How to play Poker – learn the basic Poker rules!
Does Poker fascinate you, but you’re afraid that it’s too complicated? Whether you’d like to play free Poker just for fun, or you’re looking to bet real money to amp up the excitement, knowing the basic Poker rules inside out will help you take the best decisions and improve your chances of winning. In this guide, we’ll go over the most important Poker rules and will provide you with additional information on how to play Poker at Canadian online casinos and have an exciting time!
Poker rules - the basics
Poker is played with one standard 52 card pack, sometimes including one or two Joker cards (wilds). Players are dealt 2 or more cards each, whereas 5 cards will be dealt in the center – the latter are called ‘community cards’. The aim of the game is to combine your cards with the community cards to create the best 5-card poker Hand.
There are numerous variants of poker nowadays, with the two most popular ones being Texas Hold Em and Omaha Poker. Texas Hold Em poker rules and Omaha poker rules differ in some aspects, but the two have got several things in common. In both of these variants, a Poker hand will consist of five cards, which we rank from highest to lowest below:
Five of a Kind – the highest hand possible, this can occur in Poker variants where there is at least one wild card, i.e. a Joker, the two one-eyed Jacks, or four deuces. For example, having four 10s and a wild card will count as five of a kind.
Straight flush – this is the highest combination while playing poker with the standard pack, consisting of five cards of the same suit in sequence, for example, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5 of spades. The best straight flush would be the A, K, Q, J and 10 of the same suit – this is also called the ‘Royal Flush’, and comes with odds of 1 in almost 650,000!
Four of a Kind – ranking just below the straight flush, this involves having 4 cards of the same suit or same value (e.g. four Jacks or four 5s).
Full House – This will consist of three cards of one rank and two cards of another, for example, three 4s and two 2s, or three Aces and two 7s.
Flush – This involves five cards of the same suit, which are not in sequence. For example K, 10, 6, 4 and 2 of hearts.
Straight – a combination of five cards in sequence, which are not of the same suit. For example, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 (with a mix of hearts, clubs, spades, and diamonds).
Three of a Kind – a lower-ranking combination consisting of three cards of the same rank, and any two other cards, e.g. three queens, a six and a four.
Two Pairs – a pair of cards of the same rank, and another pair of a different rank, plus any other card. For example K, K, 8, 8, 3.
One Pair – a very common combination consisting of just one pair with three other cards. For example 10, 10, Q, 2, Ace.
No Pair – as the name suggests, in this case players have no matching cards (none of the five cards will be of the same suit or in sequence). When more than one player has a no pair, their hands are rated according to the highest card in each hand, so that a hand consisting of an Ace would rank higher than a hand with a King.
Poker betting rounds
Before a game of poker begins, each player will have to fork out an initial contribution in the pot, which is called an ‘Ante’ in Stud Poker, or the Big Blind and Small Blind in Hold’Em and Omaha. The small blind is placed by the player to the left of the dealer button, whereas the big blind is posted by the next player. These blinds exist because Omaha and Hold Em are played without antes, to avoid all players folding without placing a bet.
After the blinds are placed, players will bet one or more chips on his hand. They decide to take any of the below actions during each betting round:
Check – the players may refuse to bet if there is no bet during the current round.
Bet – Players may bet if no other player has placed a bet during the current round. Once a player places a bet, the others must ‘call’ by matching the same bet amount in order to remain.
Fold – the decision to forfeit one’s cards for the current hands. Players cannot win or act when they decide to fold.
Call – If someone else has bet during the round, players can call by matching the highest bet.
Raise – If other players have already bet, the raising player may raise the bet by at least doubling the amount. Then, other players will be required to either call the raise or raise again to continue playing.
Texas Hold Em Poker rules
Texas Hold Em is the most popular poker variant, and you can play it at almost any online casino. In this variant, players are free to choose whether to use one or both hole cards to form the best hand by matching their card(s) with community cards. The game consists of 4 betting rounds called pre-flop, flop, the turn and the river.
