15
min read

Master Poker Rules and Learn How to Play Poker the Right Way

Pokercode

Poker is one of the world's most popular card games, with many variations played in different parts of the planet. 

If you like cards, chances are you have learned poker rules to at least one game variation at some point, but we can help you learn even more. 

Whether you are new to poker or already familiar with the game, we will teach you how to play poker the right way, including the rules of all the most popular variants of the game. 

The basic rules of poker are fairly simple and should not take too long to learn, but the game can take years to master. So let’s start out with some basics!

Basic Rules of Poker

In terms of basic rules, poker is a fairly simple game that doesn’t require too much time to learn. There are many different variations of poker, but they all share the basic concepts, with a few twists and turns. 

To start, you should learn how to play Texas Hold’em, the most popular variation of the game of poker and the one you have probably seen on TV or at your local casino. Therefore, we will take it as the main example throughout this text.

This game is played with anywhere between two and ten players at the table, and every player is dealt two "hole cards" that other players can't see. 

Five additional "community cards" are dealt out on the table, which all players can use in conjunction with their hole cards to create the best five-card poker hand. 

Poker rules regarding hand rankings are the same in most poker variations, so knowing the poker hand rankings is one of the first steps to becoming a poker player. 

Poker Hand Rankings

At the end of each poker hand, players must make the best possible five-card poker hand out of the cards they have at their disposal. 

The poker hand rankings are the same in Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Seven Card Stud, and many other poker games, so learning this table by heart will help you understand which hand is best almost universally. 

From best to worst, these are all the possible poker hands you can have: Royal Flush, Straight Flush, Four of a kind (Quads), Full House, Flush, Straight, Three of a kind, Two Pair, One Pair, and High Card.

Master Poker Rules And Learn How To Play Poker The Right Way

Remember that you are supposed to make the best five-card hand combination. If the hand reaches showdown, your best five-card poker hand will play, and you don’t even need to choose which cards to use. 

Simply flipping over your hole cards will allow the dealer to see your best possible hand, and the pot is awarded to the best hand. 

However, we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves, as there is a lot of poker to play between the time your hole cards are dealt and the showdown. 

Before you can play poker, you need to learn poker rules that pertain to the hand setup, betting rounds, and much more. Let’s start with the blinds and antes, the forced bets that drive all action in Texas Hold’em Poker. 

Blinds and Antes

Before the dealer deals any cards to the players, at least two of the players at the table are required to put some money into the pot. These "forced bets" are called "blinds," and they are used to drive action in the hand. 

The two players sitting to the left of the dealer button are always the ones posting the blinds. The dealer button moves around the table every hand, so every player is forced to play in the small and big blind once per round. 

The value of the small and big blind is predetermined. For instance, if you are playing the $1/$2 game at your local casino, the small blind will be worth $1, and the big blind will be worth $2. 

The dealer deals every player’s hole cards once the players in the blinds have posted these bets. From there, each player can call the value of the big blind, raise the bet, or fold. 

It is worth noting that in some games, especially in poker tournaments, all players are asked to contribute a further “ante” bet, which is usually worth about 10% of the big blind. 

In modern poker games, the ante bet is usually posted for all players by one of the players at the table, usually, the one sitting in the big blind or on the button. 

Blinds at the poker table

Betting in Poker – Time to Act On Your Hand

Learning how to play poker is not just about knowing which hand beats which. In fact, poker is all about what you do with your chips, not with your cards, and many poker hands are not won by the best hand. 

In fact, most poker hands never even reach showdown, meaning the winning player’s cards don’t matter. 

Once all the hole cards are dealt out, the player to the left of the big blind, also known as “under the gun,” is the first to take action on his hand. 

After he has acted, the action continues around the table until it reaches the big blind. If the bet is raised in between, players may be given multiple opportunities to act on their hands within a single betting round. 

Here are the actions you can take in a poker hand:

  • Fold: Folding means you are discarding your hole cards and not participating further in the hand. You will not win the pot by folding, but you won't lose any further chips, either. 
  • Call: Call means you have to pay the value of the current bet. If there was no raise, you would need to pay the value of the big blind. If another player raises before you, you will need to match that raise. 
  • Raise: Whether the bet has been previously raised or not, you will have the option to raise it further. In No-Limit Hold’em, you can raise the bet as high as you want, up to the value of your entire chip stack. 
  • Check: If there is no bet in place, you can check your option, meaning you don't put any chips in the pot and pass the action to the next player in line. You won't be able to check before the flop unless you are the big blind, as you will need to at least match the big blind amount to stay in the hand. 
  • Bet: Whenever there is no action in front of you, you can fire out a bet. If you have a hand that you believe is worth it, you can opt not to check your option but make a bet that other players will need to call or fold to. 
  • All-in: While this action is simply an extension of a bet or a raise, all-in is a popular way of announcing that you are making a bet for all your chips. In poker tournaments, players often go all-in on every street. 

