How to Play Poker: The Definitive Guide to Poker Rules

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poker rules

Last week I broke down the top 5 mistakes that you‘ll make while playing poker. The number one mistake was not understanding the rules of poker. Learning them sounds simple, but there are so many different types of poker games, that it can easily get complicated.

So to make things a bit easier for you, here’s your cheat sheet to poker rules.

Texas Hold ‘em

texas holdem

The most popular poker game is Texas Hold ‘em, which is played with a regular 52-card deck. Your supposed to use the two cards the dealer gives you with the five community cards to make the best possible five-card hand.

Posting the blinds

Antes are not required in this game, but blinds are. (big blind and small blind)

The game starts off with the person who is sitting on the left side of the dealer. This person will start the pot off with the pre-determined big blind and the person to their left will place the pre-determined small blind into the pot as well. Basically, the big blind is the full minimum bet while the small blind is half the minimum bet.

These bets are required and you have to do them before any cards are dealt.

Your two cards

Once the big and small blinds are placed, everyone gets their first two cards. These cards are known as the hole cards, or pocket cards. You have to keep your two cards face down on the table. (you’re allowed to look at them, just don’t show anyone else)

The first round of betting

After everyone gets their two cards, the first round of betting. The person with the small blind is up first. You have these three options:

  1. Call – if you call you have to bet the same amount as the big blind.
  2. Raising – you would pick this option if you want to bet more money than the big blind. The raise amount will change depending upon the type of game you are playing. For example, in Pot Limit Hold ‘em games it’s a fixed amount and it can’t be larger than the current pot size. But in No Limit Hold ‘em games, the you can raise however much you want.
  3. Fold – by picking this option you are deciding not to play the current hand. All you have to do is keep your cards faced down and push them towards the middle of the poker table.

The Flop

Once the first round of betting is done, a burn card is placed on the table from the very top of the deck, which makes it harder for people to cheat. Then the first three cards, which are also known as community cards, are then placed on the board face up.

The second round of betting

The person to the left of the dealer, who is still in the game, will start this round as well as any future rounds for this hand. With this betting round there is a fourth option that is available, check. Check means that you can stay in without placing a bet until it’s your turn again.

The turn

After the second round of betting has finished, another card is burned and then the turn comes. The turn is when one card is placed on the board face up next to the first three community cards.

The third round of betting

After the turn, everyone has a chance to bet again. If you are playing in a limit Hold ‘em game, the fixed amount will double. The doubled amount will remain for the rest of the hand.

The river

Once the betting is finished another card is burned. The fifth community card gets placed on the board face up, which is called the river.

The fourth round of betting (showdown)

This is when the final round of betting begins, and once it’s complete the showdown begins. If there’s two or more players still left in the game with the same hand then the next highest card that the player is holding, which is known as the kicker, determines the winner. If there isn’t a different kicker card the pot is split evenly.


omaha poker

Don’t confuse Omaha with Texas Hold ‘em. Although there are similarities between the two games, there are plenty of differences as well.

Your main goal is to create the best possible five-card hand using at least two of your hole cards and three of the community cards.

Although Omaha poker is based off of Texas Hold ‘em rules there are three main differences between the games.

  1. Four hole cards, or pocket cards, are dealt to you instead of two.
  2. You cannot play the board in Omaha. You have to use at least two of your hole cards in your final five-card hand.
  3. There can only be a maximum of 10 players.

The blinds

The way big and small blinds work in Omaha is the same way as they do in Texas Hold ‘em.

Your four cards

Once you place the blinds every player is dealt four hole cards. These cards remain face down just like they do in Texas Hold ‘em. And once you look at your cards, the first round of betting begins.

Rounds of betting

The rounds of betting in Omaha are exactly the same as they are in Texas Hold ‘em. This also includes the flop, turn and river.

Key differences

Omaha is played in either Pot-Limit or Limit… it’s rarely played as a No-Limit game. In Pot-Limit Omaha, the minimum bet is equal to the big blind while the maximum bet is equal to the size of the pot.

With Limit Omaha, on the flop, the betting size is based by the small blind. A bet would be equal to the small blind while a raise would be double the small blind (equal to the big blind).

During the turn and the river stages of the game a bet would be equal to the big blind while the raise would be double the big blind.

Omaha Hi-Lo

omaha hi low

Omaha Hi-Lo is a variation of Omaha poker. It is also known as Omaha 8 or 8 or better.

The basic rules of the game come from Omaha, but there are a few differences that you need to know about.

Key differences

In Omaha Hi-Lo, the pot is split between the Hi and the Lo hands. If there isn’t a qualifying Lo hand, the player that holds the Hi hand will win the entire pot. (sometimes having a Lo hand isn’t even possible)

Since you have to use two of your four hole cards, three of the community cards on the board have to be at least 8 or lower. If there isn’t, a “Lo hand” won’t be made and you’ll have to focus on getting a “Hi hand”.

And if you have the Hi hand and the Lo hand, you’ll receive the entire pot.

Lastly, when it comes to game, the blinds, the rounds of betting and the playing rounds are the same as they are in Omaha.

Pai Gow


Pai Gow Poker, is also known as Double-Hand Poker. The speed of the game is fast and it is actually based off an old Chinese domino game.

Pai Gow is played with a standard 52-card deck, but with an additional Joker. The game can also be played with 6 palyers.

