Our beginner’s guide to poker is the perfect read for anyone who is looking to learn more about the game itself. It features a range of articles written specifically for new players and they’ll teach you everything you need to know even if you’ve never played before. You’ll probably find a few of our articles useful even if you’ve been playing poker for awhile too.
These articles cover subjects concerning why poker is so popular and why strategy is so important in the game. There’s also information on the different formats and structures of the game, along with details on the correct etiquette that’s expected at the tables. We’ve also provided some helpful tips for when you start playing and some advice on avoiding the mistakes that many new players make.
All the articles in this guide are listed below, plus we’ve added a couple of other useful resources for you too. Further down this page you’ll find some important information about poker that you really should know, along with a simple introduction to the basics of poker.
Articles & Other Resources for Poker Beginners
The Appeal of Poker
The popularity of poker exploded in the 21st century, but only a limited number of people realize that this popular card game had already been loved by many for a long time prior to that. There are several reasons why poker is so popular and in this article we explore those reasons in much more detail.
The two main formats of poker are cash games and tournaments. The main rules of the game are fundamentally the same in both of these but there are also some key differences between the two. In this article we explain the basics of how these two tournaments work and summarize how they differ too.
Poker can be played using a range of different betting structures. Fixed limit and no limit are the most common, but there are others such as pot limit and spread limit as well. In this article we take a detailed look at all the main betting structures and explain how they influence the way the game is played.
Tournaments come in a variety of different formats and structures. They can be classified in several different ways, such as the number of tables in play, how and when they start, and the number of players that are allowed at each individual table. Please read through this article to find out more.
Luck is definitely a contributing factor when it comes to poker, as games are greatly influenced by which cards are dealt. It’s not all about luck though, as how players play their cards also has an impact on who wins and loses. Therefore, there’s a huge amount of strategy involved in poker, and in this article we explain just how important strategy is.
If you don’t understand how to behave properly at a poker table, then you run the risk of ruining the game for other players, which could ultimately lead to you being asked to leave a game. You can avoid this by learning all about the correct etiquette, which is surprisingly straightforward. Find out more about etiquette in this article.
Poker is so popular partly because it’s so easy to learn. It’s a lot harder to win though, especially as a beginner. We can’t turn you from a beginner to a winner overnight unfortunately, but if you follow the simple tips in this article you’ll at least be heading on the right path to a more successful poker future.
Playing poker well is more than just doing the right things, it’s also about not doing the wrong things. You’re bound to make some mistakes as a beginner, but you don’t want to make any more than you absolutely have to. This article explains the more common mistakes that new players make and helps you avoid them.
It’s natural for people new to poker to have questions about the game and what’s involved. The following are just a few frequently asked questions that we regularly hear.
Is Poker Hard to Learn?
Can I Win Money Playing Poker
Why Is Poker So Popular?
What’s The Best Form Of Poker To Play?
We have compiled a comprehensive list of poker FAQs, including the above, and provided detailed answers to all of them. This is a very useful resource to refer to if you have a question, or even if you just want to read through and find out some useful information.
There’s just enough “lingo” used in poker to make things a little complicated for the average beginner. Most of the words and phrases associated with the game are relatively straightforward, but there’s also a few terms that aren’t so easy to understand.
Don’t worry though, as we have a complete glossary of terms to help you. This is a great reference tool for anyone learning the game, as it fully explains all the terminology you are likely to come across. We’ve covered the various acronyms and abbreviations used in the game too and even have provided you with a selection of the most popular slang terms for specific poker hands.
There are several variations of poker and they each have their own unique set of rules. On the following pages, we explain everything you need to know about these variations, including the complete rules on how to play them.
There’s a fair amount to learn if you want to fully understand poker, and even more if you want to excel at it. Before you start getting into the game, though, there are three key facts that you really need to know and we’ve explained these below.
Poker is Played Against Other Players, NOT The House
One thing that sets poker apart from other popular forms of gambling, such as casino games and sports betting, is that poker involves competing against other players. You’re not up against the house like you are in the casino, or taking on the bookmakers like you are when betting on sports but instead you are playing directly against other players.
This means that the house has to make its money in a different way as opposed to the other forms of gambling. In very simplified terms, bookmakers make money from the way they set the odds and casinos make money by way of the the house edge that exists in casino games. In poker, the house (i.e. the casino, poker room, or online poker site) makes money through charging players rake. They take a small percentage out of each pot in cash games and a small percentage out of all tournament entry fees.
Playing against other players is also what makes poker a “more fair” form of gambling. Because players are competing against each other and not facing a house edge of bookmaker’s advantage, they are all effectively on a level playing field. They are all subject to the same element of luck in terms of the cards they get dealt, and to some degree they are all in control of their own destiny based on how they play the game.
Poker is a Game of Chance AND Skill
There has been a long running debate about whether poker is a game of chance or a game of skill. In reality, it’s a pointless debate, as the reality is that poker falls under both categories. You could argue forever about whether it is luck or skill that plays the biggest part in determining who wins and who loses, but you could also argue that it doesn’t really matter.
The fact of the matter is that there’s enough luck involved in the game for players to be able to beat better players on occasion, and enough skill involved for the better players to make consistent profits in the long run. The result of any game will always depend to some extent on the cards that are dealt and it’ll also be influenced by how the players involved choose to play their cards.
