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How to Play Poker

How to Play Poker for Dummies

For a very long time, poker has remained America’s national card game. It still continues to grow in different regions, cultures and societies because it’s tremendous fun to play – and of course, you can make a fortune off it, if you know how to play poker. However, many people don’t know how to play poker and tend to lose interest as a result.

In this how to play poker article, we cover the basics of poker and how it’s been played over the years by legendary players, who have not only mastered it inside and out but also walked away with a tonne of cash. Let’s get started without how to play poker guide for dummies that answers all your how to play poker queries:

How to PlayPoker: The Basics

A lot of people think that poker players who always win are somehow miraculously gifted; however, that isn’t necessarily true. Just like Michael Jordon learned how to get really good at basketball first before becoming a sports celebrity, you can also learn poker and become a master at it.

To learn the game properly though, you need to lay a solid poker foundation. Imagine a house that has no foundation; do you think it can withstand the harshest natural calamities? No matter how beautiful and visually pleasing it looks, it won’t prove its worth as an asset, until you know for sure that its foundation is practically indestructible. You need that kind of foundation in poker.

The One Poker Objective You Really Need to Know

Every game has a unique objective, which makes it really interesting and worthwhile. When it comes to poker, the main objective is to capture the pot (money) which the respective players bet on during the hand. Every player hopes to have the best hand or sometimes, gives the impression that he/she has the best hand, so that the other players are pushed into folding (abandoning) their hand.

The key here is to know when you have to bet. Self-discipline is the key to winning the pot. Here is a really good tip: always remember that in most poker games (yes, there happens to be a large variety), the best hand is when you have a great combination of five cards (hands are discussed in more detail later in the article).

Number of Individuals Who Can Play

Depending on the kind of poker game you’re playing, any number of players between two to ten can play. If you are playing poker in a casino, you’ll mostly find setups ranging between eight to ten players, though again, depending on what kind of poker game they’re playing. Popular poker games are Stud poker, Razz and Texas Hold’em.

Deck Basics

Almost every poker game involves a 52-card deck AKA the standard deck. But sometimes, the joker, also known as the bug, is added to the deck for draw poker or lowball. Don’t confuse this card with a wildcard. When it’s used in lowball, it’s considered the lowest card and cannot be used to pair your hands. For example, if you have a hand of 4-5-6-J-A (where the ‘J’ correlates with Joker) – it would be as if you’ve held a hand of 4-5-6-8-A. On the contrary, a Joker can be quite useful in draw poker. It acts as an additional Ace and helps in completing a straight or flush.

The Currency of Poker – Poker Chips

If you’ve seen people playing poker with pennies or peanuts in their house, they are using them as chips, which is what you bet with. Chips were originally made of clay but today, they are made of composite plastic. Let’s talk about how to play poker with chips.

Chips come in a variety of colors and patterns which make them stand out from one another. Patterns or designs are mostly used for “security purposes” and these vary according to casinos. However, colors generally resemble traditional dollar values:

$1 White
$5 Red
$25 Green
$100 Black
$500 Purple

Depending on the players, you would need a certain number of chips so that you can enjoy a dose of Vegas-style poker. Here is a list which clearly states how many chips you would need for the following number of players:

3 – 4 Players 300 Chips
5 – 6 Players 400 Chips
7 – 8 Players 500 Chips
10 or more Players 1000 Chips

How to Play

While many people think poker is something that may take a lifetime to learn, you might want to think twice. While it’s true a person may end up spending a lifetime mastering it, learning poker is very simple if you have the right resources.

To win poker, you need to win pots, which are chips or money that’s wagered as you play each hand or round of poker. If you don’t know yet what hand means, it’s when a player possesses five cards in his/her hand.

How to Win Hands

There are two ways to win hands:

“Showdown” Your Best Hand in the End

You should wait until every betting round is done with and then reveal (showdown) the best hand to conclude the game. Usually, what happens is, two or more players remain active in the end; they all reveal their hands and the pot goes to the player who has the highest hand in that last showdown.

