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How to play poker for beginners: rules and instructions

2022 Jun 10 11 min read
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It is said that over 100 million people play poker games regularly. Why? There are many ways to answer that question, but the short version is that poker is one of the cash games that doesn’t rely on just raw luck.

When you play poker, your skills are constantly put to the test, and whoever goes on to win the hand must be the boldest and most observant player at the table. The best part? A complete newbie can win the pot all the same!

Interested in kick-starting your online poker experience? EnergyCasino is a phenomenal online poker site to learn how to play poker, and you’ll understand why pretty soon.


Most poker games follow the same basic poker rules, which is why it would be a good idea to get to know them before you decide to play poker.

Whether you want to try out some a home poker game or cash game at your favourite casino, the basis of poker is the same. Granted, there are some complicated poker games out there, but for the purpose of this post, we’ll help you learn how to play traditional Texas hold’em.

Texas hold’em is one of the most popular poker variants out there. Not only is it extremely enjoyable to play, but it is quite easy to get accustomed to once you’ve racked up some experience.


Should you be looking to play Texas hold’em, which is regarded as the most traditional poker game out there, you definitely have to get accustomed to the poker hand rankings below.

This list details the hierarchy of poker hands, which means that this is how the winner of a poker game is determined.

If you want to learn how to play poker at your own pace, keep the list of poker hand rankings by your side while playing. You will eventually know this list like the palm of your hand, so there’s no need to fret!

Another thing worth noting is that the traditional hand rankings make use of community cards. If you’re not playing a community card game, these rankings will not apply.

Here are the Texas hold’em poker hands rankings, starting from the strongest to the weakest:

  • Royal Flush — consisting of the five consecutive cards A-K-Q-J-10 of the same suit, this is the best poker hand. This five-card hand beats all the others, and it can only tie with another royal flush.
  • Straight Flush — consisting of five consecutive cards of the same suit — is the second-best hand. A straight flush beats all the other hands except for a royal flush and a higher straight flush.
  • Four Of A Kind — also referred to as quads, features four cards of the same rank, such as four nines.
  • Full house — is made up of three of a kind combined with a pair of a different rank. For example, three eights and two aces would make a full house.
  • Flush — consists of five cards of the same suit, but they must not be consecutive cards.
  • Straight — A straight poker hand consists of five consecutive cards of different suits. For example, a K-Q-J-10-9 of different suits would make a straight poker hand.
  • Three Of A Kind — three cards of the same rank are required to make a three of a kind, which only beats three other hands: a two pair, a pair and a high card.
  • Two Pairs — a two pair consists of one pair of the same rank and another pair of another rank. A two pair beats a pair as well as high cards.
  • One Pair — A pair simply consists of two cards of identical rank, such as two queens. A one pair beats a high card and, at most, a one pair of a lower rank.
  • High Card — This is the worst hand possible. It is made up of five cards that don’t form any of the hands listed above.


The poker position is simply the placement allocated to a player at a poker table. The way poker positions are determined in card games like Texas hold’em is via the dealer button, which shifts in a clockwise direction after each game is played.

This guarantees that all the poker players present will get equal time to act in each betting position at some point.

The poker table positions are divided into three categories: early position, middle position and late position. Here’s a list of the positions in sequential order:

  • Small blind
  • Big blind
  • Under the Gun (UTG)
  • One position after the UTG player
  • Two positions after the UTG player
  • Lowjack position
  • Hijack position
  • Cutoff position
  • Button position

After the blinds, which will be explained in detail later on, the early positions are occupied by the UTG players. The middle positions are occupied by Lojack and Hijack players, whereas the late positions are occupied by the cutoff and the button.

In poker, early positions are less favourable compared to late positions. Playing at an early position both pre-flop and post-flop means that players acting after you can gauge the strength of your hand and act accordingly.

Late poker positions, on the other hand, are notoriously profitable. Anything from pocket pairs to suited connectors can work to steal the pot, since you’ll have had all the time in the world to read your opponents and make your tells.


There are two kinds of forced bets: the small blind and the big blind. The small blind is the first player left of the dealer position (the dealer button).

A poker player acts second to last during the opening round and then acts first in each round that comes after. It is often deemed as the worst position to be in as you would essentially be placing blind stakes.

The other forced bet, the big blind, is seated two positions clockwise from the dealer position. The BB is also seated to the immediate left of the small blind.

Despite being forced bets, the purpose of the small blind and the big blind is to boost the whole pot and entice players to act and play. Without any poker chips in the starting point, players would take little action and would opt to wait until they are dealt stronger hands rather than risk bluffing.

In general, the value of the small blind is about half that of the big blind. Note that the small blind is in the same position as the button when playing heads-up.


