There’s little doubt that poker is one of the most popular casino games in the world. Poker is a game you can be played with friends at home for small change, and it’s a game which can be played at the world’s biggest casinos for serious amounts of cash. While the game itself isn’t terribly complicated, the competitive nature of the game and the stakes for which the game can be played can sometimes lead to a misconception that poker is a game reserved for the pros. This isn’t true at all, and with a little practice you’ll soon be able to play online poker like the best of them. If you’re looking to try your hand poker, you’ve come to the right place – welcome to the Best Deal Casinos Beginner’s Guide to Poker!
To be more specific, poker is a family of games including Texas hold ‘em, Omaha and plenty of other games. Because Texas hold ‘em is by far the most popular poker game though, that’s the one we’re going to focus on here today – once you have the rules down here, you can branch out to the other poker games fairly quickly and easily.
The basics of Poker
First things first, if you’re going to play the game you need to know the basic rules. A game of poker is usually played on a table of 2-9 players using a standard 52-card deck; play moves clockwise around the table, and Aces can either be high or low.
The game starts with each player being dealt two face-down cards known as the “hole cards”; this is where the phrase ‘Ace in the hole’ comes from, as Aces are the highest value cards in the deck. We will skip over how betting works for now, for the sake of simplicity, and move onto the dealer dealing three cards face up in the middle of the table. This phase called “the flop”, and the three cards in the middle of the table are called ‘communal cards’. The idea at this point is that each player has to make the best hand possible using any five cards from their hole and communal cards. Any player can use any combination of the communal cards, though the hole cards can only be used by the payer that holds them.
After this we have “the turn”, when the dealer deals is the fourth communal card. At this point, players around the table will be doing their best to hide any signals they’re giving, telling the other players whether this card was the card they’re for. This is done by players putting on their best poker face.
Next we have “the river” – the fifth communal card and the final round of betting. Once all bets are placed, players take turns to reveal their cards, starting with the first person clockwise of who has been called. Each player makes a 5-card combination out of the 7 cards they’re allowed to use. The player with the highest value combination wins the round, and the chips in the middle of the table.
At this point it’s worth noting that you don’t have to play every hand to win the game. If you aren’t happy with the hand that you have been dealt, you can ‘fold’, removing yourself from the game until the next round so that you don’t have to place any further bets. Instead of winning every hand, the aim of the game is to make the best decisions which will help you to collect the most chips by the end of the play session.
What’s in a hand?
One of the most difficult things when starting out in poker is knowing what hand beats what. Because of the way the game is designed, there is a lot of variation in the cards that you are dealt, and a lot of variation in the combinations you can make in each round. In order to make the game as simple as possible, each combination is ranked on a scale from almost nothing to the “nuts”, where the nuts is the best possible combination you can make with the cards in front of you.
In order from best to worst, here are the combinations that you can make in a given round of poker:
- Royal flush – an Ace, King, Queen Jack and 10 in a single suit. E.g. the Ace, King, Queen, Jack and 10 of Diamonds.
- Straight flush – any 5 cards in a row, all in the same suit. E.g. the 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5 of Hearts.
- Four of a kind – four cards of the same type. E.g. the Queen of Hearts, the Queen of Diamonds, the Queen of Clubs and the Queen of Spades.
- Full house – three of a kind, plus a pair. E.g. the 10 of Hearts, the 10 of Diamonds, the 10 of Clubs, the 2 of Clubs and the 2 of Spades.
- Flush – any five cards of the same suit, but not in any particular sequence. E.g. the 4, 6, 9, Queen and Ace of Diamonds.
- Straight – any five cards in a sequence, but not in any particular suit. E.g. the 9 of Hearts, the 8 of Clubs, the 7 of Diamonds, the 6 of Diamonds and the 5 of Hearts.
- Three of a kind – any three cards of the same rank, E.g. the 7 of Hearts, the 7 of Diamonds, the 7 of Clubs, the 6 of Spades and the King of Spades.
- Two pair – any two pairs of cards with the same rank. E.g. the 6 of Hearts, the 6 of Diamonds, the 4 of Clubs, the 4 of Spades and the 2 of Spades
- Pair – any two cards of the same rank. E.g. the 8 of Clubs, the 8 of Spades, the 5 of Hearts, the 3 of Clubs and the 2 of Diamonds
- High Card – when you have no other combinations, your highest card plays. E.g. if you have 9 of Clubs, the 8 of Spades, the 5 of Hearts, the 3 of Clubs and the 2 of Diamonds, you have “9’s high”.
If two players are tied for the best possible combination at the end of the round, whoever holds the highest value card, wins. If both players tie for the highest value card, the next highest card decides the winner. In the rare occasion that both players tie, the winnings are split between the two players.
How does betting work in poker?
The betting structure in poker is rather unique. For the most part, there are three key players in each round – the dealer, the ‘big blind’ and the ‘small blind’. The dealer (who is generally represented by a dealer button) is the player handing out cards; the small blind is the player to the left of the dealer (who will become dealer next round), and the big blind is the player to their left.
To start, the small blind puts half of the minimum bet in front of them; this amount is set by the casino and is generally obvious before you sit down at the table. The big blind does the same, putting the full minimum bet in front of them. The dealer then deals the hole cards and everyone can take a look at what they have.
Assuming that you’re playing “no limit” poker, the player to the left of the big blind either ‘calls’ the bet by putting their chips in the middle of the table (known as ‘the pot’), ‘raises’ the bet by adding extra chips to the pot, or folds by leaving their cards face down in ‘the muck’. This continues around the table, with each player calling or raising until we come back to the small blind. The small blind can then call, adding the full amount necessary to the pot, or they can fold, putting their initial blind bet in the pot in the process. Finally the big blind can call or check, depending on whether they have been raised or not; they can raise; or they can fold, putting their entire blind in the pot. Assuming nobody has raised, it is very unwise for the big blind to fold at this point.
Once everyone has called of folded we move onto the flop and the players receive their first three communal cards. Another round of betting starts, with the player at small blind either checking, raising or folding. The player at big blind then either checks, calls the raised bet, raises the bet or folds, letting the player to his or her left do the same once they’re done. Once everyone has placed their bets, the dealer plays the turn. Another round of betting happens and then the dealer plays the river. After this, there is a final round of betting – once all bets are called or everyone has folded, the players reveal their cards and the winner is determined. The pot is given to the winner and the dealer button (along with both blinds) move one seat to the left.
Every now and again, play might not get as far as the river. In the event that all but one player folds, the last player standing wins the round. It’s worth noting that this player doesn’t have to show the hole cards they have, so you have no way of knowing whether or not they were bluffing!
Five more things to keep in mind
While poker may seem like a complicated game, it’s surprisingly easy once you start playing. If you’re looking to take to the casino and start playing this game for yourself, you can find the casinos offering the best deals for players playing poker here today. If you’d prefer to try the game at home with your friends until you have the basics down, make sure you keep this guide open so that you can check back to it as you play! All that’s left now is to keep these last 5 things to keep in mind as you go – good luck with your first game!
- Bluffing is a big part of betting in poker. Just because someone has raised, it doesn’t mean that they have the nut hand. However, there is no guarantee that someone is bluffing until you see their cards!
- When playing against real people or at a live casino online, you’re going to need a good poker face.
- Experienced players can read your ‘signals’ and ‘tells’, knowing when you’re bluffing – this is why many players wear hoodies, sunglasses and baseball caps to cover their face while playing.
- If you’re the big blind and nobody raises, don’t fold on your hole cards – you’re betting the money either way, so you may as well wait for the flop at the very least.
- Remember, practice makes perfect!