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How to Play Poker

by Staff


Short intro about the history.

The Pack: Poker is a one-pack game, and you’ll need a standard 52-card pack to play

The standard 52-card pack, sometimes with the addition of one or two jokers, is used. Poker is a one-pack game, but today, in virtually all games played in clubs and among the best players, two packs of contrasting colors are utilized in order to speed up the game. While one pack is being dealt, the other is being shuffled and prepared for the next deal. The procedure for two packs is as follows: While the deal is in progress, the previous dealer assembles all the cards from the pack he dealt, shuffles them, and places them to the left. When it is time for the next deal, the shuffled deck is passed to the next dealer. In many games in which two packs are used, the dealer’s left-hand opponent, instead of the right-hand opponent, cuts the pack.

In clubs, it is customary to change cards often and to permit any player to call for new cards whenever they wish. When new cards are introduced, both packs are replaced, and the seal and cellophane wrapping on the new decks should be broken in full view of all the players.

The Goal: Win the pot by having the best cards at the end of a game

…or by convincing other players you have the best hand so they drop out.

Each player is dealt two cards. These are known as hole cards, and are kept secret from the other players. Over several rounds, shared cards are dealt to the center of the table. These can be seen by everybody and are known as community cards.

A player’s hand rank comes from the strongest five-card hand they can make, using any combination of their hole cards and the community cards. See the “Hand Rankings” section below for a full list of combinations.

After each set of cards is dealt, there is a round of betting. Players take turns to place a bet in the pot, which the other players must match (call). If they don’t want to match the bet, they must drop out (fold), losing any chance to win the pot

After all betting rounds are complete, the players reveal their cards in a showdown and the player with the best hand wins the pot. Or if only one player remains before the betting rounds are completed, the remaining player steals the pot, winning it without having to reveal their cards.

The Values: A Poker hand consists of five cards, here’s how to count them

Straight Flush
Five cards with the same suit in numerical order. E.g. 9-8-7-6-5 
When two or more players have a Straight Flush (a tie) whoever has the highest rank at the top of the sequence wins. The best Straight Flush is called a Royal Flush which is a sequence of Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten of identical suit.

Four of a Kind
Four cards of the same rank plus any other card which is called the “kicker”. E.g. K-K-K-K-8
When more than one player has this hand, the higher rank hand wins. 

Full House
Three cards of the same rank and two cards of a different identical rank. E.g. A-A-A-J-J
In the event of a tie, the player who has the highest three matching cards wins.


Any five cards of the same suit. E.g. K-J-8-7-2
In case there is a tie, the highest-ranked card determines the winner. If it is still a tie, the second-highest and if necessary the third, fourth and fifth-highest card is used to break the tie. The suit of the cards is irrelevant when determining a winner and if two players have an identical hand, the pot is split.


Five cards in a basic sequence regardless of the suit. E.g. 6-5-4-3-2
Note that Ace can be used both at the end and at the beginning of the sequence – A-K-Q-J-10 or 5-4-3-2-A. If there is a tie, the highest-ranking card at the top of the sequence wins.

Three of a kind
Three cards that are of the same rank and two unrelated cards. E.g. 5-5-5-A-2
In the event of a tie, the player who holds the highest ranking three of a kind wins.

Two different pairs of matching ranks and a side card. E.g. 9-9-5-5-A
If two or more players have the same poker hand, the player holding the highest pair wins. If they have the same highest pair, the second-highest pair will determine the winner. If that pair is identical too, the side card decides the winner


Two cards of matching rank and three unrelated side cards. E.g. A-A-8-7-2
In the event of a tie, the player holding the highest pair wins. If it is still a tie, the highest, second-highest and third-highest side cards are used to break the tie.

High Card

If your hand doesn’t fall into any of the above-mentioned categories, you have a high card. E.g. K-J-10-3-2
If there is a tie, the highest card wins. If it is still a tie, the second, third, fourth and fifth cards are used to break the tie.

Low-card rankings
In high-low poker games low cards can also win. Suits are irrelevant and a straight doesn’t disqualify an Ace to 5 low poker hand. The low card hands are these:

  • Five Low: Five is the highest card in the hand
  • Six Low: Any five cards (no pairs), the highest card being a 6
  • Seven Low: Any five cards (no pairs) with the highest card being a 7
  • Eight Low: Any five cards (no pairs) with the highest card being an 8


The Eight Low is the weakest hand that still qualifies for low in Omaha Hi/Lo.

The Bet: Betting is the key to poker, minimize losses with poor hands and maximize winnings with good ones

When it is your turn, you can take one of the following actions:

  • Check – This action is declining the opportunity to open the betting. If there is no bet so far during the given round, the next players can also check. If everybody checks, all players remain in the hand and the round is considered complete.
  • Bet – Players can bet when no other players have bet before them during the current round. When a bet has been made, other players must “call” which means they match the bet amount, in order to remain in the hand.
  • Fold – When a player folds they give up their cards and they finish the current hand (they didn’t win).
  • Call – Players can call on other players’ bets during the current round. If you decide to call, you’ll have to match the highest bet made previously.
  • Raise – Once a bet has been made in the current round, players can raise. This means matching the highest bet made and placing a higher bet. Now, the subsequent players either have to call the raise or raise it again (also called a “re-raise”) in order to stay in the game.

The above-explained steps make one betting round. Depending on the variant of the poker you are playing, the betting rounds can differ. However, with the two most popular variants – Texas Hold’Em and Omaha, the betting structure is the same, comprising of four rounds. The rounds start when certain cards are dealt.

  • Pre-flop – When all players have received their hole cards, but the community cards haven’t been dealt yet
  • Flop – Right after the first three community cards are dealt
  • Turn – When the fourth community card has been dealt
  • River – When the fifth (final) community card has been dealt

When a player folds in any of the rounds, they have lost and are no longer in the game.


