How to Play Poker – Guide, Tips & Strategies
For decades, the silver screen has portrayed poker with adrenaline-rush and thrill, making it a delight to watch famous actors play the game. Remember the characters Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) and Danny Ocean (George Clooney) in the movie ‘Oceans’ Eleven’ in 2001?
Then, who can forget James Bond (Daniel Craig) in Casino Royale 2006, defeating his opponent in a high-stakes Texas Hold ’em tournament!
Poker gained its popularity from the beginning of the twentieth century, and now it has earned a reputation of being a game of wit, strategy, and skill.
Want to learn to play poker?
So, take a step back from the glamour world, and explore this Texas Hold ’em poker game before you start playing it online.
For many years poker existed in the back of smoky bars or casinos, but the internet in the early 2000s changed everything. It opened avenues to advanced and secure online poker sites allowing players to hold cash and wager safely.
Like other forms of gambling in the UK, poker is completely legal and operates under the regulations of UKGC (United Kingdom Gambling Commission) and sportsbook laws. According to the Gambling Act 2005, you can play commercial high-stakes poker only at licensed casinos.
So if you want to play poker online, locate a poker site that is licensed by the UK Gambling Commission.
Online poker is a fun, easy-to-play, intellectual card game that allows you to earn real money playing at the comfort of your own home. All you need to be is at least 18 years old or the minimum legal age in your jurisdiction, whichever is higher, and have a home computer or laptop, along with online poker software to play it.
Types of Poker
There are many variations of poker games, but mostly it’s categorised into four types.
It’s the oldest form of poker wherein each player gets a complete set of hands of five cards, and betting happens only in a single round. The players can raise and reraise until the game ends.
Famous varieties: Five-Card Brag, Three-Card Brag
In this form of poker, players get cards one-by-one in a specified combination of face-up and face-down rounds. Following each round, you get options for betting.
Famous varieties: Seven-Card Stud, Razz
In it, players receive all five cards at the beginning of the game, but it’s dealt face-down. After the first round of betting, you may choose to discard your cards and go for new ones.
Famous variety: Five-Card Draw
Community Card Poker
It’s a stud poker variation, wherein you get fewer cards than a complete five-card poker hand. You receive mostly two face-down cards and some face-up community cards, dealt at the center of the table.
Your objective in this type of poker is to make the best possible five-card hand with some combination of your cards and the community cards placed on the table.
Famous varieties: Texas Holdem, Omaha
Texas Hold’em is the most popular form of community poker that you can effortlessly learn.
Concepts Common to Most Types of Poker
Whether it’s Texas Hold’em or any other form of poker, it’s all about getting the winning hand. Whoever has the most desirable hand wins the game.
We’ll talk about the order of strength in poker hands and identifying a good hand a little later!
Bluffing is about projecting confidence in your hand by betting in a style that suggests you have a better hand than it is. If your opponent falls for your bluff and folds instead of risking taking you on in the showdown, you win.
Most forms of poker have this compulsory form of a bet. You do it at the beginning of a hand, and it’s called – ‘ante‘ or ‘blind.’ Generally, poker games have features like ‘small-blind‘ and ‘big-blind’ as forced bets.
Both in physical and online casinos, the dealer is the one that determines the order of the game. They decide the blinds and the starting bet players need to make for it. The dealer doesn’t place a bet, but the game starts with them and rotates clockwise from one hand to the next.
When you play Texas Hold’em online, look for the circle marked with a ‘D‘ – that player is the dealer in the game. Sometimes, it’s also written ‘Dealer’ directly.
Betting Options in Texas Hold ’em
After placing the forced bets, the rounds of betting begin. Each round of betting offers you a chance to utilise various betting options. It all depends on your confidence in your hand and the perception about the hand-strength of your opponents. You also keep an eye on how much your opponents are betting or raising.
Elementary Poker Rule: Each player matches with the bet of each opponent in one betting round.
Before we dive into the gameplay, let us have a look at the various betting options.
- Call – It means to match your opponent’s bet or raise.
- Raise – It’s about increasing the size of your existing bet in the same round of betting.
- Fold – When you choose to sacrifice your existing-bet and decide to withdraw from the hand.
- Check – You can use this betting option until the first bet in a round of betting gets placed. It’s about deciding on declining to bet while holding the right to bet later in the game.
- All In – It’s when you don’t have enough chips to place your bets in the round; then you play all your remaining chips. The pots get divided into main-pot and side-pots. Being all-in, if you have a winning hand, you only win the amount in the main-pot showdown.
