The Hot Streak

How to Play Poker

Learn the ins and outs of how to play one of the most popular card games in the world, and don't forget your sunglasses!

October 20, 2023

Maybe you’ve watched Rounders a thousand times and still don’t understand what a “tell” is (but you really like John Malkovitch’s accent). Or maybe you’re hooked on late-night poker broadcasts, dreaming of making that master bluff behind mirrored sunglasses. When it comes to the thrill of card games, playing poker stands out as a favorite for many.

Hey, every poker player has to start somewhere.

If you want to learn how to play poker for beginners, pull up a stool. We’re going to run you through the basics of poker, from the foundational knowledge you need to understand the game to some tips for your first foray into a casino poker room. While poker can be a leisurely game, the excitement escalates when played for real money, adding an extra layer of strategy and anticipation. Each chip on the table is more than just currency; it’s a symbol of your poker prowess.

POKER BASICS

Whether you’re in a tournament or a cash game, understanding the dynamics and player strategies is crucial. Every poker table has its tales of epic bluffs, unexpected turns, and unforgettable victories.

The objective is to form the strongest poker hand from the cards dealt. So, the first thing any aspiring online poker pro needs to know is which hands will be their best bets

To understand the game better, let’s dive into poker hand rankings, from the least to the most powerful:

High card

In poker, aces are the highest, and twos are the lowest. This also comes into play as a tiebreaker when two players have hands of the same strength.

One pair

Two matching cards, like a couple of nines.

Two pair

A couple of nines and a couple of jacks, for instance. If you’re facing off against another player with two pair, the player with the highest pair wins.

Three of a kind

Three matching cards. Also known as “trips” or “a set.” In situations when two players both have the same three of a kind (like when they’re using the same community cards to make their hand), the player’s next highest card decides the hand. (For example, 5-5-5-A-K beats 5-5-5-K-3.)

Straight

Five cards in sequential order, like 8-9-10-J-Q. The suit doesn’t matter. When comparing straights, the higher, the better.

Flush

Five cards all in the same suit. An ace high flush is the best you can put down.

Full house

Three of a kind and a pair. Also known as a “full boat.” Full houses are ranked first by the strength of the triple, so Q-Q-Q-4-4 would beat J-J-J-10-10. If the triplets are equal, then the hands are ranked by the pair.

 

Four of a kind

Now we’re getting into the rare hands! If you see four of a kind, which is all four cards of a particular rank, you’re going to have a good night.

Straight flush

Five cards in sequence like 5-6-7-8-9 and also in the same suit.

Royal flush

The most powerful hand in the game (unless you’re playing with a wildcard, which is for a more advanced lesson). A royal flush would be, for example, 10-J-Q-K-A in the same suit. It can’t get better than this hand.

In terms of hand ranking, it’s the zenith.

Certain poker games introduce a ‘wild card’ – a card that can assume the identity of any other, enhancing the game dynamics.

Now that you know which hands you’re gunning for (and feel free to refer back to that list often while you’re learning), let’s take a deeper dive into poker’s most popular variation.

TEXAS HOLD’EM: THE RUN-DOWN

Poker has a ton of variations, but none are nearly as popular as Texas Hold’em. While Texas Hold’em is a community card game, other popular versions like Draw Poker require a different strategy and set of rules.

Invented in Texas and popularized by Las Vegas, Texas Hold’em has achieved worldwide popularity because it’s easy to learn but difficult to master — and because it lends itself perfectly to both cash games and tournaments.

There can be as few as two players in a game of Texas Hold’em (this is known as heads-up) and as many as eleven. However, most casinos tend to cap tables at nine.

The Small Blind and Big Blind

A hand of Texas Hold’em begins with the two players to the left of the dealer paying the small blind (the player directly to the left of the dealer) and the big blind (the player to the left of the small blind). Blinds are essentially each hand’s ante. The small blind is usually half of the big blind.

The stakes of a table are decided in advance. You can walk up to a $2 table, for instance, and find the big blind at $2 and the small blind at $1. The big blind is also that table’s minimum bet. In tournament play, the blinds will rise gradually at set intervals to help eliminate players. However, in cash games, the blinds remain stable throughout.

The Deal and Initial Betting

After blinds are posted, each player is dealt two cards facedown. These are known as “hole cards.” Solid opening hands can vary depending on your position at the table and your playstyle, but generally speaking, every poker player is happy to see a pocket pair (like QQ or AA) or a couple of high cards (especially if they’re suited).

