Poker has been a popular casino game for around 200 years, but beginners often find joining their first poker game a little daunting. It’s seen as a complex and strategy-driven game, popular with experienced gamblers. However, it’s actually a game that can be fun for players of all skill and experience levels. If you’re a beginner wondering how to play poker, or if you should even try, check out our poker step-by-step guide.

Basic poker rules

The first step toward poker-playing success is to understand the basic poker rules. There are several different types of poker, and when it comes to playing poker online, beginners assume that this makes the learning process confusing. Sometimes it does, so it’s best to stick to one version until you get the hang of it. However, there are some rules that are common to all types of poker.

All versions of poker are based around universal poker hand rankings. These are common to all games, though there are some games that use the rankings in different ways, such as making the lowest-value hand the most desirable (low-ball poker). Check out our poker hands explained article for more details, but the most desirable hands include:

  • Royal flush: This contains the ace, king, queen, jack and 10 card, all of which must be from the same suit. 
  • Straight flush: A straight flush is just five cards in a sequence from the same suit – for example, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. 
  • Four of a kind: Four cards of the same rank with an additional ‘kicker’ card. 
  • Full house: Three cards of the same rank, such as three kings, and a pair of matching cards – such as two jacks. 
  • Straight: Five cards in a sequence that do not belong to the same suit. 

There are other rules that are the same in most versions of poker, such as the game starting with some sort of forced bet, referred to as the ante or the blind. All versions of poker also have similar types of bet with specific names. A ‘call’ refers to matching another player’s bet, while a ‘raise’ involves increasing the size of the current bet. Another common rule is the right of players to ‘fold’ and simply not play a hand that they know is unlikely to win.

Different poker games

Although they have some rules in common, different versions of poker all tend to add their own twist to the game, which makes things a little more interesting, and means that different poker strategies are needed for each variant of the game. Take a look at our poker-playing guides for the specific rules that apply to each version.

Tips for winning poker

If you want to walk away a winner, follow our basic poker tips:

  • Do your research – spend some time learning about different poker strategies before you play so that you can try them out and recognize when others are using them.
  • Fold on weak hands – spend time studying how others are playing to learn more about the game and your opponents.
  • Stick with one version of the game to start with – you’ll be able to learn the basic rules without having to worry about small differences in game play.
  • Don’t be afraid to play aggressively when you have a strong hand – poker does tend to reward those who are happy to take a risk.
  • Practice playing poker for free online – you’ll learn more when you’re not under too much pressure.
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Poker play in five simple steps 

Learning how to play poker doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow our five poker steps to get started quickly and easily. 

Choose your version

As already mentioned, it’s best to stick to one version of poker until you understand the basics. You can then move on to trying other types. Most people will start with a simple five-card draw, but if you want to dive straight in with another popular version of the game, that’s fine. Just stay consistent until you have a good grasp of the rules.

Understand the positions

In any game of poker, the dealer (often called the button) deals the cards and manages the game. The other positions at the table include the blinds, who place the initial bet, and then the early, middle and late positions, depending on the seating around the table. The ‘later’ your position, the better, in many ways. Getting to act last, after everyone else has either placed their bets or folded, lets you place a bet with a better idea of how the game is going.

Know your poker hands

The hands laid out above are the most desirable, but you should learn about all the possible hands. Remember that generally, the highest hand wins when there’s a tie, so whatever your hand is, high cards are best.

Assess your hand

You’ll be dealt two cards initially. The two players to the left of the dealer start a new game by each playing a forced bet, known as the small blind and the big blind. The play then continues clockwise around the table. If you have a strong hand, play it, and place a bet with confidence. However, remember that if you have a weak hand, it is fine to fold at this point. This means that you’ll sit this handout and join in again on the next one.

Betting, winning and losing

Remember, you can call (match the current bet) or raise (increase the current bet). If you’re really confident, you can go all in and bet all your chips. You can fold at any time. At the end of the game, the players left in reveal their hand and the best hand wins. If more than one player have the same hand, the one with the highest cards wins. Then, the next hand begins, with a change of dealer. There are no set number of hands played in a poker game, which is why they can go on all night, or until the losing players run out of money (in which case the winners can keep playing).

play poker online 

Getting started with playing poker online is easy. Sign up with Resorts Casino today to play free online poker or play for real money from the start if you’re feeling lucky.

Author: Tanya Fields

Campaign Acquisition Manager Length with RC: 1 year, 9 months Favorite Casino Game: Starburst Background in iGaming: Opened the iGaming Department at Hard Rock Atlantic City in 2018 in both Customer Service, and then CRM, prior to moving over to RC in January 2021 Location: Based in NJ at the RC HQ Content: Occasionally, but only as it pertains to RC