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How To play poker
Most people new to poker wonder if it is a difficult game to learn and how they can quickly start playing it. Our step by step guide on How to Play Poker will have you playing it in no time. Let’s dive right in.
Poker is played in many variations and Texas Hold’em is the most popular variant. Let’s start our journey on how to play poker there.
The ultimate objective of Texas Hold’em Poker — and in fact most variants of the game — is to win the pot (all the bets that have been put on the table).
The rules of Texas Hold’em poker are simple and logical. You can learn them in just a few minutes. Mastering the game, however, takes a bit longer and lot of practice and skill.
Texas Hold’em poker is played with at least two players and the number can go to up to a maximum of ten players. It is played with a 52-card deck excluding the joker. Cards are ranked from Ace (the highest) to Deuce or 2 (the lowest). However, in some hands an Ace is also treated as the lowest card – for example in a hand where you have 5, 4, 3, 2 and an Ace.
At the start of a game the dealer hands out two cards each to all the players and, over several rounds of betting, puts five community cards on the table. The player with the best five cards (two of his own and three community cards) wins the pot. So, how do you decide which hand is the best?
The decision is based on poker hand rankings. Poker hands are ranked in specific order, starting with a Royal Flush at the top and High Card at the bottom.
If you want to learn how to play poker and master it, you must memorise these rankings well.
- Royal Flush
A royal flush is the best hand you can have. It consists of A, K, Q, J, 10 of the same suit (diamonds, hearts, clubs or spades).
- Straight Flush
A straight flush consists of five cards of the same suit in sequence. For example, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 of Hearts is a nine high straight flush. In fact, the royal flush is an ace high straight flush.
- Four of a Kind (Quads)
Four of a Kind (Quad) are four cards of equal rank of any suit. For example, an Ace of Hearts, an Ace of Diamonds, an Ace of Spades, an Ace of Clubs, and an Eight of Diamonds.
- Full House or Full Boat
A full house, also known as Full Boat, consists of three of a kind and a pair. For example, King of Spades, King of Diamond, King of Hearts, 7 of Clubs, and a 7 of Hearts.
Flush consists of five cards of the same suit, no matter the order or sequence. For example, a Queen, 2, 3, 4, 5 of Diamonds.
Straight consists of five cards in sequence from any suit. For example, 7 of Diamonds, 8 of Hearts, 9 of Diamonds, 10 of Spades, and J of Clubs.
- Three of a Kind/ Set
Three of Kind, as the name suggests consists of three cards of the same rank from any suit and 2 cards of different ranks from any suit. For example, an 8 of Hearts, an 8 of Diamonds, an 8 of Spades, a 5 of Hearts, and a 4 of Diamonds.
- Two Pair
A pair is if you hold two cards of the same rank. Two Pair is if you hold two of those. For example, a 3 of Hearts and a 3 of Diamonds; and a 5 of spades and a 5 of hearts. The fifth card can be of any rank from any suit.
- One Pair
One pair consists of two cards of the same rank and the rest three cards can be of any rank from any suit. For example, a 9 of clubs, a 9 of Diamonds, a 5 of Diamonds, a 3 of Hearts, and an 8 of Hearts.
- High Card
High card means the hand with the highest card wins. For example, a 5 of Diamond, a King of Spades, a 7 of Hearts, an Ace of Clubs, and a Queen of Diamonds.T
Texas Hold’em Poker is divided into four rounds of betting. The initial pot is formed by forced bets from the two players to the left of the dealer. These bets are called blinds because they are made prior to a player seeing his cards. There are two blinds – the small blind and the big blind (which is double the value of the small). The player to the left of the dealer posts a small blind and the player to the left of the small blind makes the big blind.
The game has a rotating dealer button. This means one player will act as the dealer for one game then pass on the role of dealer to the player on their left for the next one. To choose the dealer, the players are dealt with one card face down and the player with the highest-value card starts as the dealer.
Since the dealer keeps shifting, the small and big blinds also rotate. Blinds encourage people early in play to place bets since there is something in the pot worth winning. The value of the big blind is what the betting starts at.
The player to the left of the big blind kicks off the first of four rounds of betting once the first two cards (pocket or hole) are dealt. This round of the game is called pre-flop. The first player has three options: call, raise or fold.
