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Poker Rules

So you’ve heard about this new world craze known as Texas Holdem Poker? Want to know more? Want to get involved but don’t know the rules? Here we explain the basic rules of some of the world’s most popular poker games; Texas Holdem, Omaha and Stud.

There are some basics which apply to the majority of all poker games variations across the world including Holdem, Omaha and Stud games.

The game is normally played with a full deck of 52 cards, with players betting on the strength and value of their hands, against other players at the table. Poker is not played against the house like many casino games.

Players can win a hand by either having the best combination of cards at the completion of all betting, or bet large enough so that all of their opponents decline to match their bet (call), thus they fold. There are many variants of poker across the world, but they almost all involve several rounds of betting, followed by a showdown (presentation and comparison of cards to decide which player has the best hand).

It is an overused statement, but what makes the game so popular is the fact that poker is a game that can be learned by anyone in minutes, but will take a lifetime to master. Players get better with playing experience. PokerNetwork recommends downloading a reputable online poker site such as PokerStars to get you started as this is going to be the quickest, easiest and cheapest (free!) method to learn how to play the game. Once you’ve downloaded PokerStars and started playing in the free games, you’ll be able to decide when you’re ready to take the next step. But read on further first for the complete rules of Texas Holdem.

You can also learn online poker rules.

Poker Hand Ranking

The vast majority of poker games utilise the following table to decide which hand beats which at showdown. You may be familiar with it, if you have played a variant of poker before. It may be useful for new players to print this table and refer to it while learning how to play.

Royal Flush The best possible hand in Texas Holdem - Ten, Jack, Queen, King and Ace, all of the same suit.
e.g. 10 heartsJ heartsQ heartsK heartsA hearts
Straight Flush Five cards of the same suit and in sequential order - 9, Ten, Jack, Queen, King all of same suit.
e.g. 9 spades10 spadesJ spadesQ spadesK spades or A diams2 diams3 diams4 diams5 diams
Four of a kind Any four numerically matching cards.
e.g. 7 diams7 clubs7 spades7 hearts8 clubs
Full House Three of a kind and a pair in the same hand - Three Aces and Two Queens (called “Aces full of Queens”).
e.g. A clubsA diamsA heartsQ heartsQ spades
Flush Five cards of the same suit, in any order.
e.g. 5 diams7 diamsQ diamsA diams2 diams
Straight Five cards of any suit, in sequential order.
e.g. 4 spades5 hearts6 clubs7 diams8 hearts
Three of a kind Any three numerically matching cards. e.g. Q clubsQ heartsQ diams7 diams8 clubs
Two Pair Two different pairs in the same hand. e.g. A heartsA clubsK diamsK clubs7 hearts
Pair Any two numerically matching cards. e.g. 2 clubs2 spades7 hearts8 diamsQ hearts
High Card The highest ranked card in your hand, with the Ace being the highest and the Deuce (2) being the lowest. e.g. A heartsK diamsQ spades7 diams8 clubs

Game Structure and Betting Action

The game of Texas Holdem starts with players being dealt cards known as holecards. The order of the deal is decided by a plastic button usually labelled “Dealer” on the table that shifts around one seat at a time in a clockwise direction. This way each player will have a turn at receiving cards first. At the start of each deal the player to the left of the button is the small blind. The small blind is forced to bet a predetermined amount without seeing what their cards are, this is to get the action started. The player to the left of the small blind, is called the big blind, and this player also posts a predetermined bet which is usually double the amount put out by the small blind. In all cases the amounts are predetermined by the stakes of the game.

The dealer then proceeds to deal cards one at a time to each player, starting with the player in the small blind. In Holdem players receive two cards each to start the game.

Game Structures

Poker can be played with differing betting structures. The differing types are Fixed Limit, Pot Limit and No Limit. Fixed Limit betting means that the betting is structured so that players can only bet or raise a set amount.

Usually for Fixed Limit Holdem and Omaha games this amount is equal to the small blind in the preflop and flop betting rounds, and is usually equal to the amount of the big blind on the turn and river betting rounds.

Betting and raising is usually capped at four bets (three raises) in each betting round, so that players are limited in the amount that they can lose on any one hand. For this reason Fixed Limit Holdem games are often the best choice for beginners to learn real money play.

Players with good mathematical skills tend to excel at Fixed Limit games.

Pot Limit is the compromise between the structured nature of Fixed Limit games, and the sky high, white knuckled No Limit poker games.

In Pot Limit poker, players can bet, as the name suggests, up to the amount in the pot at that moment. So the more money in the pot, the larger the maximum bet. Again this allows a small amount of control over the size of the pots, but certainly not near as much control as Fixed Limit games.

Pot Limit is a betting structure most commonly played in Omaha games, but players can also find Pot Limit Holdem games.

The third and final structure and arguably the most popular is No Limit Holdem. In this betting structure the only limit on the amount bet by any player, is the amount of their own stack. Players can move the entirety of their stack “all-in” any time it is their turn to act, to put pressure on their opponents. The fact there are no caps on the betting amounts adds an exciting dimension to the game.

Ring Games vs Tournaments

As well as the various betting structures, there are also two distinct forms of poker. The first is the ring game (or cash game) in which a player’s chips represent the real money amount that they bought in for. Ring games vary in table stakes, from as low as $2 online or $20 in real live poker rooms. The player is then given a stack of chips equal to the amount that they bought in for.

Tables usually have a maximum amount that players can initially buy in for, but once their stack goes under the maximum they can reload their stack simply by buying more chips with real money. The preset table stakes remain the same for the entire time that the game runs. Players can enter and leave the game at any time, and take with them the chips that they have won.

The other form of poker is tournaments. This is the form of poker commonly played on television, at the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour and Aussie Millions. It is currently taking the world by storm in popularity due to the fact that you can win huge amounts of money for a very small investment.

Tournament poker is different from ring games, in that players all commence play at the same time with the same size chip stack, and as the game progresses the blinds are raised at preset intervals so that players are under increasing pressure to get involved in hands.

In poker tournaments players buy an entry for the same amount as all the other players, they are given a chip stack which does not represent a real dollar amount, rather the chips they are given are tokens to keep score with. Tournament poker is a game of survival, and when players lose all of their chips, they are eliminated from the tournament. Once a certain number of players are eliminated (usually somewhere in the order of 80%-90% of the field) players are then paid a percentage of the prize pool accumulated as per the tournaments payout structure. Tournaments usually continue to be played until one player has all the chips and is declared the champion! Players can not join and leave tournaments at anytime like they can in real money games, because their chip stack does not represent a real dollar value.

Tournament buy-ins (entry fees) range from as low $1 and below online, and $30 in live poker rooms. Online poker sites also frequently run what are called freeroll tournaments involving no buy-in where a player can win a share of some great prizes for free! Freerolls are also a fun way for beginners to learn about tournament poker without the pressure of paying their own entry. PokerNetwork regularly run some fantastic freerolls on most of the major sites with prizes including trips to major poker tournaments both in Australia and New Zealand, and around the world.

Where to Start

Many people the world over share a love for poker, and with practice many newcomers will soon share that love. The easiest and safest way to get started in poker is to download and join an online poker room as recommended by PokerNetwork. Also join the PokerNetwork forums and begin to discuss poker with players who can give advice on how to improve your game. This is the easiest way to get started, and from there you can expand into real money play and other forms of poker such as Stud, Draw and Hi-Lo.

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