The Beginners Guide on How to Play Poker

how to play poker

Poker is a very popular table game all around the world for a good reason — it’s extremely exciting, unpredictable, it demands great skill, a bit of luck, sharp mind, and a sense of timing. There is no reason why you should be missing out on all the fun; poker is easy to learn; all you need is a bit of dedication. If you are an absolute beginner, we advise you to play a few “tutorial” games first, before you get yourself into playing for real money. So, if you are starting from scratch, read our guide carefully, test what you have learned so far in a “friendly” game that doesn’t involve any real money. However, even if you are no beginner, but you haven’t played for some time, our guide can be a great way to remind yourself of all the basics.

We designed this guide to be an ultimate overview of all crucial things that you should know about poker — the slang, the basic rules, the useful tips, and some more advanced tricks that can always come in handy. As you are about to see, it’s not hard to learn the game of poker; the principle of the game is easy to grasp. There are not many rules, and the hand ranking is relatively easy to remember. Also, a player doesn’t need to have a ton of information in their mind during a game — when your turn comes, you can accept the bet, increase the wager, or give up. That’s it. Those are the only three actions that you can do. As you can see, there is nothing about poker that should frighten you, the rules are quite simple. On the other hand, learning the rules of the game is just a beginning — you can spend your whole life perfecting your poker skills.

Before we start explaining poker game rules and giving some advanced tips, let’s cover the absolute basics. So, how can you play a game, if you don’t know the language of it? Every community, every hobby, every sub-culture has its lingo, and so does the poker community! The game of poker, just as other table games, has its own slang that you need to know. We shall start with exactly that — teaching you the language of poker!

Starting with the basis: The Lingo

chips for gambling poker

We are sure that you are quite impatient and eager to get to the more complex and more interesting stuff about poker, so we are going to be fast with this intro. Let’s start with lesson one — learning the basic poker terms.

  • Ace in the Hole – There is an ace in the “face down” cards
  • Ace-to-five/Ace-to-six – Terms used in resolving low hands
  • Act or action – When a player does something/decides whether to check, bet, call, raise, or fold
  • Add-on – Invest in more chips during a live game
  • Aggression/Aggressive player – A player who bets or raises (a player that avoids to call or check)
  • All in – Bet all the chips you have
  • Angle – Type of play that’s not actually cheating, but it’s highly unethical, standing on a thin line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior
  • Ante – When players need to bet something before the game starts
  • Any two cards – When players’ cards are not important
  • Backdoor – Hand that a player made without intention
  • Bank – House (person who is in charge of the chips)
  • Blind – Forced bet
  • Bleeding – Playing badly
  • Bluff – Betting with a hand that statistically is most likely not the best one
  • Boat – Full House
  • Bottom Dealing – Cheating when dealing (dealing with the bottom cards)
  • Bottom End – Low Straight, Idiot End
  • Call – Match a Bet
  • Coffee Housing – Trying to deceive players with a speech
  • Dead Man’s Hand – Usually, the name for the two pairs of black aces and eights
  • Donkey – Bad player
  • Drop – Fold
  • Floating – Calling a bet and planning to bluff
  • Gap Hand – Starting hand
  • Hero Call – When a player calls, even with a weak hand, because they are sure that other players are bluffing
  • Mark – A beginner that draws attention to themselves
  • River – Fifth street or final card
  • Shark – A pro
  • Smooth Call – When players expect that someone will raise, but the person calls instead
  • Tell – A thing in behavior, facial expressions, micro-expressions, of the player that gives away the player’s hand
  • Walk – When all players fold

Poker is a highly popular gambling game, so naturally, there is a lot of slang involved in poker playing. We now gave you the basic poker terms, those that are frequent, popular, and very important to know. Since we covered the basic lingo, let’s move on to the game rules! First of all, let’s learn the hand ranking!

The Next Step: Hand Ranking

poker game

Many beginners often get hand ranking all mixed up, and they often lose the game because of that. Hand ranking is extremely important; you can easily make a huge mistake if you get confused with these rules. Not knowing the hand rankings perfectly can cost you the game, and your money. So, let’s make a list of all possible hands, and rank them from best to worst.

  1. Royal flush — Same suit — A, K, Q, J, 10; best five cards in poker
  2. Straight flush — Same suit — all the cards in a sequence
  3. Four of a kind — Same rank — four cards
  4. Full house — Three of a kind + a pair
  5. Flush — Same suit – five cards, not in a sequence
  6. Straight — Not the same suit — five cards in sequence
  7. Three of a kind — Same rank — three cards
  8. Two pair — Well, two pairs, of course
  9. Pair — Same rank — two cards
  10. High Card — When there is no hand at all, the highest single card wins

As you can see, full house, four of a kind, straight flush, and royal flush are the best hands that you can have. Pair, two pair, and three of a kind are weak hands. If you are new to poker, you should really try to remember these ten possibilities and their strengths— it’s not going to take a lot of your time to learn it, and if you don’t learn it, you can lose a lot of your games. So why take a risk? Read the list of the hands over and over again until you are sure that you remember it. During a poker game, you are going to need to think about a lot of stuff, and have amazing concentration — you don’t want to forget the value of a hand in the middle of a game!