– Call: If the player wants to stay in the game based on their pocked cards, they must call the bet by the big blind, which means bet the same amount as the big blind.
– Raise: A player with good cards may want to raise the stakes, which means increasing the bet over and above the one made by the big blind. The amount you can raise depends on the table limits (which we will cover later in this article)
– Fold: A player with a weak hand may choose not to bet any further in the game and discard his cards. A player may fold his cards in any round of betting. When a player folds, he loses all the money he may have bet till then and has no chance of winning the pot.
Once all players have placed their bets, we move to the next round.
Flop: In the flop, the dealer deals three community cards, face up on the table.
Once the flop has been dealt, the second round of betting begins.The rules are the same as in the pre-flop except for two small exceptions:
– The first player to act is the next active player to the left of the dealer
– The first player to act can check or bet because there has been no bet placed.
A bet on the flop in Limit Hold’em variant is the amount of the big blind, and in No-Limit, it has to be at least twice that of the big blind.
Turn: After the round of betting on the flop, the dealer places another card face up on the table. This is called the turn. Players once again place their bets based on the card that is added to the table.
Betting on the turn is similar to the flop except that the size of the bet for this round and the final round is doubled in many games.
In No-Limit, a player can bet any amount of chips, including their entire stack (referred to as going ‘all-in’).
River: This is the last card that the dealer puts face up on the table. And a last round of betting takes place. Once all players have placed their bets or folded their hands, we move to the showdown.
Showdown: When learning how to play poker, you must know about the showdown. This is where the players who are still in the game (those who haven’t folded) show their pocket cards. The player with the best five-card hand takes the pot.
Here are some rules of a showdown:
- The player who bet biggest on the river is the first player to reveal their hand. If any other player chooses to show their hand first, they are free to do so.
- If all players checked on the river, the player closest to the left of the dealer shows their hand first, continuing clockwise around the table.
- If the player’s current hand is weaker than winning hand shown, he has the option to show or muck their cards. If two players share an identical hand, the pot is split.
At any time during the game, if all players but one folds, the last man standing wins the pot and the next game begins.
1. Don’t play too many hands: One of the most common mistakes that beginners make is not being selective enough with their poker hands. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that every hand is a winning poker hand. Some hands are more likely to win than others and as a beginner you need to the take the time to memorise poker hand rankings, study poker probability, learn positional play, and get familiar with player psychology.
2. Limit the Bluffing: As beginner poker players, you may have seen some spectacular bluffing examples on televised poker games. While bluffing is a legitimate strategy, you should know when to use it. It is good to try occasional bluffs but the real art of knowing when and how to bluff only comes with knowledge, practise, and experience.
3. Play with players worse than you: This may seem like a very simple tip, but you’ll be surprised at the number of players who go against this factor. If you are better than the players you are playing against, it makes sense that you will be a winner in the long haul. If you are the 10th best player in the world, it would not prove to be profitable to sit at a table with the top 9 poker players in the world. Choose your games and limits very carefully; a good table selection can help you make more money.
4. Play to your positional strength: Every poker pro will tell you that the best position to play from is the button. Try to play as many hands when you are in later positions. Play tight and safe when you are one of the early players. Play maximum hands when you are in the button.
5. Don’t multi-task: When you are new to poker, stick to a single table. Yes, multi-tabling has its own thrill. That can wait till you have mastered the basics. Playing at a single table will allow you to watch how the game proceeds and take better decisions on your hand.
6. Don’t jump the gun: As a beginner learning how to play poker, don’t play in high stakes games based on just a few wins. High stakes games are usually played by experienced hands, and you will be starting at a disadvantage.
7. Play a lot, practise a lot: The more you play, the better you will become. If you are starting out, play a lot of tournaments. Look for freerolls. Tournaments are a great way to get familiar with the game and the action.
8. Become familiar with the interface: Take time to learn the interface and become familiar with it. While the Spartan Poker games are easy to play and designed to be intuitive, it pays to spend some time understanding the gameplay
9. Make friends and have fun: Poker is a great way to meet like-minded people and make friends. So, don’t hesitate to chat or connect with other players. It will make your poker journey more enjoyable and you may even learn some tricks of the trade on how to play poker online.