For what it’s worth, we believe that skill is the biggest factor. There’s a reason why there are players that regularly win money from the game and it’s not because they are luckier than everyone else. Luck evens itself out over time and the only way to make a long term profit from the game is to be better than your opponents.
Poker Involves RISK
A lot of poker players claim that poker shouldn’t be considered a form of gambling due to the level of skill involved. This claim is up for debate though. Despite the fact that the game is more skill based than luck based, there’s enough luck involved that players are still effectively risking money on an uncertain outcome, which in reality is the definition of what gambling is.
Regardless of whether you believe poker is gambling or not, you cannot deny the fact that there is some risk involved. It’s very important that you fully understand this before you start playing. No matter how good you are at playing cards (or think you are), there’ll always be a chance that you can lose money. We therefore strongly advise that you only ever play with money you are happy to lose.
Poker Basics: A Simple Introduction
You can find out everything you need to know about the different variations, formats, and structures of poker, along with the precise rules for each game, by reading through our articles for beginners and game guides. Below we have also provided brief explanations of some of the basics by way of an introduction to the game.
Number of Players
The number of players involved in a game of poker can vary significantly. Cash games are always played on a single table, which can feature between two and ten players. Tournaments can be played on a single table but they can also be played across many tables. Some of the bigger tournaments have thousands of entrants.
The number of players allowed at each table can also vary and there are three game formats which relate to the maximum number per table. These are as follows.
Full Ring Games = Maximum of nine or ten players per table.
Shorthand/Six-Max Games = Maximum of six players per table.
Heads Up Games = Maximum of two players per table.
These formats, and the relevant maximums, can apply to both cash games and tournaments.
Most forms of poker use a standard sized deck of 52 playing cards. Cards that are dealt to the individual players face down are known as hole cards. Some games also involve dealing exposed cards to the middle of the table. These are known as community cards and they can be used by all players in conjunction with their hole cards to form the best possible hand.
The objective in poker is to win pots. A new pot is started with each new deal and chips are added to that pot as and when the players make their bets. A player wins a pot by having the best possible hand once all the betting is complete or by being the last player with an active hand.
The following standard hand rankings apply in most forms of poker, from the lowest ranked to the highest.
A hand with no other combination. Value by its highest ranked card.
Two cards of the same rank.
Two pairs combined.
3 of a kind
Three cards of the same rank
Five consecutive cards
Five cards of the same suit.
A pair and a three of a kind combined.
4 of a kind
Four cards of the same rank.
Five consecutive cards of the same suit.
A straight flush that runs from to 10 to the Ace.
Blinds and Antes
Most poker games involve the use of blinds, antes, or both. These are forced bets that must be made by players in certain positions, or by all players, prior to each deal.
Small Blind = Placed by the player to the left of the dealer.
Big Blind = Placed by the player two positions to the left of the dealer.
Ante = Placed by all players
The blinds and antes stay at fixed sizes during a cash game and these sizes are determined by the stakes of the game. In tournaments the blinds and antes increase every so often, in correlation with the tournament structure.
During a game of poker, you’ll typically have up to five options when it’s your turn to act. These are known as your betting options and are summarized as follows.
Check = Make no bet, but remain active in the current round with the option of calling future bets.
Bet = Add your desired amount of chips to the pot. Subsequent players must match that amount to stay active in the current round.
Call = Stay active in the current round by matching a previous bet made by another player and adding the same amount of chips to the pot.
Raise = Increase the size of an existing bet made by another player by adding that amount of chips to the pot AND an additional amount.
Fold = Discard your cards and forfeit your chance to win the pot.
Please note that the first two options are only available to you if no other player has placed a bet during the current betting round.
The amount you can bet or raise during a hand of poker is determined by both the stakes of the game and the betting structure that’s being used in the game. There are five main structures, each of which have slightly different betting rules. Here’s a quick summary of them all.
Fixed Limit = Players may only bet or raise by a fixed amount.
No Limit = Players may bet or raise by any amount between the minimum for the game and the chips they currently have.
Pot Limit = Players may bet or raise by any amount between the minimum for the game and the size of the current pot.
Spread Limit = Players may bet or raise by any amount within a pre-determined range (the spread).
Cap Limit = Players may bet or raise by any amount between the minimum for the game and a pre-determined upper limit (the cap).
Understanding these structures can help give a much clearer idea of what you will be most comfortable playing.
Playing Poker Online
A modern day beginner’s guide to poker wouldn’t be complete without at least some reference to playing online. The option to play for real money over the internet, against other players from all around the world, is essentially responsible for the relatively recent surge in the game’s popularity.
Online poker is in fact such a big deal these days that we’ve dedicated a whole section of our poker guide to it. Our beginner’s section focuses largely on the basics of the game, which are pretty much the same regardless of whether you play live or online, whereas our online section covers everything you need to know about playing on the web.
We would definitely consider this section to be a must read if you even have a slight interest in playing poker online. It includes articles on all of the following subjects.
The most popular part of the section is where we rank the leading sites and recommend the best places to play in a variety of different categories. The idea behind doing this is that we want to make sure that you only play at the very best sites available and that those sites are suitable for your own personal needs.
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