Moving on: The Poker Game Types

You probably already know that there are many types of poker that all have slightly different rules. So it is very important for a beginner to learn about various poker types. We are now going to give you a full list of all types of poker. Also, we are going to explain to you how these games differ, what rules exist in one game, and not in the next one. Let’s start!

Draw — This is a type of poker where all cards are face down or hidden. The game starts after players place their initial wagers. Afterwards, players have a second bet after they exchange cards.

Stud — In this type of poker, players have both hidden cards and shown cards. There is also an initial wager involved, and players have a chance to place a new bet after each new card is dealt.  

Texas Hold ’Em – This is probably the most popular type of poker. In this game, there are five community cards. Besides these cards, players have two cards of their own that they keep hidden. There are three rounds of betting as the community cards are presented. Besides this bet, players must place an initial double-blind bet.

Omaha Hold ’Em — This one is quite similar to Texas Hold ’Em. The only difference between Omaha Hold ’Em and Texas Hold ’Em is that players have four cards. However, they can use only two cards. The other cards that players can use are, of course, the community cards. All other rules in this kind of poker are the same as in Texas Hold ’Em.

Omaha Hi-Lo — Now, this game is quite similar to Omaha Hold ’Em. The two games have the same rules with the exception of one — the only difference between these to Omaha poker styles is that players are entitled to use all four cards, the rest is the same.

3 Card Poker — In this type of poker, a player and a dealer both get three hidden cards. The dealer loses the game in every situation in which they don’t have either a Queen or a card of a higher rank. When the betting is done, the dealer must show their cards. The two types of wagers in this style of poker are an ante and “pair plus” (betting on having a pair or a stronger hand).

Caribbean Stud — In this poker game, both the dealer and the player, have five cards. The game includes classic ante but allows other bets as the game moves on.

Wild Card — This is not a type of poker per se, but it is a variant of a poker game where 

before the hands are even dealt, the wild cards are determined. Players can bet throughout the whole game. This feature exists in many types of poker games, including the Mexican Stud.

These are all poker styles that you should know. As you can see, they don’t differ a lot, and if you master the rules of one of them, you can easily get the hang of the other styles. Texas Hold ’Em is one of the most popular types of poker, and it’s easily found in most brick and mortar casinos. However, every poker style is exciting in its own way. So, whichever style you choose to perfect, we are sure that you are going to have an amazing time!

Let’s Play: The Game Stages

poker cards

As you could see in the previous chapter, there are poker games that include multiple game stages. Some types of poker have only ante, and that’s it, you don’t place further wagers. Some poker styles have ante and an option of an additional bet. However, Texas Hold ’Em is more complicated, it has various stages of the game, and players need to do different things in each stage of the game. Since this is poker style that you are most likely to encounter at a casino, we shall explain to you all the stages of it. Ready?

The game progresses in a clockwise direction, starting from a dealer button. The game starts with blinds, meaning that two players (on the left) place their wagers. So now you have a small blind and a big blind on the table. As the game progresses, the button moves its position. Of course, the position of the button moves clockwise. When you play a game of poker, the position has a lot to do with your chances of winning. Why? Well, because the position buys you time, precious time to gain more and more information. The later you need to act, the more you know, or at least, the more chances you get to find something out. The time and the position increase your chances of making the right decision. Since we cleared this up, let’s see what the stages of the game are, or as they are popularly known — the streets!

Preflop — Preflop is the initial stage of the game. In this stage, players got their two cards, and they can call, raise, or fold. Of course, the first player that needs to bring the big decision is the player that sits first on the left from the button. This player needs to act first, so, there is a lot of pressure on him. This position is called “under the gun,” for obvious reasons.

Flop — If some players decide to fold in preflop, they are not participating in a flop. Those who are still in the game, get three community cards during a pre-flop stage. In flop, a player can decide to “check,” if they don’t want to act at all. When the last bet is called, the stage is finished.

Turn — In this stage, the next community card is dealt. This card is placed face up. When the card is on the table, the betting round begins.

River — This is the final stage. After this stage, players show their hands. The moment in the game when players finally uncover their cards is called showdown. So before the showdown happens, players can have one more round of betting during the river. They get one more, the final, community card that is left from the dealer. Now, the players can act, meaning that they can call, check, bet, or fold one more time. When the river is finished, players are going to find out who the winner is.

