How To Play Poker?

Poker is a vying game where players bet on who holds the highest card combination. It is a game of chance and psychology in equal parts as you can win by having the best hand or more interestingly, by convincing other players to drop out by making them believe that you have the better hand. 

Yes, that’s right! It is possible to win even if you don’t have the best hand. You just have to “bluff” everyone else out of play. 

Let’s dive deeper into the types, terms, and strategies in poker, one of the most popular playing card games in history.

The game of poker

how to play poker

You do not need to play with money but it is part of the game to bet with chips, making it a game of strategic analysis. The objective is to win all the bets.

Today, there are numerous variants of poker but in all of them, poker is played with a standard deck of cards and is won with a 5-card hand.

  • Community card type

Players are dealt less than five cards to make the best combination using several community cards placed face-up in the middle.

Popular variations: Omaha, Texas Hold’em (standard or regular poker, most often played at home, available at all poker websites)

  • Draw type

Players are dealt five cards. They can then discard cards and receive replacements to get a better hand.

Popular variations: Five-card draw

  • Stud type

Players are dealt cards face-up and face-down in rounds. Bets are made between each round of cards being dealt.

Popular variations: Seven-card stud, razz

  • Straight poker

Players are dealt five cards. They then make bets that can be raised again and again until the game is won.

Popular variations: Five-card brag, three-card brag

Terms in poker

You can’t figure out how to play poker without picking up the terminology. You may have heard some of them in day-to-day use without even realizing they were adopted from this card game, like “dealt a bad hand”, “passing the buck”, and “hitting the jackpot”. 

Now, let’s see those terms in poker.

Hands & rankings

You can win poker with these 5-card hands, ranked from highest to lowest:

  1. Royal Flush / Royal Straight Flush

A, K, Q, J and 10 of the same suit. 

The best hand possible in a game. It can be tied with but not beaten by a royal flush of another suit.

Example: A♦ K♦ Q♦ J♦ 10♦

  1. Straight Flush

Consecutive values from the same suit.

Example: 10♥ 9♥ 8♥ 7♥ 6♥

  1. Four-of-a-Kind / Quads

Four cards of equal value and another side card.

Example: J♦ J♣ J♠ J♥ K♦

  1. Full House

Three cards of equal value and two cards of another value.

Example: A♥ A♣ A♦ 9♠ 9♣

  1. Flush

All cards of the same suit.

Example: A♠ J♠ 8♠ 4♠ 3♠

  1. Straight

Consecutive values from more than one suit.

Example: 9♥ 8♠ 7♣ 6♦ 5♣

  1. Three-of-a-Kind / Trips

Three cards of equal value and two side cards of different values.

Example: 7♠ 7♦ 7♣ K♦ Q♣

  1. Two-Pair

Two cards of equal value, another two cards of equal value, and one side card.

Example: 9♣ 9♦ 6♣ 6♠ Q♥

  1. One-Pair

Two cards of equal value and three side cards of different values.

Example: A♦ A♥ K♠ 9♦ 4♥

  1. High Card / Nothing

Do not make any of the above hands. Not consecutive or from the same suit.

Example: A♠ J♦ 8♣ 6♠ 2♥

  • In the case of a tie between same ranking:

The suits do not matter and the pot is split evenly!


poker card game

At the start of the hand, players put in “blinds” or “antes” to start the “pot”:

  • Pot

Collection of players’ bets.

  • Small blind

Bet that is half of the minimum. This is done by the first player.

  • Big blind 

Bet that is at least the minimum. This is done by the second player.

  • Ante up

Every player bets the minimum instead of blinds. This is done in most poker variants besides Texas Hold’em.

The pot may increase in the betting round where you can make one of the following actions:

  • Bet

Put your wager in.

  • Call

Match an opponent’s bet to continue playing.

  • Raise

Increase your existing bet in the same round to exceed an opponent’s bet. If you raise, all opponents may call your new bet or fold.

  • Fold

Withdraw from the game and forfeit your bets. This can be done when others have already bet. When you fold, turn your cards face-down to avoid giving your opponents more advantage.

  • Check

Decline to bet until later in the round. This can be done before the first bet in the round.

  • All in

Play all of your remaining chips. This can be done when your chips are not enough to call another player’s bet. This closes the pot and the all-in player can only win this pot. All subsequent bets are put into a separate side pot which other players can still win.


Begin by selecting the dealer who does not play in that hand. Usually, players take turns as the dealer, indicated with a token. The sequence of cards being dealt, betting, and dealer rotation goes clockwise from the dealer.

Here’s how to play Texas Hold’em poker step by step:

  1. Deal two cards to each player. These are the “hole cards”.
  1. Place blinds or antes.
  1. Start the first round of betting. Bet according to how confident you are in your hand.
  1. Deal three community cards face-up in the middle of the table. This is “the flop” and it forms the beginning of “the board”.
  1. Start the second round of betting. Bet according to how confident you are making a winning hand using your hole cards and the cards on the board.
  1. Deal the fourth community card. This is “the turn”.
  1. Start the third round of betting.
  1. Deal the fifth community card. This is “the river” and this completes the board.
  1. Start the final round of betting.
  1. All remaining players show their hands. The highest-ranking hand wins.

Bluffing in poker

You won’t go far learning how to play poker without learning that bluffing is a cornerstone of poker. That’s why one of the earliest names of the game was actually “Bluff” and we say “call someone’s bluff” to challenge them.

You can actually win poker without holding the best hand by keeping an inscrutable expression. This is to bluff your opponents into thinking that you have the superior hand, so that they would rather cut their losses and fold than risk losing.

So practice your “poker face” because even micro-expressions, like slightly tightening your lip, lifting your brow, or twitching your nose, could potentially tip your hand to other players without showing your cards.

Playing poker online

If you need practice, it’s a good idea to start online. Many platforms and apps are free to play without betting real money and you don’t need a poker face. You can easily find video poker and many other casino card games like baccarat, blackjack, and more. Once you have honed your skills in games against AI, you can try your hand at live dealer games and games with other players. Good luck!

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