Beginner’s Guide to Playing Poker:

Poker is one of the most beloved card games in the world, known for its depth, variety, and social aspect. As such, it can be played in various formats, three of which we will explore today – Texas Hold’em, Seven Card Stud, and Omaha

These games share some common elements, such as the standard 52-card deck and the fundamental hand rankings, but they each bring their own distinct set of rules and dynamics. For someone interested in learning poker, understanding these three popular versions is a great place to start.

This comprehensive guide provides an introduction into the basics of poker, explores the rules of popular variants, and beginner strategies.

Poker Hands

Poker is played with a standard deck of 52 cards, with cards ranked from 2 (lowest) to Ace (highest). The deck has four suits: Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, and Spades. No suit is higher than another.

Before we start with the game types and different rules, let’s understand the possible combinations of cards or ‘hands’ you can get in poker, ranked from highest to lowest: 

  • Royal Flush: The best possible hand in poker. It’s an ace high straight flush.
  • Straight Flush: A five-card straight, all in the same suit.
  • Four of a Kind: Four cards of equal value.
  • Full House: A three of a kind of one value and a pair of another value.
  • Flush: Any 5 cards, all of the same suit.
  • Straight: Any 5 cards of sequential value.
  • Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same value.
  • Two Pair: A pair of one value and a pair of another value.
  • Pair: Two cards of the same rank.
  • High Card: When you don’t have any of the above, your highest card plays. If two or more players hold the highest card, a kicker comes into play.

→ Click here to check out our poker hands guide ←

Betting

In poker, there are four types of actions that a player can take during their turn: check, bet, call, and raise.

  • Check: If no betting has occurred on the current round, a player may check, which passes the action to the next player.
  • Bet: If no betting has occurred on the current round, a player may bet. After a bet, other players must at least match this bet by calling, or “raise” to increase the bet.
  • Call: When faced with a bet, a player can call to match the amount of the bet to stay in the hand.
  • Raise: If there is a bet on the current round, a player may raise, which means they increase the amount of the bet required to stay in the hand.

Etiquette and Rules

  • Poker is a game of integrity. Players must act in turn and not reveal any information about their hand while the hand is ongoing.
  • Any form of cheating, including collusion with other players, is strictly prohibited.
  • Misdeals and technical issues are resolved by the dealer, and their decision is final.
  • Being respectful and considerate of other players is an integral part of the game.

Basic Poker Terminology

  • Blinds: Mandatory bets posted before the cards are dealt.
  • Button: A marker that indicates the dealer’s position at the table.
  • Community Cards: The face-up cards in the middle of the table that can be used by all players.
  • Hole Cards: The private cards dealt to each player at the start of a hand.
  • Pot: The total of all bets made in a hand.
  • Showdown: The end of the hand where all remaining players reveal their cards to determine the winner.

→ Click here to check out our poker terms guide ←

Playing Texas Hold’em (Step-by-Step Guide):

1. The Setup

  • Each player is dealt two private cards known as “Hole Cards” or “Pocket Cards”.
  • Then, five community cards are dealt face-up on the “board”.
  • All players in the game use their hole cards combined with the community cards to each make their best possible five-card poker hand.

2. The Blind Bet

  • The two players to the left of the dealer post the small blind and big blind, respectively.
  • The dealer button rotates clockwise after each hand.
  • The blind bet initiates the pot in a poker hand.

3. Pre-Flop

  • Starting with the player to the left of the big blind, each player has the option to call, raise, or fold.
  • The big blind is last to act, and they can also raise, fold, or check.

4. The Flop

  • After the first round of betting is complete, the dealer discards the top card of the deck. This is called a burn card and is done to prevent cheating.
  • Then, the dealer deals three community cards face-up on the “board”.
  • The second round of betting begins with the player to the left of the dealer.

5. The Turn

  • After the betting action is done on the flop round, another card is burned, and the fourth community card, known as ‘the turn’, is dealt on the board.
  • The third round of betting begins with the player to the left of the dealer.

6. The River

  • After the turn betting is complete, another card is burned, and the fifth and final community card, known as ‘the river’, is dealt
  • The final round of betting begins with the player to the left of the dealer.

7. The Showdown

  • If there are two or more players remaining after the final betting round, a showdown occurs.
  • The player who made the last aggressive action in the betting reveals their hand first.
  • If there was no bet on the final round, the player to the left of the dealer shows their cards first.
  • The remaining players reveal their cards moving in a clockwise direction around the table.
  • The player with the best five-card poker hand wins the pot. In case of identical hands, the pot will be equally divided between the players with the best hands.
  • In Texas Hold’em poker, players may use any combination of the seven cards available to them to make the best possible hand.