Once the cards are dealt, betting begins with the player to the left of the big blind. Then, each player has a decision to make. They can:

Call – Match the money in the pot

Raise – Or increase a bet, by at least the amount of the big blind

Fold – Toss your cards away and live to fight another day

Raising at this early stage can be an aggressive maneuver that bullies weak “chaser” hands out of the game, especially if you’ve got a strong hand yourself. It can also be a good bluff, depending on your position at the table. (You may not want to raise if you’re early in the betting, thereby letting other players reraise over you.)

Once the action reaches the big blind—assuming that no one has raised—they have the option to check, which is basically passing.

The Flop, the Turn, and the River

After all the initial bets have been called, the dealer then reveals three communal cards in the middle of the table. This is known as “the flop.”

A new round of betting begins, this time starting with the player to the left of the dealer (who was originally the small blind). They have the option to either bet or check. A player might bet to represent that they have a strong hand (but do they?). Similarly, a player might check to represent a weak hand (but you’ll want to be wary of that, too.)

Once this second betting round starts and calling has passed around the table, the dealer reveals the fourth communal card, aka “the turn.” Another round of betting ensues, followed by the fifth and final card, aka “the river.”

Now, all cards (except our hole cards, obviously) have been revealed. A final betting round takes place. Did you catch the card you were looking for on the river? Did your opponent? Are you pushing all in?

Determining a Winner

Finally, the player who took the last aggressive action (a bet or a raise, not a call) shows their hand first. Did they win? Or did you? Recognizing a winning hand early on, and knowing how to play it, can be the turning point in a game of poker.

If after seeing your opponent’s hand you know that you can’t win, you’re allowed to “muck” your hand, meaning you toss your cards back to the dealer without revealing them. This is a smart poker strategy if you don’t want the other players to know what kinds of hands you’re playing or bluffing.

The deal now passes to the left, the blinds are posted, and the action begins once again!

Poker Room Etiquette

If you’ve come this far and have a good understanding poker rules, you might be wondering how to play poker in a casino. While the poker game rules will be the same as what we went over above, there are some general etiquette rules to be aware of when sitting down in a poker room.

Check in with the host – You can’t just belly up to a table in a poker room like you could at a Blackjack table on the casino floor. You need to reserve a spot with the host who will graciously guide you to your fateful table.

Know the stakes – Every table will have a posted blind structure, as well as a minimum amount of chips required to sit down. Only play in card games with stakes that you’re comfortable with. If possible, try to keep your chip count “topped up,” to make sure you can bet well on strong hands. (You aren’t allowed to introduce new chips during a hand or slap cash on the table.)

Declare your actions – Speak up. Make sure you’re clear about when you’re calling and when you’re raising. Don’t “string bet” or call first and then raise. Additionally, add chips to the pot all at once, or the dealer might end up canceling your raise.

Wear deodorant – And maybe even take a shower at some point. Be considerate of your fellow players. You’ll be in close quarters for a while.

GO ALL-IN WITH TIPICO CASINO

Poker is an intricate and thrilling game that can feel like going to war with cards (that’s another casino card game, if you’d like to check it out!). It’s all about leveraging your odds against your opponents at the table, knowing when to bet and when to fold, and playing the other players as much as your cards.

Now that you’ve learned the basics, the only way to become a better poker player is to start practicing — and Tipico Casino can help with that. Ready to play poker online or learn how to play baccarat and win? Join a poker tournament on our platform, and pit your skills against enthusiasts from folks around the country!

Eager to dive into poker online? Our casino has a number of live poker games and other card games, from Texas Hold’em to Four Card Stud, Seven Card Stud and other variations of Stud Poker. Getting some practice in against automated opponents for stakes that you’re comfortable with will help prepare you to one day take on the pros in an in person poker room.

Plus, Tipico will match your first deposit up to $100. (That’s no bluff, either.) So go ahead and put on those mirrored sunglasses. Let the card games begin.

If you’re wondering how to play casino, the card game, you’ve come to the right place. We’re always adding new content to our game guides so check back soon for more! Experience the thrill of online poker today with Tipico Casino from the comfort of your home.

For more, be sure to check out our other guides on how to play baccarat, how to win at roulette, and find out what it means to double down in blackjack!

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