Like in any other game, the point of playing poker is to win. Regardless of who you are playing against, the satisfaction of beating someone else is always priceless. Poker is a game not only about luck, but a lot of skill and psychology. Every player counts only on himself and has control of his own faith. Decisions about how much or when to bet may seem simple, but in fact are vital in the development of a profitable style of play. It is a game, closely bound with math, where calculations could give an extra edge to any player. If you feel like everyone around you pretends to know how to play poker, but you still don’t feel confident enough, here you will find out some useful poker tips, interesting facts and the essential rules for playing the game. After you get the gist of it, we recommend for you to start playing just in practice mode or on tables with the lowest possible limits. In case you don’t know a good poker website you can check out the best online poker sites in the UK dedicated page, where we compare the top gaming providers and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each platform. It will guide you in the right direction in the search for the site that best fits your preferences.
Going ALL-INto the Poker Universe
There are so many variations of poker that the game easily outshines (at least in count) all of the other gambling games all together. In the table below you can see the most popular poker games along with some useful information. Keep in mind that some of them have their own variations, making the list even larger. While most of them are a player vs. player kind of games, there are such where you play against the house.
|Poker Game||PvP or PvH||Number of Player Cards||Community Cards||Change Cards||Total Number of Cards||Interesting and Unique Facts|
|Texas Hold’em Poker||PvP||2||5||–||52||The most popular poker variation|
|Omaha||PvP||4 (can be 5 or 6)||5||–||52||A ‘daughter’ poker of Texas Hold’em. Must use 2 hole cards|
|Caribbean Stud Poker||PvH||5||–||0-5||52||Most popular PvH poker|
|Chinese Poker||PvP||13||–||–||52||4 players max. All cards are faced up|
|Russian Poker||PvH||5||–||0-5||52 (+joker/s)||Players are allowed to draw a 6th card|
|3 Card Poker||PvH||3||–||–||52||The dealer must have Queen high to qualify|
|4 Card Poker||PvH||5||–||–||52||The dealer has one more card which is the one faced up|
|5 Card Draw||PvP||5||–||0-4||52 (+joker/s) or 32 (+jokers/s)||Just one round for changing cards|
|7 Card Stud Poker||PvP||7 (3 faced down, 4 faced up)||–||–||52||3 cards faced down, 4 cards faced up|
|Razz||PvP||7 (3 faced down, 4 faced up)||–||–||52 (up to 56)||The goal is to make the lowest possible 5 card hand. Aces play for low only|
|Horse||PvP||2 to 7||0-5||–||52 (+joker/s)||Compilation of Texas, Omaha, Razz, 7 Card Stud and Seven Card 8 or Better|
|Deuces Wild||PvH||5||–||0-5||52 (+joker/s)||Deuces are jokers. No dealer cards|
|Mississippi Stud||PvH||2||3||–||52||Hands are not compared to the dealer’s hand, but only to a payout table|
|Six-plus Hold’em||PvP||2||5||–||36 (+joker/s)||All 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s are removed from the deck|
|5 Card Stud||PvH||5 (1 faced down, 4 faced up)||–||–||52||Just 1 of the player’s cards is faced down|
|Greek Hold’em||PvP||2||5||–||52||Must use both hole cards|
|Seven Card 8 or Better||PvP||7 (3 faced down, 4 faced up)||–||–||52 (+joker/s)||2 separate pots every hand (high and low)|
|Strip Poker||PvP||2 to 7||0-5||0-5||52 (+joker/s)||Can be any kind of poker but after losing a hand you take off your clothes|
|Badugi||PvP||4||–||0-4||52||A game where the normal ranking of poker hands is inverted|
|International Hold’em||PvH||2 (up to 4)||5||–||52 (+joker/s)||Texas Hold’em against the dealer|
|Casino Hold’em||PvH||2||5||–||52||The dealer must have a pair of 4s or better to qualify|
|2-7 Triple Draw Poker||PvP||5||–||0-5||52||The goal is to make the lowest possible 5 card hand. Aces play for high only|
The chance of finding all of those games available at the same place is a slim one, but there are a few destinations around the world, where it is possible a land-based casino to provide them (Vegas, Macao, Singapore). The games that have gained more popularity among the online gambling providers are Texas Hold’em, Omaha, 3 Card Poker and Caribbean Stud Poker and can be found at nearly every online casino platform.
