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Basic Rules of Poker
Poker is a card game that is simple to learn how to play. Mastering the game, well, that’s a different story. But you can easily learn how to play in no time. It’s important that you know the rules of poker so that you aren’t confused once you start playing. The purpose of poker is to make as much money as possible. You do so by playing smart and getting a bit of good fortune to go your way.
You can’t control when good fortune will come. All you can control is how well you play. In the long run, luck evens out and those who consistently play well end up ahead. In order to get to the point where you win money, you first have to learn the rules to poker. Since most start out playing Texas hold’em, we are going to focus specifically on that game.
You may also want to learn how to play games such as Omaha hold’em, Seven-card stud, Razz, Badugi, etc. But, for now, we will focus solely on Texas hold’em. Most of the basic poker rules for Texas hold’em will apply to most other poker games. Even if you don’t plan on playing this poker game much, you will still benefit greatly from learning the basics. Ready to learn the simple poker rules you need to know? Let’s rock n’ roll!
Poker Rules for Beginners
To get started playing, you first need to purchase chips. In a land-based casino, you simply walk up to the cashier and exchange money for the desired amount of chips. At an online poker site, first, you click on the game you want to enter. You can then select the amount of chips you want to have deducted from your account bankroll for play.
Getting to the table
Each game has a required minimum and sometimes maximum buy-in. For games such as £1-£2 blind no-limit hold ‘em, the buy-in usually ranges from £100-£300. You won’t be allowed to enter the game unless you buy-in for the minimum required amount without exceeding the maximum. In tournaments, everyone pays the same entrance fee.
Once you have your chips and are seated at the table, you are ready to play some poker! Each player is dealt two cards face-down. You can’t, nor should you, show your cards to your opponents. If you do, your hand will be declared 'dead'. The goal of Texas hold’em is to disguise the strength of your hand, good or bad.
When you have a bad hand, you want them to think you have a good hand. When you have a good hand, you want them to think you have a bad hand. Showing your opponents your cards would eliminate the surprise.
Before betting occurs, two players on each hand are required to put in a forced bet. These are called the 'blinds'. There is a big blind and a small blind. In most games, the small blind is half the amount of the big blind. So in a £1-£2 game, the small blind is £1 and the big blind is £2. The blinds move around the table in a clockwise manner, with the small blind seated to the right of the big blind.
First Round of Betting (Pre-Flop)
The blinds are the last two players to act during the first round of betting. The player to the left of the big blind gets things started by either folding, calling the big blind bet, or raising. Then the players to the left of that spot act until getting though the blinds. This is called pre-flop action. Never act out of turn. Always wait for your turn. When playing online, you won’t be able to accidentally act out of turn, however. That rule only applies to land-based casinos.
Players make pre-flop decisions based on the initial strength of their hands. Of course, you can always try to convince your opponents you have a strong hand when you don’t by raising. But you had better be a good bluffer or you'll be found out! Pre-flop is the first round of betting out of potentially four betting rounds on each hand. Sometimes the hand ends before the flop, but most times there will be at least one or two more rounds of betting. It all depends on whether there are still at least two remaining players in the hand.
Second Round of Betting (The Flop)
Assuming there are at least two players left in the hand, the next round of betting is called the Flop. On the Flop, three cards are placed on the table face-up. These are called community cards. In Texas hold’em, the best hand is the player with the strongest five-card poker hand. That includes the hole cards (dealt pre-flop) and the community cards.
Community cards are available for everyone in the hand the use. There will be two more community cards before the hand is concluded, assuming it gets that far. Players act on the flop based on the current strength of their hand, or at least try to convince opponents they have a stronger hand than they really do.
Third Round of Betting (The Turn)
The next community card is placed face-up on the table, and this is called the Turn. Yet another round of betting occurs. At this point, most players still in the hand are either bluffing or have already made a fairly strong hand. Occasionally, someone will still be chasing a flush draw or straight draw, but there is only one more card left for them to hit that draw.
Fourth Round of Betting (The River)
The River is the final community card and round of betting. If you are still trying to bluff to win, this is your last opportunity. If you have a big hand, this is your last opportunity to get paid off, so make it count. The River is also the most frustrating card in poker sometimes. Ask any poker pro and they’ll tell you they’ve been 'sucked out' on the River a million times.
