How to Play Poker for Dummies

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How to Play Poker for Dummies

Learning to play the game of poker may seem complicated, but it is not. This game is easy to understand, but for a newbie the game’s rules can seem complex. However, with the right guide you can master the game – and this is precisely how this guide aims to help. 

Here, you’ll learn about the game poker, including its rules and other essential information. Once you are done with the fundamentals, you’ll also learn about the numerous game variants and be well on your way to playing on the top poker sites. Let’s get started!

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What is Poker?

Poker is a category of card games where players bet on who has the best hand – which is best is dependent on the type of poker game. Although the earliest kind of poker game used 20 cards, now it is typically played with a standard deck. Today, you’ll find it in most casinos, including online sites. The game attracts many professional players and big prizes. 

A Brief History of Poker 

The history of Poker is not straightforward and features many twists and turns. Many people believe it came from Persia.  The earliest poker ancestor in Europe was the 17th-century French game poque. This game, which was already popular around the globe, was brought into North America by French settlers. 

The seven-card stud variant showed up in the 19th century, and its popularity grew with the help of US soldiers, among whom it was popular. It became the preferred option in most casinos after the second world war, and its popularity skyrocketed even more in the 1970s after the Poker World Series was developed. 

Texas hold’em began to dominate the gambling sector over the following years, and the advent of televised poker tournaments in the early 2000sboosted its popularity. Today, the game has become one of the most popular games you’ll find anywhere in the world. 

Poker Hand Rankings: Card Values in Poker 

One of the first steps in playing poker is understanding the value of each hand. Once you fully understand this, you’ll be able to play any poker game variant without issues. There are usually five cards in a poker hand, with the exception of a few variants. The poker hand combinations rank from the highest – a royal flush – to the lowest, usually a no-pair or nothing. Let’s have a look at what each hand consists of. 

  • Royal flush/fiveofakind: This is the highest hand you can get in a poker game. It consists of five cards in sequence belonging to a suit, with the values 10 to ace making the royal flush. 
  • Straight flush: This is the highest hand you can get in games where the standard pack is utilized and no wild cards are present. The straight flush is made up of five cards of the same suit, in sequence. Only another straight flush consisting of higher-ranked cards or a royal flush can beat this hand. 
  • Four-of-a-kind: This is the highest hand after the above and consists of the same value card in all four suits. 
  • Full house: This is a hand that consists of the same card value in varying suits, along with another pair of cards in two different suits with the same rank. If numerous players land the full house, the one with the strongest hand is the winner. 
  • Flush: This hand consists of five cards belonging to the same suit, regardless of the sequence. If more than one player lands the flush, the one with the highest card value wins. 
  • Straight: This hand is a numerical sequence that is made up of numerous suits. The ace can be ranked higher than a king or lower than a two – but not both in the same hand. 
  • Three-of-a -kind: Here, the hand consists of three cards of the same value belonging to different suits. Asides from the three-of-a-kind, the two highest cards available complete the hand. 
  • Two-pair: These are two cards of the same rank from different suits . The remaining card that has the highest rank completes the hand. 
  • Pair: This hand consists of a pair of cards in different suits belonging to the same value. The rest of the hand is made up of the three available highest-ranked cards. 
  • High card: This is the hand with the lowest rank. In your hand, the strongest card is your best hand. It is typically the king of spades in this scenario. 

Betting in Poker: How Do You Make Bets?

In a game of poker, betting is essential. For most of the game, you’ll be managing your chips, and the goal is to ensure the game lasts as long as possible while making moves to win more from the pot. In every poker deal, there are instances where players will have a chance to wager on their hands. Reducing your losses with weak hands and maximizing wins with strong hands is a critical poker skill. 

Depending on the game’s rules, all players may be required to make an ante bet before cards are dealt. This is an initial contribution where all players must place one chip or more in the pot to begin. Once a player makes a wager of one chip or more, the betting round starts. Every player will then have the following options:

  • Call: the player wagers by matching the chips in the pot.
  • Raise: the player increases the size of their current bet in the same betting round.
  • Fold: implies that the player forfeits their hand and can’t bet until the subsequent round. 
  • Check: players can decide to check until the first wager in a betting round is placed. This means they decide not to make a bet while keeping their spot to wager later in the round. 
  • Go All in: if a player does not have adequate chips remaining to call a bet, they can play all the chips they have left. From this point, the remaining betting occurs in a side pot, and the player who makes an all-in bet will only be able to win the number of chips in the pot during the time they went all-in when there is a showdown. 