Each of these actions can be taken by every player at the table multiple times per hand. To know how many times exactly, you need to learn about the betting rounds, which are also related to the way the seven cards in play are revealed to the players. 

Let’s talk about the four betting rounds of Texas Hold’em next and explain how to approach each of them. 

Betting Rounds Explained

So far, we have only talked about players being dealt their two hole cards and acting on them once. This is the first betting round, also known as pre-flop. 

Further betting rounds are available throughout the hand, as follows:

  • Flop: After the pre-flop action is completed, the dealer reveals the first three community cards, known as the flop. Once the flop is dealt, the remaining players act on their hands, starting with the small blind or the closest active player to the dealer's left. 
  • Turn: Once all flop action is completed, the dealer reveals the nest community card, known as the turn. Once again, all players still in the hand get to take action on their hand in the same order as they did on the flop. 
  • River: Once turn action is completed, the dealer reveals the final fifth community card, known as the river. After this card is dealt out, the remaining players have one last chance to act on their hands. 
  • Showdown: Once all the action is completed, if there is more than one player left, the remaining players are asked to show their hole cards. The best poker hand is determined, and the winner is announced. 

Keep in mind that a poker hand can end at any of these betting streets if only one player remains active in the pot. 

This can happen whenever a player makes a bet, and other players are not interested in their hand anymore and fold. 

When only one player is left with hole cards, that player automatically becomes the winner and does not need to show his cards. 

Master Poker Rules And Learn How To Play Poker The Right Way
Learn poker together with a like-minded community

Value Bets and Bluffs – Playing Your Cards

As you have probably noticed from reading about the basic rules of poker, the game is a bit more complicated than most other card games. 

The winner of the hand is not always simply the player who is dealt the best cards, and there are many opportunities for every player to win the hand. 

In poker, you will be playing the game by making bets, raises, and calls on the four betting streets, each designed to achieve a goal.

Your ultimate goal in poker is to win as many chips from your opponents as possible or to lose as few as possible if you lose a hand. 

To this end, you will need to make bets and raises when you have a poker hand that you believe is best, as well as anytime you believe you can make your opponents fold their cards. 

Since you can see up to five of the seven cards your opponent can use to make their poker hand, you will have a lot of information to work with. 

Using this information to make your opponents fold better poker hands than the one you are holding is what poker is all about. This is known as “bluffing.”

On the other hand, you will also want to get paid big when you have a strong poker hand like a flush or a full house. Making bets with such strong poker hands is known as “value betting.”

To be a truly great poker player, you will need to learn when to bluff, when to value bet, and when to simply let go of your hand and wait for a better opportunity. 

There will be plenty of time to learn about all these plays in our more detailed guides on how to play poker, but for the time being, simply remember that there is more than one way to win a hand of poker. 

Limit, Pot Limit, and No Limit

Most poker games in the world these days are played at a No-Limit Hold’em table, but this is certainly not the only variation of poker you can play. 

We will expand on other variations of poker a bit further in this guide, but before we do that, we need to explain the different ways you can play Texas Hold’em as well. 

No limit may be the most popular version these days, but in the past, Limit Hold’em was the preferred choice for many players, while Pot-Limit Hold’em is also played occasionally. 

The three betting types can be used in most poker games, including Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Stud, and others. 

The difference between the three relates to the way betting is done on the various betting streets, and here is what each of the three means:

  • Limit Poker: In limit poker, the blinds and the bets on each street are fixed. If you are playing $2/$4 Limit Hold’em, you will only be able to make $2 bets pre-flop and on the flop, and $4 bets on turn and river. Up to four bets can be put in on each street in limit poker. 
  • Pot Limit Poker: In pot-limit games, you can size your bets any way you like, but the pot size is your limit. You cannot bet more than the pot size on any street. 
  • No Limit Poker: In no-limit poker, there are no limitations to your bets other than your chip stack. You can bet every chip you have in front of you at every moment but can never bet more than what you have on the table. 

Cash Games vs. Tournaments

There are many different ways the game of poker can be played. We have already discussed the difference between limit, pot limit, and no limit poker, but now we need to explain the difference between poker cash games and tournaments. 

The basic rules of poker are the same in cash games and tournaments, but the game's structure is quite different. 

Cash game tables allow players to come in, buy chips, play any number of hands they want, and then simply leave, whether they are winning or losing. 

