Looking for a quick rundown on everything you need to know to get started playing poker?
The poker rules below are applicable to both ring games and tournaments, as well as to the games of Texas Hold’em, Omaha and Royal Poker. Whichever games you find the most fun on Replay Poker, you’ll find a good grounding right here.
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Individual poker game rules may vary, but all poker games are broken down into hands – a round of gameplay that starts with the deal, and ends in one of two ways; either after all cards have been dealt, bets have been made, cards are revealed and the pot is awarded to the strongest poker hand; or if only one player remains active in the hand after all others have folded.
There are two main ways to play poker: ring games and tournaments.
A ring game is an ongoing poker game with no set end point. Players may leave the table whenever they wish, and may choose to join whenever a seat is open.
Because of the open-ended nature of poker ring games, there is no clear way to ‘win’ a ring game; rather it is up to each player to decide when to leave. It may be that they’ve had enough for now, or that they have run out of chips. We recommend aiming for the former!
In a poker tournament, all players put up the same entry fee and start with the same sized stack of chips, playing on until only one player remains: the tournament winner.
One of the key differences between ring games and tournaments is that blinds – the forced bets that two players must make at the start of every hand – increase at set intervals during a tournament. Rising blinds mean that eventually players are forced all-in, making it harder to survive all the way to the end.
Tournaments usually divide up the prize pool among the final 10-20% of the field, with the lion’s share awarded to the winner.
However many players are at the table, most poker hands begin with two players ‘posting blinds’ – placing mandatory bets to create a pot for players to compete over.
Each hand sees one player designated as the ‘dealer’. In a live game, the dealer would have a special oversized chip in front of them known as the ‘dealer button’, so this position is generally known as the button. The button moves one position to the left after every hand.
The player to the button’s left posts the ‘small blind’, with the player to their left posting the ‘big blind’ (usually around double the size of the small blind). Each subsequent player must then either call the bet represented by the big blind, raise it, or fold.
If all players fold, the big blind wins the pot uncontested, while if players call but don’t raise, the big blind has the option to ‘check’ (bet nothing) or raise when the action makes it back around to them.
Any betting round in any poker game operates on the same fundamental principles:
- Action proceeds clockwise, usually starting with the first active player to the button’s left
- To proceed in the hand or be eligible to win, a player must match any wagers made in that betting round
- If there is no active bet, players may ‘check’ (bet nothing) and stay in the hand
- A player cannot lose a hand due to having insufficient chips – if they cannot match a wager, they may instead go ‘all-in’ for all their chips (although they cannot win more than the sum of the chips they put in the pot from any other player)
- The minimum a player may raise is the amount of the previous bet they faced
- The maximum a player may bet or raise depends on whether the game is a limit, pot-limit or no-limit game
Most poker games – and all the games at Replay Poker – can be defined as ‘Limit’, ‘Pot-Limit’ or ‘No-Limit’ games. These names related to the restrictions on how much can be bet or raised at any one time.
Limit games use single units of small and big bets. In flop games like Texas Hold’em or Omaha, small bets are used pre-flop and on the flop, with big bets used after that. Small bets are usually around the size of a big blind, with big bets normally double that. All bets or raises must be made using these single units, so it’s not possible to shove all in with a large, intimidating stack!
No-Limit games place no restrictions on the amount that any player may bet at any time. If the action’s on you, you can put in your whole stack – no questions asked!
In Pot-Limit games the maximum bet or raise cannot be greater than the total pot at the time. This includes any chips the raiser must put in the pot to call, i.e. if there is 500 already in the pot, your opponent bets 500 and you wish to raise as much as you can, you need to put in 2,000 (comprising 500 to call your opponent’s bet – making the total pot 1,500 – plus the size of the pot).
Now we’ve discussed the poker rules all beginners need to know, let’s take a look at how a typical poker hand plays out. We’re focusing on Texas Hold’em, as it’s the world’s most popular game and the one most new players start off with.
Every player receives two hole cards, which only they may see. The players to the immediate left of the button puts in the small blind, and the player to their left puts in the big blind.
The first betting round takes place, starting with the player to the left of the big blind. The blinds count as bets, so players must match the amount of the big blind, raise or fold – you can’t check if there is a bet to be called.
The dealer spreads three community cards in the middle of the table, face up. Community cards may be used by any player to make the best five-card poker hand they can (players may use as many or as few community cards as they need to make their strongest hand, from all of them to none at all).
Starting with the first remaining player to the button’s left, a second betting round takes place. As there are no forced bets to start this betting round off, players may check (bet nothing) until or unless a bet has been made.
A fourth community card is added to the board, face up.
A third betting round takes place, just like the previous one.
The final community card is dealt to the middle of the table, again face up. Players now have seven cards from which to make their strongest five-card poker hand.
The final betting round of the hand takes place, clockwise from the button’s left. With all cards now dealt, all players know their strongest hand.
Any players remaining after the final betting round are eligible to win the pot. If there was betting in the final betting round, the most recent aggressor reveals their hand first, followed by the other players moving clockwise around the table. The strongest poker hand wins the pot (or the pot may be split between identical hands), and the hand is over. After each hand, the button moves one place to the left.
Now that you’ve read through these poker game rules, the best way to improve your understanding of poker is to join a game and play some hands for yourself. You’ll probably find that once you see a hand being played first-hand, it all makes much more sense.
And at Replay Poker, putting in some time at the tables as a beginner won’t cost you a penny! So why not head to the lobby and check out the games you can join right now?Get started