Let the Opponents Fold Their Hands First

Even if you’re not holding the best hand, you claim that you are to persuade your opponents into folding their hands. In poker, folding a hand means a player gives up on the pot and doesn’t match an opponent’s bet. When all your opponents fold their hands, whether you bluffed about having the best hand or not – you successfully win the pot.

Every Game Has its Own Rules for Hands

When you play games like Texas Hold’em or Seven-Card Stud, the highest hand is the best hand. However, in other games such as Razz or Lowball, the lowest hand is the best hand. The best possible low hand is 5-4-3-2-A and the second best is 6-4-3-2-A.

Is some cases, two players might both end up as the winners. This is where the pot is divided into half and both of these players take the pot 50-50. This is also known as the split-pot game. In this case, one player must have a high hand while the other must have a low hand. However, if there is no low hand in the game, the player with the high hand wins the entire pot.

How to Play Poker: Prerequisites before Starting the Game

Most poker games require one of these two bets: ante or blind. For games that require antes, each player has to submit a ‘token’ in the form of money, so that he/she can receive cards. However, when a game starts with a blind bet, only one or two players can make a bet (or a portion of it), so that the hand can be dealt with. The blind bet rotates around the table in every showdown, allowing each player to contribute his fair share to the game.

Cards are dealt in every round of the table. Players can check and make a move in each of these rounds. There are four simple moves that a player can make: bet, fold, call or raise. However, there are times when a player doesn’t want to make a move, in which case, he/she can forfeit (or release) his/her hand.

When you fold your hand, you are not required to place more money in the pot. Furthermore, if you decide to bet or raise, and no one calls, you win the pot (for that particular hand). The cards are then collected, shuffled and the next hand (or round) is dealt.

However, if there are more than two players active at the end of a hand, the player who has the best hand wins the pot.

Different rules apply to different kinds of poker games. But when you want to learn the basics of poker, it really is this simple. However, within its profound simplicity, the game is very enjoyable and downright fascinating to play. Players who master poker can enjoy it as a lifelong source of intellectual pleasure.

Rankings of a Hand

The two most popular poker games that are played by every poker player around the world today are Texas Hold’em and Seven-Card Studs. In each of the two respective games, the player with the highest hand wins the pot.

Both these games are played with a standard, 52-card deck but the joker is not included. The card deck is composed of four suits: hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs. Each of these suits are equal in value and hold 13 ranks – ace, being the highest ranking card, which is followed by king, queen, jack and all cards numbered between 10 and 2, in descending order. The Ace is also used as the lowest ranking card in hand, otherwise known as the 5-high straight (5-4-3-2-A). This is also referred to as the wheel or bicycle.

Both Texas Hold’em and Studs are played with seven cards, but remember, the best hand only needs a “five best-card” hand. You should also know that the rarer the hand is, the more valuable it becomes.

How to Play Poker: List of Hand Rankings

Here is a list of the most valuable five-card hands:

Royal Flush

A royal flush is considered the best possible hand in the game. It’s also known as an ace-high straight flush. There are only four of them since there are four suits, but the sequence is identical: A-K-Q-J-10, where K = King, Q = Queen and J = Joker.

Straight Flush

If five cards of the same suit are in sequence, it’s considered a straight flush. Here is an example: 8-7-6-5-4 or K-Q-J-10-9.

Four of a Kind

When a five-card hand is composed of four similar ranks, it’s considered a quad or four of a kind hand: K-K-K-K-5. Remember that the higher the rank, the better your hand gets. For example, a quad of Queen beats a quad of Jack.

Full House

A full house is when a player has three numbers or more and a pair of cards with identical ranks. For example, a hand like K-K-5-5-5-5 is referred to as: fives full of kings.


When a player has five cards of the same suit, it’s called a flush. These cards are not in sequence because if they were, it would be considered a straight flush. Two or more players can reveal a flush hand; however, the winning hand is determined by order of the highest rank card or cards. For example, a flush comprised of A-K-Q-5-4 is higher than A-K-Q-3-2.