$1 worth of cash game chips will be worth exactly $1, and you can take your cash game chips to the cashier and cash them out for real money at any time. 

Poker tournaments, on the other hand, are games where you receive a fixed number of tournament chips for the price of a tournament buyin fee. 

All players play with the same chip stack to start with. Once you lose those chips, you are out of the tournament. 

However, winning some chips in a poker tournament doesn’t mean you have won any money. You will need to outlast the majority of players in a tournament to get paid anything, while the players who outlast everyone and reach the final table will get the biggest payouts. 

Tournaments are much more volatile than cash games, so you must decide what you are looking for before entering a poker game. 

Popular Poker Variations

We mentioned earlier that Texas Hold’em is not the only poker game you can play these days, although it may be the most popular one. 

Learning the poker rules for many different games can be overwhelming to new players, but it is worth knowing that these games are out there and that many of the poker rules you learn here apply in other formats as well. 

We do highly recommend learning each game from scratch once you decide to try playing it so as not to miss important poker rules that are exclusive to that game. 

The most popular poker versions these days include:

  • Pot Limit Omaha: Played with four hole cards per player instead of two, Pot Limit Omaha is similar to Hold’em in some regards but different in others. The game is usually played in the pot-limit betting format, and players must use two hole cards and three community cards to make the best five-card hand. 
  • Omaha Hi/Lo: Also known as Omaha 8 or Better, Omaha Hi/Lo is a split-pot game in which one-half of the pot goes to the lowest poker hand, with only cards under eight qualifying for the low portion. Omaha Hi/Lo is usually played as a limit or pot limit game.
  • Seven Card Stud: Once the most popular poker game in the world, Seven Card Stud is played with each player dealt seven individual hole cards and no community cards in play. Seven Card Stud is exclusively a limit game and very fun to play. 
  • Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo: Another split pot game, Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo is played the same way as Seven Card Stud, but with one-half of the pot going to the low hand, if there is one. 
  • Razz: This version of Seven Card Stud has players competing to make the lowest hand possible. You will be looking to make a low straight, if possible, with pairs not counting towards a low hand. 
  • Five Card Draw: In this popular poker game, all players are dealt five cards and may switch out as many of them as they want with new cards from the deck once. Five Card Draw is an exciting no-limit game that's all about bluffing and taking big risks. 
  • Deuce to Seven Draw: A lowball game that can be played with one or three draws in no limit or limit format, Deuce to Seven Draw is popular at the WSOP and mixed cash games. Cards are dealt out like in Five Card Draw, but players are looking to make the lowest combination of cards possible without making a straight, with deuce being the low card. 
  • Short Deck Hold’em: A variation of Texas Hold’em, this game is played without any deuces, threes, fours, or fives in the deck. Fewer cards in the deck lead to more big hands being made and a lot more action being generated. 
  • Big O: This Omaha game is played with five hole cards per player, with the rules of Omaha Hi/Lo applying. Big O is becoming very popular among live poker players for its intense action and plenty of big pots. 

You can try other variations, but these games are among the most popular poker formats you are likely to encounter in one place or another. 

Master Poker Rules And Learn How To Play Poker The Right Way
In some poker variants you play with more than 2 hole cards.

Top 5 Tips On How to Play Better Poker

Learning how to play poker is not all about the rules of the game and knowing when it’s your turn to act. 

In fact, poker is a very complicated game, and there is a lot to learn before you can call yourself a real poker player. 

To that end, we have prepared some quick tips to teach you how to play poker better by applying very broad and simple terms. Remember that each of these tips can be expanded on, but these are the concepts you should keep in mind the next time you play poker. 

  1. Be Selective with Your Starting Hands

One of the biggest mistakes new players make in poker is playing too many hands. Sure enough, every starting hand can make a monster hand, but you should look to play hands that give you an edge from the get-go. 

In fact, while you are learning how to play poker, we recommend playing fairly tight and only entering a hand if you have a very good starting hand. 

This will give you an advantage in the hand from the start and make things much simpler on each betting street, which is the way you want to approach poker as a newbie. 

There are many ways in which you can expand on your starting hands as you learn how to play poker better, but stick with the “tight is right” saying for now, and you should do well. 

  1. Be Mindful of Your Position

The position is extremely important in poker, and especially in no-limit, where opponents can make big bets and put you to the test on every betting street. 

For that reason, it is advisable to be very selective with how you approach playing in early positions and the blinds, while you can let loose a little bit on the button or the cutoff. 

Late positions give you the advantage of being able to manipulate the pot on later betting streets, which is why you can play a slightly wider range of hands from these positions. 