How Many Decks do you Need in Poker?
Irrespective of the variation of poker, the game is played with just one normal deck of cards. A standard new deck includes 52 cards and one or more joker(wild) cards (up to 4). There are thousands of different card designs and plenty of brands. The most famous brand, with probably the best quality, is Bicycle. Nowadays most of the land-based casinos design their cards on their own, ensuring the uniqueness and quality of their decks. Each deck contains 13 cards from each colour suit – diamonds, hearts, spades and clubs. All colours are equal, meaning no suit is higher than another. An interesting fact is that from 12 picture cards, 3 of them are showing just one eye – the king of diamonds, the jack of spades and the jack of hearts. A common superstition among poker players is that those 3 cards would bring you some extra luck during the hand. In just a couple of poker games, these so-called ‘one-eyed’ cards have an extra value. Whoever gets one, two or all three cards can use them as jokers and increase the chance of making the most powerful combination.
Poker is almost always played with chips. At the beginning of a game, all the players have to give cash in order to receive the same value in the form of poker chips (if you play for free, you get free chips). No matter where you play, the variation of poker, or who you play with, there are some rules that everyone has to consider. Adding funds to your chip stack can be done only between hands and never during the course of a hand. Whatever you started the hand with, that will be the maximum allowed amount to bet, regardless of the strength of your combination. In case you are playing a kind of poker where you are against the dealer, the limits are again set, before the start of the hand. Usually, there is an ante bet which you put before receiving any cards and any following bet has a set amount (equal, double, triple etc.) depending on the phase and type of the game. If you want to learn more about the history of the casino chips plus some interesting facts, then you can check out our article Collecting Casino Chips – Some Friendly Tips.
Poker Terms – 25 Must-Know Terms
The terminology of the poker world is enormous and in order to fully describe everything we might need a book, not an article. We will give definitions to 25 of the most common terms, which we think every person who has the desire to play poker, got to be familiar with.
- Pot – the total amount of chips that the winner gets in a single hand.
- Rake – a percentage of the pot that the house takes after each hand (usually up to 5%).
- Rake-back – when a casino gives back a percentage of the taken rake (mostly online).
- Button (dealer)– the position from which the cards are started to be dealt. It goes to the next position on the left(clockwise) after every hand. It is considered to be the best position as you make your decisions after everyone else.
- Small Blind (SB) – first position after the dealer. Anyone in this position has to put a blind bet before the start of the deal (the amount can be different and it depends on the played limits).
- Big Blind (BB) – second position after the dealer. It is always double the Small Blind. Anyone in this position has to put a blind bet before the start of the deal.
- Straddle – this is an option for a so-called third blind which is after the BB. It is an optional bet and every player on this position decides for himself if he wants to place a straddle blind bet before the start of the deal. Allowed only in cash games.
- UTG – aka under the gun. This is the name of the position which is first to act in a round of betting.
- Stack – the total chip value in front of a player in a game.
- Cut-off – the position before the Button. Considered to be the second-best position after the Button.
- Heads-up – when only 2 players are playing against each other.
- 10-handed – the number of players that can play simultaneously at a single table. This is the maximum amount of people, as the number varies between 2 and 10. The most popular are 6 and 9 handed tables.
- Blind Bet – when a player makes a bet without seeing his cards.
- All-in – this is a term when a player bets all of his available stack.
- Re-buy – the term when your stack is gone and you add more funds to the table. It can also be used in tournaments for buying a re-entry.
- Add-on – Adding chips to your stack before it is completely gone. In most tournaments, it is available just once during a designated period.
- Burn Card – a card which is discarded from the deck faced down before every round (usually a visible procedure just in land-based casinos).
- Backdoor – aka Runner, Runner is a term of getting your best five-card combination in the hardest possible way (hitting two consecutive cards in the final two rounds – turn and river).
- Push – a term used only in the player vs casino type of games. It is the situation when the player and the dealer have exactly the same combinations and a winner cannot be decided.
- Cut-in Card – the card used for hiding the bottom card in the deck while the dealer is holding the cards.
- Ante – a wager which is taken from your stack (by the house), before the beginning of each hand, regardless of the position.
- PL and NL – a poker table can be either Por limit or No limit. No limit means there are no restrictions in the size of your bets and you can go all-in at any point. Pot limit means the maximum allowed bet per round is a sum of the previously made bets at the same round. The formula for the maximum ‘pot bet’ is: last made bet times 3 plus everything else on the table (example: after the preflop round there are £20 in the pot, player A bets £10, player B calls, player C wants to bet the pot: 10×3 + 10 + 20 = 60).
