Learning Poker Rules

If you are to master any poker games, it must begin with an understanding of the different “hands” that allow you to win out over other players. A hand is the final cards that you are holding when it is time to determine which player has won the game. All hands contain five cards, and the order or rank from strongest to weakest is as follows:

  • Royal Flush - Any five consecutive cards from a ten to an ace, with all of the cards in the same suit.

  • Straight Flush – Any five consecutive cards of the same suit.

  • Four of a Kind – Any four cards of the same rank. Should two players have the same four of a kind it is the fifth card that determines the winner. This card is known as the kicker. For example, two players have four “2s”, it is the player with the highest valued remaining card who wins.

  • Full House – Any three cards of the same rank paired with any two cards of the same rank. For example, three aces and two jacks would be a full house.

  • Flush – any five cards in the same suit, but not necessarily in consecutive order. It is the highest card in the series that determines the “rank” of the flush. For example, if a player held the king, ten, five, six, and two of hearts the hand is described as a king-high flush.

  • Straight – Any five consecutive cards of different suits, with aces considered a high or low card respectively. For example, the player with 5,4,3,2, and an ace would have a straight.

  • Three of a Kind – Any three cards of the same rank.

  • Two Pair – Any two cards of the same rank together with another two cards of the same rank. The player holding two queens and two fives would have this hand.

  • One Pair – Any two cards of the same rank.

  • High Card – Any hand that contains cards that rank highly but do not form any of the other hands. For instance, the player holding the ace of diamonds, the king of clubs, the queen of hearts, and the Jack of spades could have the “high” hand at the table.

Hands are received through a variety of methods, which are dictated by the poker rules for the specific game. Knowing how to apply poker strategy within the context of one of the variations is how you actually win. What does that mean? Consider that most games use the following format:

  1. A table “minimum” is set and players have to buy into the game by purchasing the minimum number of chips.

  2. Players must then put their “ante” into the “pot” and receive their cards according to the poker rules for each of the variations. (These first steps are usually known as the Setup)

  3. The betting rounds occur in which players can elect to “fold”, “raise” or “call”. The fold means they are out of the game, the raise means that they raise the bet on the table, and the call means that they match the existing wager. They may have to take new cards, and the betting will usually continue until a reveal is required.

  4. The dealer then determines the winner and rewards the pot.

Now that you understand how hands are viewed in general, and how poker games are generally structured, we can discuss the poker rules for the most popular poker variations.

Texas Hold’em

The poker rules for this game are quite simple. There is a basic setup process that uses a system of “blinds”. There are two of them in Hold’em games; the small and big. These are what indicate the stakes of the game, and the standard poker rules dictate that players should be “buying in” to the game at around 100 times the amount of the big blind. Thus, it is common to see games with a 10¢/20¢ blind system that creates a $20 buy in for the game.

The dealer then gives each player one card at a time until each has two in their hand. These are hole cards that begin the first round of betting. This is known as “preflop” betting and allows all players to either call, raise or fold. The dealer then discards the top card on the deck, known as the “burn” card. They will then flip the next three cards, face up, on the table, and this is called the “flop”. These become community cards that can be used by any player to build a strong hand.

Another betting round occurs, and the dealer burns one more card and flips a card on the table, which is called the “turn”. This initiates a third round of betting which is followed by the final burn card, and the reveal of the “river” card. This makes five cards available for all of the players to use to make their strongest hand. The last round occurs, and then there is the “showdown” that determines who has won the game.

More on Texas Hold’em.

Omaha Poker

This is a game that is similar to the Texas Hold’em game. It uses the same setup and blind format is used and the dealer will then issue four cards, face down, to the players. The first round of betting begins with all of the same options for folding, raising, etc. There is then a burn card discarded and a flop that puts three community cards on the table. There is another round of betting, a “turn” card is displayed, a third round of betting occurs before the “river” is displayed, and then there is the reveal to determine the winner.

7 Card Stud

This uses the setup process common to all games and then sees the players each receiving two cards, face down, and one card face up. Players look at their hole cards and then the one with the lowest face up card does the “bring in”. They can call, raise or fold accordingly and a betting round occurs.

After this, each player gets another card face up, known as the turn card. Another betting round occurs and then the river card is placed on the table, followed by more betting, a sixth card, more betting and then the final card is dealt face down to each of the remaining players. After that, the last round of betting occurs and the players must then do a showdown with the strongest hand of five cards winning the game.

Texas Hold’em No Limit

These are Texas Hold’em games in which players are free to bet any amount between the cost of the “big blind” and the amount of money that they have on the table during any betting round.

More on Texas Hold’em No Limit.

Texas Hold’em Fixed Limit

This is simply Texas Hold’em in which the amount that can be bet is set at a fixed amount. For example, you will see games described as $1/$2 games and this means that each wager is fixed at that amount.

More on Texas Hold’em Fixed Limit.

5 Card Stud, Razz

A “Razz” game is any poker game in which the best Ace to Five low poker hand wins the pot at showdown. This variation follows 5 Card Draw poker rules with the Razz variation determining the winner.

More on Razz Poker.

5 Card Draw

The most basic and common poker game, it begins with the setup, each player gets five cards, and a round of betting occurs. This is followed by a single series of trades in which a player can ask for up to three new cards, or four if they have an ace. Once the new cards are received, there is another round of betting and then the reveal has to occur.

More on 5 Card Draw.

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