The World Series of Poker debuted back in 1970 and thanks to it and an internet boom at the turn of the century, the iconic casino table game remains one of the most popular not only in the United States, but around the world. Although online poker sites offers several variations with different names, the basic strategy of each is very similar. Our how-to-play poker guide walks you through the game basics including the different types, strength of each hand and opportunities to play online poker for free.
Before your first poker game, you need to study, learn how to play and, better yet, memorize the best possible hands. It’s worth noting that unlike games such as blackjack, the cards do not embrace a specific points value system, but are ranked by strength. For example, an Ace – which can be worth one or 11 in blackjack – it’s the strongest, highest-ranked poker card. However, we should also stress individual cards are only as strong as the rest of the hand’s series. Here’s a breakdown of the best poker hands, ranked strongest to weakest:
|Poker Hand Name||Cards|
|Royal Flush||Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten (10) in the same suit|
|Straight Flush||Five cards in any sequence, all of the same suit|
|Four of a Kind||Four cards of the same rank, one in each suit, plus an additional card that doesn’t count|
|Full House||Three cards of one rank, and a pair of another rank|
|Flush||Five cards of the same suit in any order|
|Straight||Any five cards in order|
|Three of a Kind||Three cards of the same rank, plus two more cards|
|Two Pair||Two cards of one rank and two cards of another rank, plus one more card|
|One Pair||Two cards of the same rank, plus three more cards|
|No Pair||All five cards of different ranks and not all of one suit|
Once you start reciting these hands in your sleep, you’re ready to start playing. The next step is picking a poker game or games. The rules of each are unique to the game, but the basic premise – more or less – remains the same.
The most popular variation of online poker for real money. This is what you will see at the World Series Of Poker Main Event.
Make your best possible five-card hand from seven cards, which are a mix of both face-up and face-down cards.
Players receive one face-down card, but the rest are face up.
Omaha poker players have to make their best hand from two of four cards dealt to them, along with three community cards out of five.
If you’re looking to jump into a game as a new player, we believe a Pot Limit or Limit Texas Hold’Em game would be a good place to start. You get a little taste of the pocket cards, community cards with defined limit ceilings. In pot limit, nobody at the poker tables can wager more than the total dollar amount in the middle of the table, while limit hold’em has max wagers per betting round.
Just to mix things up, there are a few poker variations where the goal is to go low rather than seek out high. Razz seven card stud low’s goal is build a hand from Ace to 5 (rather than 10-Ace in most versions). In 2 to 7 Triple Draw Lowball, the low hand win the pot. So, in the chart below, the best hand would be a high card without any pairs.
Although online poker sites offers several variations with different names, the basic strategy of each is very similar.
This goes back to first learning poker hand strength by studying the poker tables above. If you don’t know what the best poker hands are, you’ll have trouble realizing whether or not your first pair of cards are worthy of a bet.
As you may imagine, the strongest starting cards include those with Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks and 10’s. A matching pair of any of those to start, also known as a pocket pair, is a great start. The next best thing would be something like an Ace-King, King-Queen or Ace-Jack. Just because the first two cards don’t match, doesn’t mean your hand is weak. You can still bet before the first series of community cards hit the felt.
The next tier of strong hands includes pocket pairs of fives or higher along with some matching some face cards with high numbers. You can also consider cards of the same suit as medium strength if you’re seeking out a flush.
If your holding pocket pairs of 2’s or 3’s or something like an Ace-7, there is some value to pressing forward, but you shouldn’t be overly aggressive.
It’s very important for new poker players to set a budget before embarking on their first cash game or tournament. Especially in games like No Limit Texas Hold’em and tournaments that allow poker players to buy back in after they go bust, if you don’t set a budget and manage your bankroll throughout the session not only can you go broke, you can dig yourself a deep debit hole that can’t be solved by playing more poker. This is where wise fiscal judgement is critical to one enjoying the poker experience. Everybody wants to win the most and the top prize, not just you, but it’s a marathon to get there and sprinting to the finish line can get your bankroll into trouble.
Yes, most of the recommended online poker sites at this top of the page, like Bovada, offer how to sit at poker tables online for FREE. While this is a great way to learn how to play, rules, apply your knowledge of hand strength, and get some practice reps, most believe free poker play lacks realism in poker strategy and how one would play a real money poker hand. If you literally have nothing to lose besides some hypothetical chips, the thought is to play more aggressively than if you exchanged some real cash for those chips. So, it’s definitely wise to utilize the free poker games to learn the ropes, but don’t get too wrapped up with you or your opponents’ poker strategy or chip counts.