- Muck – the place where all the cards that have been thrown away are gathered (usually in a land-based casino is on the right of the dealer). As a verb, it means throwing away your poker hand, without showing it (in situations when you have seen the winning hand before your turn comes and you have the option to keep your cards in secret).
- Outs – the cards that you wait for and will make your hand the winning one.
- Dealer’s choice – a type of play, where every hand on the table can be a different game, depending on the player who has the Button. The Button is being moved clockwise after every hand.
Poker Rules – What Beats What?
If you are wondering how a person can know the rules of all of the types of poker, we assure you they have a lot of things in common as the basics of the games are alike, if not the same. Most of them are played with a standard single deck of 52 cards, with the exception of games where one or multiple Joker (Wild) cards are added. The point of every game is to get the best possible 5 card combination (it can be the highest or the lowest, depending on the type of poker). We will describe all of the potential combinations, starting with the strongest one:
|Winning Combinations Term||Explanation||Winning Poker Hands Example|
|1. 5 of a kind:||This is the highest possible hand and it is possible only in games with a 53-card deck (or more), where a Joker card is included. It is a compilation of 4 cards of the same rank and a Wild (Joker) card.|
|2. Royal Straight Flush:||This is the highest possible hand when only a standard 52 card deck is used. It is a combination of ten, jack, queen, king and ace all of the same suit.|
|3. Straight Flush:||Five cards of the same suit in sequential order. In situations where 2 or more players have a straight flush the higher one wins.|
|4. Four of a kind:||This is simply a hand of four cards of the same rank (7777, KKKK, etc).|
|5. Full House:||This is a combination of 3 of a kind and a pair such as QQQ88. In situations where 2 or more players have a full house the one with the higher 3 of a kind wins the game (88866 beats 666AA).|
|6. Flush:||This is a hand of 5 cards, all of them the same suit (Spades or Clubs or Hearts or Diamonds). In situations where 2 or more players have a flush the highest ranked card wins. If the highest card is the same for 2 or more players, then the second highest is compared and so on. The colour suits are all equal and no suit is higher than another.|
|7. Straight:||A hand of 5 cards in sequential order (3, 4, 5, 6, 7). The Ace can be either high (10, J, Q, K, A) or low (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). A straight cannot ‘wraparound’ meaning the ace card is either the highest or lowest card in the combination and it cannot be in a different position. For example, Q, K, A, 2, 3 is not a straight.|
|8. Three of a kind:||A hand where 3 of the cards are the same rank and the other 2 are not a pair.|
|9. Two pairs:||This is two different pair of cards and a 5th card.|
|10. Single Pair:||A hand where there is one pair of cards and 3 distinct cards.|
|11. High Card:||A compilation of 5 different cards. When nobody has a pair or better, whoever has the highest card wins.|
In situations where 2 or more players have the same combinations then the high card rule applies. If again multiple people tie for the highest card, the second highest is compared, then the third and so on. When all 5 cards are completely the same the game ends with a tie, push or a split depending on the variation of poker.
Betting Options and Rounds
In most of the player vs player (PvP) poker games, there are four rounds of every hand – Preflop, Flop, Turn and River. In each round, the players have multiple options to choose what to do and how to play. The Preflop round is the very beginning of the hand after every player receives his cards face down, visible only to him. This is the only round where the dealt cards are personal and after that, all other cards are placed in the middle of the table, face up, forming the so-called Board. The Board cards (aka community cards) can be used from the whole table in the making of the best possible 5 card combination. In order to continue participating in the hand, every player has to invest at least the big blind. After every player chooses for himself if he wants to continue to play in the current hand and makes a decision, it is time for the Flop. Three cards faced up are drawn and all participating players can use them to make a winning combination. After everyone on the table has made a decision and the round of bets is closed, a single card called Turn is added to the Board. A new round of betting follows and then the final River card is drawn. At this stage, every player already knows what his best 5-card combination is and after the betting round is done, it is time for Showdown. This means that all the remaining players in the hand have to show their cards, and everyone sees who has the best combination and wins the game.
