How to Play Poker
One of the most internationally renowned and loved card games, Poker is a card game designed to be played by anyone.
Whether it's a recreational stance or when you also take a more serious approach to math and strategy, it's a game that allows you to develop many separate skills and strategies to take full advantage of a poker game.
Throughout the history of poker, there have been many ways to win and that is one of the most interesting facets it has: the game is one, always the same with its combinations, but as players adapt continuously, it ends up constantly transforming with the passage of time.
Why do players need to constantly stay on their toes and adapt? Because poker is a game in which, through bets, the participants tell a new story with each hand.
Those who tell the most believable stories are the ones who will best represent what they prefer, take advantage of their opponent's weaknesses and convince them to fold or call a bet when it is most convenient.
Throughout this article, we at CasinoCrawlers will tell you how to play poker like a professional and what this means, the differences between online and offline poker and what resources you can use to improve as a player day after day.
Wondering not just how to play poker, but how to play poker well? Then you're in the right place, read on.
Basic Poker Rules
Now, if you're just recently coming into the world of poker, whether it be in-person live poker or online poker, it's essential to have a grasp of the basic poker rules, the bread and butter of the game, before getting some valuable game time experience in, playing many poker games, and getting accustomed to the finer points and intricacies of this fantastic game.
Knowing how to play poker requires a knowledge of the hands, and poker rules, before you start playing a real cash game, or talking about the fixed limit or hole cards.
As far as card games go, the rules of playing a poker hand aren't too complex.
How Poker Works
In the poker format of Texas Holdem (the most commonly played on an online casino or in person) the ultimate objective is to win the pot, which is a sum of money accumulated from all the players bet during that particular round.
How do you win that elusive pot? The pot goes to the lucky (or skilful) individual who either has the best hand when the final betting round reaches its conclusion or by playing in a manner that forces all the other players to fold, due to not wanting to place a bet that is higher than the amount they want to risk.
When you play poker, the game is always played with a dealer and any amount of players up to ten. Each individual receives two cards face down from the dealer, which are known as the "hole cards". Following this stage, the dealer will deal with three community cards (the cards in the middle of the table). These particular cards are known as the "flop".
Following the flop being dealt out, the players will carry out another betting round, and then the dealer will proceed to deal out one or more community cards. This phase is known as the turn.
After the turn is all said and done, there is yet another round of betting that follows. After this round of betting, the dealer will deal the final community card, the last stage of dealing known as the "river".
And voila, now we've arrived at the final round of betting! This is one of the most important stages in a round of poker, as it defines who comes out on top and takes home the pot (at least for the round). Whoever is still remaining at this stage will win by either bluffing their way to success or having the best hand.
Types of Hands and Poker Hand Rankings
Poker by nature is a very hierarchical game. Not all cards and hands are created equal, so it helps to know what poker hands beat others.
Here's a list of combinations that you'll see in most poker variants.
In the journey of learning how to play poker, burn these combos into your mind and you'll be winning many poker games.
We've listed the hands from the weakest to the strongest.
As the name states, a double is simply having two of a kind of any card in the deck.
A two-pair is a neat combination that you'll come across when you have two pairs of any cards in the deck.
Three of a Kind
Three-of-a-kind is when you have 3 of the same cards from the deck (any suit)
A straight is when you have five cards of any suit, in sequential order. (eg 2,3,4,5,6)
A flush is an aesthetically pleasing hand that one attains when they have 5 cards of the same suit.
A full house is a hand to be reckoned with, which occurs when you have two of a kind, coupled with three of a kind.
Four of a Kind
Now we're really getting into the strong territory, with a four-of-a-kind being rare but a winner over most hands.
The second most powerful hand in poker games, if you're on a straight flush, you're likely on the money. Just don't give it away easily!
We're here, we've arrived at the holy grail of poker hands. The dream of all draw poker games, if you've got a royal flush, you can rest assured the hand is yours.
Fun fact: The odds of a royal flush are 649,739 : 1.
If you need an overview of the poker hands right by you when you play, you can download this useful cheet sheet.
Now, there are quite a few different types of popular poker games, with their own sets of rules and tactics that come with them.
Some examples include five-card draw poker, Omaha poker (which is a 4 card draw similar to texas hold'em), seven-card stud, and high-low Chicago.