During the final round, when the last bet or raise has been called, the showdown occurs. Now the remaining players must show their cards (or declare them) and the player who has the best ranking hand (or hands in hi-lo) wins the pot. Sometimes the pot is shared, depending on the game rules and what hands players have had.

The Details: From the type of chips to the banker and limits, make the game more enjoyable by knowing these things


Poker is almost always played with poker chips. For a game with seven or more players, there should be a supply of at least 200 chips. Usually, the white chip (or the lightest-colored chip) is the unit, or lowest-valued chip, worth whatever the minimum ante or bet is; a red chip (or some other colored chip) is worth five whites, and a blue chip (or some other dark-colored chip) is worth 10 or 20 or 25 whites or two, four or five reds. At the start of the game, each player “buys in” by purchasing a certain number of chips. All of the players usually buy in for the same amount.


One player should be designated as the banker, who keeps the stock of chips and records how many have been issued to each player or how much cash the player has paid for their chips. Players should make no private transactions or exchanges among themselves; a player with surplus chips may return them to the banker and receive credit or cash for them, while a player who wants more chips should obtain them only from the banker.

Betting Limits

There are different ways of fixing a betting limit. Some limit is necessary; otherwise a player with a lot more money would have, or would be perceived to have, an unfair advantage. Once fixed, the limit should be unalterable throughout the game unless the players unanimously agree to change the stakes. Some popular limit systems follow:

Fixed limit

No one may bet or raise by more than a stipulated number of chips, for example, two, or five, or 10. Usually this limit varies with the stage of the game: In Draw Poker, if the limit is five before the draw, it might be ten after the draw. In Stud Poker, if the limit is five in the first four betting intervals, it is 10 in the final betting interval (and often ten whenever a player has a pair or better showing).

Pot limit

Any bet or raise is limited to the number of chips in the pot at that time. This means that a player who raises may count as part of the pot the number of chips required for the player to call. If there are six chips in the pot, and a bet of four is made, the total is 10 chips; it requires four chips for the next player to call, making 14; and the player may then raise by 14 chips. But even when the pot limit is played, there should be some maximum limit, such as 50 chips.

Table stakes

The limit for each player is the number of chips the player has in front of them. If the player has only 10 chips, they may bet no more than 10 and he may call any other player’s bet to that extent. In table stakes, no player may withdraw chips from the table, or return chips to the banker, until they leave the game. A player may add to their stack, but only between the deal just completed and the beginning of the next deal.

Whangdoodles, or Roodles

In a fixed-limit game, it is often agreed that following any very good hand – a full house or better, for example – there will be one deal by each player of Jackpots, in which everyone antes double, and the betting limit is doubled for these deals as well.

Poverty Poker

A maximum limit is put on the number of chips any player may lose. Each takes out one stack at the start; if they lose that stack, the banker issues the player another, without charging for it, and in many cases, the player can get still a third stack free before dropping out of the game. (Some limit should be placed on the number of free stacks so that a player will have the incentive to play carefully.)

No limit

In these sessions, the “sky’s the limit,” but such games are rarely played today.

Limits on Raises

In almost all games played today, there is a limit on the number of raises at each betting interval, and this limit is invariably three raises.

Time Limit

Before play begins, the players should set a time limit for when the game ends and stick to it. Violation of this principle could eventually turn pleasant sessions into unpleasant ones. Often when the time for quitting is approaching, the host or one of the players will say “three more deals” or “through Zane’s deal,” so that players will know how many deals are left and can gauge their strategies accordingly.

Basic Poker Strategy

It is useful to learn some poker strategies before you set out to play. There are plenty of materials available online for beginner, intermediate and advanced players alike. To start you out, we prepared a few basic strategies for you.

  1. Don’t play all the hands  – you don’t have to try to play weak hands. As a rule of thumb, around 20% of your hands are worth playing. If you got weak cards, just fold.
  2. Make good decisions – even the best poker players lose some games as poker has an element of luck in it. You should make the best possible decision for each hand and don’t judge your play if you don’t win the game.
  3. Know your odds – poker is a mathematical game and a lot is depended on simple probability. Over time, you will learn what good hands are and if you enter the pot with a good hand, you will often win.
  4. Play more hands in late positions – in poker, one of the players is the dealer and therefore the last person to act. This gives an advantage as all previous players have acted before. The dealer position changes in every game and it is generally advised to play more hands in late positions which will give you more flexibility.

Poker as an element in Movies

One of our all-time favorite articles is our list of best gambling movies of all time, in which we’re going through several movies that feature poker as an element. You can check out the list here:

Poker as a mini-game in Video Games

Gambling as a mini-game element in console and PC games has been around since their birth in the late 80’s. With XY being one of the oldest poker games available.

Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption has featured poker in both their first and second game. We wrote an extensive guide on both of these games; a Guide to Poker in the Original RDR has been on our site for a while, with the second Guide to Poker in RDR2 being the latest addition to our game guide section.

Nintendo’s Super Mario had its take on Poker as well. There was a trick in the Super Mario 64 DS version in which you could unlock a poker mini game called Picture Poker. More on it under this link: How to unlock Picture Poker in Super Mario 64 DS

Bandai Namco’s Tales Game Franchise is also not new to gambling, with lorem ipsum A Guide to Poker in Tales of Xilia 2 as well as A Guide to Poker in Tales of Vesperia

A Guide to Poker in Watch Dogs

A Guide to Poker in Dragon Quest 11

A Guide to Poker in Sopranos: Road to Respect

A Guide to Poker in Fallout Games

A Guide to Dice Poker in the Witcher Games

A Guide to Poker in Grand Theft Auto 5