Poker | Complete Guide

Written by: Webster Lupton , Casino, Gambling, and Sports Journalist

Poker – the ultimate card game that combines skill and luck. Many wish to master it. Only a few do.

In this online poker guide you will find our complete playbook on how to play poker; from starting hands, card combinations, bet types and even the most popular poker websites to play online poker in the US. Ultimately, you’ll find it all here. We’re truly hoping that you walk away from this page a better poker player than when you started. So, best of luck!

Basic Poker Rules for Cards and Hands

poker rules image

Poker is different from other card games because it is based on betting according to the strength of a hand or their perceived strength. That is why it is essential to know the rankings of hands and the potential of improving them to increase your chances of winning.

Each poker variation has its own rules and gameplay features. However, the basics of the game are similar for all. 

Card Values

Poker is usually played with a standard 52-card deck. The values of the cards are much the same as in other card games:

  • Cards from 2 to 10 are the value of the number.
  • Face cards are ranked higher than numbered cards, from Jack to Queen to King.
  • An Ace can be the lowest card in an Ace-to-5 straight or the highest card for other hands. 

Hand Rankings

Learning the hands and rankings is one of the most important things about the game. This will improve your odds when you are playing the game. Below we included all the poker hand rankings.

poker hands rankings
poker hands rankings infographic

Hand Odds

So, now you’ve got to grips with all the poker hands and their rankings – let’s take a deeper look at the probabilities of landing those all-important card combinations:

  • Royal Flush: The probability of getting a Royal Flush is 0,000154%. The odds are 649.739 : 1.
  • Straight Flush: The probability of getting a Straight Flush is 0,00139%. The odds are 72.192 : 1.
  • Four of a Kind: The probability of getting a Four of a Kind is 0,0240%. The odds are 4.164 : 1.
  • Full House: The probability of getting a Full House is 0,1441%. The odds are 693 : 1.
  • Flush: The probability of getting a Flush is 0,1965%. The odds are 508 : 1.
  • Straight: The probability of getting a Straight is 0,3925%. The odds are 254 : 1.
  • Three of a Kind: The probability of getting Three of a Kind is 2,1128%. The odds are 46,3 : 1.
  • Two Pairs: The probability of getting Two Pairs is 4,7539%. The odds are 20,0 : 1.
  • Pair: The probability of getting a Pairs is 42,2569%. The odds are 1,37 : 1.
  • High Card: The probability of getting a High Card is 50,1177%. The odds are 0,995 : 1.

Poker Betting Rules

Most games have predetermined limits on how much a player can bet per round, except for no-limit games in which a player may wager all of their chips in any round. The betting order may start with the high card showing in stud games or the player to the dealer’s left in other games. The round then moves in clockwise order around the table.

Knowing When to Bet

poker bets

It is essential for a player to make the right choice when it is their turn to bet. You may have a strong hand and choose to call to get more chips in the pot for a big play later, or you may raise in an attempt to run other players off and take the pool. You can bluff or be realistic and fold.

With all of the options, it is crucial to know hand rankings to tell if a hand is strong or has a chance of improving.

Poker Betting Chart

The following chart provides the best betting options for each position at a poker table. Follow these guidelines to make the most out of your gameplay.

poker betting chart

Poker Betting Limits

Each game has predetermined betting limits for the ante and rounds. Below we’ve listed the most common ones:

poker fixed bet limit

Fixed Limit

It is a limit that is the same for any round of betting after the ante.

poker pot limit

Pot Limit

It allows a player to bet or raise as much as is in the pot during the round.

poker no limit bets

No Limit 

It allows a player to put in all of their chips at any point of the hand.

poker limits on raises

Limits on Raises 

It limits the number of raises allowed in any round of betting (usually three raises).

Poker Bets Explained

There are various types of bets poker players should know. Being familiar with them can be helpful and necessary in recognizing opponents’ tactics.

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Initial Poker Bets

These are the opening round bets for any hand. They determine who stays in the game and who may have a strong hand early. Aggressive players may open with a larger wager than their hand dictates. More cautious gamblers may fold in the face of a large bet, even if their hand has some potential.

poker side pot banner

Poker Side Pot

A side pot is a secondary wager that occurs a player is all in, and other players continue betting “on the side” (literally). The side pot is distinct from the main pot in that only the players still betting can play for it, while the all-in player can only win the main pot.

