hand rankings. It may be a lot to take in at one go, especially if you’re relatively new to poker. Once you get the hang of it, though, poker is pretty much plain sailing. Whether you’re an experienced player or not, here are a couple of things to take note of when playing poker, either online or in a land-based venue:
KNOW YOUR HANDS IN POKER
The best way to win is by forming the strongest poker hand, but to do that, you must be well-versed in rankings. Poker hand rankings are crucial to any poker game and determine how you should apply your poker strategy. Online poker tables will automatically display your hand’s rank as the cards are dealt; however, this is not the case when playing land-based poker.
Poker hands can also vary from one poker variant to another. Take the time to research and learn poker hands before sitting at a table to boost your chances as well as your confidence.
SKILFULLY MANAGE YOUR TABLE STAKES WHILE PLAYING
There are often betting limits on table stakes imposed in many poker games, which limit the amount of poker chips players can place.
When playing online, there will be about six poker chips on the user interface, each holding a unique bet value. It is helpful for players to observe the betting limits of a table as well as to know the value of their poker chips.
Several different-sized bets can be placed, depending on the type of online poker game you’re playing:
- No-Limit Games — There is no limit on bets and raises when playing these cash games. Players can bet and raise as they wish.
- Pot-Limit Games — Pot-limit games restrict betting to the size of the pot. Players are free to raise and bet as they wish, but the maximum bet cannot exceed the pot value.
- Fixed-Limit Games — All bets and raises cannot exceed a specific amount in any given round.
International poker tournaments host No-Limit games of Texas hold ’em. These are Texas hold ’em games with no-limit betting which allows players to bet more money than the usual cap on most poker games.
DRAW CARDS WISELY
Players may discard cards to try and obtain the best five cards possible out of seven. One of the first things any novice poker player must know is how each poker hand ranks compared to other hands.
Not revealing your cards will prevent your opponents from getting a good read on you (or your bluff!) and may be advantageous in future rounds. Devise a strategy for replacement cards with each round of betting and hope for the best result possible.
DO NOT PLAY BEYOND YOUR TURN
Take the time to examine how other opponents play. The way they act may be indicative of the hand they have — remember, they might be trying to bluff as well!
Although a bluff may be a good strategy, it is not a surefire way of winning. You may encounter a player that might challenge your bluff by, for example, matching your bet or placing an even greater one. For this reason, it is important not to bluff too often, as you may lose more than you win. Try your luck at a poker bluff, but always remember timing is key.
In every game of poker, there are rules by which the game is played, as well as ‘poker laws’, which change depending on where the game is played.
There are a few etiquette rules you should also be aware of. Some of them might seem obvious, however don’t underestimate them! Each of these rules can affect your experience, not to mention your gameplay, so be aware of what is expected from you on a table to be sure you’re making the most out of the game.
A list of some poker etiquette rules include:
- Don’t disrupt other players’ hands or turns.
- Bet responsibly.
- Tip the dealer.
- Never show your cards to another player, and never look at another player’s cards.
- Do not modify the amount of chips on a land-based table, in the middle of a hand.
- Keep your chips organised and easy to count.
- Pay attention to what’s happening in the game and act in a timely manner.
POKER BANKROLL MANAGEMENT
Poker is a game of chance, first and foremost. The myriad of strategies and variants play around with the odds and probability of winning for a player; ultimately, the element of luck is what the game rests on.
The skills required to play poker cash games are not limited to knowing which hand wins or the best strategy for the pocket cards you’ve been dealt. Bankroll management is just as vital to your chances of playing a cash game and potentially winning.
This is important to understand as good poker bankroll management is the key to ensuring you can play poker games like Texas hold ’em while observing a betting limit for yourself. This can be difficult when playing No-Limit games.
Applying a betting limit on table stakes is how tables protect you from unravelling your bankroll. For example, you may come across Fixed-Limit Texas hold ’em, meaning the table stakes cannot be raised beyond a certain amount.
This is one such method to ensure the gameplay from an excessively high betting limit. However, it is the player’s bet to make, so every player must apply sound bankroll management to enjoy what the game offers.
Head to our article Poker Bankroll Management for more poker bankroll management tips at our LV BET Casino blog!
HOW TO PLAY POKER ONLINE
While online poker features many characteristics that stand out, the overall gameplay isn’t all that different from land-based poker games. Regardless of the type of poker game you choose to play, the aim will always be to form the strongest hand possible; how you do that all boils down to luck! Poker strategies may have a part to play too.
That said, let’s take a look at the differences between playing online or live poker games.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ONLINE POKER AND LIVE POKER
In online poker, the game is played against the house, and each player makes independent decisions on the same five cards. There is no common pot either, as players bet individually, with payouts calculated when the final round ends.
Live Casino games are designed to be extremely immersive and authentic, making players feel like they’re right where the action is. This allows players from all over the world to play with one another, while getting a feel of how the game is played at land-based venues.
Playing online has the advantage of having easy access to everything you need to know right on the user interface. In comparison, live dealers make the experience feel more realistic, and Live Casino games may feel more exciting.
The best part about playing online is, if you’re not ready to dive in, demo play allows you to practise the best poker strategies and set up personal preferences, so you know which games to look out for in the future — all without depleting your bankroll!
