Poker Rules


If you are a poker beginner you have just come to the right place! Here you can learn how to play most popular poker games - Texas Holdem, Omaha Poker, and other variants of this game.

Nothing beats actual play for learning the poker rules. You can practice on free money tables in various online poker rooms from the comfort of your home. We would recommend PokerStars - the biggest online poker room where beginners can learn to play poker for free with other people over the internet.

Poker is a type of card game whereby players gamble on the strength and value of their hands (card combinations) against a standard hand strength hierarchy. The winner of a round either produces the highest hand combination, or becomes the only player remaining in the pot (community amount of chips) after all other players have folded (laid down their cards). There are many variants of poker, but they commonly involve several rounds of betting, a showdown (presentation and comparison of players cards) and some also involve community (or shared) cards.

It is easy to learn to play poker but it takes a lifetime to master it. You just need to know the hand rankings and the keep in mind that best combination of five cards wins.

Betting and Play

The following describes the betting and play for Texas Holdem. Check out our comprehensive glossary for definitions on all the terms used in poker.

Play always moves clockwise and starts with the players seated after the dealer button (typically represented by a plastic disk). The two players to the left of the 'dealer' must post a big blind and small blind respectively. The blind is a bet that is made without players having seen, or even been dealt their cards. This is done to commence betting and build the pot. Player's hole cards are then dealt (face down), with the player to the left of the big blind opening betting proceedings.

Call, Raise or Fold

At this time, players can either call (match the amount of the big blind), raise (increase the bet to a given amount) or fold (return their cards to the dealer and have no more play in this round). Play moves clockwise until all players have placed/matched an equal amount into the pot, or have folded. Once play is complete, the community cards are dealt.

The Flop

In Texas Holdem three cards are then dealt, face up and players can make their strongest hand using any combination of the community cards and their hole cards. Another round of betting commences.

Check, Raise or Fold

In this (and subsequent) rounds of betting, players can check (effectively make a bet of zero; staying in the pot), raise or fold. Naturally if a player has raised, the following player cannot check, so can either call, raise or fold. After a round of betting another community card is dealt.

The Turn

After the forth community card is dealt, another round of betting commences. Players can once again, check (if no one has opened the betting), call, raise or fold. After a round of betting is complete a final community card is dealt.

The River

After the fifth and final community card is dealt a final round of betting commences. Once again, players can check, call (if betting has opened), raise or fold.

The Showdown

If, after the final round of betting after the river, there are two or more people left in the pot, all players must declare their hand and show their cards. The player with the strongest hand using the five strongest cards available wins the pot. After the showdown, the cards are collected, the dealer button, big and small blinds move one seating position clockwise and the players now on the big and small blinds must make their forced bets. Then the cards are shuffled and dealt for another hand.

If at any time throughout any of the rounds of betting, all players fold leaving only one remaining, then the remaining player wins the pot and does not have to show his/her winning hand.

Additional Information

What we have described so far are the poker rules for no-limit Texas Holdem. Here is some further information about poker and poker play if you would like to know more.

More about Poker
The origins of Poker are somewhat blurred. It is generally accepted that poker has developed and evolved from a number of different card games, coming from France, Persia, Germany and England. The vast majority of modern day poker variations developed and gained popularity during the early part of the 20th Century. Aided by the rapid acceptance of online poker and televised poker tournaments, poker has experienced an unprecedented global rise in popularity.

Poker games can be found online, in 'real world' (or bricks and mortar; B&M) casinos, pubs, clubs and home games. The top online poker rooms such as PokerStars, PartyPoker and Full Tilt Poker regularly attract thousands of players daily. Online poker rooms have the benefit of offering players a greater variety of betting options (limits), from as low as $0.01 through to $1000 and beyond. At present, Texas Holdem is the most popular style of poker, due in part to the recent televised tournaments preferring this particular version of poker.

The increase in the number of online poker rooms, B&M games and tournaments is set to ensure the continued success and growing global presence of poker. For some, it is simply a hobby, for others a means to an income. Whatever your reason is, PokerNews is the premier independent source for all your poker information.

