How to Play Poker – The Full Guide to Online Poker Basics

Poker is a community game that combines luck and skill. It can be played in professional tournaments with worldwide TV broadcasting and prizes worth millions of pounds, or at your dining table on a friendly poker night. The accessibility of online poker made it popular amongst millions of people around the world that took upon learning how to play poker.

Although it may take a while to understand what is poker and master your game strategy, learning poker rules and understanding how to play poker at an entry-level is fairly easy. So you can join low stakes tables and start developing your skills and strategy as you go.

In this guide, our Playright.co.uk poker experts will teach you what is poker. We will cover basic game rules, poker variations, hand rankings and everything you need to know on how to play poker.

Ziv Chen
Apr 07 2021

 

Poker is a community game that combines luck and skill. It can be played in professional tournaments with worldwide TV broadcasting and prizes worth millions of pounds, or at your dining table on a friendly poker night. The accessibility of online poker made it popular amongst millions of people around the world that took upon learning how to play poker.

Although it may take a while to understand what is poker and master your game strategy, learning poker rules and understanding how to play poker at an entry-level is fairly easy. So you can join low stakes tables and start developing your skills and strategy as you go.

In this guide, our Playright.co.uk poker experts will teach you what is poker. We will cover basic game rules, poker variations, hand rankings and everything you need to know on how to play poker.

Where to Start Playing

Our team at Playright.co.uk is passionate about poker. Between us, we have decades of experience playing poker both online and in real life. We all need to start somewhere, and the best place to start learning what is poker about is by going online. But with so many different online poker operators, each claiming to be the best in teaching you how to play poker, choosing the right one may be tricky.

To help you on your journey, we built a thorough process for evaluating each poker operator. Our experts look carefully at the poker software, game features, tables available, bonuses, support, learning resources and of course your safety and security. We only feature on Playright.co.uk poker sites that are fully licensed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). So you can focus on how to play poker and nothing else.

Different Poker Variations

No Limit Texas Hold’em is by far the most popular poker variation around the world. In fact, it is considered by many the most common form of gambling. Therefore most people that don’t know what is poker will usually start by learning how to play poker at the No Limit Texas Holde’m tables.

Besides Texas Hold’em, there are many other poker variations. Most use the same basic poker rules and hand rankings. But each offers a unique and interesting way to play poker. In this guide, our experts will teach you how to play poker while concentrating on two of the most popular game variations:

  • No Limit Texas Holde’m
  • Pot Limit Omaha

Which Game to Start With

If you are in early stages of learning what is poker, we suggest starting building your basic poker strategy with No Limit Texas Hold’em. Because it is so popular, you will find online many educational resources. It is also widely available on any poker website and mobile app we recommend. But starting with Texas Hold’em is only our suggestion. If you are interested in learning how to play poker on another variation, we’ve got you covered. You can still use the same methods and poker tips and tricks we cover in this guide.

Playing Poker Online

Poker in its current form was originated in the 1800s. It was played in bars and saloons out West during the Gold Rush. Therefore, it is considered a part of American culture and history for decades. The game started expending outside of the U.S. decades ago. But the online poker revolution is what made poker a worldwide phenomenon. People that never knew what is poker, can now learn to play from their computer or mobile phone.

Online poker provides many exciting tools and immersive gameplay. But you need to get used not to read opponents body language and gestures, which is a big part of poker. Still, you can play from anywhere around the world against people in different countries. And the best part being, you can find tables at your level while you climb through the ranks and learn how to play poker.

How to Play Poker

The first step in learning how to play poker is to understand the rules of the game. We will refer to Texas Hold’em to begin with. However, the basic rules are common to most poker variations.

Game Structure

Most poker games are played with a standard, 52-card deck. Poker can be played with a minimum of 2 players. But it would ideally be played with between 6 and 10 players at a table. Each player will receive Chips which represent the money stake they will buy into the game.

Each player is dealt 2 individual Hole Cards facing down. Throughout a few betting rounds, 7 Community Cards are dealt to the middle of the table facing up. Players then use the Community Cards in combination with their Hole Cards to make the best possible 5-card winning hand.

Betting Rounds

A Dealer Button is placed in front of the player that will be designated as the dealer for the current round. The player seated next to the dealer clockwise will post the first bet which is the Small Blind, followed by the Big Blind that is posted by the next player seated clockwise.

In No Limit Texas Hold’em, the minimum opening raise is at least double the size of the Big Blind. The maximum raise can be all the chips that the betting player has in his/her stack (an ‘All-In Bet‘).