Pre-flop – players bet before community cards are dealt, as soon as players receive their hole cards.
Flop – players bet again after the first 3 community cards are dealt.
The Turn – players bet once the fourth community card is dealt.
The River – this is the last betting round, when players bet after the final community card is dealt.
Each round will continue until every player has matched or folded their bets, or when every player has checked if no bets have been made. The next round will follow. Once the last bet or raise has been done, a showdown will take place – the remaining active players will reveal their hands, and the player with the best hand wins the pot!
Omaha Poker rules
Omaha poker is similar to Texas Hold Em, in that it also involves the 4 betting rounds described above. The main differences are that in Omaha Poker, every player gets 4 cards instead of two, and they must use exactly two of these cards in combination with any three of the five community card to get the best poker hand. The fact that players receive more hole cards results in bigger pots in Omaha poker leads to more bets being placed, since players are encouraged to stay in the game given their larger number of combinations.
A player wins a hand if all other players fold their hands, and he is the only one left in the pot, or if he has the best hand at showdown. it’s more likely for players to get three of a kind, straights, flushes or full houses in Omaha poker, so that you can rarely win a hand with a ‘pair’.
Given its wide availability online, we thought we’d give video poker a mention here. This is a programmed casino game which is played against the machine, and where outcomes are based on a Random Number Generator (RNG). In video poker, there are no community cards – players are dealt five cards and the aim is to hold on to some and replace others in the hope of getting a good poker hand.
There are many variants of video poker available today, most of them with no download requirements: one may mention Deuces Wild, which involves having the Two as a wild card, Joker’s Wild, where a joker functions as a wild, and Jacks or Better, which is the original Video Poker game where a player wins if his hand consists of at least a pair of Jacks.
How to play Poker at online casinos
Thanks to the numerous online casinos that are accessible from Canada, it’s getting easier and more exciting to play poker online. Players can now choose to take their time to learn the basic Poker rules by playing the game for free, while more experienced players can take a seat at a live casino or an online poker table and play against real players.
Free video poker games are usually found at a casino’s Table Game section, and will be played against the machine. On the other hand, live casino poker games will be played against real players from all over the world and will be managed by a professional croupier, streamed from the provider’s game studio. You can find different variants of live poker, with the most popular being Live Three Card Poker and Live Texas Hold’Em.
At the majority of poker sites, you will be required to download the software before you can join a poker table. Live casino poker and video poker are an exception to this - at most casinos, you can play these in instant play mode on both desktop and mobile by enabling your flash player.
Online poker tournaments
At the best poker sites, you can play online Poker for free or by betting very small stakes, thus risking very little, especially while you're still learning the basic Poker rules. More experienced players will also find opportunities to play in poker tournaments, which can be freerolls (tournaments with no entry fees) or poker tournaments that require a buy-in.
The best poker sites typically run various types of tournaments. There are Sit & Gos, which are small tournaments with one table that start as soon as enough players join the table. These will take place around the clock. Then, you've got online poker tournaments linked to massive prize pools, some of which come with a very low buy-in fee, which makes them very accessible and rewarding. For example, PokerStars' Sunday Million tournament runs every Sunday and comes with a $1 million prize pool. Next, in satellite tournaments, professional players play poker with the aim of winning buy-ins to a larger tournament, which can be either land-based or online-based.
Those players who do not want to commit to online poker tournaments can also find Cash Games, which are real money poker tables that allow you to come and go as you please. In these tournaments, players can buy in by depositing a certain amount of cash and receives chips that will have real-money value. Cash Games offer players more flexibility since they don't need to commit to playing more rounds, as is the case with online tournaments.
Play with the best poker sites!
And now that we've given you the basics, it's time to try out online poker for yourself! There's no better way to learn how to play poker than through practice, and beginners have ample opportunity to join low-entry cash games and even freerolls to sharpen their skills. Poker can be incredibly rewarding if you play smart - be patient with yourself, and best of luck!