How To Play Poker | Poker Rules for Beginners

Posted by James Guill

Our beginners’ guide for how to play poker walks you through the basics, including the ranking of cards and hands, game variations, online poker versus home game poker rules, and opportunities to learn for free. Since its creation, poker has been one of, if not the most popular, card game. But it was Chris Moneymaker’s signature Main Event win at the 2003 World Series of Poker that cemented poker, and Texas Hold’em specifically, as pillars of internet gaming.

Best Online Poker Sites for Beginners in 2024

How to Play Poker for Dummies: Hand Rankings

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 online blackjack for real money, 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 – is the strongest, highest-ranked poker card.

Poker Hand Name Cards Example Hand
Royal Flush A, K, Q, J, 10 – same suit royal flush
Straight Flush Five sequential cards – same suit straight flush
Four of a Kind Four cards of the same value, one of each suit – fifth card doesn’t matter four of a kind
Full House Three cards of the same value, and a pair of an additional value full house
Flush Five cards of the same suit – any order flush
Straight Five sequential cards – any suit straight
Three of a Kind Three cards of the same value – other two cards don’t matter cards-three-of-kind
Two Pair Two cards of the same value and two cards of a different value – fifth card doesn’t matter cards-two-pair
One Pair Two cards of the same value – other three cards don’t matter cards-one-pair
No Pair All five cards of different values and not all the same suit

Once you understand the hand rankings, 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.

Strategy: Start Off With Strong Hands

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Know the Top Cards

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.

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Understand Value From Lower Cards

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.

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Don't Play With Bad Cards

One of the most important things poker beginners can understand is there is no shame in folding. In fact, folding is often the correct play.

Find the Perfect Online Poker Room for Beginners

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Additional Variations of Online Poker Games

Once you have master Texas Hold’em, Draw, and Stud, consider some of the additional popular variations of online poker:

  • Omaha Hi/Lo Poker – like Omaha, but with the pot split between the best high hand and the best low hand
  • Pai Gow Poker – play against the dealer with multiple hands in this variant

Poker Bankroll Management for Beginners

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Start With a Budget

When you first start playing online poker for real money, create a budget.

Knowing your limits from the start is critical to having fun when playing poker.

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Boost Your Bankroll With Bonuses

When you make an initial deposit at an online poker room, make sure to maximize your sign-up and loyalty bonuses.

Online casino bonuses can be a great way to maximize your budget and learn more poker because you can afford to play more poker.

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Avoid Throwing Good Money After Bad

Chasing losses can quickly ruin even the best bankroll management strategy.

Poker is great because even the best players often lose. But compounding your losses by getting on tilt or playing without discipline won’t get you very far.

James Guill

James Guill is a former professional poker player who writes fro GambleOnline.co about poker, sports, casinos, gaming legislation and the online gambling industry in general. His past experience includes working with IveyPoker, PokerNews, PokerJunkie, Bwin, and the Ongame Network. From 2006-2009 he participated in multiple tournaments including the 37th and 38th World Series of Poker (WSOP). James lives in Virgina and he has a side business where he picks and sells vintage and antique items.

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