When you learn how to play poker, you will need to make decisions during several possible betting rounds:

  1. Pre-Flop: Make a betting decision based on the Hole Cards.
  2. Flop: 3 Community Cards are dealt face up at the middle of the table. All players can use them to make their card hand.
  3. Turn: A fourth card Community Card is dealt.
  4. River: If there are remaining players, the fifth and last Community Card is dealt.

Betting Options

The next thing you will need to understand when learning what is poker is the betting options available to you to maximize your stake value.

Following are the options you will have at each stage:

  • Check: When no other player puts money into the pot, bet nothing and pass it on.
  • Bet: When no other player puts money into the pot, increase your stake and bet more.
  • Raise: When money was already added to the pot during the round, bet more and increase your stake.
  • Call: Match the amount a previous player added to the pot and stay in the game.
  • Fold: Retire your hand and forfeit your stake.

Each round will resume in a clockwise manner around the table until all players make their betting decisions. The game will finish when all players but one retire, or when the River is dealt and a Showdown between the remaining players reveals the winner with the best hand of cards.

Omaha Poker Rules

Although less common, Pot Limit Omaha is the distant-second, most popular poker variation after Texas Hold’em. So you can start learning what is poker by concentrating on Omaha. Or you can leave your options open by first learning how to play poker at Texas Hold’em tables and then moving on to Omaha poker.

The main difference between Omaha and Texas Hold’em poker is that Omaha players are dealt 4 Hope Cards instead of 2. To make a winning hand at Omaha poker, you must use 2 Hole Cards, but no more than 2. Like in Texas Hold’em poker, Omaha has 5 Community Cards dealt with a Flop, Turn and River. There are many variations of Omaha poker, with the most popular one being Pot Limit Omaha. In this variation, a player can bet the amount that is in the pot.

Poker Hand Rankings

Now that you read the rules and have a general understanding of what is poker, it’s time to discuss the hand rankings that will help you win the game. Understanding hand rankings is the basic to learning how to play poker and building up your winning poker strategy.

As we mentioned before, game rules change between different poker variants. But the main goal at every poker game is to construct a winning hand.

Below are the poker hands ranked by value from high to low:

  • Royal Flush: A Straight Flush that runs to the Ace. The highest possible Flush, with a 1 in 650,000 chance of being dealt.
  • Straight Flush: 5 consecutive cards of the same suit.
  • Four of a Kind: 4 cards of one rank and one card of another rank (the Kicker).
  • Full House: 3 of a Kind and a Pair.
  • Flush: 5 cards of the same suit (can be a different sequence). When two players have a Flush, the player holding the highest card in a suit wins.
  • Straight: 5 cards of a running sequence, can be of a different suit.
  • Three of a Kind: 3 of any similar cards.
  • Two Pairs: 2 pairs of similar cards. When more players have two pairs, the highest pair wins.
  • One Pair: 2 of any similar cards.
  • High Card: The highest single card if no other combinations are available. When more players have the same high card, the hand with the second-highest card wins.

Poker Strategy Tips

Now that you have a basic understanding of what is poker, it’s time to take to the tables and start playing the exciting game. Although it is easy to learn how to play poker, building your strategy and mastering the game takes time and practice. The good news is, that our guide provides simple poker tips and tricks that will help you get ahead of the pack.

Here are a few key strategies that you should keep in mind when you learn how to play poker:

Take Advantage of Poker Bonuses and Promotions

All the poker sites we recommend at Playright.co.uk offer attractive bonuses and promotions. These will allow you to learn how to play poker without spending your own money. You can see at our poker pages tables that compare the different sites and bonuses. We constantly update our site with new poker promotions. So bookmark our poker guides and visit them regularly.

Invest In Your Knowledge

Poker is a game that involves luck and skill. Although many see poker as a competitive sport, it is still considered a form of gambling. And as such, there is an element of luck that you cannot control. Although luck is a big part of the game, investing time and effort in learning how to play poker will greatly increase your playing level and even your winning rates.

All the poker sites we feature on Playright.co.uk offer advanced tools and resources. These will help you learn the ins and outs of what is poker, as well as teach you how to play poker and improve your game. Take time to read and watch tutorials and videos, read about poker strategies, etc.

Learn the Language

There are many new words and terms to learn when you are just starting with poker. Some new players that don’t know what is poker think that the lingo is intimidating. Learn the basic terms and even prepare a cheat sheet to have next to you when playing. It will enable you to focus on the game with no distraction.

Use Hand History Software

Poker isn’t only a game mastered at the tables. If you are serious about learning how to play poker, invest time preparing before, and analysing games after. Use the tools offered by online poker operators to see your hand history and game statistics. Some also provide stats on your opponents. So you can analyse them and adjust your game .

