Poker Rules

The rules of poker are simple even if they may seem like an insurmountable mountain at first. Though mastering the differences between the many poker variants takes more time.

If you have ever been so eager to start playing poker, just staring at the cards and the people playing it just won’t cut it! To make sure that you’re up to speed with how to play poker and what you need to play it, just keep reading through this guide to get yourself acquainted!

Requirements

There are two general approaches in playing: one online and one offline.

When playing poker online, all you need is:

  • An electronic device
  • an internet connection
  • an app or website to play on

When playing poker offline, all that you need would be:

  • access to people to play with
  • a deck of cards
  • a set of poker chips
  • a round table to play on
  • a designated dealer

The main difference here would be that playing online would make it easier to find people to play with. Playing offline, on the other hand, would require to to ask several friends to come over and play or maybe you’d need to go to a casino or a place that has poker tables for people to play on.

Goal of the Game of Poker

The goal of a poker game is to win a prize by winning rounds. Each round sees the dealer dealing cards to each player, and potentially some shared cards face-up on the table. Several opportunities for betting stages occur on each “street”. And eventually, players still in-play compare their cards. The winner captures the pot.

There are numerous poker variants that sub-divide into three families:

  1. the community card poker family with face-up shared communal cards,
  2. the stud poker family with cards dealt to individual players some face-up and some face-down, and
  3. the draw poker family with only private cards dealt to all players.

When we say “poker” in this article, we’re mostly referring to Texas Hold’em variant since it is the most popular and widely-renowned variant. It is important to know that each poker type has its own set of rules although all poker variations share a common trunk – their hand rankings!

Poker Hand Rankings

Poker hands determine how well you fare in the game, showing off the strength in the combination of cards you currently possess. There are currently ten types of poker hands that any player can hold in any game:

  1. High Card
  2. Pair
  3. Two-Pair
  4. Three of a Kind
  5. Straight
  6. Flush
  7. Full House
  8. Four of a Kind
  9. Straight Flush
  10. Royal Flush

The highest hands are the straight flushes, with the royal flush beating a lower straight flush. Next is a four of a kind, then a full house, and a normal flush. From here, some other possible hands that go lower in value are the straight, three of a kind, a two pair, one pair, then a hand with a singular high card.

Positions at the Poker Table

In games such as Texas Hold’em and Omaha, there are very peculiar turns wherein players would get to become a dealer or a small or big blind depending on where they are seated.

Positions move around the table as a game progresses, adding depth to the game as everyone determines how they can use their specific position to outmatch other opponents.

positions in poker
In poker, positions move around the table as a game progresses.

Button

The button is what the dealer’s token is called. It basically determines which player gets to serve as the dealer who distributes cards around the table.

This dealer token, commonly known as the button, helps players determine their current position on the table as they usually count from the dealer to figure out their specific turns. Excitingly enough, the dealer button actually moves around the table after each completed game, making the competition a bit more complicated than anyone would think.

Additionally, the betting order for each hand starts from the dealer. Therefore betting strategies do change based on your position compared to the dealer. Being before the dealer, you can see what other players do before betting. And poker is a game of skill and information, so this is gold!

Blinds

Both the big and small blinds require a player to shell out a mandatory minimum bet before their cards are even dealt. Like the button, it also moves around the table with respect to the button. Sitting beside one another, blinds are technically forced bets that are placed before the first flop ensues in the game.

Blinds exist so players do not sit and wait eternally. Firstly, their bankroll would melt over the rounds. Then, big and small blinds tend to partake in more hands because they are already committed to the pot.

Ante

In poker, an ante is a mandatory bet that each player sat at a table must place before the cards are dealt. Antes are a way of inciting players to be looser with their pre-flop hands as they are losing chips at every round.

While blinds always occur in any game of poker, antes are more common in advanced stages of poker tournaments. Antes are stress-inducing for players with a low chip count which generates a lot of all-in bets and action then at that point.

Betting Actions

In poker, betting actions are the moves that you can do to help the game progress forward. Much like chess, there are the only allowable options you have inside the game, with certain rules to be followed per specific type of action

Bet

Betting occurs when you place the first wager during a betting round. For example, the flop landed, two players checked, and you place some chips in the pot. That is a bet. A bet requires other players to make a decision – call, fold, or raise!