THE BEST POKER VARIANTS
There are loads of poker variants, each with unique features and awesome gameplay. Here are just a few of the most popular ones:
HOLD ‘EM POKER
There are a few variations of hold ’em games to be found. The most popular variation is Texas hold ’em, but it is not the only hold ’em variant out there.
BASIC RULES OF HOLD ‘EM POKER
Like Texas hold ’em, the aim is to build the strongest hand and beat the dealer. The betting rounds also work quite similarly, so there are no surprises for players during gameplay. That said, the betting structure may differ from one hold ’em game to another — especially in No Limit Hold ’em.
If, at any point, players are unsure of the game rules; they can always look for the ‘information’ button on the game interface to take a look at a detailed explanation of anything they need to know.
The aim of Omaha poker is to win all the money in the pot by making the best decisions on how to play each hand. The similarities between Texas hold’em and Omaha poker include having the lowest house edge of the poker family. A few key differences affect how you play and win, though.
BASIC RULES OF OMAHA POKER
Firstly, Omaha players receive four cards at the outset rather than two. As the game progresses, the dealer places one more community card face-up on the table, up to a maximum of five cards. Each time the dealer reveals a new community card, betting continues, and this is where things can get complicated. That’s because the number of possibilities for each player increases each time rapidly.
Players must use exactly two hole cards and three community cards to create their five-card hand. Winning hands are identical to those in Texas Hold ’em but feature only one hole card.
Pot limit Omaha and Omaha hi-lo are the most popular poker variants of Omaha. In Omaha Hi poker games, the player with the highest hand wins the entire pot. When you play Pot Limit Omaha, the minimum bet equals the big blind unless other players have bet before you during the same round.
Seven Card Stud is the most popular of all poker stud games. Seven-Card Stud was once poker’s number-one variant before it was dethroned by Texas hold ’em.
BASIC RULES OF SEVEN-CARD STUD POKER
Before the first betting round begins, players must place an ante. Then, they will receive two face-down cards and one card dealt face-up (the door card). The player with the lowest face-up card will act first by placing a complete bet or a ‘bring-in’ bet.
In the second betting round, players will be dealt another face-up card. The player with the best cards facing up will act first, followed by two more betting rounds where players receive one more face-up card. On the final betting round, players receive one last card face down, when they must form the strongest hand out of the seven cards they’ve been dealt.
Three Card Poker is one of poker’s fast-paced variants since the objective is to obtain a three-card hand — fewer than five cards like standard Texas hold ’em. Fewer community cards are dealt in this case, and the small and big blind are not featured either.
BASIC RULES OF THREE-CARD POKER
This poker game is played with a 52-card deck and digital betting chips. The rules and objectives in Three-Card Poker are very simple — try and form the best three-card poker hand possible and beat the dealer.
The dealer hands out three hole cards. Once you’ve received the cards, another round of betting will commence. Now, you must decide whether to continue playing or fold. If you fold, you lose your Ante wager. However, if you play on, you must place a Play bet equivalent to your original Ante wager. All cards will then be revealed, and the highest-ranking three-card hand wins.
For more tips, head to our article How to play 3-Card Poker at our LV BET Casino Blog!
Compared to regular poker, video poker has a much lower house edge. It does not require any interaction with a dealer.
Video poker also features a random number generator, as do online slots. Where an RNG is used to determine which symbols land in an online slot, it is used to shuffle the deck in video poker.
BASIC RULES OF VIDEO POKER
A video poker game resembles that of five-card draw poker. Five cards will be dealt at the beginning of each round, and players must decide which cards to hold and which to discard and replace. Players can keep or replace cards through the ‘Deal’ button and ‘Hold/Cancel’ when playing at a land-based video poker machine. Online, players indicate which cards they wish to keep by clicking on them.
One thing about playing video poker games is that it is a solo game, so you won’t be going up against other players. This implies that you can focus solely on creating the best winning hand without bluffing.
For more tips on video poker, head to our article on Video Poker at our LV BET Casino Blog!
OTHER TYPES OF POKER
Some other poker games you may come across at LV BET include:
CONCLUSION – LEARN THE BASIC POKER RULES AND PLAY LIKE A PRO
Now that you understand the basics of Texas hold ’em, you can try your luck at the tables. You can improve your poker strategy through online guides, or by watching tutorial videos. This can help you grasp odds, house edge, and other poker rules found in poker variants. Most importantly, play responsibly and have fun!
PLAY POKER AT THE LV BET ONLINE CASINO
Put your skills to the test at LV BET, where you will find a premium selection of authentic poker tables. You may be lucky enough to find a Live Casino bonus or two along the way, so keep your eyes peeled for new casino deals on our ‘Promotions‘ page.
✅ WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE POKER GAMES?
Some top online poker games include Seven Card Stud Poker, Five-Card Draw Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em and Caribbean Stud Poker. Find more of the best online poker games in the Best Online Poker Games article at our LV BET Casino blog!
✅ HOW IMPORTANT IS A GOOD POSITION IN POKER?
Your table position is very important in poker. Forced bets such as the big blind are understood in relation to where the player is sitting.
✅ WHAT ARE THE POKER HAND RANKINGS?
The list of hands a player may obtain in descending order are: royal flush (or royal straight flush), straight flush, four-of-a-kind, full house, flush, straight, three-of-a-kind, two pair, one pair and high card.