Poker is widely regarded as the gentleman’s game in the gambling industry. This is necessitated by the fact that it’s often played by men and women clad in elegant formal wear (of course this refers to poker at land-based casinos). The ‘gentleman’s game’ perception of poker gives the game an aura of complexity.
Well, if we are to give a simple description based on the actual flow of the game rather than perception, we wouldn’t be far from the truth if we say that poker is a simple game to learn but difficult to master. As such, this means anyone including you can easily learn how to play poker. If you would like to become a pro poker player however and grace prestigious poker tournaments such as the World Series of Poker (WSOP), then you need to spend lots of time practising the game.
Whether you are looking to be just a casual poker player or a pro player, you first need to learn the basics of how to play poker. All of these basics are highlighted and explored in this article. As such, just need to spare a few moments to go through the article. Of course, if you ever need a refresher on the basics of poker, you can always call again.
The Different Variants of Poker
Generally speaking, poker players when they visit any of the top poker sites will say they are looking to enjoy the game of poker. However, if we are to go into the specifics – the technicality of the game – then simply saying I’m going to play poker isn’t correct. This is necessitated by the fact that poker isn’t a standard universal game. Rather, poker is an umbrella term that refers to different poker variants.
By far, the most popular poker variant is Texas Hold ‘em. Texas Hold ‘em is the variant offered at most if not all top poker sites. It is also the variant which is played at top poker tournaments including the WSOP where millions of dollars can be won. Owing to its massive popularity and global appeal, Texas Hold ‘em is the variant that some players simply call poker when they say they are or want to play poker.
Note that for this article, we will just use poker as the umbrella word for all poker variants as the basics relayed in this article apply to most if not all poker variants.
General Objective When Playing Poker
Before you can master how to play poker, you first need to know why you need to play poker. Poker is a card-comparing game. It’s a game that is played in successive rounds which differ depending on the variant you are playing. The objective when playing any poker variant is to win the pot that is, the total of all bets placed by players competing on the same table (subtract the house commission). There are two ways in which you can meet this objective and these are as follows:
- By Creating the Highest-Ranking Poker Hand: Poker is played in successive rounds by multiple players. During these rounds, players are dealt (receive) cards. From round to round, players have to take action (bet, raise, check, call or fold) to try and improve their hand. At the end of the gaming session, players with the highest-ranking hand win the pot.
- Make a Bet That No Other Player Calls: Alternatively, players win the pot by making a bet which cannot be matched by any of the competing players.
An Appreciation of Poker Hand Rankings
Well, we have said that to win the pot, you need to have the highest-ranking poker hand at the end of the gaming session. So, what is the poker hand ranking? Well, this refers to the final cards you have at the end of the gaming session. The value of the cards you have is dependent upon their face value and the card suit determines the value of the hand.
In descending order from the highest to the lowest ranking poker hands are as follows:
- Royal Flush: Consists of A, K, Q, J and 10 of the same card suits
- Straight Flush: Consists of cards of the same sequence of the same suit for example 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10
- Four of a Kind: Consists of four cards of equal value along with another card known as a side card
- Full House: Consists of three cards of the same value and two cards of another value
- Flush: Consists of different cards of the same suit
- Straight: Consists of five cards of consecutive value that are not all of the same suit
- Three of a Kind: Consists of three cards of the same value and two side cards
- Two Pair: Consists of two cards of equal value, another two cards of equal value and a side card
- Pair: Consists of two cards of the same value and three extra cards
- High Card: Consists of five cards that do not interact with each other to make any of the above hands.
Step-by-Step Guide on How to Play Poker
Now that the basics of poker (concerning all the variants) have been laid bare, let’s get to see how you can start playing the game.
- The first step is to select a trustworthy online poker site to settle at
- Head over to the poker lobby and select the variant you prefer to play (in doing so, consider the table limits – always go for the game that doesn’t exceed your budget expectations)
- Load the game and proceed to place the blinds (starting bets)
- Once the game starts, wait for the dealer to deal your cards and from there, take appropriate actions (bet, raise, call or fold) depending on how the action is going
- Continue taking appropriate actions till the end of the round when the hands are compared and a winner emerges.
General Poker Tips and Strategies
- Always raise (increase the current bet) when the first cards you are dealt are a pair, face cards or aces
- If you want to stay in the game but don’t have good cards, you should call (maintain the current bet)
- Whenever you have a good hand, raise the bet
- When you have a really bad hand or if the current bet is raised to a high value you can’t meet, you should fold (exit from the game and forfeit your bet)
- Depending on the variant you are playing, you may draw new cards if you have an unfavourable hand but are willing to stay in the game.
Poker is a game of skill that is highly exciting and at the same time enterprising. Those who master the game can play at high roller tables where huge sums of money are placed as bets hence the pot stands at an incredible size. As a game of skill, patience, practice and sticking to one’s budget are the key ingredients to a successful gaming session.