3 bets in poker banner

3 Bets in Poker

This is an initial re-raise before the flop. In other words, it’s a pre-raise – bet, followed by a raise and another raise. The last raise, of course, indicates a strong hand. But it is also employed to increase the pot and dare the first raiser to join in.

straddle bets in poker banner

Straddle Bets in Poker

It is a voluntary blind bet made by a player before cards are dealt. Someone who straddles buys the big blind and doubles the stakes. A standard straddle is two times the amount of the big blind but can be bigger if the rules permit.

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Poker Blocker Bets

Some players use this tactic to stop opponents from making larger wagers. A blocking bet is not big but causes players with stronger hands to pause and think about the bettor’s hand strength. Players use this strategy from an early position.

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Forced Bets in Poker

A forced bet is required by rule and must be made. Generally, players will have several options when they act on their hands. But, certain situations arise where, by rule, a player may not have the chance to check or throw his hand away.

Poker Table Positions & Layout

poker table positions & layout

Poker Table Positions

Knowing your position at the poker table is essential, especially when there are many players. For example, someone in a late position has the advantage of seeing more bets, making it easier to decide how to wager. Below we’ve listed the main table positions and what to expect with each one.

The Button

This is the position of the dealer. It is considered the best one because the player is not committed to an ante bet but has the advantage of knowing how the rest of the table bets. 

Late Position

These are the one or two seats just before or to the right of the button. These players generally also have a great chance to weigh the strength of the other previous hands. 

Middle Position 

These are the positions between the late and early spots. Substantial wagers from these positions usually mean a player has no fear of being raised. 

Early Position 

These are the three players sitting to the left of the button, known as small blind, big blind, and “Under the Gun.” They are the last to bet on the initial deal and wager first in subsequent rounds.

More Poker Terms You Need to Know

Below we’ve listed standard terms that beginners should know and understand to become better players.


This is the initial wager before the deal. Only the two players to the dealer’s left have to ante in Texas Hold ’em. In most other poker versions, all players ante.


Putting up chips or money on a hand. The amount the player bets usually depends on the hand’s strength.


This is matching the previous player’s bet to stay in the game. A player calls if they think their hand is as good or has the potential of getting stronger.


Increasing the amount of the previous bet is a raise. Raising is associated with either having a strong hand or trying to win the pot on the spot with a well-timed bluff. 


If a player does not feel his hand is good enough to stay in the game, they fold or surrender whatever chips they have wagered and are out of the hand.


This is an option to remain in the game without wagering. If the previous player has bet or raised, a player cannot check. If all players check, that round is over.


These are intervals of betting as the deal progresses in which a player may choose to stay in or get out by folding. 


After the hand’s deals and bets are complete, the players who have not folded out show their cards. The winner of the pot is the player with the best hand.


If a player thinks he can get others to fold, he may bluff or bet an amount higher than the strength of his hand. This is usually used with weaker hands.


If a player thinks he can get others to fold, he may bluff or bet an amount higher than the strength of his hand. This is usually used with weaker hands.

How to Play Poker | Basics for Beginners

how to play poker

There are several versions of poker, but all variants begin with a designated ante or blind bet. Then players are dealt cards in clockwise order and wager on the cards they hold. They continue to wager on subsequent deals according to the strengths of their developing hands.

As the deal progresses, they choose to stay in the game by betting or surrender by folding. After the final cards of the hand are dealt, the remaining players make the last wager and compare their cards. The winner is the one with the higher-ranking hand.  

Step by Step Guide Through a Single Hand

Below we’ve included a step-by-step detail of how a hand plays out in most games. Keep in mind that this process may vary depending on what poker variant you’re playing (Texas Holdem, Stud Poker, etc).