The All-In Rule: Each player matches the opponent’s bet with as much as left in their stack. All players must match whatever the smallest stack has contributed to the pot, making it a main pot. The next smaller stack players go on to match-up with remaining bets from players with larger stacks. It all goes in different side-pots depending on the number of players left on the table at showdown.
See the example here to understand how side-pots works in an ‘All-In’ betting option.
Let’s say all players have agreed to go for ‘All-In Bets.’ In this instance, there are three players left on the table.
Player X – £10
Player Y – £20
Player Z – £40
Based on the smallest stack size, i.e., Player X, the main-pot will be £30 – £10 for each player. It’s the maximum amount Player X can win.
The remaining chips of Player Y get matched against the ‘All-In Bet’ of Player Z. As Player Y has only £10 left after betting in the main-pot, Player Z requires only £10 to cover the extra bet making a side-pot of £20 between Player Y and Player Z.
Considering no other player left to match the rest, £20 of Player Z gets returned to him.
At showdown, all players contest for the main-pot £30. If Player X has the best hand, he wins the main pot. If not, he can’t play for the side-pot.
While contesting for the side-pot, both players Y and Z compare their hands. If any of the Player Y or Z has the best hand, he wins both the main-pot and the side-pot.
If more than three players are on the table, the similar rule for side-pots continues in the all-in betting options.
Point to note: Only those players who have contributed to the specific side-pot can contest in it.
Betting Structure/Limits in Texas Hold ’em
In online poker, there are three main betting structures.
- Pot-limit (PL) – It allows you to bet or raise any amount, up to the size of the specific pot.
- Fixed limit (FL) – Under this betting structure, you can do betting and raising, as per a fixed amount.
- No limit (NL) – It’s the betting structure in which you can bet all your chips anytime your turn to bet comes.
How to Deposit and Withdraw Money from Online Poker Sites?
Compared to land-based casinos, online poker sites ensure smooth and speedy payouts. When you pick an online poker site, go for the one that is licensed and features the most popular payment methods. Depending upon your region, a poker site can have payment methods –
- Credit/debit cards
- Bank Transfer
While choosing a payment method, make sure you check all the details, like processing time, conditions, or limits for deposits and withdrawals. For withdrawals, you can also use the same mode of payment you used for deposits, go with wire transfers, or just old-fashioned cheque in the mail.
Go for the mode that suits you best!
How Texas Hold ’em Game Works?
In this guide, we’ll talk about the game of No-Limit Texas Hold’em as it’s the most popular type of poker. You can play the game of Texas Hold’em between 6 and 10 players at once but can also do it with as little as 2.
The Table Setup in Texas Hold ’em
It’s mostly an oval table with a seating of six players. Now, let’s understand the basics of symbols in an online Texas Hold’em game –
Chips: It’s the number you see next to each player.
Dealer: The player with the symbol of a circle marked with “D.” With each hand, the dealer changes to the next player in a clockwise manner.
Small Blind: It’s the player to the left of the dealer. This player must follow the forced bet rule and contribute a certain amount of chips before the hand begins. Say he bets £10 and adds 10-chips to the pot.
Big Blind: It’s the player left of the small blind player. The player also follows the rule of force bet and contributes double the small blind amount, i.e., £20, and adds 20-chips to the pot.
Pot: It’s the amount in the middle of the table. In this case, £30, contributed through blinds.
The Gameplay of Texas Holdem
In Texas Hold’em, hands begin with each player having two-dealt cards, face down. You call them ‘hole cards.’ As per the rules of community poker, 5-cards get placed on the table.
Remember, your objective of the game?
You have to make the best possible combination of 5-cards out of 7-cards available to you. You use your betting options (Call/Raise/Fold/Check/All-In) in each round, based on your cards and observing other players in the game.
The Betting Rounds
It’s the first betting round. If none of the other players before your turn puts money into the pot in this round, you can check. The main pot contains only the blinds contribution.
The round after blinds have given money in the pot, and players have received their hole cards. It’s the second betting round before the dealing of the first three face-up cards on the board.
Here you get the options to match the amount of the big blind (call), add more money to the pot (raise), or get rid of your hand (fold).
Take note of three things before you take that call –
- How much of the pot is your hand worth?
- What are the potential winnings for your hand strength?
- In what position do you place your bets?
TIP: The later your position is, the more information you’ll have about your opponents!
In this round, 3-face-up community cards get placed on the board. Those players who have decided to fold in the previous betting round cannot bet anymore.
If there are still active players on the table, then a 4th-community card is placed on the board. The betting starts the same way with the player to the left of the dealer.