What that means is they had the best hand before the River, but the opponent caught up and beat them on the River. If a player bets and someone else calls the bet, the player betting must turn over their cards. If the player that made the call cannot beat that hand, they don’t have to show their cards. In order to win, both cards must be turned over. This only applies when playing in land-based casinos. Online poker rooms automatically disclose winning hands for the players. However, if you are playing in a live casino poker room, you must show both of your cards or will not win the pot even if you have the best hand.
Poker Etiquette (The Unwritten Rules)
The rules for poker are very simple, but there are also some unwritten rules that should be followed at all times by every player. Following basic poker etiquette is important because, if players don’t, the game will see a decline in popularity. Poker isn’t enjoyable when some players are disrespectful to others or don’t follow these unwritten rules:
Don’t show up your opponent
Taunting is childish and a total turn-off. If you win the hand, don’t get up and taunt your opponent. Just scoop the pot and move on to the next hand. Basically, act like you’ve won before. There’s no need to show up other players. Absolutely nothing is gained by doing so, and the game suffers from it. You wouldn’t want someone taunting you after winning a big pot against you.
Don’t slow roll your opponent
Another form of taunting is to slow roll, and it’s really bad for the game and immature. Slow rolling isn’t possible online, but can be done in a land-based casino. If you call an all-in or get called and have a very strong hand, turn your cards over immediately. Don’t pause for 30 seconds before flipping them over. This is called a slow roll. When you know you have the best hand, turn your cards over right away because others will take it offensively if you don’t.
Don’t insult players in the chat box
Online poker sites have a chat feature where players at the table can interact with each other. Many players choose not to chat. It’s okay to chat, but keep it friendly. If you lose a hand to an opponent that makes a horrible play and gets lucky, don’t be insulting. Just forget about it and move on. If someone insults you, just ignore them. Don’t fall into their trap by joining in their childish behaviour. Feel free to chat with your opponents, but be nice!
Tanking has become common in recent years around poker. What is tanking? When a player takes unnecessarily long to act. Don’t do that. That doesn’t mean you can’t stop and think for a bit. Sometimes you will have a difficult decision to make. In these cases, feel free to take a bit of time to think your decision through. However, don’t constantly tank. It’s rude and ruins the game. When you have an easy decision to make, which is the case most of the time, act right away instead of waiting a minute or so to act.
Select 'Auto-Post Blinds' or just sit out
When playing a cash game online, you will be given then option to have your blinds posted for you automatically. If you plan on playing for a while, make sure you select that option. If you want to take a break, select the 'Sitting Out' option. The reason for this is players that don’t choose to have their blinds auto-posted slow down the game. Every time the blinds come around, other players have to wait 10-15 seconds for them to make a decision on whether or not they want to play the hand. 10-15 seconds may not seem like a long time, but it adds up if every player at the table does it.
Why Follow Poker Rules?
Each poker room, whether it’s land-based or online, will have poker rules posted so that every player knows what to expect. You should read the rules before playing so that you aren’t caught in an unfortunate situation. Most rules are the same from one poker room to another, but there are usually a few slight changes. Respect the rules of each poker room. Remember, if you don’t like their rules, you don’t have to play there.
Poker rules are put in place because if there weren’t any rules, the game wouldn’t operate properly. Rules are also put in place to prevent easy ways for players and dealers to cheat. Without any rules, you would get cheated frequently. And no one wants that to happen.
In land-based casinos, the main common rule difference is the use of mobile phones. Some poker rooms don’t allow players to use mobiles while at the table. Others will allow players to use their phones so long as they aren’t in the hand. And some let players use mobiles at all times. Make sure you know this rule before entering the game. If mobile phones aren’t allowed, and you are texting while playing, your hand may be declared dead. That could end up costing you money.
An important rule online to follow is to avoid collusion. Collusion is harmful to online poker. What is collusion? When multiple players are playing together. For example, if your friend is playing at the same table and you two are disclosing your hand to each other to team up against the other players. This is a big no-no. You are not allowed to collude. If you get caught colluding, you will be banned for life from the poker site.
If you want to play in a game with your friends, that’s fine. However, you must stick to the 'one hand per person' rule. Not only will you get banned from the poker site for colluding, but they may also refuse to pay you the money in your poker account.