The Environment

Online Poker
The ability to play poker in the comfort of one's home, against a large variety of players at almost any limit level and at any time of the day has proven to be the strongest selling points in regards to online poker. A computer and internet access is often all that is required to compete in online 'play' money rooms, where players can practice and hone their skills before graduating to 'real' money online play. Even then, the micro limits present attractive options for beginners to the game.

B&M Poker
Bricks and Mortar or 'live' poker rooms are also increasing in numbers, in an attempt to accommodate and cash in on the new found interest in the game. B&M poker rooms play at a much slower pace compared to online poker rooms, as a dealer has to manually shuffle and deal the cards, whilst players have to manually count out and move chips. Limits are often far bigger than the micro limits offered online but many casinos and poker rooms also conduct beginner/novice nights, where introductory lessons and tutorials are conducted. Facing off against opponents may sound intimidating, which is why many players start off in the safe confines of online poker before moving to the 'real world'.

In many places (such as pubs and clubs) regular poker nights are also conducted. The pub provides a more relaxed and less intimidating introduction to B&M poker, compared with casinos. Beginners are also welcome here, making 'pub poker' fertile ground to develop your game.

The Players

The number of players in any game of poker ranges from two (also known as heads-up) through to ten (seated at a single table). Tournaments can be structured over a multiple number of tables (multi-table tournaments; MTT), meaning that the possible number of competitors in a given tournament is virtually unlimited. The world's biggest and best known live poker tournament is the World Series of Poker Main Event, which attracted a record number of 8,772 participants in 2006.

Game Structure

Poker can be played in tournaments (single or multi-table) or in cash (ring) games. Tournaments typically involve a set buy-in (entrance fee) and each player begins with the same amount of chips. The buy-in is comprised of an amount that contributes to the overall prizepool and an administrative fee that goes to the casino, pub or online poker room. All players then compete until there is only one player remaining, with the prize money distributed amongst players. For example, in a ten person single table tournament, the prizepool distribution is usually set at 50% for first place, 30% for second and 20% for third. The distribution can vary greatly depending on the tournament being played.

Cash games operate on a single table and continue for as long as there are players seated. Blinds (the forced bets before play begins) are kept constant. The key feature here is that players can join and leave whenever the desire, making this game structure ideal for players who do not wish to slug it out for hours in a multi-table tournament. Players can bring as little or as much money with them to cash games (although a minimum amount usually applies).

There are also sit-n-go tournaments. These single table tournaments begin as soon as all seats at a table have been filled and finishes when one player remains. This type of game appeals to players who do not wish to play cash games, but do not have the time to play in lengthy multi-table tournaments. In sit-n-go tournaments and multil-table tournaments, the blinds will go up at regular intervals (known as levels). This is to speed play along, which is especially necessary in large multi-table tournaments.

Betting Limits

Betting limits generally fall into three categories; Fixed Limit, Pot Limit or No Limit. In the first case, a player may only bet a fixed amount every time they raise. Pot Limit betting is capped at the size of the pot, which can grow exponentially depending on the number of bets made. No Limit, as the name implies means that players are free to bet almost any amount (including their whole chip stack). Betting minimums are usually set at the same amount as the big blind. In tournaments, the big blind (and betting minimum) steadily increase over time, to ensure a result. At a certain point within a given tournament structure, an ante may be introduced. An ante is a blind bet that all players make prior to the cards being dealt for each hand.

Keep in mind the above describes the betting process for Texas Holdem; other varieties such as Stud and Draw poker follow slightly different patterns.

Now that you learned how to play poker, what are you waiting for? Sign up to these great online rooms and start playing one of the most popular games in the world.

Poker Hands Ranking

  • Royal Flush 10JQKA
  • Straight
  • Four Of
    A Kind
  • Full House JJJKK
  • Flush 2459K
  • Straight A2345
  • Three Of
    A Kind
  • Two Pair 499KK
  • One Pair 3QK1010
  • High Card 248QK
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