Major Poker Variants 

There are numerous poker variants today, all of which work differently. Before starting any Poker game, you must know about each game and how they work. Below are a few of the most popular variants you’ll find today. 

Texas Hold’em 

This is the most popular and common poker game in the world. Most tournaments, cash games, and home poker games around the globe are based on this variant. Many players today who delved into the game in the 2000s will probably be most familiar with this variant. It has been televised heavily, adding to its popularity.

Every player is provided with two hole cards and five community cards facing upwards on the table. The goal is to get the strongest hand using a combination of community cards and hold cards. The dealer kicks off the game by sharing these cards to each player one at a time, beginning with the player who made the small blind bet. Hole cards are placed face down all through the game, and only the player they are for can view them. 

Once each player has been given two hole cards, the initial betting round starts. The betting rounds in Texas hold’em are called preflop, flop turn, and river. After the preflop betting round ends, the dealer places three cards face-up on the table, while the community cards are referred to as the flop. Once all the players in the betting round have made their bets, the dealer deals a fourth card known as the turn. Next comes another betting round before the dealer offers the river, which is the fifth and last card. After the river, there is one more betting round, and once it is over, the players who remain in the game will turn their hole cards upwards. 

This stage is referred to as the showdown, and it is where the player with the best hand is deemed the winner. Texas hold’em is very easy to learn and develop your skills. Since it is very popular, you’ll find tons of information to teach you about the game. 

Omaha Poker 

This popular variant features gameplay that is almost like Texas hold’em, but with some slight variations. The goal is also to make the best five-card hand possible using a mix of five community cards and hole cards. 

However, unlike in Texas hold’em, the dealer gives the players four hole cards, and their five-card hand must consist of three community cards and two hole cards. Whereas in Texas hold’em, players are offered two hole cards and can combine any community cards and hold cards to make the strongest five-card hand. 

Omaha poker is normally played with limit betting or pot-limit rules. If you understand Texas hold’em, you will have no problem learning this game and how it works. 

Omaha Hi-Lo 

This popular variant of Omaha poker is also referred to as Omaha 8/B or Omaha eight-or-better. Omaha hi-lo follows the same gameplay as Omaha, aside from the fact that during the showdown, the pot is split evenly between the lowest ranking and highest ranking hands. If no player makes a qualifying low hand, the player with the strongest hand gets the entire pot.

Players can use varying hole card combinations to create low and high hands. However, players must meet specific conditions before being awarded the “low” half of the pot. 

This aspect is where the “eight-or-better” in the name comes from. Here, the five cards present in the low-ranking hand must be eight or lower. Also, flushes and straights don’t give your hand any disadvantage. 

Seven-card Stud 

This poker variant is not like Omaha and Texas hold’em, where players to the left of the dealer are responsible for posting blinds. Instead, every player is required to post an ante bet, typically 5% of the big bet. The player with the lowest-ranking door card must place a forced bet known as the bring-in, worth five times the ante. If the player decides, they may complete the bet by posting all of the small bets. 

Stud games don’t have community cards. Instead, every player in the game gets seven distinct cards. The initial street consists of one card facing upwards and two downwards-facing cards dealt to each player. After this, four more betting rounds take place, with the dealer dealing an extra card to players in every round. 

Once the dealer finishes dealing the seven cards, players will have four cards facing upwards and three downwards-facing cards. After the last round, the player with the strongest hand is deemed the winner. 

Five-card Draw 

Like Texas hold’em, the goal is to get the hand with the highest rank. To start with, every player is dealt their own hand, which can’t be seen by other players. This makes the game more interesting since you don’t know how strong the hands of the opponents are. 

This game begins with a big blind and small blind bet placed before the dealer deals the cards. Once this is done, every player receives five cards, and betting begins from the player situated at the left-hand side of the big blind. In the pre-draw betting round, every player has the option of folding, raising, or calling. The players left in the game then have the chance to draw between zero and five cards. 

Once this draw is over, there is an extra betting round before the game reaches the showdown. Here, the winning player is determined, and they will get everything in the pot.