Try not to play too many hands from early positions, and especially avoid calling re-raises with weak or marginal hands if you will be out of position against the aggressor. 

  1. Be the Aggressor

This leads us to the next important point, and that one is related to aggression. In poker, you almost always want to be the one dishing out the aggression, not the one defending from it. 

Whenever you make a bet or a raise, there is at least some chance that your opponent will fold their cards, and the hand will end right then and there. 

When you check or call a bet, you will never win the bet right then and there, which is why the player who is being aggressive usually has the advantage. 

There is something to be said for trapping the overly aggressive players, but for the most part, tight and aggressive is the best approach in poker. 

  1. Balance is Important

When you play poker, your opponents watch how you play and make mental notes. Unless you are playing against very bad opponents, they will notice some tendencies in your play. 

Therefore, it is important to be somewhat balanced between the times you are betting for value and betting as a bluff. 

When you first start playing poker, I recommend limiting your bluffing, but you still need to do it at least once in a while. 

Make sure you remember to play your strong drawing hands as flush draws, and open-ended straight draws aggressively like you would if you had two pairs or a set, and you will remain unpredictable and keep your opponents guessing. 

  1. Fold When You Are Beaten

Sometimes in poker, you are facing a bet, and you know you are beaten. When this happens, remember to stay disciplined and fold your cards. 

While there are times when we must make calls with speculative hands, there are other times when it's pretty obvious our opponent has us beat, and calling off bets in such situations is bad. 

Make sure that you can fold even decent holdings when facing a bet that's simply never a bluff, and save your chips for a better spot. 

After all, a dollar saved is a dollar earned, and every time you correctly fold your cards, you are earning money in the long run. 

Master Poker Rules And Learn How To Play Poker The Right Way

Where to Play Poker

Now that you know the rules of poker and have the idea of some basic concepts that will help your game, it’s time to decide where to play it. 

You could start playing either online or live, and both have their pros and cons. On the other hand, there is no reason not to try both and see which one you prefer. 

Online poker gives you a chance to play very low stakes and practice playing poker with very little on the line, which is the ideal approach if you are completely new to the game. 

On the other hand, live poker games tend to be very soft and easy to beat, even though the stakes there are much higher than the lowest stakes online. 

Typically speaking, daily live poker tournaments or lowest stakes cash games in most places tend to be great places for new players to get better, practice their hand-reading skills, and become comfortable with live poker.

Whichever you choose, stay mindful of your bankroll, don’t play for more money than you can realistically afford, and try to soak in as much knowledge as you possibly can from other players by observing the game as it unfolds in front of you. 

FAQ

  1. Is learning the rules of poker difficult?

The rules of poker are not too difficult to learn, and you can learn all the basic poker rules on this page. Remember that playing good poker is about more than just knowing the rules.

  1. Is poker skill or luck?

Poker is a skill game in the long run, and the best players will walk away with the money. However, in the short run, even average players can win, and it's important to be aware of that and be ready for some downswings along the way. 

  1. Can you win real money at poker?

Yes! Poker is a game that can be beaten, and the better you get at it, the more you will win. Poker games have become increasingly tough over the last few years, but there is still plenty of room for the best players to win and walk away with plenty of cash. - Watch Fedor Holz explain how to make money in poker.

  1. What is Texas Hold’em Poker?

Texas Hold’em is the most popular variation of poker played these days. In Texas Hold’em, players are dealt two hole cards and five community cards, which they combine to make the best five-card poker hand according to standard poker hand rankings. 

  1. What is the easiest poker game to learn?

Texas Hold’em is by far the most common poker game these days and the one most players learn first. However, Draw Poker may be even easier to learn how to play, with Five Card Draw particularly being quite simple in terms of poker rules and basic strategy. 

  1. Where should I play poker?

You can play poker at a number of online poker sites to start, or visit your local casino or card room and look for some games. If you are new to poker, we highly recommend starting with some micro stakes online games while you learn the rules of poker and an occasional cheap buy-in daily tournament at your local casino. 

  1. What is the best hand in poker?

The best hand in poker is the royal flush. A royal flush beats all other poker hands in nearly all poker variations. The only games in which poker rules for hand rankings are different are the so-called "lowball" games in which the lowest possible hand wins the pot, such as Deuce to Seven Triple Draw. 

Let us know what you think

More from Team Pokercode

Check out our other articles, interviews, and stories. You'll love it!

Explore all reads
All the best content
We're confident you'll find all the best poker and non-poker content right here on the Pokercode blog.
Reads.
Check out our newest articles, notes & stories. You’d love it!️
Read now
Videos.
Watch, learn & enjoy the moment with our video content.
Watch now