For the sake of this article, we are going to focus on the most commonly played discipline of poker, which is the texas hold 'em format.
Basic poker rules aren't too hard to get used to, and one can be jumping in a round of betting and throwing down a straight flush in no time.
Know Your Opponents
If you want to know how to play poker at an advanced level, here is an unwritten rule that can make or break a game and is the most important rule of poker: know your opponents.
And know them well.
Basically, this rule boils down to two important factors.
The first is that, since poker is a mental and psychological game, you can identify who at the table is not emotionally stable and focus your efforts there. We tend to believe that in poker the one who plays the best poker hands and strategies wins, and that may be true, but the plays are not carried out only on the cards.
Body language sends constant signals of player emotions.
In these, you can guess the poker cards they have and the strategies, plays and tricks that they have in mind. So, the first tip, if you want to learn how to play advanced poker, is to be able to read your opponent's emotions and control your own.
How can we begin to read these emotions (even in online poker)?
I'm glad you asked.
Ways to Read a Poker Opponent
There are an enormous bunch of ways that you can read your opponents to your advantage during poker games.
Here are a few of the main ones that you can easily incorporate into your poker game and start getting those betting rounds under your control.
And yes, you can use these tactics in online poker too. You just simply can't hide some things behind a screen.
Bet Behaviour and Sizing
Always keep in mind how much your opponents are betting. A giveaway for a less experienced poker player is someone who drastically changes their bets depending on how strong their hand is.
Keep an eye out for patterns and follow them as much as you can. Information is power, and if you have that under wraps, you'll be on a good course.
Time is Money
Analyse how long your opponent is taking to make their move, as this is an almost impossible thing to hide from the trained eye.
A general rule of thumb is if, during a poker game, a player is taking a while to make a move, whether it's during the flop or betting round, it means it's a big decision.
When you're playing online poker games, as you can't see their faces, pay close attention to the time your opponents take.
Gift of the Gab
Now, we all know if we've been playing a few poker games in our time, whether in person or on an online poker site, there's usually a bit of talk at the table.
There are always the ones who can't keep quiet and others who play the mysterious silent guy card. Keep this in mind, in case one of these players suddenly changes their behaviour completely, this could mean a shift.
The Eyes Never Lie, Chico
Our previous point is directly related to direct eye contact.
People generally avoid eye contact when they're bluffing, as they don't want to give away any vital cues that they're having you on.
However, also beware of the continued, consistent and confident signs of eye contact, as these can mean that someone has got an absolute killer hand.
There are some people out there that just can't hold their cool while they are playing a game of poker. If someone is displaying signs of nervousness after a hand has been dealt, it's probably a good indicator that they have something big and they are trying to play it cool. You'll probably want to fold in a situation like this, unless you're very confident in your hand or you are sure they are bluffing.
If someone is acting like a big shot and exhibiting behaviours like splashing poker chips around or direct calls to action, then it's usually a sign of a bluff.
Of course, there are times when it could be a poker expert bluffing you, so always be careful and makes the most informative decision you can.
Anyway, now that you know how to read your opponents, let's move on to tactics that you can employ to become that shark you've always wanted.
How To Level Up Your Poker Game
Now that you've got a good grasp of half the battle of becoming an absolute force on the online poker or live poker table, the art of reading your opponents, let's move on to tactics that you can employ to become that shark you've always wanted
These tactics have been tried and tested by millions of poker players with more years of experience and more betting rounds under their belt than you can count.
Follow these tips, and you'll be taking that pot limit home with you in no time.
Play Fewer Hands When You Start
Many new players who start to play poker do so more for the fun of the game than for the money, so they play far more hands than they should, which is to their detriment.
Starting to play fewer hands will give you a huge advantage over players who play too many hands and play aggressively.
In addition, being more demanding when it comes to taking action, will make your decisions post-flop much easier and you will waste much less money by reducing the occasions when you put money in the pot than players with a worse hand than yours.
Pay attention to the pot limit and make calculated decisions. Not every hand will be a royal flush or the same suit.
Think about if you really want to participate in the round of betting or if you should let the other players increase the pot limit.