There are poker variations where there are no community (board) cards and all the players are allowed to switch some or all of their cards. There aren’t any cards faced up as well, so keeping your cards to yourself is vital. This style of playing poker can be seen in both PvP and PvH games. Depending on the variation of poker, there are a different number of betting rounds or rounds for changing cards. It is believed that this way of play, with these rules of poker is one of the first variations, mainly because of its’ simplicity. Nowadays the most popular game, which is played by those poker rules is the Caribbean Stud Poker.
In all of the poker games, betting is the key, the essence of the game. Knowing how much and when to make a bet, when to raise the stakes and when to throw away your hand is the key for becoming a good poker player. The options that every player has in each round are check, bet, raise, call or fold.
- Check: To check means to do nothing and to pass the action to the following player. This option is available only if previously no one has made a bet.
- Bet: Making a bet means to be the first to invest after the Preflop round. Every player after that has to minimum match that stake in order to continue playing.
- Raise: The raise option means to increase the already made bet. The minimum raise can be the amount calculated by adding the difference between the last two bets with the last made bet. For example, if player A makes a £10 bet and player B decides to raise to £25, the next minimum raise is £40 as the difference between bet A and bet B is £15. If there is only one bet before you, the minimum possible raise is double. It is possible to see games where the rules are that any raising bet has to be minimum double the last bet no matter what it is (player A bets £25, player B raises to £100, player C has to raise minimum to £200).
- Call: Calling is the action when a player just wants to match an already made bet or raise. After making a call, the player passes the action to the next one on the left (only players still participating in the current hand).
- Fold: The final option in a poker game is to fold. That means that you throw away your personal cards and forfeit any claims for the hand. You can fold in any round as long as it’s your turn to make a decision.
Rules to Play 5 Card Stud Poker
An interesting variation of the PvP poker games is the 5 Card Stud. If you are wondering what the difference is and what are the rules, worry not, as we will have a quick look at this game too. The rules are slightly different as there aren’t any ‘community cards’ or any blinds. All participating players have to put an equal ante bet before the game starts. After that, each player is being dealt 2 cards, but only the first one is faced down. A betting round follows where the player with the lowest second card has to make the first bet. This is called the ‘bring in’ bet. Another card is dealt to each of the remaining players again faced up. The rounds are referred to as ‘Streets’ and each one is accompanied with a betting round. This process continues until every remaining player has 5 cards (only the first of them is not visible to the other players). The game ends with a showdown and the player with the best combination wins the pot. 5 Card Stud is a limit game, so the bets are set before the start of the game (usually the betting will be in small limits for the first two rounds and will then double for all following streets). This game is not as popular as it used to be, not only because of its’ simplicity but also because of the rise of the games Texas Hold’em and Omaha. You will probably have a hard time finding it in a land-based casino, so we recommend it just for playing at home.
Player vs Player
One of the most important factors, because of which the poker has become the most popular and played game around the world is the option not to play against the casino. Player versus player (PvP) type of poker variations gives the opportunity to take advantage of people whose knowledge is not as broad as yours. In this kind of games, the house edge does not exist. The game is available for everyone, so the diversity of opponents is unlimited.
The possibility of playing poker anywhere, with everyone, using anything near at hand is a huge advantage compared to the other casino games. Home poker games are played all around the world, gathering friends and foes, family members and neighbours, maybe even celebrities wanting some privacy. The only irreplaceable thing is the deck of cards. In case you lack real chips, you could use truly anything that comes to mind – from real cash to monopoly money, from coins to candies, from bolts to even toothpicks. Not everyone who is playing poker is in it for the money, as some just want to have a bit of fun and find the feeling of beating another person much more rewarding.
Cash Games and Tournaments
There are two ways to play poker – cash games and tournaments. In cash games, every player sits down on the table with a cash amount (depending on the table limit) and can leave the table with the winnings at any time. The small blind and big blind stay the same during the whole game session. The tournament play means that there is a one-time entrance fee to join and all the players start with the same amount of chips. There are many tournament variations like Sit’n’go, Re-buy, Knock-out, Freeze-out, Satellite and more. There are defined prize pools and a certain number of places that win a reward, depending on the size, type and buy-in of the tournament.
