How to Play Poker:
Texas Hold'em

The game of Poker can involve a number of different card games in which players wager over which hand on the table is best. This guide will cover the most common form of Poker, Texas Hold'em, over six sections to get you playing in no time.
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The aim of Poker is to make the best five card poker hand from any combination of the seven cards – the five "community" cards and their two "hole" cards – from a standard deck of 52 cards.

Your hole cards are entirely unique to you, no other player can have the same cards as you do. These are dealt to you face down at the start of each hand and must remain hidden from other players for the duration of the hand.

The top-view perspective of a poker table shown below is used in Online Poker as it gives you the best overview of the game. Anywhere between 2 and 10 people can play on a single table. If only two players are playing, this is known as a Heads Up game.

All of the possible card combinations that can win a hand of poker are ranked in order from best to worst in the image below. The best hand that can be achieved is a Royal Flush, but it is incredibly rare, with the chance of you hitting this combination almost 650,000/1. At the end of each hand that is played, whichever player has achieved the best ranking combination of cards wins.

You can find a downloadable version of the hand ranking chart above in our Useful Resources section. It'll be useful to have this on screen or printed and kept with you during your first few games.

Keep in mind, there are often other terms used to describe some of the rankings, such as Four of a Kind being referred to as "Quads". We've compiled a helpful Glossary of poker jargon which you can refer to whenever you need to.

For the purpose of demonstration, in this guide we will assume the position of Player 4 in a game with six players. We've separated the guide itself into six sections:

The preparation that takes place at the start of each round of poker.

Before the first community cards are revealed, there is an initial round of betting.

The "Flop" refers to the first three community cards that are dealt on the board. There is then another round of betting.

The fourth community cards is then dealt. There is then another round of betting.

The fifth community cards is then dealt. There is then a final round of betting.

Any remaining players in the hand then reveal their hole cards, the best hand is determined, the player(s) with the winning hand win the value of the pot.

Part One – Dealing

Every hand of poker has a dealer, whether it is a physical game or online. The dealer for each hand is given a white "D" or "DEALER" puck that clearly indicates the dealer to the rest of the table. This moves clockwise around the table after the conclusion of each hand.

Moving clockwise around the table, the player next to the dealer assumes the role of the "Small Blind" and may be given a coloured "SB" or "SMALL BLIND" puck. This player must make a compulsory bet, equivalent to half of the minimum bet for the hand.

The next player becomes the Big Blind, and must make a compulsory bet equivalent to the minimum bet for the hand. The role of each blind is to introduce a regular cost to take part in a hand, encouraging these players to continue playing in order to compensate these forced bets.

Once the three pucks have been allocated, and the blinds posted, two cards are dealt face-down to each player from one shuffled 52-card deck. Each player's cards must be kept secret until the hand has concluded.

This is the first opportunity you have to privately check the two cards you have been dealt – known as your "hand" – before making a decision about whether you wish to play when the betting reaches your position. Here we have been dealt an "off-suit" hand as the suits are not the same.

Part Two – Pre-Flop

Whenever it is your turn to play, you have five different choices you can make. The first is a "BET", if no other players have placed down any chips you can decide to be the first to do so. You can also "CHECK" if no other players have bet, which means you want to wait to see what happens.

We can neither "BET" or "CHECK" as blinds have already been posted. This leaves us with three options; "FOLD" which means giving up and no longer participating in this hand, "RAISE" the current bet by at least the minimum bet again or "CALL" by matching the value of the Big Blind.

With a hand that is not particularly powerful and also off-suit, in this instance we will CALL the current Big Blind bet of 10 chips. After deciding how to play, you should clearly announce your decision to the table and place your bet in front of you.

After you have made your move, play continues around the table in a clockwise direction. Player 5 folds their hand, during which they push their cards – still face down to avoid any other players identifying the cards they had – clearly away from their position.

As play continues around the table, no players have raised the minimum bet, defined by the Big Blind, of 10 chips. Player 1 (who has been assigned dealer) folds, which has no impact on the rest of play. The Small Blind only has to make up the remaining difference to the Big Blind bet.

Once all players have made their decisions – and each of the players who remain in the hand have bet an equal number of chips – we reach the end of the initial round of betting. All of the chips are combined into a stack in the middle of the table called the "Pot".