Some operators such as GGPoker (which stands for Good Game Poker) aim at protecting player safety and providing an even playing field for players at all levels. So although not offering the support of external tools, GGPoker provides its own state of the art resources such as default game tracking features.

Use Your Position

Your seat at the poker table will be determined by the dealer button. Positions move clockwise with every round. Understand each spot and the threats and opportunities it presents. In an early position, you can be more proactive. Whereas later positions will give you more information about your opponents. As a rule, while learning how to play poker, always be more careful when you are close to the Small Blind.

Play Only Selected Hands

Before you know what is poker, it’s always best to be selective with the hands you play. Pass on the bad and intermediate hands, and concentrate on the good hands that come less often.

These are the best starting poker hands in order of value:

  1. A-A
  2. K-K
  3. Q-Q
  4. J-J
  5. A-K of the same suit
  6. A-Q of the same suit
  7. A-J of the same suit
  8. K-Q of the same suit

All of these Hole Card combos will give you a good start. So you can stay in the game and raise late.

 

Play Aggressively

If you are playing premium hands, you need to take some risks and back them up with large bets. Beyond the large reward potential, betting aggressively can scare other players that don’t know how to play poker and force them out.

Find Recreational Players

A good way to develop your poker strategy is by playing against players that don’t know too much about what is poker. This will allow you to stay in the game for longer and develop your skills while you learn how to play poker. It will also build your confidence, and you can even earn some money.

Learn How to Bluff

Learning the art of bluffing is a big part of learning how to play poker. Good poker players know how to bluff and get their opponents to fold. This, even if the opponents have stronger hands than theirs. If you practice putting up an aggressive appearance, your opponents won’t know if you are trying to intimidate them. Or if you actually have a good hand.

Don’t Bluff All the Time

Although bluffing should be a part of your poker strategy, pulling too many bluffs will cost you a lot of chips. After being called a few times, even players that barely know what is poker will realise your tactics and use them against you.

Defend Your Blinds

Some old-school strategies say that most hands should be folded on blinds. But newer strategies say that blinds should be defended in most cases. Regardless of your decision on how to play poker, always play blinds with caution and be aware of re-raised pots and players staying in the hand.

Don’t be Afraid to Fold

Before you understand what is poker, you will be tempted to hold on to many hands. But you must learn that folding a lot is a big part of how to play poker. The best rule to keep in mind is: When passive players that usually fold start raising, it’s time to fold even if you have a good hand.

Understand Hand Rankings and Odds

Understanding the hand ranking and odds is a major part of knowing how to play poker. But a more immediate tip is understanding the rankings of 5-card hands. There are many hand ranking cheat sheets available. So print one and keep it next to you when playing. Many poker sites also provide odd calculators and tools you can use. A great way to understand more about hand rankings and odds is to play video poker at online casinos.

Start at Low Stakes Tables

Experienced poker players don’t like low stake games. But if you are just learning how to play poker, there are good reasons to look for low stake tables. You are not risking a lot of money, you will play against inexperienced players and it will allow you to understand and practice the game.

Consider Poker Staking

Poker Staking, also known as ‘backing’, refers to the act of an investor (‘backer’) putting money on behalf of a poker player (‘horse’) in exchange for a cut in the profits. It is an exciting way to buy stake into high-profile poker games. This, while reducing your own risk and leveraging the skills of more experienced poker players. GGPoker provides a great range of staking deals that let you back verified poker players safely and securely. Once you start climbing through the ranks and become a skilled player yourself, you can even use GGPoker to find your own backers.

Don’t Play Beyond Your Bankroll

Remember that although poker is exciting and involves a lot of skill and strategy, it is still considered in the UK a form of gambling. As such, it should not be treated as a sure way to earn money. Especially before you even understand what is poker. Beyond being paramount to safe gambling, being smart about how you invest and spend your poker money will help you keep your prize money, stay in action and move up the stakes. So always gamble responsibly.

 

Summary

Starting to play poker is easy, but the game of poker takes years to master. The good news is, that with a few simple steps you can build your basic poker strategy. This will allow you to learn how to play poker and start improving your skills right away. So you can join one of the leading poker online sites, receive a great bonus and start building your poker strategy from day one.

Check out the Playright.co.uk recommended poker rooms, and claim your exclusive poker bonus today!

Reviewer Photo
Written by: Ziv Chen
Apr 07 2021
With over two decades of work experience in the online gaming industry, Ziv has been covering topics such as casino table games, slots, poker and sports betting. He also loves to write about American sports, betting odds and game predictions. A self-proclaimed struggling artist, Ziv finds his creativity constantly torn between his two biggest passions: American football and world football (soccer).