If you are the small or the big blind, you are also placing bets as you do force the other players to decide whether to fold, call, or raise.

Call

In poker, you call another player’s bet by matching the amount they wagered. By calling, you are betting the exact same amount as them to stay active in the current round.

Technically, you are not raising the bar, you are just making things equal. It’s a telltale sign of how uncertain a player is of their card or a good way to slow play a very strong hand instead of raising and scaring other players off.

Raise

A poker player raises by betting more than the current round’s bet. Raising shows strength and requires other players who bet to either call your raise, fold or re-raise you.

By “raising” the ceiling, you are forcing the opponents to match that or top that if they’re feeling confident with their current hand.

Re-raise

In poker, a player who re-raises bets more than the amount of a prior raise. Re-raising forces all players who already raised and called that raise to decide again between calling, folding, or re-re-raising.

Re-raises show how confident a player is or potentially a strong bluff. When re-raising, poker players want opponents to know that they have a very strong hand. Or, players often re-raise to test their opponent’s resilience if they are unsure of how well they read their hand.

Check

A player can check when there is no prior bet in the current betting round. Whenever a player places a bet, the following opponents are no longer allowed to check their hand. They would have to either fold, call the bet, or raise the bet.

Checking often happens at table positions wherein you are the big blind and everyone has already called. Or when everyone has checked and you just want to see the next card being dealt for free.

Checking can be considered a pretty weak move by inexperienced players. It is a very dangerous move as players tend to see flops they wouldn’t see if they had to call a bet first. So when a lot of players check around a table, random cards can actually create very strong hands. Checking is a good way to slow play a great hand and eventually placing a big bet to pretend like you are bluffing when, in fact, you are not.

Check-raise

Poker players check-raise when they start by checking their hand and then raising opening bets that come from other players. Check-raise is considered a deceptive move but makes for wonderful pots.

Check-raising is also useful when you have a middle-range hand and therefore check. But, the opening bet isn’t high enough for you to read your opponent’s cards so you raise in order to test how strong their hand is and how yours could fare.

Fold

In poker, folding your hand means that you’re turning in your cards and leaving the current round. Whatever bets you wagered thus far in the round are lost. Logically speaking, one would fold if they see that there is no way they are going to win in the current round.

Folding is key to long-term success in poker. New players usually see this as a sign of weakness, overlooking the benefits it can bestow in the long run. Beginners tend to have that need for action and want a piece of each flop. It is better to flop weak hands and play aggressively when you receive strong hands, this is the tight aggressive poker strategy.

Betting Rounds

In poker, betting rounds are the stages during a round in which players are given the opportunity to act (i.e. fold, check, call, bet, raise) and place their bets.

Each poker variant has its own betting rounds but Texas Hold’em has these famous betting opportunities:

Pre-Flop

The pre-flop is the round occurring after the player’s hand is dealt but before the first three community cards are laid upon the table.

During the pre-flop, the blinds place their mandatory bets accordingly, and everyone else may follow suit or raise to threaten. Different players have different approaches to pre-flops. A loose strategy means a player tends to bet even with weak hands in hope of catching a good flop. Whilst a tight strategy means a player only bets with stronger hands.

Flop

The flop is the round occurring after the three community cards have been dealt on the table.

The flop is technically the first betting round that gives a better idea of a winning or losing situation, having five cards to think about and weigh on. The flop clearly gives everyone a proper assessment of the current situation and it gives a clear idea of how the game would move forward. This is a good time to cut your losses and fold if ever needed.

Turn (Fourth Street)

The turn, or fourth street, is the betting round occurring after another card is dealt on the table after the flop, turning the total amount of cards on hand to be six (four community cards, two personal cards).

The turn makes the entire situation much clearer for active players. It is also a tricky desperate street as players generally are committed at this stage of a hand. Meaning, they already bet part of their chips so they would feel inclined to keep on betting to avoid losing the amount already in the pot. But this could simply result in a larger loss.

River (Fifth Street)

The river, or fifth street, is the last betting round occurring after the very last community card has been dealt. At this point in the hand, there are five final public cards on the table, and two private cards for each player.

The river is the ultimate betting round before all cards are to be judged. It is the last opportunity for players to pull another power move or bluff, as folding at this point is difficult for many players.

