The basic rules when playing poker are:
- Step 1: Poker Hand Rankings
- Step 2: Getting to Know Table Positions
- Step 3: The Pre-flop
- Step 4: The Flop
- Step 5: The Turn
- Step 6: The River
- Step 7: Now You’re at the Showdown Stage
- Step 8: Get Ready for a New Round!
Step 1: Poker Hand Rankings
Despite the mind-game aspect of poker, usually the highest-value hand determines the winner – unless you’re bluffing, of course! It’s important to aim to make the strongest poker hand – especially for beginners. The best high hand in most poker formats is a Royal Flush.
Poker Hand rankings apply to most poker formats. The standard ranking list is used in the most popular poker format, Texas Hold’em. In games, such as Omaha Hi-Lo and Stud Hi-Lo, two separate hands can win on the river. In these split-pot games, the poker hand rankings are typically different for the high and low hand winners.
Whereas in poker variations, like Razz, poker rankings are turned upside down. What might be regarded as a worse hand – in traditional rankings – can likely take down the pot.
Step 2: Getting to Know Table Positions
Position is everything in poker and all action centres around the Button – except for Stud. Early Position, like the Small and Big Blinds, are to the left of the Button and act first after the flop. Seats to the right of the Button are Late Position (acting last post-flop), and seats in between are Middle Position.
Position at the poker table is a major determining factor when it comes to how much/often a hand wins. This number is directly related to how you are positioned in relation to your opponents.
The most essential thing to remember regarding table positions is that “having position” gives you much more leeway in the way you can play a hand. It allows you to “check back” and raise bets with confidence.
Step 3: The Pre-flop
Pre-flop action begins with the player seated left of the BB (Big Blind). Action then continues clockwise with the BB acting last. Pre-flop, players have three courses of action: folding, calling, or raising. Once all players have acted, and the pot is right, the betting round ends.
The pre-flop part of a poker game is crucial regarding hand selection. This facet plays a huge role in win rates. Better hands pre-flop will usually fare better post-flop. They will win more and more often.
Learning which hands to play from which positions is also critical. You should study whether you should be betting, raising, or raising a raise. This play will depend on your position, the action and your opponent. But, primarily it is based on the pre-flop strength of your holding.
Step 4: The Flop
The Flop is made up of the first 3 of 5 community cards. Post-flop, players have the option to check (bet nothing), bet, call, fold or raise – depending on their position at the table and any other prior action.
The cards on the board largely determine post-flop action in poker. With a drawing hand, you will need to figure out how much to bet/call. This number is dependent on the strength of your draw.
The biggest percentage of your hand impetus will be on the flop. If you haven’t flopped a draw, a strong pair/ two-pair hand – or greater – it might be time to fold. Also, take the time to watch your opponents, post-flop. Their actions will let you know if they have a monster or nothing but air.
Step 5: The Turn
This fourth community card is dealt directly after the post-flop betting round comes to an end. You’ll have the same options post-flop as pre-flop; check (bet nothing), bet, call, fold or raise – depending on your position and any prior action.
The turn can be a tricky card in poker. Post-turn, you should be well on the way to knowing the direction of a hand. You should have a grip on where you want the hand to go. If you have position on your opponent, the turn will allow you to control the pot. You will have the option to check back if no one bets.
Use the post-turn action wisely. This is the penultimate street that you have to figure out if you can win the hand as is. Of if you may need a bit of help on the river to make a winner.
Step 6: The River
When you finally arrive at the river – the fifth community card – you should have a hand that can win. Or you might even try a bluff if everyone checks to it to you. Plus, there are no more cards that can beat you!
Post-river is where you get to assess the strength of your hand. Your starting hand now has three to five cards it can use to form the best 5-card hand. Note that in games like Omaha, you can and must use two of your four hole cards along with three of the community cards. In games such as Hold’em, you can use one, both or none of your hole cards and up all five community cards.
Post-river action marks the end of a hand before the showdown stage begins. Missed that draw? You are still able to muck your hand before showdown in most situations.
Step 7: Get Ready for a New Round!
For a showdown to happen, there have to be at least 2 players left. The winning player must reveal their cards to win the hand. The winner is determined by who has the best 5-card hand. That player gets to scoop in the pot. In Omaha, there are two pots to scoop!
The showdown is where the magic happens. Hopefully, you get to see your opponents’ cards and they yours. There is an etiquette to how cards are revealed. The player who gets called at showdown shows first. With more than two in a hand, the player nearest to his left reveals next. Then the showdown stage proceeds in a clockwise direction.
Showdown etiquette also involves winning graciously and losing gracefully. Remember, there’s always more poker to play and more hands to win!
Step 8: Now You’re at the Showdown Stage
Once the winner has been settled on, it’s time to shuffle up and deal the next round. Whether you’re playing Texas Hold’em, Omaha Hi or Omaha Hi/Lo; Tournaments, Sit & Go’s or at the Cash Tables, there’s always a seat with your name on it!
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