Poker is a card game in which players compete against each other and the one with the strongest hand wins the pot. It is the most popular card game worldwide, and is considered a game of skill, since the cards are randomly dealt and it’s the player’s skill that determines the player’s success or lack thereof.
Poker Game rules
There are many variants of poker, and none are as popular as Texas hold’em in which each player’s hand is completed with hidden cards that the player holds and the shared face-up cards. Another variant of this community card type is the Omaha hold’em.
Draw poker is a variant in which each player is dealt a complete hand, hidden, and then the players improve their hands by replacing cards. The most common type is the five card draw poker, with more than a dozen variants of the game. In Stud poker, either Five Card Stud or Seven Card Stud, each player receives a hand of face-down and face-up cards in multiple betting rounds. There are many more variants of the game that exist, but community card poker (Texas Hold’em, Omaha hold’em), Draw poker and Stud poker are the biggest three groups that are the most popular. The rest of this article will focus on Texas Hold’em as it’s by far the most popular variant for online play.
In every variant of the poker game the basic rules are the same. The game is divided into a series of deals. Players compete against each other for the money or chips the players contributed themselves (called the pot) during the deal, and one player that has the best hand will win the pot. While the game itself is random, success in playing it is determined by predicting what hands do other players have while not letting them accurately predict the strength of hand that you have. Ideally, a player would win the deal by having the best hand, and would also gather a lot of money in the pot as the other players continue to bet on their own inferior hands.
Until the first bet in a betting round is made, the player can check, which is to not place a bet but continue playing, or he can place a bet. When another bet has been placed, the player may call, which is to match the highest bet made so far, raise, which is to match the bet and then add some more to the pot, or fold, which is to forfeit the game and any stake in the pot.
Hold’em is normally played used two forced bets, called small blind and big blind, made by players to the left of the dealer. During the game, each player may fold (forfeiting the game and any stake in the pot), raise (add money to the pot) or call (equal the other player’s raise). It is obligatory to call when another player has raised, and the only other option is to fold. The amount of money or chips that are added to the pot by some player may be a good indication of his hand, though this doesn’t always have to be the case as that player may be bluffing, which would mean he’s raising the pot without having a strong hand, hoping all other players will fold so he’ll get to win the pot.
In all variants of poker, the list of poker hands is the same. Five of a kind is the strongest hand and is only possible when playing with Jokers. If there are no Jokers, then a straight flush is the strongest hand, and it consists of five cards of sequential rank, all in the same suit. Four of a kind is the third best hand, and full house, flush and straight complete the list of best poker hands. Hands can also be ranked by the card, so a poker of Aces beats poker of Kings which beats poker of Queens, and so on. Three of a kind is a good hand as well, provided the card is high enough, and it is followed by two pair, one pair, and finally a high card.
How to Play Poker
Texas hold’em is played so that each player first gets two face-down cards, and after the first round of betting the three community cards, called the flop, are revealed. After another round of betting the fourth card, the turn, is revealed, and finally after another round of betting the fifth card, the river, is revealed. All players may create any best five card combination from their own two cards and the five cards on the table.
Although it’s possible to play the game with almost any starting hand, it is universally accepted that the player only proceed with the game if the starting two cards are of enough value, as it’s otherwise difficult to beat the opponents since everyone will share the five community cards. Good players immediately know which cards are worth playing with and which are not, while newcomers to the game may use a cheat sheet that makes the decision for them, and then can refine this further through experience.
As a general rule, a player who’s sitting in an early position should only play the game with strongest cards, good cards if in a middle position, and average cards if in a late position. For example, in an early position the player will call or raise only if he has AA, AK, AQ, KK or QQ. In a middle position, the acceptable card range increases, and in the late position the player can get creative and even keep the cards that give some hope of landing a flush or a straight, as well as two same card of small value, even two twos.
There are general rules on which hand is considered playable, which is considered playable to an extent or until the first raise, and which hand is unplayable and should be folded. All pairs of 7s and above are considered good hands, and Aces, Kings, Queens and Jacks are good when paired with another strong card, usually 10 and above, though Jack and 9 could lead to a straight so it’s a good starting hand as well. All other starting hand combinations are considered weak, and they can only be playable in a late position on the table, while any starting hand that has only number cards is usually unplayable unless you’re hoping for a straight. Playing strategies differ, but this is a generally accepted rule of thumb.
Of course, the number of possible hand combinations increase when three community cards are revealed, especially as it’s the other players that benefit from these three cards as well. This is when the majority of players on the table will either have a strong hand already, will need one more card to get a strong hand, or their hopes haven’t been fulfilled and the flop doesn’t complement their own two cards. In traditional poker, players may show the signs of being happy or unhappy with the flop, while in online play the only way to see if a player is happy is the raise/call amount and the time the player waited to make a decision.
Successful players will know how to manipulate other players into submission or into playing weak hands, while at the same time maximizing their chances by playing strong hands. There are two main traits of a player, and that is how many hands does he play and how often does he raise. If a player plays a lot of hands then he’s loose, and if he plays only a selected few then he’s tight. If a player bet frequently he’s aggressive, and if he bets rarely then he’s passive. If a tight and passive player decided to raise, then he’s almost certainly holding a strong hand. On the other hand, it is almost impossible to profit by playing a loose passive game. Tight aggressive and loose aggressive are two strategies most often used by professionals, the latter one being more risky.
Online poker for real money
While in brick and mortar casinos or poker establishments the maximum rate of play is around 30 hands per hour because the dealer has to physically shuffle and deal the cards, in online play it’s triple that, around 90 or even 100 hands per hour. This is a big benefit of playing online poker, along with having many players and rooms to choose from, getting deposit bonuses, and being able to qualify for online or traditional tournaments. Crucially, online poker is a way for an amateur player to progress through the ranks and end up winning a major tournament such as World Series of Poker, and it has been done before. So any player with skill can make his or her skills count.
There are plenty of poker rooms to choose from, and almost all will offer some kind of a deposit bonus, as well as freeroll tournaments where money can be made without any investment. There are numerous retention offers in online poker rooms, as well as different tournaments, sometimes even satellites that can qualify you for a major brick-and-mortar tournament.