Showdown

During a poker showdown, all cards from all active players are shown on the table and the player with the highest hand wins the entire pot. In case of a tie, the pot will be equally shared between the tied winners.

Betting Limits

Aside from just judging cards, the game of poker also revolves around the concept of betting. To win in a game of poker, you should be the only one holding chips with all your opponents dried out of theirs.

Some poker variants impose betting limits in the game. The most spectacular poker games tend to be without such betting restrictions, and are therefore called “No-Limit Poker”.

No Limit

No-limit poker imposes no barriers to the bets you can place into the pot at any point of the game. This means the no limit poker would allow for an all-in wager no matter how early into a game we are. The rule allows for very dramatic results and very shocking plays on any poker table.

Pot Limit

Pot-limit poker is much like no limit but it determines the ceiling for any bet to be the current size of the pot. So, technically, the game would play the same. However, in every betting round, the maximum allowable amount to bet or raise would be the sum of:

  • the original pot amount,
  • the cumulative amount of all the bets or raises thrown into the pot, and
  • the amount necessary to call the last bet.

The math is pretty crazy, ha. But an easier way to calculate for it would be to try and go for the size of the pot before the bet you’re about to call or raise. So what you would do to get that is to:

  • get the current call or raise,
  • multiply that to three, and
  • add it to the current amount in the pot.

Easy peasy, right?

Fixed Limit

Fixed limit poker games allow for a more controlled structure and a slower dispersal of players’ stacks of chips. The ceiling for a fixed-limit poker game is generally equal to the big blind. That is the amount of the minimum bet in general. The game follows through in a bit of a robotic fashion, but some people just enjoy it that way.

A video explaining how to bet in limit poker.

Poker Rules – FAQ

If all the stuff above has still left you scratching your head for the right answer, this FAQ that we have collated and put up just might help you in sorting things out when you play poker. Good luck out there!

How to play basic poker?

Playing basic poker needs the players to be dealt two face-down cards each, and three communal cards. Then the fourth hand fifth streets occur. Players can bet in between the cards being dealt.

To play standard poker, a player must learn betting actions, betting limits, betting rounds, along with poker positions and poker hand rankings. All these rules ultimately make up all it takes to play poker.

What is the goal of the game of poker?

The goal of a poker cash game is to win as much money as possible by winning pots you entered. The goal of a poker tournament is to grow your chip stack to reach the final table and be the last player standing.

What is the flop in poker?

The flop is a stage, or betting round, in a poker hand that sees three community cards dealt face-up on the table for everyone to see. Active players are then allowed to act (i.e. call, fold, check, bet, raise).

When can a player go all-in in Poker?

Poker players can go all-in at any betting round as long as they’re playing a no-limit poker game. There can also be multiple players going all-in with different stack sizes, forcing the dealer to create separate pots.

What are betting limits in Poker?

There are three kinds of betting limits. No limit poker means that there is no ceiling in betting amounts. Pot-limit poker means that a bet should be no larger than the current pot’s size. Lastly, fixed-limit poker only relies on the values of the blinds that were set before the game was started to impose a ceiling on amounts wagered.

What is the Poker variants most people play?

The most popular and most played variant of Poker would always be Texas Hold’em

Where can I download poker rules as a PDF file?

Poker rules are available to read and download on the official website of the poker competition you are attending.

When to split the pot in poker?

The pot in poker is only split in two instances. First, when a tie occurs between players at showdown. Second, when multiple players go all-in but bankrolls of different sizes.

Are ties possible in the game of poker?

In poker, ties are possible and occur when hands are of equal value upon showdown. This means that the current pot would be split between the tied players evenly.

Who wins the hand in case of a tie in poker?

All tied players would be considered winners of the hand and the current pots would be equally split between all players who tied.

What are the rules of poker with only two players?

A poker game with two players is called a heads-up poker game. The rules are exactly the same as a poker game with more players and the players would take turns in holding the button and being the small and big blinds.

How many players are there in a game of poker?

A game of poker can have as few as two players and as many as ten players around the table. A multi-table tournament like the World Series of Poker (WSOP) can have tens of thousands of players.

The rules of poker are simple even if they may seem like an insurmountable mountain at first. Though mastering the differences between the many poker variants takes more time.