Most poker variants follow a very linear betting structure. Chances are that playing one particular poker game for a while will help you understand how most games work in terms of betting rounds and the possible actions a player can make.

The basic rules we’re about to describe are true to Texas hold’em, but many other poker games share the same betting layout.

A round of betting commences once all cards have been dealt; that is, two hole cards for each player who progresses to the card draw. Once the betting time expires, players will be able to take the following actions:

  • Check — Pass the action to the next player without placing a wager. You can only check when a bet hasn’t been placed yet.
  • Bet — If a bet hasn’t already been placed, you can choose to place your own wager. And, once you’ve placed your bet, other players must respond.
  • Fold — By folding, you automatically forfeit your own hand and withdraw from the round.
  • Call — Respond to another player’s bet by matching it.
  • Raise — Respond to another player’s bet by raising the stake.

Not all actions are available during every betting round, which is why reading through the game’s basic rules before playing is imperative.

As you can see, online poker games offer pretty similar gameplay to the classic game. Tables like Texas hold ‘em and Omaha hold ‘em poker also have an identical game structure, consisting of:

  • The preflop — Begins when all punters receive their hole cards before community cards are dealt.
  • The flop — Commences after the three community cards are dealt.
  • The turn — Commences after the fourth community card is dealt.
  • The river — The hand begins once the final community card is placed on the table.

In each game round, players will be given the option to carry out one of the above-mentioned actions until only one player is left standing.


Whether you want to try out some home poker games or cash games at your favourite casino, the basis of poker is the same. Granted, there are some complicated poker games out there, but for the purpose of showing you how to play poker, we’ll stick to the traditional Texas hold’em.

Here’s how the action in Texas hold’em unfolds:

  1. The dealer deals exactly two hole cards to the remaining players.
  2. The hand begins, so the forced bets (the big blind and the small blind) are placed. The first round of betting occurs, in which players bet, check or raise depending on the hand dealt. Players can also choose to fold — discarding their hands and abandoning the game round. The betting begins from the big blind (who is the first bettor post-flop), with subsequent players acting in the order described above. Subsequent rounds all follow the same format.
  3. The hand progresses, so the dealer deals three community cards, face up.
  4. The second round of betting will occur.
  5. The dealer deals the fourth card, known as the ‘turn card’.
  6. The third betting round will occur.
  7. The dealer deals the fifth and final card. The fifth card is known as the ‘river card’. At this point, there are five community cards dealt on the table.
  8. The final round of betting will occur. The final betting round is is called the ‘showdown’.
  9. The remaining players will check or place their bets. After that, they will reveal their hands.
  10. The strongest five-card poker hand wins the pot.


What exactly is the point of the dealer? First off, let’s not confuse the real, actual dealer (in land-based and live poker) with the dealer’s button. The dealer puts the cards on the table and is generally responsible for the conduct of the game.

The dealer’s button is simply a poker position — also referred to as ‘the button’. As we’ve mentioned previously, playing at the button position is a very favourable placement, since you’ll be able to see everyone’s actions before making your own.


There are three types of poker betting limits: standard limit games, pot limit games and no limit games (for Texas hold’em games, these variants look like this: Limit hold’em, Pot Limit hold’em and No Limit hold’em).

In each, players will have to abide by certain betting rules that aim to reshape the conventional betting structure of Texas hold’em.

  • In Limit Texas hold’em, the limit comes into effect with regard to fixed limit betting. For example, a €5 fixed limit hold’em poker game will only allow bet increments of €5. This way, all players’ bet amounts cannot fall between €5 and the next multiple of five; say, €7 or €19. Under this betting structure, players can only bet €5 or any multiples of the upper limit, such as €10, €15, €20 and so on.
  • In Pot Limit Texas hold’em, the betting structure takes into account the value of the pot, in that players cannot bet more money than the pot is worth — this goes for both a bet or raise. For example, a pot value of €10 would mean that players cannot place a larger bet than €10 at that moment. Should they bet, say, €5, the pot value would then be €15; placing the new pot limit at €15. In this way, the pot limit format changes the betting dynamic quite considerably; thus, in turn, changing players’ strategies as well.
  • As the name suggests, No Limit hold’em is a no-limit betting game in which players do not have to abide by predetermined betting structures. In this format, players can bet as much as their chip stack allows since there is no limit imposed.


The poker rules in tournaments practically mirror the basic poker rules in any cash game. What’s the difference, one might ask?

There is a predetermined objective with which a tournament ends; that is, the player holding all the chips at the table will be the winner. Moreover, players are knocked out if their chip stack is depleted, unlike what happens in traditional card games, where a re-buy suffices to keep players in the game.

