Learn How To Play Poker and Win your First Games
The rise of online poker games has led to many beginners who want to begin their journey by finding out how to play poker. This popular card game dates back to as early as the sixteenth century where the Germans called it “Pochen”. As it evolved to a French version known as “Poque”, the game was refined further in the 1830s to become Poker.
Due to its popularity, there are now hundreds of Poker variations. The good news is that all variants of poker have the same basic rules. In this guide, we help you understand the fundamentals of the game, tips, and strategies so you can start playing any type of poker game.
Poker Hand Rankings
In poker, players must first understand the different poker hands and its values. Except in several versions of the game, a hand generally consists of five cards. Card rankings are important as the best hand wins in most variations. Here is a look into some of the card hands, starting from the lowest ranking to the highest:
A hand that is almost self-explanatory, this hand means that the player has “nothing”. This means that there are no pairs or suits and is dependent on a high card. In a poker game where the players have no pair hands, they are rated by the highest card in each hand.
In this hand, the player has two cards of the same value and three other random cards. In the event that there are several players with a one pair hand, the higher pair wins. An example would be J, J, 6, 9, 10.
Players with two pairs in their hands have a pair of one rank and another pair of a different rank. The fifth card can be any other random card. An example of a two pair hand would be A, A, K, K, 10.
Three of a Kind
A hand with three cards of the same rank and two other random cards, an example for three of a kind would be A, A, A, 9, 3.
This hand has five cards that are in a sequence without being in the same suit. For example, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, but the cards can be from a mixture of clubs, spades, hearts, and diamonds.
In this hand, there are five cards that are neither identical nor in sequence. However, all five cards are in the same suit. An example would be 2, 4, 8, 9, and J of diamonds.
One of the higher ranking hands, a full house is made up of a “three of a kind” and a “pair”. In other words, there are three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank. An example would be K, K, K, A, A.
Four of a Kind
Similar to three of a kind, this hand has four cards of the same rank instead of three along with one random card. It is the second highest hand. An example would be A, A, A, A, 8.
The highest hand in the poker game, the straight flush can only be outranked by another straight flush with a higher rank. In this hand, the five cards are not only in sequence as seen in a straight, but are also from the same suit. An example would be 10, J, Q, K, and A of hearts.
Five of a Kind
Not typically seen in standard games, this hand is only possible if the game is not played using a standard pack. It would involve cards of the same rank in combination with wildcards such as jokers. An example would be A, A, A, A, and a wild card.
Now that you’ve understood the different hand rankings, it is time to learn about betting and the positions in a poker game. Before the cards are dealt, some players are required to put in an initial contribution known as an “ante” or “blinds” to buy in the game. The small blind is always to the left of the dealer while the big blind is to the direct left of the small blind.
In each betting round or interval, poker players take turns to make a bet of one or more chips. Other players must then either “call” by putting the same bet, “raise” by putting more chips into the pot, or “fold” by discarding their hand until the next game. Players can also “check” to pass the action to the next player without increasing the bet.
Unless a player is willing to put as many chips as the preceding player, they must fold, thereby losing any chips that they have contributed to the round.
Bluffing in Poker
In poker, if a player makes a bet or raise that other players do not follow, they win the pot without even having to show their hand. Thus, bluffing is a great element in poker games as it means that the winner does not always have to have the best card combinations.
Poker positions are important as it can affect your betting strategy. These positions are determined by how the player sits at the poker table.
In the early position, the poker game starts with you, allowing you the first bet. This means you have less information regarding how strong your opponents are and may get raised or re-raised.
In the middle position, you are neither the player to start or end the round or game. In this position, your raises are respected, allowing you to play aggressively.
The player in the late position is the person to end the round or game. In this position, the player may have more information and could possibly steal blind bets with a raise.
Basic Poker Rules
After learning the hand rankings in poker, betting, and positions, it will now be easier for you to understand the basic rules of poker. In this game, the aim is to have the strongest five card hand or bluff your way to convince others that you have it.
During your turn, you can take action by checking, calling, raising, or folding. If there is more than one player after the final betting round is over, remaining players reveal their cards in a showdown to find out who is the winner. In the event that all other players fold except you before the final round of betting is over, you automatically win that hand.
Keep in mind that these basic rules should apply to most forms of poker. However, you should learn more about the twists or additional rules of the specific poker variant if you are playing it for the first time.
Poker Do’s and Don’ts for Beginners
Poker can be deceptively simple, but is one of the more complex casino games. Besides learning the basic rules, beginners can benefit greatly from learning some simple tips and strategies in the game.
Poker is a game that requires focus and some degree of aggression. Beginners tend to be too cautious, but playing aggressively tends to pay better. In the event you have good starting cards that increase your chances of a good hand, go for a raise so you can push out players with weaker hands or have them contribute more to the pot. Cautious play in turn marks you as a weak player and can paint a target on your back.
Although aggression pays, you must also learn to be patient. One of the most basic tips is to fold more hands than you play. While it may sound boring, it can save you more bankroll so you can use it to raise bets during your strongest hands. Wait patiently until the cards are in your favor before using your aggression to gain the pot.
An old saying is to play the player, not your cards. This means that poker is a game based on situations where your hand is good or bad only in relation to other poker hands. As you proceed through the game, observe the habits and predispositions of other players. Knowing their play style might just help you win the pot!
Playing The Long Game
Beginners are bound to lose some of the time. Do not let these losses discourage you. Instead, take it as an investment where you are gradually developing your skills and understanding of the game. While poker may not be physically strenuous, it can be taxing to the mind, making it important for you to take breaks. Also, remember to set a bankroll, pace your bets, and only gamble what you can afford to lose.
What are the most popular types of poker?
The most popular types of poker include Texas Hold’em poker, Omaha Hi-Lo, seven stud poker, draw poker, and many more. Each of these variants comes with their own specific rules, making the poker game even more exciting.
What are the differences between limit and no-limit games?
In no-limit games, players are not limited in terms of their bet amount. This means that they can choose to wager all of their chips at any time, known as an “all in”. Meanwhile, limit games have a betting structure where the maximum bet or raise is usually equal to the small or big bet. This means that there is a fixed-limit on bets.
Are poker strategies important?
Although the game of poker is extremely dependent on luck, players who use good poker strategies can expect to win more money in the long run compared to those making random decisions. There is plenty of poker material such as training videos and articles online to teach you excellent strategies and how to obtain a winning hand.