Now you are ready to play Texas Hold ’Em! These are all basic info and rules that you need to know the hand rankings, the game stages, and the lingo. However, there are many great things that you can learn before you start playing poker. As you probably know, poker isn’t just about knowing the rules; it’s about the experience, strategy, timing, and tricks. So, knowing the rules means that you can sit at the poker table. However, it still doesn’t mean that you should place some of your money on it! Before you put your money on a bet, let’s learn some more advanced stuff about poker!

Ready for Advanced Tips: Should You Bluff in Poker?

The short answer to the question “should a beginner bluff in poker” is — NO! The longer answer is — the beginner should avoid bluffing as much as possible. However, the full answer is — a beginner is probably going to bluff at a very wrong time because they still can’t interpret the situations in the best way, so there is a big chance that they will assess the moment and the situation incorrectly. So if a beginner avoids bluffing all the time, at all cost, how are they going to learn to do it? Well, don’t worry about that at the beginning, it will happen with time. Poker is a game that requires patience, and learning poker is a process that requires patience. Don’t burden yourself with bluffing and pro advanced tricks — you will learn this as time goes by.

The more games you play, the more situations you see and the more experience you gain. You will get a chance to be fooled by someone else’s bluffs, and a chance to see through another person’s poor bluff. You will see players losing and gaining by bluffing. Naturally, by acquiring enough experience, you will be able to bluff too. However, you shouldn’t rush yourself with this, or any other advanced practice, at the beginning. It’s hard to get away with bluffing — when you start playing poker, you will soon find this out!

Pro-Tricks: When to Call, Raise, Fold, and Check?

Poker is about timing and assessing the situation correctly. A good poker player knows when to call, when to raise, and when to fold. The wrong decision here can cost you a lot! As a beginner, you just can’t afford yourself to be an aggressive player, or to spill out actions randomly. So is there some guide, or some rules on when you should call or fold?

Unfortunately, there is no ultimate guide that can tell you how to win every game magically. Well, if there was, poker wouldn’t be a form of gambling, and it wouldn’t require so much skill. But, this unpredictability of the outcome in a poker game is what makes the game so exciting and interesting — that’s the aspect that makes your heart race! However, there are some basic rules that you, as a beginner, should follow.

First of all, you should aim for many hands. Instead, play fewer hands, and learn when it’s time to stop and wait for the next opportunity. Also, there is one holy rule — in the hierarchy of poker actions, betting beats calling. In fact, calling should be avoided among beginners, since they still don’t have enough experience to assess the situation. Your best bet is to decide upon your action based on the hand that you have — judging other players’ tells is too advanced stuff for a beginner.

How Do Experts Play: Tips You Should Know

Some of the amazing experts advice on poker can’t be of a lot of help to a beginner. To implement some pro tips, you need to understand the game well enough. Because of this, many great tips are of no use for beginners — they just wouldn’t know how to use them during a game. However, there are many expert tips that can be successfully implemented, even on a beginner level. This is exactly what we are going to talk about now — pro tips that work well on a basic level of poker playing!

When you play poker, players — especially experienced ones — will want to “get” you, to read you, to evaluate the quality of your game. If they really are experts, they will do this pretty fast, faster than you think. This is why you should reduce the factor of transparency as much as possible. One of the great ways to achieve this is by avoiding to show your cards. The less they know about you, the more chances you get to improve yourself. Plus, when you don’t show, other players are not going to be able to link your certain behaviour to a certain hand, or an outcome.

Also, you can easily lead other players to make a false opinion by intentionally staging a transparent reaction. Present a terrible, transparent tell, intentionally. However, try not to make it obvious. Now that you know that everyone remembers your failure, and your reaction, use it! Next time when you do have a great hand, repeat your transparent negative reaction. It can work, it can fail, but it’s definitely worth a chance!

Before we say Goodbye — Final Advice

We showed you the rules of poker, we told you about hand rankings and lingo, and we explained to you how various types of poker work. You had a chance to see some advanced tips and find out about the details of all game stages. Basically, you are now more than ready to play! Actually, there is one more thing that we need to tell you before you take your place at a poker table.

Never be discouraged by losing — you will lose, the best players lose, everybody lost a hand sometimes. Look at loses as a great opportunity to learn something new, and don’t obsess over them. If you lose a hand, it doesn’t mean that you are terrible, that you are not talented, or anything like that. It only means that in that game you either made a mistake or were simply unlucky. Whatever the case may be, move on! Continue learning about poker. Explore more! Look for more advanced tips as you progress. Finally, don’t forget to enjoy yourself, to have fun playing, and to embrace that unique excitement that only poker has. The game of poker is about being focused, concentrated, and careful; but it’s also about having a lot of fun!

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