As you become more experienced you will be able to play more hands and be more creative in post-flop play, but until your level of play has grown enough, the best thing to do is to only put money in the pot when you have a great hand.
Learn to Count Your Odds
This particular tip to avoid failure at poker games focuses on the basic odds at Texas Hold'em tables.
win at poker it is not necessary to learn advanced odds, but it is convenient and even essential to have basic knowledge of odds.
The good news is that all you need to be able to use basic odds at the poker tables, you just have to have basic knowledge of mathematics, which essentially all of us would have been taught in school (even if maths isn't your cup of tea)
Here's a comprehensive guide on how you can add counting odds to your poker games.
Don't Go Overboard With Bluffing
Fresh, beginner players think that a masterful tactic in the how-to-play poker manual is to deceive their opponent, bluffing every chance they get.
This tip to avoid failing in poker is about the big misunderstanding that many beginning players have, who believe that poker is about bluffing and trying to cheat your opponent whenever possible.
The truth is that winning at poker depends much more on good poker knowledge and fundamentals than on bluffing and blindfold aggression.
The chances of you remembering more than one occasion where a bluff got out of hand and before you knew it you had your entire stack in the middle with a paltry hand are very high, so you probably know about it.
So what exactly does this mean?
The interesting thing is that much of your profit in most poker games will actually come from other players making this type of mistake, so until your game strategy improves and your experience increases enough to know how to perform a tricky bluff, save your money and just focus on how to get the most profit when you have a big hand.
Knowing when to bet or raise is a huge skill in playing poker, and will get you a lot of hand wins.
When it comes to bluffing, it's better to make lots of small bluffs that have a high chance of success rather than bet a large amount (or all) of your stack in one hand where you basically cross your fingers in the hope that the opponent throws his cards.
Note Your Results when You Play Poker
Write down and analyse the possible losses and profits every day, as well as the investment made to achieve results, the number of hands and the best poker play used, and any other useful information that's relevant to your play history.
Carrying out this process is really important, if not essential to the process if you want to be a winning player in the long run.
For that reason, we have decided to include this tip.
As a poker player, you should always know what real money online poker sites you've played at, how much money you have invested in the poker tables and how much you have recovered from it or the net profits, without forgetting to make a history of results in longer periods: week, month, year and lastly all the data since you started playing.
It is also useful to take into account things like when and where you are playing, the type of players with whom you have played and other aspects that at first may seem irrelevant.
After a while, you will have documented and accumulated quite a lot of data, and after taking into account the money invested and the results (economically speaking) daily. Taking a closer look at all the statistics generated, you should analyse these and focus on your strengths (how you usually make money), as well as avoiding those situations that make your money go to other hands.
Learn from the Best
Of course, it has become a cliche by this point, but it's a well know cliche for a reason.
Learning from poker players that have proven to win games, again and again, will teach you some invaluable habits, and how to play poker in a way you wouldn't have considered before.
Therefore, hooking up with great poker players and having valuable friends in the poker world is the last tip in our strategic series for not losing at poker. Having friends who are heavily invested and skilled in online poker and in-person poker is, without a doubt, really important and offers a great plus to be able to discuss strategies, stay motivated to keep improving or even have a mentor to show you the ropes.
Talking about strategy with great players is very valuable since they can teach you all about exact hands and situations that have put you in trouble and have created doubts in the past. An expert will tell you when to keep the same suit, teach you about most poker variants, important poker rules, big blind and small blind, betting rounds, and everything else you need to know.
Most of the time that you mention a problem to a more experienced player you will find that they give you a solution based on their own experience since he will almost certainly have been through a similar situation. They've seen many a round of betting to know what to do.
Sometimes, in addition, having a different perspective on a hand or a concept can help you mature and improve your abilities to take your game to the next level. It will help you play poker with a much more open mind, whether it be a seven-card stud or community cards.
If you've made it this far, you're well on the way to knowing the poker rules intimately and making that poker hand take you to the top.
As always, if you're looking for to put this knowledge into practice, browse our list of casinos that provides online poker and start practicing your poker game.
Lily began her career in the iGaming industry more than 10 years ago as a content writer for various online casino sites, such as Unibet and William Hill. With her passion for gaming and an interest in the legal landscape in va... Read more about the author