A good part of the reason why poker is so popular is that, unlike games of pure chance, poker is a pastime that rewards skill. Luck plays a part in each hand, but with a thorough knowledge of the game and with the right poker strategies, experienced poker players can rise above the unpredictability of chance and win with consistency. It’s not a coincidence that the biggest names in professional poker regularly find themselves playing at the top tables.
The better you understand poker, the more you can potentially win. And if you’re looking to get into poker betting, you’re in the right place. With our clear and simple poker guide and poker tips, you’ll quickly pick up the basics of poker, including understanding poker betting rules and the rules of three of the most popular variants of the game.
Getting into playing poker can be daunting, but with our help, you’ll be in with a good chance at winning hands and taking the pot in no time.
The History of Poker
Where and when the first ever game of poker was played isn’t known for sure, but it’s thought that poker was born in the United States sometime around the 1800s. Poker likely began somewhere along the Mississippi River, where floating riverboat casinos pioneered commercial gambling in the US.
Poker was inspired by earlier card games, like a French game called poque, the Irish poca, the German game pochen, and perhaps even the historic Persian card game As-Nas. Early versions of poker had different rules, with the game played with both 20 and 52 card decks. The rules became more standardised as poker spread along the Mississippi, through America, and across the globe.
What are the Basic Objectives of Poker?
There are different versions of poker, with different takes on how the game is played, but all poker variants are based on the same objective.
In a game of poker, the players are dealt cards to create a hand of five. They then bet on their hands, placing the money in a “pot”. The objective of poker is to win the pot, either by having the highest value hand of five cards, or by convincing the other players that you do so that you can make a bet that they don’t call or raise.
How to Bet in Poker
Betting in poker can vary by the version of poker you’re playing, but you usually have the following options when it’s your turn to bet:
- Call – You match the highest bet made so far in that round.
- Raise – You bet a higher amount than the highest bet made so far in that round.
- Fold – You bow out of that betting round. You lose any money you’ve already placed in the pot and discard your hand.
- Check – You pass your opportunity to call, raise or fold, and the next player takes an action. You keep your cards and stay in the round.
Poker betting usually happens in rounds, where each player gets one or more chances to bet or fold. In the final round, if more than one player is still holding their cards, the showdown happens. During the showdown, the remaining players show and compare their hands to see who has won the pot.
Poker Card Rankings
Today, poker is played with a deck of 52 cards.
The ranking of cards, in most versions of poker, from high to low is Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
There are no rankings within the suits, they’re all equal. The king of hearts is just as valuable as the king of diamonds.
Poker Hand Rankings
In games of poker, players try to make the best hand of five cards they can. The following hands are ranked in value from highest to lowest:
- Royal Flush – You have an Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and 10, all of the same suit.
- Straight Flush – You have any five cards that form an unbroken sequence, all of the same suit, such as 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
- Four of a Kind – Four of your five cards are all of the same ranking, such as four Kings or four twos.
- Full House – Three of your cards are the same ranking, and the other two are of the same ranking, such as three Queens and two 5s.
- Flush – All five of your cards are of the same suit.
- Straight – You have any five cards that form an unbroken sequence (e.g. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), not of the same suit.
- Three of a Kind – Three of your cards are the same ranking, whilst the other two are of any ranking.
- Two Pairs – You have two pairs of cards in your five of equal ranking, such as a pair of 5s and a pair of Kings.
- One Pair – You have two cards of the same ranking.
- High Card – You can’t make any of the hands above, so your hand is valued at the highest ranking card you have.
What Types of Poker Games are there?
There are hundreds of different variants of poker, but the three most commonly played are:
Created in the Lone Star state, and a game that rose to prominence in the casinos of Las Vegas, Texas Hold’em is thought to be the most popular version of poker played worldwide.
With Texas Hold’em, players try to make the best five-card hand they can, but rather than being dealt five cards, they’re dealt two hole cards that only they see. Players make their hand using any three of the five cards laid face up on the table called the community cards.
A usual hand of Texas Hold’em is played like this:
- The dealer distributes two hole cards to each player, face-down. Each player picks up their hole cards to see what they’ve been dealt.
- The first round of betting begins, called the pre-flop betting round. Based on their hole cards, players can call, raise, fold or check.
- The dealer places the first three community cards face up on the table, called the flop.
- The flop betting round commences, where players can again call, raise, fold or check.
- The dealer then places the fourth community card face up on the table, called the turn.
- The flop betting round begins, where players make their choices based on the hands they can make with their two hole cards and any three of the four available community cards.
- The dealer places the fifth and final community card face up on the table, called the river.
- The river betting round is the final turn of betting, where players make the best hands they can using their hole cards and three of the five community cards. The winner of the showdown takes the pot.
Omaha plays similarly to Texas Hold’em, but rather than two hole cards and five community cards, each player is dealt four hole cards.
In Omaha, you have to make a hand of five cards using two of your four hole cards and three of the five community cards.
Also, like Texas Hold’em, in Omaha the dealer hands out the hole cards at the start of a round, then lays out three, then a fourth, then a fifth community card across three more rounds of betting, also called the flop, the turn and the river.
Five Card Draw
Five Card Draw is also commonly played at casinos, at poker tournaments and online. With Five Card Draw there are no community cards, and each player is dealt five hole cards.
A hand of Five Card Draw is typically played as:
- The dealer distributes five hole cards to each player, face-down. Each player picks their cards up to see what they’ve been dealt.
- A round of betting takes place.
- Each player can exchange as many of their cards as they want for new cards from the dealer to try and improve their hand.
- When all of the players have discarded and drawn new cards, the final betting round takes place.
Useful Poker Tips
Poker is a game that you can learn quickly, especially with our poker guide, but it takes years to master. To help you along in that process, and help you make the most of your poker playing, consider the following poker tips:
- Learn the game: Poker is a game that rewards knowledge, skill and experience. Make sure you have a good understanding of the variant of poker you’re playing as well as the poker betting rules before you bet serious money.
- Play aggressive on strong hands: Too many novice players are overly cautious, even when they’re holding a good hand. To win a round of poker, you have to play aggressively. If you’re holding good cards, play to win.
- Know when to fold: Conversely, if you don’t have a strong hand, you may not always be able to bluff your way through a round. Even if you have money in the pot, sometimes it’s better to cut your losses rather than calling or raising. It’s better to fold on weak hands and to play aggressively on a small number of strong ones.
- Set your limit: Going into every poker game you play, set a limit of how much you can afford to lose. Stop playing when you hit that limit.
- Play for the long-term: You’re going to lose hands when you first play poker. So, don’t bet more than you can afford to and don’t become preoccupied with your losses. Learn from them. Keep playing, develop your poker skills and you’ll improve over time.
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