A player with five cards in sequence which are not of the same suit is referred to as a straight. When there is more than one straight, the winning hand is the one which has the highest card in sequence. Let’s take a look at this example: a jack-high straight (J-10-9-8-7) will beat an eight-high straight (8-7-6-5-4).

Three of a Kind

If a hand has three kinds of the same rank with two unrelated cards, it’s called a three of a kind card. This is also known as trips or a set. For example: a hand of 5-5-5-K-J would be referred to as trip 5s or a set of 5s.

Two Pair

When a hand has a pair of one rank and two cards of another rank, along with one unrelated card, it’s known as a two pair hand . The rank of these two pairs is determined by looking at which pair has a higher rank, thus rendering it superior over the other. Consider two players who have two pairs each, both holding an identical rank pair – the rank of the second pair would decide who wins the showdown. In another example, if two players have the same two pairs, the side card (unrelated card) would determine which player is the winner. Let’s look at an example here: Q-Q-8-8-4 (queens and 8s) is superior to Q-Q-5-5-K (queens and 5s).

One Pair

When a player has a pair of cards with a similar rank, this is known as a one pair hand. If two or more players hold an identical pair of cards, the winning hand is determined according to the value of the remaining unrelated side cards.

No Pair

This is the most common hand we see in poker. When all five cards are unrelated to each other, it’s known as a no pair hand. In this kind of hand, the winning hand is determined by the rank order of the cards. As an example, if Joshua has K-Q-5-2-6 and Kevin has Q-J-10-4-8, then Joshua would win because K-Q ranks higher than Q-J.

Low Hands

In split-pot games like Omaha/8, when a player has the best low hand, which is comprised of five unrelated cards having a rank of 8 or lower, he/she would capture the pot. For example, 7-6-4-3-2-A would beat 7-6-5-3-A but it would lose to 7-4-3-2-A.

How to Play Poker: The Master Key to Winning Poker

If poker would have been a game of luck, the player with the best hand would always win the pot. However, it is the art of betting and not sheer luck which is the key to winning poker. This is what minimizes losses when you have a poor hand and maximizes your chance of winning when you have a better hand. This is what poker is all about.

Bets can greatly vary depending on the game type:

  •      Fixed limit – limits every player to raise no more than a predetermined bet. However, in some games like Texas Hold’em, betting limits are doubled on the third round.
  •      Speed limit – there is a predetermined betting limit in speed. For example, a player may not bet below $10 and more than $50 as it’s a speed limit game.
  •      Pot limit – bets or raises are only limited to the amount the pot currently has.
  •      No limit – you can bet on any amount you have in front of you.

Here is a list of betting terms you need to know:

  •      Ante – a sum of money contributed by each player before the cards are dealt.
  •      Bet – a certain amount of money put up by a player .
  •      Blind bet – one or two players contribute money first and then every player pays his/her fair share from hand to hand.
  •      Call – equalizing that was wagered into the pot.
  •      Check – a bet of zero dollars, retaining the right to call any bet made by a player who acts after you. You can’t, however, check if someone has already bet on your turn.
  •      Check/raise – used to trap an opponent when you have a powerful hand. You can check and raise if another player bets.
  •      Fold – relinquishing interest in the pot and not taking action.
  •   Raise – increasing the amount wagered by another’s opponent’s bet.

How to Play Poker: Conclusion

While there are other rules and poker etiquettes that would certainly be very useful to come to terms with – the above information is sufficient for you to start playing poker. In fact, this article shares almost everything basic about poker that is necessary to play and win the game. For other rules and etiquettes of poker, you can ask your dealer to help you through the mechanics of the game. Within a few sessions, you will get the hang of it and start playing just like one of the regulars.

If you enjoyed this article and want us to write more similar ones, then leave us a reply in the comments below. We greatly appreciate your feedback and look forward to hearing from you. Also, check out here to know about poker bonuses or how to win a poker bonus. You can also check these top 10 online poker sites to know some of the best places to play poker, now that you know how to play poker. 

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