Among the tournament poker rules that deserve a mention are the potential wagering restrictions. This is called ‘spread limit’, where players will only be allowed to bet between a specific range. This will affect not only the initial bet but also the size of the pot as a whole.

In order to participate in a tournament, you will have to purchase a buy-in with your own money. Tournaments have different minimum and maximum buy-in amounts, so make sure that you choose an appropriate one to participate in. As a general rule, players should always go for tournaments depending on their skill level. If you’ve just about discovered how to play poker, we recommend going for low-stakes tournaments, or none at all until you really learn how to play.

Poker players tend to play differently in tournaments, so the best strategy for standard poker games might not work out in tournaments. If you’re an all-in player, you might need to rethink your strategy!


Texas hold’em constitutes a large part of the poker world, but there are many other variants out there deserving of a mention.

No matter which poker game you choose to play, it is important that you familiarise yourself with the game’s rules and special mechanics.

So far, we’ve covered how to play poker at the most traditional table — Texas hold’em — but what about other popular variants? The most poker games deserving of a mention are explained below.


The most glaring difference between Texas and Omaha poker is that each player is dealt four hole cards instead of two, whereas the four rounds of betting are identical.

At showdown (the final round of betting), players will compare their poker hands, but only specific combinations of hole cards and community cards are accepted. Players have to use at least two of the four hole cards to make their final hand.

One of the most popular Omaha games is Pot-limit Omaha poker, which, as its name suggests, restricts the size of the pot.


This is one of the draw poker games that are really worth explaining. As happens in Texas hold’em, Five-card draw includes two obligatory bets through the big and small blind to get the action going. After that, players are dealt five cards.

Players then have the option to dispose of any number of cards dealt to them. Said cards will be replaced by the dealer and another betting round begins.

Once the second round of betting is complete, the showdown begins. At this stage, players will compare their hands with one another. The best five-card hand will be the winning hand.


Seven-card Stud poker is a community card game in which players are dealt their own individual board of seven cards each—which is the reason why a maximum of eight people can play the game and not more. Similarly to Texas hold’em, the best five-card hand wins the pot.

Seven-card Stud kicks things off without any obligatory bets. Once players place an ante at the start of the hand, they will be dealt two hole cards and one face-up card. The player with the worst upcard of the table must place what is called the ‘bring-in bet’, which is simply a forced bet.
In the following street, the fourth face-up card is dealt to each active player, but this time, it is the player with the best upcard who acts first. By that point, every active player will have four upcards and two hole cards.

Another important point to be wary of is that, in Seven-card Stud, suits are important when it comes to deciding the bring in. The suit ranking is as follows (starting from the strongest to the weakest): spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs.


The rules of 2-7 Triple Draw are somewhat stranger than the other poker rules we’ve mentioned previously.

The deuce-seven hand, while the worst in Texas hold’em, makes the nuts (the best possible hand) in this poker game. In fact, the poker hand rankings of 2-7 Triple Draw work exactly the opposite of how they do in Texas hold’em.

For example, A-2-3-4-6 is not a very good hand in this poker game since aces are always high. As a result, this hand would be beaten by a hand such as 2-3-4-5-7.

Additionally, seeing as 2-7 Triple Draw falls under the ‘draw’ category of poker games, players can replace cards as they see fit, since there are no community cards.


As its name suggests, Short Deck is played with a shorter deck — 36, to be precise — which is why it revamps quite a lot of aspects of traditional poker.

This poker trait was actually quite common in the past, but it isn’t incorporated in too many variations nowadays.

With fewer cards in the deck, Short Deck doesn’t need much to provide a completely different experience to poker than the rest of the games we’ve mentioned so far.

The missing cards are those from two through five of all suits. For that reason, aces are used to form a straight of A-6-7-8-9 instead of A-2-3-4-5 in standard poker.


You might be wondering about the difference between playing online poker and playing at a standard, brick-and-mortar casino, so here’s a brief rundown of online poker:

  • It fails to deliver the immersive casino experience that land-based casinos offer. Although nice graphics and smooth animations can help poker sites offer the next best alternative to real poker, the experience simply isn’t the same.
  • It offers many more hands per hour compared to land-based poker, seeing as the dealer has to collect and deal the cards manually.
  • It is impossible for you to read other players better on account of their facial expressions and general demeanour.

What about the key differences between online poker and live poker?

  • Online poker is facilitated by an automated dealer, whereas live poker features a live, human dealer administrating the game in real-time.
  • Live poker offers less hands per hour compared to its online variant, seeing as the dealer determines the pace of the game.
  • Live poker is more immersive thanks to the dealer. Online poker is the least immersive variant of the three, but it is sufficient for players who want to poker in a fast-paced environment.