How to Play Poker

How to play poker is a topic that has inspired countless books and seminars, but the essentials of how to play poker are actually fairly simple. The following information on how to play poker refers primarily to the game of Texas Hold’em, but other poker games are played in very similar ways, so it should prove just as useful no matter what kind of poker you enjoy.

The aim of how to play poker is for players to bet on the strength of their hands. Bets are placed in the centre of the poker table and this is referred to as the ‘pot’. The player who wins the poker hand wins the pot of money. If two or more players win the hand (because they have the same hand value) then they share the pot equally.

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Game Procedure

A poker game starts with players being dealt two face-down ‘hole cards’ each. A round of betting follows and three community cards (the ‘flop’) are dealt face-up in the middle of the table. Another round of betting takes place before a fourth community card is dealt (the ‘turn’) and then there is a further round of betting before the fifth community card is dealt (the ‘river’). A final round of betting takes place at this point.

In each round of betting a player may – depending on the betting action that has taken place previously – check (bet nothing but still remain in the game), call the previous bet (bet the same amount as the previous bet), raise the previous bet (increase the amount of the previous bet), or fold (giving up a chance to win the pot by not matching a bet). A player can only check when no other players have made any bets and it is his turn to act.

As stated a moment ago, players can choose to fold their hands in any of the betting rounds, and if all but one player folds then the last player in the hand wins the pot automatically. In that event his cards do not need to be shown. If more than one player is still in the hand after the final round of betting then the remaining players show their cards and the player with the best hand according to Texas Hold’em poker rankings wins.

We can therefore say that there are two main ways to win a poker hand:

1) Have the highest ranking hand.

2) Bluff the other players into folding by making them believe that you have the winning hand. It is from the ability to keep a straight face when deceiving opponents that the term ‘poker face’ originates.

Summary on How to Play Poker

As in other casino games, you should also appreciate that the lower the probability of getting the hand, the higher the rank, the stronger the hand, and the better chance you have at winning the pot. Learning how to play poker effectively will help you to win more often and to win more money!

And that, in essence is the answer to how do you play poker?. For a more in-depth discussion of the subject see our Poker Rules page where we take a detailed look at 'how to play poker'