Five-card Draw


This Stud poker variant has similar gameplay, except that the hands are ranked in a reversed order. Razz poker does not have high hands, which and low hands don’t have qualifications. Players in this game can have a pair, queen-low, or worse, and still be deemed winners of the hand. This is the case so long as their hand is less than their opponent’s during the showdown round. 

Basic Tips to Win Online Poker 

Understanding the basics of the game is critical, but there are other tips that can improve your overall experience. Combining these with your knowledge of the rules can ensure you claim the pot more consistently than other players. Here are a few of the most helpful tips we have compiled to help you out. 

Understand the rules 

This goes without saying. You must learn the rules if you are serious about landing more wins in poker. The rules may vary depending on the online site you choose to play. Nonetheless, understanding the rules will certainly place you ahead. 

Start with smaller bets 

If you are not experienced in poker games, it is essential to start small. Instead of using up your bankroll and losing all your money, make sure you call in a small amount first. If you are playing against opponents that tend to raise huge amounts, don’t mimic them – go at your own pace. Managing your bankroll will help you last longer in the game and improve your chances of winning. In addition to this, there are other reasons to begin with lower wagers: 

  • You’ll know that you are not risking too much and if you lose, it won’t affect your bankroll drastically. You’ll also be able to learn how the game works without spending too much cash.  
  • Starting with lower limits allows you to play with less experienced players instead of pitting you against those with more experience, against whom you are likely to lose your cash. 

Find the ideal poker game 

Playing with better players is not necessarily bad, but finding poker games ideal for your level can go a long way. If you constantly play with players who are much better than you are, you’ll keep losing and may not have an opportunity to learn. Constantly doing this may also result in you going broke faster than you anticipate.

To prevent this, do the following: 

  • Search for games on your level. Some rooms are better for recreational players, while others are the preferred option for more experienced players. 
  • Do your research to determine where you can find peak traffic and players engaging in the game for fun. 

Avoid limping 

Limping means you call the big blind preflop. This is typically not a bad idea, but it should be avoided if you are the first player to go into a pot. You should avoid this for the following reasons: 

  • It is impossible to win the pot preflop the same way you could have if you raised.
  • You give players after you more gratifying pot odds, which increases the chances of you facing numerous players, thus reducing your probability of winning the pot. 

The only instance when limping is ideal is when a player has limped before you. This is a great strategy because you get fantastic pot odds and can land a great play during the flop if you are lucky. 

Don’t play with emotion

Similar to other casino games, emotions can harm your overall gameplay. They prevent you from making the right decisions, and in games like poker, where strategic thinking is key, it can be very problematic. You’ll want to avoid playing a game when you are sad, angry, drunk, or even too happy. Any of these can cause you to make horrible decisions that could cost you money. Keeping your emotions in check before you delve into a poker game can be the game-changer you need. 

Understand that losing is normal 

There are times when you’ll experience a losing streak when playing poker. This is normal. Sometimes, you’ll be unlucky, and every strategy you use will end up losing. However, you can’t let these types of losses affect your confidence, or it will be impossible to improve your skill. If you experience a loss, take it as a lesson and don’t let it affect you negatively. 

Fold when you are uncertain 

The most experienced poker players know the right time to fold, even when they have a good hand. Even though this sounds simple, it is a very tricky step for most players. By folding, you surrender the opportunity of winning the pot without knowing what your opponent has. 

However, you are more likely to lose your hard-earned funds if you constantly call and get it wrong. Any time you are uncertain about what to do next during a poker game, it is best to fold instead of raising or betting.

Keep egos aside 

Poker is not an ego game, and many players have lost sizable amounts of cash during showdowns due to ego. Your aim in a game of poker should be to win as much as you can and not prove a point. Don’t flex your muscles in a game of poker; if you are not sure of winning, back down instead of being sucked into an unreasonable showdown. 

Key Concepts in Poker 

Poker consists of numerous terms you must understand before playing for real money. Here are a few of the most important terms you should note. 

The dealer 

The dealer is responsible for determining the order in which players make their wagers and blinds are placed. This is the case regardless of if you are playing poker offline or in an online casino. In most cases, the order of the game is usually clockwise, beginning from the dealer’s position. 

The dealer is typically not a player, so a token is used to nominate the dealer for every hand. This nomination then moves clockwise from one hand to the other. 

Forced bets 

Many poker variants require players to make a compulsory bet when a hand starts. This is typically known as the blind, or ante. Some variants will require a small blind and a big blind, with the big double the size of the small blind. 

