How To Play

Learn how to play poker in minutes with our guide to the basics

Rules of Poker

The world-famous game of poker is an exciting and challenging combination of short-term luck and long-term skill, where bluffs, statistics and situational awareness combine in a game that is notoriously easy to learn and difficult to master.

It takes 'a minute to learn but a lifetime to master'Mike Sexton said he was referring to the most popular game in the world, Texas Hold'em No Limit, but all community card games (and most poker games in general) have the same basic rules and order of cards. Learn them and you'll be well on your way to understanding and mastering poker.

Aim of the Game and Hand Rankings (High)

It is often said that games like bridge are card games that you can play for money, but poker is a betting game that is played with cards.

The aim of the game is to win bets by placing strong hands on the flop or bluffing your opponent into folding. Without betting, either with matches or chips, poker is merely an exercise in watching the cards pick a winner.

In draw, stud or team card games such as hold'em, players take turns betting on their hands in one or more betting rounds, showing - or pretending to show - their strength. The stronger the hand, the more likely it is to win on the flop (at the end of the hand when the pot is revealed).

Poker hands consist of five cards, either from the hole hand alone (Stud, Draw) or from a combination of hole cards and community cards that are available to all players at the table (Hold'em, Omaha).


Royal Flush

This is the top straight flush with its own famous name, ten to ace suited (any suit).


Straight Flush

Five sequential cards of the same suit, e.g., Heart_6 Heart_7 Heart_8 Heart_9 Heart_10. In straights, aces play  both high and low, so Club_1 Club_2 Club_3 Club_4 Club_5 is the lowest straight flush.


Four of a Kind

All four cards of the same rank (also known as 'quads'). Heart_1 Diamond_1 Spade_1 Club_1 Top four. In the (rare) case where two players have the same fours, the fifth card ("kicker") decides the winner.

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Full House

Three cards of the same rank, plus a pair, e.g., Spade_11 Diamond_11 Heart_11 Spade_8 Diamond_8. When ranking full houses, the three of a kind is compared first. So Spade_11 Diamond_11 Heart_11 Spade_8 Diamond_8 beats Club_9 Diamond_9 Spade_9 Diamond_1 Heart_1.



Any five cards of the same suit, e.g., Heart_13 Heart_11 Heart_9 Heart_4 Heart_3. If more than one player has more than one suit, the suits are compared from the top card down to determine the winner.



Five sequential cards in any suit, e.g., Diamond_4 Club_5 Heart_6 Heart_7 Spade_8. In straights, aces play both high and low, so the lowest possible straight is Diamond_1 Club_2 Heart_3 Diamond_4 Club_5, and the highest Diamond_10 Club_11 Spade_12 Spade_13 Heart_1 (any suits).

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Three of a Kind

Three cards of the same rank, plus two kickers, e.g., Diamond_13 Heart_13 Spade_13 Diamond_10 Heart_7. This hand is also known as 'trips'.


Two Pair

To determine the winner, the strongest pair is compared first, then the second card, and if the hands are still tied, the fifth card ("kicker"). SoHeart_1 Diamond_1 Heart_7 Club_7 Diamond_11 beats Club_1 Spade_1 Heart_5 Club_5 Diamond_13, and Spade_12 Heart_12 Diamond_9 Spade_9 Club_10 beats Club_12 Diamond_12 Heart_9 Club_9 Heart_6.

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One Pair

Two cards of the same rank. If two players have two cards of the same rank, the winner is determined by comparing the picks (the values of the remaining three unpaired cards).

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High Card

The highest card or cards in a five-card hand, unless there are deuces or better. Aces are considered the highest card. Hands are compared from highest to lowest card as followsSpade_13 Club_11 Spade_8 Spade_6 Heart_3 beats Club_13 Diamond_11 Club_8 Spade_4 Diamond_2.

Actions in Poker

There are really only five moves in poker: bet, check, call, raise, and fold.

  • Bet: Betting consists of voluntarily putting chips into the pot as the first player in a betting round. After the bet is placed, all other players must reach at least the bet amount to remain in the pot.
  • Check: If there is no bet in front of the player, the check transfers the action clockwise to the next active player. If all players in the betting round check, the round ends and the next round is dealt/commenced on the next board.
  • Call: If there are bets in the current betting round, the solution is to bet the highest current bet to stay in the game.
  • Raise: If a bet or bets are already placed in a betting round, players can increase their bet by placing a higher bet. This reopens the pot and the other players, including the original bettor, must cover the new higher bet to stay in the betting round.
  • Fold: Players may withdraw on their turn, discard their cards and not participate in the game until the start of the next round.

Betting Limits: No Limit, Fixed Limit and Pot Limit

"Limit" is the amount you can bet at any given time. In no-limit games, you can bet any amount (even all your available chips) at any time. Although there is no maximum bet, the minimum bet is equal to the size of the big blind. The minimum raise is double the big blind, or if there has already been a raise, double the big blind.

Fixed limit The games have certain betting steps. For example, in a $2/$4 betting game, the blinds are $1/$2, and the first two betting rounds (preflop and flop) are set at $2. In the second two betting rounds (on the turn and river), the limit is doubled to $4.

In Pot limit In games, the minimum bet is equal to the size of the largest bet and the maximum bet is the ante. To "raise", add the total amount of chips in the pot (including the bet amount) and then add it to the bet amount.

For example, before betting in a $1/$2 pot limit game, the first player to confirm the bet can bet a maximum of $7 (the small blind is $1, the big blind is $2 and the ante is $2 - so a "raise" is a $5 increase added to the ante).

Another example: the tournament pot is $30. Player 1 bets $15. The maximum raise for Player 2 would be the pot ($45) plus the amount bet ($15), i.e. $60. The maximum bet would therefore be $75 (the amount in the pot plus the amount of the original bet).

At first glance, this may seem a bit complicated, but when playing online, the calculation of the bet is minimal as the minimum and maximum bets are displayed on the slider at each stage.