Poker is a little more than just a game of chance, it might require other skills to win, even when the odds of doing so are stacked against you. More on that later…
But first, check to make sure you’re legally allowed to play in the country you’re playing from! For example, it’s legal to play poker in Canada but not in certain states in the USA: you can only legally play poker in Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
How to play Texas Hold ’Em (for 2 to 10 players)
There are many types of poker, but the most common and the one we’re going to learn, is Texas Hold ’Em. Before we play, let’s begin with hand rankings in order of hierarchy. You’d be very wise to learn these as they will determine your odds when betting.
1. Royal Flush: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten
2. Straight Flush: Any run of five from the same suit (e.g., 1,2,3,4,5 all Spades)
3. Four of a Kind: Four cards of the same value (e.g., 3,3,3,3)
4. Full House: Three of a Kind and a Pair (e.g., 3,3,3 and 7,7)
5. Flush: Any five cards of the same suit (e.g., 2,4,6,8,10 all Hearts)
6. Straight: Any run of five cards (e.g., 3,4,5,6,7)
7. Three of a Kind: Three cards the same (e.g., 7,7,7 plus whatever)
8. Two Pairs: Two sets of the same kind (e.g., 3,3 and 7,7)
9. Pair: One set of the same kind (e.g., 3,3)
10. High Card: Whatever the highest card is in your hand.
One player needs to be the dealer. The player to the left of the dealer is called ‘small blind’ and to the left of them the player is called ‘big blind’. These two latter players are required to put down their bet before they are dealt any cards. The dealer then gives each player two face-down cards, dealt clockwise, called ‘hole cards’.
Playing and Betting
Once the players have checked their cards, with reference to the chances outlined, it’s time to start betting. The player to the left of the big blind goes first and they have three options:
Call. Match big blinds bet.
Raise. Raise big blinds bet.
Fold. Leave the game.
Going left, it’s now the turn of the next player and so on until we’re back to big blind. Note that small blind and big blind can put more chips down on top of their original bet if they wish to do so. Now all the chips are gathered and put into the pot between the dealer and small blind.
Now the dealer places three community cards, face-up, in the middle of the table. These are called ‘the flop’ and the first player to fold in the previous round goes first. This player has three choices.
Bet. Place a bet, simple as that
Fold. Leave the game
Check. See what another player decides to do
Going left, it’s now the turn of the next player and so on until we’re back to the first player to place a bet. If the player before you places a bet, you either call or fold, you can’t check. And if you fold now, you’re out of the game, permanently.
Once all the chips are in the pot, another face-up card is added to the flop, this community deck is now called ‘the turn’. Another betting round follows, and all the chips are taken and put into the pot.
A fifth card is added to create ‘the river’ and a final round of betting ensues before chips are taken and added to the pot.
How it’s time for everyone to reveal their two hole cards to the rest of the players. The player that can create the best card combination out of their hole cards and the five community cards wins the pot.
To begin a new game, each player shifts one seat to the left so, for example, now the dealer is small blind and small blind is big blind etc.
Those new to Poker might be wondering where, or why, bluffing comes in. Bluffing is giving the impression to your opponents that your hole cards are much better, or worse than they really are.
Bluffing could be used to force a player (s) to fold, thus increasing your chances of winning the pot. Or, if your cards are good, faking a bad hand to ensure other players don’t fold but keep betting will add more to the pot. But don’t forget, all the other players will be playing similar tactics. Or are they?! It’s this dynamic that sets poker apart from other card games.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our easy guide to playing poker. Why not grab some friends and try a few dummy runs until you’re a little more confident to play for real. Alternatively, go online and try your hand.