Each tournament has a structure of stages, with the blinds raising after each stage. At some point ante bets are included, meaning every hand all the players have to put a stake in the pot before receiving any cards. In the end, the winner takes the biggest prize. This type of play requires more discipline and patience as a single tournament can easily last longer than several hours (in some cases even days). The biggest and most prestigious poker tournament in the world is the World Series of Poker (WSOP). It is a poker event where the best players in the world gather and put their abilities to the test in a series of tournaments. The prize for the winner of the main event varies but usually is around $ 9,000,000. For more concrete and detailed information about poker cash games and tournaments, you can check our dedicated Texas Hold’em poker review.
Player vs House
The most popular poker games that are played against the house are Caribbean Stud Poker, 3 Card Poker and International Casino Hold’em. You can check out our devoted reviews for each of them and see the top recommended online gambling platforms that provide them. In all of them, the only point of the game is to beat the dealers’ hand. The most common rules for poker when you play against the casino are much more simplified compared to player versus player games. After you make a bet at the start of the hand, you receive a number of cards (depends on the game) and then decide either you want to continue to play or fold. Usually, only one of the dealers’ cards is visible to the players so it can help them in the decision-making process. Some of the poker variations allow you to switch several, or even all of your cards, in order to get a better hand. It doesn’t matter if another player has a better combination than yours. Different payouts correspond to different combinations. The stronger the combination you have, the bigger the prize you will get. Every online casino or land-based casino have their own rules and pay tables. This kind of games requires less knowledge, discipline or qualities. As we previously mentioned having good mathematical skills can be a valuable help as all of the poker games are not just games of chance. But while in Texas Hold’em or Omaha the calculations are one of the most vital parts of out-playing your opponents, in the poker games against the casino you really rely more on luck.
Common Rules When Playing in a Land-Based Casino
Some people say that playing poker, any kind of poker, online is the same as playing in a real land-based casino. There is no such thing. The thrill of playing live, with other people next to you and a croupier in front of you is unmatchable. For the good poker players, a strong advantage of playing at a real table is the ability to ‘read’ the opponents cards only by their mimics and gestures. There are so many books of ‘tells’, where professional poker players describe what to be on the lookout for and how to interpret any unusual moves or words during a poker hand. While playing in a land-based casino, there are a lot more casino rules that you should consider. A common law among the casinos is the ‘English Only’ rule. That means that while in a hand, you are not allowed to speak any other language except English, regardless of the destination. Talk about the current hand, even though you are no longer participating in it, is forbidden as well. In fact, the less you talk during the hand the better (in situations when you are no longer involved in the current hand). Another common poker rule is the use of 2 decks on a table. This way while one of the decks is in use during the hand, the other is being shuffled and is ready as soon as the hand finishes.
Most of the poker players know that even the tiniest movement or a misspoken word can give away your hand strength and intentions. That is why all of the possible player options in a live game have their own gestures, allowing you to stay silent. To check simply gracefully hit the table with one of your hands (or fingers) when your turn has come. To bet or raise, prepare the amount that you wish and just put it with one move behind the betting line of the table. A betting line is simply a borderline, drawn in the middle of a table, separating the space between the players and the dealer. Any chip that passes it is becoming a part of the pot and cannot be given back (unless it is an unintentional mistake). In order to fold, simply put (or throw) your cards pass the betting line, faced down, and the dealer will take them and put them in the muck.
Stay Calm and be Patient
Playing poker at a live table in a land-based casino has its disadvantages too. After all, playing online from the comfort of your home, alone or with friends, is completely different than being in a packed with people casino, surrounded by strangers, everyone with their own preferences and desires. You have to always be aware of the rules and restrictions of the gaming club as some of them might cost you dearly. Take your time, make your decisions first in your head and after that do the action, be careful with your mimics and gestures on the table and always have a rough count of your stack. Every player is responsible for his own cards, so if a card falls off the table or is turned face up, the player loses the right to participate in the hand.
Because of the significant interest in the game and limited quantity of poker tables in a casino (both land-based and online), it is possible sometimes not to find an empty seat straight away. In those situations, you can join a so-called waiting list. It is a list where the gaming provider keeps track of the players that still haven’t joined the action and when a seat on a table becomes available the next in line in the list takes that place.
Well, as you can see for yourself the talk about poker can never be enough. Nowadays, with so many variations of poker and so many types of styles and strategies for play, the game quite rightly is considered as a sport. It keeps gaining admirers and new fans, helping the poker universe expand and develop. The simplicity of the basic rules, the variety of tactics and the complexity of playing professionally truly have made poker the most captivating and challenging game in the gambling world.