Learning how to play poker is a straightforward process. First, you learn the basic poker rules, followed by the poker hand rankings and the sequences that make them. Lastly you’ll learn how the betting rules work, finishing up with the different game types like No-Limit, Pot-Limit and (fixed) Limit.
This seems quite a lot at first, but don’t worry, the rules of poker are fairly easy to pick up. After a few practice sessions online or with your friends, you’ll be ready to get started in the exciting world of poker!
Covered in this guide:
Learn poker on the go!
Printable poker rules (pdf, jpg)
Poker rules video (mp4)
Poker Hand Rankings (pdf, jpg)
Texas Hold’em poker rules
Texas Holdem poker is played with up to 10 people per table, a deck of 52 cards and poker chip set. At the start of the game two forced bets are placed by the two players to the left of the player in dealer position – these bets are called the small blind (SB) and big blind (BB). The SB and BB indicate the stakes of the game. Usually the BB is twice the amount of the SB. When these blinds are placed the deal can begin: all players who are in the hand will receive two cards, the first card is dealt clockwise starting from the small blind, followed by another round of dealing with the last card going to the dealer.
First betting round (Pre-Flop)
Second betting round (The Flop)
Three community cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table:
A new round of betting opens, beginning directly left of the dealer (small blind).
Third betting round (The Turn)
, making the board
The same rules apply on the turn as on the flop,
with the exception of Limit Games, where the minimum bet on the turn is double the minimum bet on the flop.
Final betting round (The River)
,making a full house possible on the four-straight board:
The final round of betting commences – all players who match the bets in this round will go to the Showdown, with the last aggressor being the first one to show his cards.
After the winner(s) in the hand are determined the pot is shipped to them , the dealer button moves one spot to the left and a new hand begins in the pre-flop stage.
How to make a poker hand
Now that you know how to play a round of poker, the next step is to learn how different poker hands stack up against eachother and how to determine the winner of each round that goes to showdown.
The most important part of understanding the rules of poker is to know how to make a poker hand, using your hole cards and the five community cards in the middle of the table. See the panel on the right for the relative strength of poker hands – note that as the strength of the poker hand increases the probability of making this hand becomes less. For example, the probability of making Four of a Kind is 4,164 : 1, versus Two Pair at 20:1. You don’t have to learn all the probabilities of making a hand, as long as you understand the relative strength of hands and how to make them.
Rules for making a poker hand
When you play Texas Holdem poker, you have to make the best five card hand of the seven total cards available to you at showdown. You can use any five card combination, so it is even possible to ‘Play the Board’, meaning that you use the five community cards in the middle of the table. This results in a split pot, at best.
Example in Hold’em
Our Hand The Board
The best five card poker hand out of the these seven available cards is :
Two pair, Jacks and Nines with a King kicker.
The kicker comes in to play as the extra card in a situation where both players make the same combination. For example, both players have the above Two Pair as their best combination. The fifth card in the hand (the kicker) decides who wins the pot, in this case the King. This situation arises very often when there is a pair, two pair, trips or quads on the board. The key is to arrange the hand from highest card to lowest so you can easily see which player has the better kicker.
Betting rules & limits
A game of poker is generally played with one of these three different betting limits: No Limit, Fixed Limit and Pot Limit. The first one, being the most popular form of poker, allows the player to bet any amount he wants, even his whole stack of chips. In Fixed limit the betting proceeds by a predetermined raise amount and in Pot Limit the betting is capped by the size of the pot. At a certain point in a tournament an ante may be introduced. An ante is a blind bet that all players make prior to the cards being dealt for each hand.
No-Limit Texas Holdem is the format played in the World Series of Poker Main Event, the biggest annual poker tournament, where six to eight thousand players put up $10,000 to get a shot at the title. No-Limit is also the format preferred for online cash games and tournaments. Fixed limit Holdem is hardly played anymore, the two dominant games at this moment are No-Limit Texas Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha.
Poker Tournament Rules
The standard scheme of a Holdem tournament is really simple: the player enters the tournament with a set buy-in fee and receives tournaments chips in return which have no cash value. This means that a player can lose only his buy-in but will continue playing until he loses all of his chips or takes everybody else’s chips to win the tournament. This format makes tournaments a lot of fun to participate in and also creates a very competitive spirit of play.
At the start, all participants receive an equal number of tournament chips, called starting chip stack. For example a starting stack can be 2000, 5000, 10000 or any amount which the tournament director determines.
Each tournament has its blind structure which is a timetable for increasing the size of the blinds according to the predetermined periods. Typically, each blind level can last between 10 min and 1 hour and with the advancement of the blinds levels, the blinds increase, for example from 50-100 to 100 200, etc.