Master the Rules of Poker
With so many variations of poker to choose from, learning the game can appear complicated. But at the most basic level, almost all forms of poker share the same four concepts;
- Ranking – The highest value hand wins
- Bluffing – winning at poker without the highest value hand
- Betting – a bet of some sort is required
- Dealer – every game needs one, active player or not
The main objective in any game of poker is to win against your opponents and where real-money betting is involved, to capture the pot and finish the game with a bigger bankroll than you started with. Depending on the venue, a poker game may last minutes, hours or days.
- Royal Flush – A five-card hand 10 through to ace in any one suit
- Straight Flush – A five-card hand in sequence in any one suit. Can be beaten by higher value Straight Flush
- Four of a Kind – A collection of the same card in all four suits
- Full House – A hand comprised of three of a kind and an additional pair. The highest value three of a Kind wins competing Full House hands
- Flush – A five-card hand in the same suit, regardless of card order. Flush holding the highest value card beats other Flushes.
- Straight – A five-card hand made up of sequential numbers combined from more than one suit
- Three of a Kind – A hand comprised of three of the same cards supported by the two highest cards available
- Two Pairs – Two sets of two matching cards supported by the single highest card available
- Pair – A set of two matching cards of the same rank supported by the three highest cards available
- High Card – The highest card in a five-card hand. This is typically the weakest hand in poker
Not all poker games determine hand value in the same way. High-Hand Poker uses the ranking order above. Low-Hand Poker in effect reverses traditional hand values and may impose other ranking rules. Hi-Low Poker often splits pots between the highest and lowest hands.
Flop, Turn, River
In the most popular poker games like Texas Hold’Em, a hand is played in steps where the dealer will follow a specific sequence. These are known as the Flop, Turn and River. Before and between each step, players can make bets.
- Flop – A Flop is a group of three cards dealt face-up on the table. Known as ‘community cards,’ all players at the table can make use of them to create a winning hand.
- Turn – after the Flop bets are placed, after which the dealer places a fourth card on the table face-up. This card is known as the Turn.
- River – the River is the fifth and final community card placed face-up by the dealer. After bets have been placed on the Turn, players see the River and can use this card as the last opportunity to better their hands.
The Dealer Button is a token, chip or another device that designates which player is the ‘Dealer’ for a given round. Typically, the Dealer Button moves clockwise in one position with each hand played. The true significance of the Dealer Button is in identifying which player bets last, a distinct advantage in poker.
Big and Small Blinds
The Big and Small Blinds are the player positions to the left of the dealer. The Small Blind sits next to the dealer, the Big Blind next to the Small Blind – two away from the dealer. These two positions are responsible for placing compulsory bets.
The Big Blind typically bets the table minimum, the Small Blind half that amount. The compulsory bets are important to create a minimum pot for the hand and act as an incentive for players not to automatically fold.
No limit, pot limit and limit – explained
When it comes to poker, every variation of the game will stipulate the type of pot being played for and the type of betting rules that apply.
- No Limit is the most popular method of playing poker and Texas Hold ‘Em is almost always a no limit game. A No Limit game means that players can bet any amount in each round, essentially building a huge pot. The sheer size of a bet can be used strategically and adds tremendous excitement to the game.
- Pot Limit is for a game that has a betting ceiling or a restriction limiting bet size to the amount of the pot when added to the bets of the other players. A player with a sizable chip stack cannot go ‘All In,’ but still has the freedom to push up the pot value significantly in a single hand. Pot Limit games require different betting strategies than those used in No Limit games.
- Limit or Fixed Limit poker games are considered the most difficult to play because the bets are restricted to a fixed amount agreed in advance and it is the only amount that can be bet. Fixed Limit poker games are the least popular and require a constant calculation of the poker odds.
Types of bets in Poker
Success in Poker is in knowing how to bet. Poker bets are where player psychology meets strategy because every bet has a motive behind it – to challenge or to create fear, to build the pot and ultimately to win.
Of the Nine bets that are fundamental to poker, the Six most important are value bets, continuation bets, slow plays, overbets, all-in and pot bets. Choosing and using these bets wisely is a cornerstone of every successful poker strategy.
Poker Bets and options
When the betting opportunity is presented, poker players have four main options to choose from.
To Call is to announce that one player is calling another’s bet. This is done by matching the amount wagered by another player with a bet or a Raise.
Raising is the act of increasing the bet amount. By raising the bet value a player challenges their opponents to meet the bet with a Call, by re-raising or by folding. A Raise is often associated with a strong hand or a Bluff.
A player Folds when they want to exit the hand and relieves them from having to contribute to the pot. The act of Folding is done by placing the cards face-down towards the dealer.
- All In
When a player goes All In, they place all of their chips into the pot. This also means that is a final bet by the player because they have no chips left.
Poker odds and payouts
|Odds||Flop to Turn||Turn To River||Turn & River|
When considering poker odds players joining a land-based or online casino game should always be aware of the House Edge.
The House Edge is the numerical advantage the casino has over players in terms of overall wins. The House Edge for most poker games is quite low, ranging between 5.22% for Caribbean Stud Poker (highest), 2.19% for Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em and 0.46% for Video Poker (lowest).
For most players, Texas Hold ’Em is synonymous with poker and although it is the most popular, it is only one of the variations of the game. Most poker games can be categorized as Draw Poker, Stud Poker and Community Card Poker – of which Texas Hold ‘Em is one type.
While the rules for poker generally apply to all games, players may come across a few rule variations with respect to Dealing methods, Hand Ranking and/or Betting.
- Draw poker keeps all cards hidden
- Low-Ball poker typically reverses the Hand Ranking values – the lowest hand wins
- A poker game can be No Limit, Pot Limit or Fixed Limit – each with their own betting rules
- Some poker variants use wild cards and adopt game-specific rules
- Poker games can be defined by the table size and the maximum number of players allowed
How to play Poker – Breakdown of a round
A step-by-step guide through a round of Texas Hold ‘Em…
- The Dealer is selected and deals two cards to each player at the table
- The player directly to the dealer’s left places a bet in the pot – the Small Blind
- The player two places to the dealer’s left places a bet in the pot – the Big Blind
- In clockwise order, the remaining players bet based on the confidence in their two cards
- The Dealer deals the Flop – three community cards dealt face-up
- The second round of betting begins clockwise from the dealer’s position
- The Dealer deals the Turn – the fourth community card dealt face-up
- The third round of betting begins, clockwise from the dealer’s position
- The Dealer deals the River – the fifth and final community card dealt face up
- The final round of betting begins, clockwise from the dealer’s position
- If two or more players remain in the game when betting is concluded, cards are shown
- The highest ranking hand wins and the pot is collected by that player