Get To Grips With Online Poker Rules
By Andrew Collinson
Poker actually covers dozens of games with a common aim: to have the best hand and win the pot.
Hand rankings can vary from game to game, and the betting can differ drastically. However, with a basic grasp of the rules you can migrate pretty easily from one discipline to another.
By far, the most popular form of poker online is Texas Hold'em. Coined "The Cadillac of Poker", Hold'em is popular because it's easy to learn, and the swings can be wild and exciting.
Let's take a look at the basic rules of Hold'em and show you how you can make your first games as hassle-free as possible. Don't forget, we have tips on playing all the exciting variants of poker that you'll find online.
Texas Hold'em Basics
Texas Hold'em is a game played with 52 standard playing cards. Two players can enjoy heads-up games, while a multi-table tournament can feature thousands of players battling it out.
At a 'full-ring' cash game or tournament, 9 or 10 players will sit at the table to play. Two cards are dealt face down to each player, starting with the player to the left of the Dealer button.
Before the hand starts, the two players to the left of the Button, the Small Blind and Big Blind, must place an enforced bet onto the table. In cash games this stays the same throughout a session. In a tournament, the blinds increase as the levels move up. Blinds help move the action along and bring games to a conclusion.
Placing Bets and Options
Once the cards have been dealt, the player to the left of the Big Blind (Under the Gun - UTG) must make a decision. He can bet, make a raise, or fold (throw his hand away). Once the round is complete, the dealer discards one card (the 'burn) and deals three cards face up in the middle of the table. This is the flop and is shared by all the players at the table.
Play now starts with the Small Blind. He has several options:
- Check: Take no action. A check can be made as long as there has been no betting in the round.
- Bet: Make a bet from his stack. The minimum bet is the value of the big blind.
- Fold: Discard his hand and take no further action.
- Call: Match a previous bet made by another player.
- Raise: Increase the bet by at least doubling the previous bet.
Play continues with another round of betting. The dealer then deals out a fourth card (the "turn") and adds it to the board. A final round of betting takes place, and the dealer burns a final card before dealing the "river" card. The community cards are now complete.
Showdowns and Split Pots
After the fifth card is dealt, any players remaining have one final round of betting before showdown. The remaining players reveal their hole cards. The aim is to make the best five-card hand from any of their two hole cards and the five on the board.
Pots can be split, i.e. players have the same value hand. In this case, the pot is split among any players who remain. For example, the five community cards may have five clubs to make a flush. If a flush is better than any hand the players hold, the pot is shared.
Showdowns are done in order, with the player who was called showing his hand first.
Hands are ranked based on classic poker hand rankings:
(from best to worst):
- Royal Flush (e.g. 10-J-Q-K-A of the same suit)
- Straight Flush (e.g. 2-3-4-5-6 of the same suit)
- Four of a Kind (e.g. K-K-K-K-3)
- Full House (e.g. 10-10-10-J-J)
- Flush (e.g. 3-5-7-10-Q of the same suit)
- Straight (e.g. 3-4-5-6-7 of different suits)
- Three of a Kind (e.g. 2-3-K-K-K)
- Two Pair (e.g. 2-2-3-3-A)
- One Pair (e.g. K-K-3-4-5)
- High Card (e.g. A-J-9-8-2)
Knowing the rules will get you so far in a game of Hold'em. But knowing some basic etiquette will get you even further.
If you're playing live or online, there are certain social rules you should adhere to if you don't want strange looks:
- Don't talk about your dead hands - If you've folded, don't talk about it to other players, especially if they're still in the hand.
- Don't talk about other people's hands - Worse than talking about your own hands is talking about other players'. If a player is trying to work out what to do, his opponent won't take kindly to you sharing your invaluable knowledge on what he could or couldn't have.
- Don't bet out of turn - This is harder online as the program won't allow it, but in a live situation don't bet when the action isn't on you. It shows you're not paying attention and gives away information about your own hand.
- Don't abuse players - This is a good rule for live and online. Abusing or swearing at players is bad etiquette and not in the spirit of the game.
- No slowrolling - Unless you're trying to get under a player's skin, don't slowroll good hands. If you're "agonising" over a call while holding the winning hand, and then you reveal your cards, it will rile your opponent and the other players.