It’s the last betting round with the final 5th-community card on the table. As a player, now you have 7-available cards (2-hole cards + 5 community cards) to make your best possible 5-card combination. Mostly, by the end of this round, a clear winner suffices with almost every player folded apart.
A showdown happens when two or more players are remaining in this round. Each player reveals their card, and the player with the best hand takes all the money in the pot. In case of a tie, the main pot gets split between the players.
Playing in Nutshell
- The dealer deals each player two cards clockwise.
- The placing of a small blind followed by the big blind happens.
- The first round of betting- players bet according to the strength of their hand.
- The dealer places 3-community cards in the middle of the board facing up.
- The second round of betting occurs.
- The dealer places the 4th community card.
- The third round of betting happens.
- The dealer deals the final, 5th community card.
- The last round of betting occurs.
- If two or more players remain in the game, all of them show their cards.
- The winner of the game is the one with the best hand.
Guide to Hand Strength
If you are wondering, what makes a good hand, check the guidelines for hand strength. We have ranked it from worst to the best for your easy reference –
- High Card: When you have a high card like Ace, and rest of the hole and community cards are all below it.
- Pair: When you have two matching cards like Pair of Queens and three unmatching cards.
- Two Pairs: When you have two sets of any matching cards and a fifth card
- Three of a Kind: It’s when you have three matching cards like Three Jacks and two unmatching cards.
- Straight: It’s a sequence of five cards (like 7,8,9,10, and J) of any suit.
- Flush: It’s any five cards (like 2,5,9, J, and A) belonging to the same suit.
- Full House: It is known for a set of three matching cards plus two matching cards. (Like Three Jacks and Two Eights)
- Four of a Kind: When you have a card set of four matching cards like Four Kings/Four Queens/Four Nines.
- Straight Flush: It’s a set of five cards all belonging to the same suit and in sequence. (like Red hearts cards of 7,8,9,10, and J)
- Royal Flush: It’s the highest possible straight flush like 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace.
Quick Tip: Go for “beginner” tables on the online poker sites.
As a beginner, limit your playing at just one table. These games have a cap on the number of hands you have played on the sites and gives you a chance to understand the rules without fearing to lose more money.
Offline VS. Online Poker
Agreed, you cannot have the casino ambience at your home!
But you get many plus points for playing it online. Just take a look!
- You get better control over betting limits.
- You have the option to play with real money or with free chips.
- You don’t need to study ‘poker faces’ to win a game online.
- In online poker, mostly, it’s the applications that guide the play. So, all you need to do is concentrate on your cards and your opponent’s gameplay.
- It’s an easier, convenient, and ace way to learn the game than offline poker.
- Compared to offline poker, you play in a relatively low-risk environment.
- Online poker games can be faster in playing, so keep an eye on your budget and bankroll.
- Lastly, play online poker games to enjoy various bonus options.
Online Poker Bonuses
When you play online, a site might offer many bonuses. Read the terms and conditions before you make deposits. Mostly, you get the bonus benefits only after you play a certain number of hands, on-the-site.
- Match Bonus: It’s of two kinds – a welcome offer and a reload boost. You get the welcome offer when you create an account and make a deposit at a poker site.
Say you deposit £50, and they match £50 on top of that in your pending account. The standard match bonuses mostly get paid out in increments of £10.
You can get a reload offer on the table for any subsequent deposits.
- Reload Bonus: It’s a cash reward for a player who deposits more money into their accounts.
- No Deposit Poker Bonus (Instant): It’s instant cash or tournament tickets you get when you sign up and create your first account at a poker site. It’s a small amount of money in the £1- £10 range, and you can enjoy playing free poker with no deposit.
- Referral Bonus: Online poker sites offer you this bonus when you refer a friend. It can be any amount ranging from £25-£50, depending upon the number of players you referred and those who end up playing.
Tips for Winning Poker Online
- Start playing with low-stakes poker, and don’t play every hand you get dealt. (especially as a beginner)
- Play on a single table until you understand the betting options, rules, and hand strengths.
- Set a budget, and don’t play above your bankroll.
- You cannot win every game, so accept losses as part of the learning process.
- Make essential hardware updates like a laptop, chair, or distraction-free room space. Plan investing in software like Hold’em Manager or PokerStove, etc. It assists you in becoming a better online poker player.
- Don’t play under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any emotional distress.
- Always pay attention to cards played; it helps you plan your next move.
- Go for free poker games with no deposits to learn the gameplay.
Ready to play some poker?
While you enjoy playing online poker, gamble responsibly!
The UK online poker industry is one of the most prestigious and strict industries. Therefore, before you sign-in, check out whether the poker site is secure or blacklisted with UKGC always.