Part Three – Flop

The first three cards are then dealt into the centre of the table by the dealer. These three initial cards are known as the "Flop". In most games of poker, a card is discarded from the top of the deck before the cards are dealt, also known as a "burn card" to prevent cheating.

This is the first opportunity for all players to form a complete Poker hand of five cards. As the aim is to have the best hand out of all other players, you should consider what hands other players could have that will beat yours. We have made a pair of 9s, the middle ranking card so far.

The Small Blind is the first player to act after the Flop. As there are currently no bets on the table in this round of betting, they can decide to BET or CHECK. As checking doesn't involve betting any chips, you can show this is your intention by knocking on the table twice.

Play then moves onto the next player. As all players have decided to CHECK, this round of betting ends without anyone betting chips, thus the total pot remains unchanged. If any player decides to make a bet, play must continue to move around all players until they CALL or FOLD.

Part Four – Turn

A fourth card is then dealt onto the table. This card is known as the "Turn" card. There are now six cards in total for each player to consider, when you include the two cards each player was dealt separately. You only take into account the best five of these cards to create the best hand you can.

Once again, both players before us CHECK. The "Turn" card has now given us a strong hand, as we have paired the King, the highest possible pair using cards currently on the table – also known as the "Top Pair". The pair we had already hit with our 9 means we now have a Two Pair.

Without any bets currently on the table, we want to see more chips in the pot, which is what we will receive if we win the hand. We also want any players clinging on with weak hands to FOLD. As such, we BET 20 chips. This is double the minimum bet and half of the total pot as it stands.

The decision to BET or RAISE during a hand of poker will often result in some other players FOLDING their hand, as if they don't believe they will win the hand, they won't want to lose any more chips. In this example, our decision to bet has made Players 3 and 6 FOLD. Player 2 has CALLED.

Although a BET typically causes weaker hands to drop out, you will often find players continue playing to give the impression they have a much better hand than they actually have in an attempt to make the better hands FOLD until they are the only player left. This is known as "bluffing".

Part Five – River

The fifth and final card dealt onto the table is known as the "River" card. Now there are a total of seven cards (five on the table and two with each individual) for each player to make the best hand possible. We now know the full picture, as no other cards can be added to the mix.

This is an excellent river card for our example hand. We now have our pair of Kings, along with a set of three 9's. Having three of the same card can be referred to as "trips". In this case, as we have both a pair and a set, we have hit what is known as a "Full House".

As Small Blind, Player 2 is first to BET or CHECK once again. They decide to BET 40 chips, a bet worth half of the current pot. Now we have a Full House, there are very few hands that can beat us. We can decide to CALL this bet, or RAISE from between 80 chips up to our total stack.

We decide to do the latter and raise the bet to 100 chips, which are all of the chips we have left. Doing this is known as going "All in". As a result, if we lose this hand we will be out of the game as we have nothing left to BET in the following hands, but it brings the biggest reward if we win.

It is now up to the remaining players to CALL this bet. If the bet is worth less than their remaining chips, they won't need to go "All in" to make the CALL, however in this case both players are on the same number of chips and Player 2 decides to call with their own "All in" too.

The total pot size is now 280 chips. As a result of two players being all in, whichever player loses will be knocked out of the game altogether. Only in an instance where both players have a matching hand of equal strength will the pot be split equally, known as a "Split Pot".

Part Six – Reveal

As soon as the final round of betting has been completed, all remaining players reveal their two cards in order for the winning hand to be determined. This is sometimes known as the "showdown". We can see that Player 2 has the King and 10 of hearts, a suited hand.

Taking the best five cards from the table and each player's hand will result in a winning hand. Although there are a pair of 9s on the table, these don't make it into Player 2's hand, as their 10s beat it. Our "Full House" beats the "Two Pair", meaning we have the winning hand.

We win the total pot of 280 chips, doubling our total stack in a single hand. Player 2 is now out of the game, as they have no chips left. Depending on the game or tournament being played, they may have the option to "Rebuy" at the original starting price and chip count.

As the winning chips have now been distributed, the hand is complete. Before the next hand begins, the Dealer, Small Blind and Big Blind pucks are moved clockwise to the next available player.

You're all set! Before you join the club(s), you might find these useful:

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