The kitty 

Sometimes, players may create a special fund referred to as a kitty. This is usually based on majority or unanimous agreement. The kitty is typically built by cutting, which means taking one chip with a low denomination from every pot with over one raise. This kitty belongs to every player equally and is utilized to pay for food and drinks or new card decks. When the game is over, any chip remaining in the kitty is shared evenly between all players who still remain in the game. 


Poker games are played using chips. The number of chips in a game is dependent on the number of players in it. For instance, there should be no fewer than 200 chips in a game with seven players or more. The chip with the lowest value is the white chip, whereas the red chip is the same as five white chips. The blue chip makes up for two, four, or five red chips and ten, twenty, or twenty-five white chips. Every player “buys in” when the game begins by purchasing some chips. In most cases, every player must purchase the same number of chips. 


A player is made the banker in a game, and they’ll be responsible for keeping records of the chips. The banker will note the number of chips left, how many have been given to each player, and how much players have made for their chips. Players are not allowed to make private exchanges or transactions. Players with excess chips will be required to give them back to the banker and get cash or credit in return. Players who want extra chips must ensure they get them from the banker alone. 

Betting Limits in Poker Games 

Betting limits are crucial in poker games, or players with larger bankrolls may have an unfair edge over others. This is why there is a betting limit, except for instances where all players agree to alter the wager. Below are some of the most common limit systems you’ll find in poker games. 

Fixed limit 

Here there is a specified limit in the game. Players aren’t allowed to raise or wager over the specified number of chips. The limit tends to vary depending on the stage of the game. In games like draw poker, if there is a limit of five before the draw, after the draw, it can be ten. 

Pot limit 

This is how Poker is typically played. Here, any raise or bet is restricted to the number of chips available in the pot at that moment. This implies that players who raise add to the pot, which is the number of chips needed for players to call. 

Presuming there are four chips in the pot, and a player makes a wager of six, it makes a total of ten chips. This means the next player to call will require six chips, making a total of 16, and then the player can raise by 16 chips. However, when playing a pot limit, there is typically a set maximum which can be 40 chips or more. 

Table stakes 

In this situation, the limit for every player is the number of chips they have. So, if a player has just 20 chips, they can’t wager beyond 20 chips and can call the bet of other players to that amount. In table stakes, players can’t return chips to the banker or withdraw from the table until they are no longer in the game. Players can add more to their stack, but this can only happen after they have been dealt or when the next deal begins. 

Poverty poker 

Here, a max limit is placed on the number of chips players can lose. Every player removes one stack when the game begins, and if they lose it, the banker will give them another without any charge. In many situations, the players may be able to receive a third stack for free before they drop out of the game. 

No limit 

As the name implies, this does not have any limits, and players can wager as they want. However, you’ll hardly find this in the games played today. 

Limits on Raises 

Nowadays, you’ll find a limit on the number of raises in every betting session, and this is typically three raises. Anytime a player drops, they forgo any chips that they have placed in the pot. Except when a player is ready to input as many chips as the players before, they will be required to leave the game. 

Once every player has put in the exact number of chips as the player before them or dropped out, a betting session ends. You’ll find two betting intervals or more in a poker deal, and this ends with a showdown where the player with the best hand wins the pot. 

Presuming a player wants to stay in a game without placing a wager, they can check. This means that the player does not bet anything. This is only possible if no player before them has made a wager. If another player has placed a wager, they won’t be able to check but instead, wager or fold. Players who check can raise a wager that another player has raised, and this is referred to as sandbagging. This is a legal move, except when it has been decided before the game that it is not allowed. If every player checks in a betting round, it ends, and players who are in the pot stay in the game. 

Play Poker Online for Real Money

Now that we’ve provided you with all the basic poker rules and tips to help you win, the next step is to find a poker site to get started. You don’t need to start investing real money immediately, as tons of websites will allow you to play poker games without spending anything. We recommend you sign up for a poker account on websites like Pokerstars or 888 Poker to get started. However, you’ll need to be in one of the licensed states to do this. Once you have gotten the hang of it, you can then deposit real money. 

If you are in a state where you can’t play poker games for real money, you can head to sweepstakes sites like Global Poker. These platforms are legal since they use the sweepstakes model and allow you to play using virtual currencies instead of real cash. 

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