  1. Place The Initial Bet

    Each player antes a designated amount to enter the game. The only players to ante in Texas Hold ’em are the two to the left of the dealer button.
  2. The Dealer Deals The Cards

    Players are dealt cards in clockwise order, starting to the left of the dealer. The number of cards they get on the initial deal depends on the version of the game.
  3. Players Make Their Decisions

    Betting rounds begin, and each player decides what they want to do with their hand. You can check, bet, raise or fold according to how strong you think your hand is.
  4. Second Deal & Round

    Another deal is made, followed by another round. In Hold ’em, the remaining cards dealt are community cards, cards that any player can use to build their hand. The first three cards of these are called the “flop.”
  5. Winners & Losers Are Decided

    After each deal, there is another round of betting, and the pot grows. After the final card is dealt, there is a final round, and players still contesting the pot show their hands. The one with the highest hand wins.

Where to Play Poker Games Online

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Types of Poker Games

These are the most popular types of poker and the ones you will find online most often.

community card poker

Community Card Poker

These are games where each player has a set of down cards unknown to opponents. Then the dealer places cards in the middle of the table for every player to use toward their hand. A player may use only the best five-card combination to form a hand. For example, Texas Hold ’em and Omaha.

stud poker

Stud Poker

These are usually five- or seven-card games in which each player receives both down cards and up cards for their own hands. In Five-Card Stud, each player gets one down and four up cards. In Seven-Card Stud, a player forms a five-card hand from three down cards and four up cards.

draw poker

Draw Poker

This is a five-card game in which players receive all of their cards to start and exchange one to four cards with new ones, hoping to build a stronger hand. This is considered the simplest variant and is the basis for video poker.

Popular Poker Games You Can Find at Online Casinos

Poker is available at many gambling sites. Here are the most popular poker variations you can find at top online casinos.

ultimate texas poker
let it ride poker
pai gow poker
3 card poker
texas holdem poker
caribbean stud poker
live 3 card poker
live casino holdem poker

Comparing Different Types of Poker

Even when understanding different types of poker games, you may have trouble comparing them in a meaningful way.

The following chart shows how the main poker types compare in terms of difficulty, popularity, and availability.

For reference, difficulty refers to the strategy rather than just learning the game.

Types of Poker Infographic
Types of Poker Infographic

What is the Easiest Poker Variation for Beginners?

Most poker types aren’t easy in terms of skill, but some variations have simple gameplay. These games are best for beginners seeking an easy path to poker. A few simpler poker variations include:

  • Texas Holdem – It is among the easiest PvP games to play, thanks to its basic gameplay model.
  • Caribbean Stud – You receive five cards and decide whether to raise or fold, simple as that.
  • 5-Card Stud – You’ll get five cards, and you can draw 0-5 cards before the showdown.
  • Pai Gow Poker – Pai Gow requires you to form a five- and two-card hand out of seven cards.

Bet and Raise Your Way to Glory!

Online Casino Player Approved

Once you get to know poker rules, hands, bankroll management, and bets, you will be anxious to develop your skills by playing with others.

At our top-rated casinos, you can find free-play options to help you get to know the game better. Then it won’t be long before you are ready to gamble for real money and join millions of people who find poker so challenging, fun, and rewarding.

Poker Rules FAQs

Below are some of the most common questions about poker rules.

Who bets first in poker?

The first bet in poker is placed by the player to the left of the dealer. Blind wagers also go at the beginning. In some versions of stud, the player with the highest card bets first.

What is a three-bet in poker?

A three-bet in poker is a raise of a raise or a re-raise. In other words, it is an initial re-raise before the flop.

What is a straddle bet in poker?

A straddle bet in poker is an extra ante bet by a player that usually doubles the initial pot. 

What are the best online poker games?

The best online poker games are Texas Hold ’em, Omaha, and Stud varieties. Hold ’em is the most popular, but many online players also like the challenge of High-Low Omaha for the winning potential.

What are the rules for playing poker?

The rules for playing poker encompass betting rules and hand rankings. After a series of deals and rounds, the highest-ranking five-card hand wins the pot.

Webster Lupton

Webster Lupton Casino, Gambling, and Sports Journalist

Webster Lupton is a journalist and expert sports and casino writer with over 30 years of experience. He is a seasoned researcher and a published author that enjoys the outdoors and birdwatching.

Learn More About Webster