Quick Guide on How to Play Poker
You may think that you do, but there is a lot more to it than knowing an Ace beats a King.
Major players will tell you that all you need to know for how to play poker is a chip and a chair; let’s go a few steps beyond that and prepare you for a hot streak with a quick guide on how to play poker.
STEP 1 – LEARN THE SPECIFIC KIND OF POKER THAT YOU’RE PLAYING
There are several card games called poker. There’s Texas Hold’Em, 7 Card Stud, 5 Card Draw, Razz, and more. Before you get into learning proper betting techniques and how to out play your opponents, you’re going to want to learn the rules for the specific kind of poker that you’re going to be playing.
There are different strategies and various kinds of betting that are part of the different styles of gameplay, so you may need to learn how to play poker in different ways. It is essential that you seem confidant and knowledgeable when you sit down at the table, so learn the order of play, anticipated betting cycles, and general rules of the game first.
In 5 Card Draw, each player is dealt five cards and there is a round of betting. Then players are given the opportunity to exchange a select number of cards with the dealer. Another round of betting commences. When all bets are matched, the remaining players reveal their cards in sequence and the strongest hand wins the pot.
In Texas Hold’Em, the hand rankings are the same as 5 Card Draw, but play is completely different. Each player is given two cards, which they keep to themselves, and a round of betting commences. The dealer then plays three community cards face up on the table for everyone to use at the same time (this is called The Flop). Another round of betting happens, and then the dealer turns up one more community card (called the Turn). After another round of bettering, the dealer then turns over a final community card (called the River). One final round of betting happens, after which players use all seven cards available to them (the two in their hand, plus the five community cards) to build the best five-card hand that they can. When all bets are matched, the remaining players reveal their cards in sequence and the strongest hand wins the pot.
Each version of poker is different, so before you sit down at the table make sure you understand the rules. This is crucial when learning how to play poker.
STEP 2 – KNOW HAND RANKINGS
Typically, Aces can be either high or low, meaning they can rank higher than a King or lower than a Two when you’re building a straight. When you learn how to play poker, you’ll also need to know the rules regarding hand ranking.
This is how poker is won. A poker hand consists of five cards, either in your possession or made from community cards. A poker player wins the round/game by having a stronger poker hand than the other players. Poker hand rankings are as follows, from lowest to highest:
- High Card – No cards are paired and you are left with just the highest face-value card.
- Pair – Two cards of equal value are paired.
- Two Pair – Two sets of two cards of equal value are paired, but not Four of a Kind.
- Three of a Kind – Three cards of equal value.
- Straight – Five cards in sequence, but the suits are mixed.
- Flush – Five cards that all have the same suit.
- Full House – Three of a Kind along with a Pair.
- Four of a Kind – Four cards of equal value.
- Straight Flush – Five cards in a sequence, all of the same suit.
- Royal Flush – A Straight Flush with the sequence of Ten, Jack, Queen, King, Ace.
If you learn this list by heart, then you’re already halfway to learning how to play poker.
STEP 3 – UNDERSTAND WHAT BETTING MEANS AND WHEN TO BLUFF
Different players have different betting tactics, and the best people who have learned how to play poker have mastered them all. Some will go all-in (bet all available chips) to scare off stronger players and make them think that they can’t hold up to the cards they have in hand. Others will go all-in when they know they have the stronger hand and want to draw more money into the pot.
There’s a fundamental aspect of betting that the better poker players have learned: when you place your bet, that money is no longer yours. Novice players will be bullied into betting bigger when they know they have a weak hand because they feel that they’ve already invested in the pot. The truth is that the money you’ve bet is not an investment; it is the prize. Its mixed in with everyone else’s bets, but it should not cause you to be invested in the outcome of the hand. That should solely be driven by the strength of your hand and your need to stay in the game.
This means that folding your hand is the smarter move when compared to putting more money into the pot. If you feel that you have a weak hand and someone else is betting big, you may want to consider folding so you can come back stronger in the next round. This is a key strategy for how to play poker correctly. Folding at the right time can save you later in the game.
However, bluffing is another fundamental aspect of learning how to play poker like the pros. Your integrity at the table is based on how you bet in comparison to the winning hands that you show. Bluffing can get you big bucks, but if you’re called out, then you could be trapped. Therefore, bluff carefully and infrequently.