Learning to Play Poker

The basics you will need when learning to play poker are a pack of cards, some chips, a table and other people to play against. The best way to take on board the rules and discover the strategies you will need to acquire is to play the game for real. While you are learning about poker, you could play for cocktail sticks, buttons or, if you are feeling brave, real money - it is up to you!


Learn the Point of the Game

At the very basic level, you are looking to win the pot into which every player’s cash bets have been placed during that hand. You do that by owning the strongest hand at the table, or making others believe you have the strongest hand so they quit, or ‘fold’, before you reach the final round.

Learn the Poker Hand Rankings

It’s important to know which hands stand the best chance of winning and which are not worth betting on. This is the very basis of playing poker and you can find a full guide at the Poker Hand Rankings section of the site.

As you play more, you will start to recognise the stronger hands, or at least the ones with the most potential, without having to constantly wrack your brain to recall them. As with any game of this kind, the more you play, the more you understand, the better you get.

Learn the Language of Poker

The Poker Glossary contains definitions for all of the weird and wonderful phrases you will come across during your poker career, but there are some terms that are worth knowing from the start.

  • Ante: A small stake players must pay on entering the game.
  • Blinds: Forced bets made by the two players sitting next to the dealer. The term “blind” refers to the fact that the bets are made before players receive their hole cards.
  • Call: Matching a previous player’s bet to make it through to the next round of betting.
  • Check: Effectively betting zero if you are unsure of your hand but don’t want to fold. You can only do this if the betting has not yet been opened for this round.
  • Raise: If you are confident of your hand, call the last bet and then bet an additional amount.
  • Fold: Leave the hand if you don’t fancy your chances of winning.

Learn about the Different Types of Poker

There are numerous varieties of poker and it is worth trying each to find the one that suits you best. The most popular strand is Texas Hold ‘em and you can find more about the rules, strategy and best places to play it at the dedicated page.

Other poker games include Omaha, Draw and Stud.

Learn the Betting Rules for Each Game

Different games will have different pre-determined betting rules. These may limit the value of the first bet, place a cap how much a player can raise the bet and even rule on how many times the bet can be raised in the same round.

These rules can be put in place to stop the money involved getting out of hand, preventing some players from being priced-out of what should be a fun, social activity.

Learn the Difference between a Cash Game and a Tournament

Cash games are usually played with chips which carry a cash value. You are playing against the others at the table and will finish up or down depending on your performance in the game. Some games have a fixed limit on the amount that can be bet, but others have no limit, meaning you could win a gigantic amount of cash, or lose everything you have if you bet beyond your means. There is no defined end to a cash game, as players can buy-in again if the rules allow, although you won’t be able to carry on if you have nothing left to play with!

Tournaments see all players paying the same entrance fee and receiving the same number of tournament chips. When you have lost all your chips at the tables, you are out. In tournaments, the amount of the blinds increases in set increments of time, raising the stakes as the action unfolds.

The winner is the player who ends up with all of the chips entered into the competition and they will either receive a guaranteed prize or the biggest share of the eventual prize fund. There will be other, smaller prizes on offer for those that finish in a pre-declared number of positions.


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