→ Click here to check out our poker hands guide to see which hands win above others ←

8. The Next Hand

Once the hand has been completed and the pot has been awarded, the dealer button moves one place to the left, the blinds are posted again, and a new hand begins.

Playing Seven Card Stud:

In contrast to Texas Hold’em, Seven Card Stud does not use community cards. Each player receives seven cards throughout the course of the game, but only the best five-card hand counts for each player. Seven Card Stud is usually played with a limit betting structure, and the game is divided into five rounds of betting.

The game begins with each player being dealt two private cards face down and one card face up. This is followed by the first round of betting. The player with the lowest exposed card starts the betting (in case of a tie, the first player clockwise from the dealer starts). This round is referred to as ‘Third Street’.

After the bets, each remaining player is dealt another exposed card, called ‘Fourth Street’. The player with the highest exposed cards starts this round of betting. The process repeats for ‘Fifth Street’ and ‘Sixth Street’, with an additional card dealt face up each time.

On ‘Seventh Street’, the seventh card is dealt face down. A final round of betting follows, and if necessary, a showdown. Players then make their best five-card hand from their seven cards to determine the winner.

Playing Omaha:

Omaha poker, sometimes called Omaha Hold’em, shares similarities with Texas Hold’em but introduces a few key differences. In Omaha, each player receives four private cards (hole cards) instead of two. However, unlike Texas Hold’em, in Omaha, a player must use exactly two out of their four hole cards in combination with exactly three of the five community cards to make the best five-card poker hand.

The game structure is similar to Texas Hold’em, with four rounds of betting: Pre-Flop, Flop, Turn, and River. Pre-Flop begins with each player being dealt their four hole cards. The first round of betting begins with the player to the left of the big blind, continuing clockwise. After the betting concludes, the dealer places the ‘Flop’, the first three community cards, on the board.

The second round of betting begins with the player remaining in the hand who is closest to the left of the dealer. Following this round of betting, the dealer places the ‘Turn’ on the board, the fourth community card. A third round of betting occurs.

Next, the ‘River’, the fifth and final community card, is placed on the board, followed by the final round of betting. If at least two players remain after this round, the game proceeds to a showdown. The player with the best hand, according to the rule that a hand must consist of exactly two hole cards and three community cards, wins the pot.

Beginner Poker Tips & Strategies:

Even though poker is a game with some elements of chance, the decisions you make play a significant role in determining whether you win or lose over the long run. The beginner tips mentioned above will help you understand the basics and provide a firm foundation for your poker game. As you gain experience, you can incorporate the intermediate and advanced tips into your game strategy to become a stronger player.

One of the most important things to remember is that learning poker is a journey. You might lose games and face downswings even if you’ve played your best, and that’s okay. Poker is a game of skill, patience, and resilience. It’s essential to analyze your own game, understand your mistakes, and learn from them.

1. Understand the Importance of Position:

Position refers to where you sit relative to the dealer button. The later you act in a round (the closer you are to the dealer button), the more information you’ll have about what your opponents have done. Being in a late position is an advantage and should influence your betting strategy.

2. Start Tight:

A tight playstyle means that you only play strong hands and fold the rest. As a beginner, this style is beneficial because it limits your potential losses and helps you gain understanding of the game with minimal risk.

3. Understand Pot Odds:

Pot odds are the ratio of the current size of the pot to the cost of a contemplated call. Understanding pot odds can help you decide whether calling, folding, or raising is the best move.

4. Practice Good Bankroll Management:

Regardless of how good you are, poker is a game of variance, and you can lose even with the best hands. Make sure you only invest a small portion of your bankroll in each game to survive the downswings.

Reading about poker strategy is a great start, but the real learning comes from playing the game. Start by playing low-stakes games or free online games to get comfortable with the process. As you gain experience, you can gradually move to higher stakes.

Analyze Your Games

Whether you win or lose, always analyze your game afterwards. Look at the hands you played, the decisions you made, and think about what you could have done differently. This self-analysis is one of the most effective ways to improve your game.

Learn from Others

Watch live poker games, tournaments, and online streams to learn from experienced players. Reading poker books and participating in poker forums can also provide valuable insights and knowledge.

Stay Balanced

Poker is a game that requires concentration and mental stamina. Make sure you take care of your physical health and mental well-being. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate sleep can significantly improve your poker game.

Remember, poker is not just about winning money. It’s about the thrill of making tough decisions, the camaraderie with fellow players, and the satisfaction of knowing that you’re constantly improving. So, keep learning, keep improving, and most importantly, enjoy the journey.

By incorporating these tips into your game, you’ll find yourself becoming a more capable, confident, and winning poker player. Remember, the goal of playing poker isn’t just to win, but to make better decisions than your opponents over time. Stay patient, keep learning, and the results will follow.