Your goal is to get two hands from the seven cards dealt to each player and beat the dealer’s two hands. The initial five-card hand has to exceed the second two-card hand’s value. If it isn’t a foul is called and you’ll automatically lose.

The five-card hand is considered the high hand and the two-card hand is considered the low hand.

The deal and betting rounds

Before the first deal, you will make a bet based on the current table minimum. Then each player and the dealer will get seven cards.

This is when another betting round starts. And once it’s finished, players will arrange their hands to form a five-card hand and a two-card hand. These two hands will then be placed face down on the table. The dealer will turn his or her cards over and organize them as two hands.

You’ll then turn over your two hands. If the both of your hands beat both the dealer’s hands then you win. If only one of your hands beats the dealer’s then the dealer wins. If your two hands tie the dealer’s two hands then the dealer wins because there is no push in Pai Gow.

The joker

The joker that is added to the standard 52-deck can only be used in the place of an ace or to complete a flush, straight or a straight flush. This means that if you are using a joker in your two-card hand, it can only represent an ace.

Pai Gow and the dice

In some casinos, Pai Gow is played with three dice. In this game, there are seven stacks that each contain seven cards. The dealer will then roll three dice to determine who receives the first stack of cards.

The dealer adds the three dice together and then he or she starts counting around the table to determine who gets the first hand. Once the first player gets their hands the remainder stacks are distributed to the rest of the players in a counterclockwise direction.

Seven Card Stud

7 card stuff

This game is played with anywhere from two and eight players. You are dealt seven cards in total, 3 of them are face down and 4 of them are up. Your goal is to make the best possible five-card hand with the seven cards you have.

Forced bets

In Seven Card Stud, there are forced bets that you need to be aware of. In most cases, the ante that is placed is 1/5 of the size of the low limit bet. You are required to “ante up” before the start of the hand. The antes do not count toward any future bets.

Another forced bet is the bring in. When everyone has at least one card face up, the player with the lowest card is required to “bring in” and this player will have to place 1/2 of the low limit bet in the pot. If two players share the same value of card, the one closest to the left of the dealer will have to bring in.

The good news is, this does count as your initial bet and you’ll only be required to enter in more chips into the pot if someone raises.

Third street

You’ll receive two cards face down and one card face up. The player with the lowest showing card will bring in. If this player wants, they can raise. You’ll then decide to either call, raise or fold. Any bet that’s placed must be at least the same amount of low limit bet size.

Fourth street

You’ll receive another card that is dealt face up. The player that shows the highest hand (pair of aces and goes down from there) will be the first to take action. Check, bet or fold is your options.

Fifth street

Another card is dealt to you face up, which is the fifth card. The highest hand showing will take action first just like in the previous rounds. The only difference in fifth street is that the bets as well as raises have to be the same as the high limit bet size.

Sixth street

Now the sixth card is dealt to you face up. The player with the highest showing card will take action first just like previous rounds. Bets as well as raises have to be the same as the high limit bet size.

Seventh street

The seventh and final card is now dealt you, but this time it’s dealt face down. Bets and the raises have to be equal to that of the high limit bet size.

In most cases all everyone won’t still be in the game, but it’s possible. When this happens, the final card is placed in the middle of the table because there aren’t enough cards to give you and everyone else. At this point all players can use this card to make their best five-card hand.


The person who bet last that hasn’t folded will show their cards first. Everyone remaning now shows their best hands counterclockwise. If you have the highest five-card hand, you win the pot… and if you don’, you’ll lose.

Five Card Stud

5 card stud

Five Card Stud is similar to Seven Card Stud. The main difference is that you’ll receives five cards instead of seven. The first card is dealt face down while the other 4 cards are dealt face up.

Forced bets

Before any cards are dealt you are required to place an ante. Usually the ante is equal to about 10% of the lowest betting limit. Once the antes have been placed, you’ll receive one card face up and one card face down.

The player with the lowest showing card will pay the “bring in” which is equivalent to half of the minimum bet. The player paying the bring can raise the bet to the minimum betting limit if they want.

First round of betting

After the antes and the bring in has been placed, betting takes place clockwise around the poker table. At this point, you’ll have three options: call, raise or fold. All bets have to be matched before the first betting round is over.

Third street

You’ll get one more card that’ll be placed face-up. The next betting round starts with the player who has the highest card showing. Starting in third street and for the remainder of the game, all bets that are made will be determined by the larger betting limit.

Fourth street

One more card is dealt to you face-up with another round of betting.

Fifth street

The last card is dealt to you face-up with another round of betting. You should now have four cards face-up and one card face down.


After the final betting round, you’ll reveal you hand. The pot goes to the player with the best possible five-card hand.

Five Card Draw

5 card draw

This is the game that started the whole revolution of the poker industry. The goal of the game is to create the best possible five-card poker hand after a single draw.

Antes or blinds?

There are a couple different versions of Five Card Draw. One of them uses antes while the other uses blinds. When an ante is used, you have to place a small forced bet at the beginning of each hand. Antes are normally about 10% of the small betting limit of the game.

But if blinds are used, it ends up being similar to Texas Hold ‘em. The two players to the immediate left of the dealer will place the small and big blinds.

The deal

After the antes or blinds have been placed, the dealer then deals five cards to you and each other player clockwise around the poker table, until everyone has five total cards face down.

First round of betting

After everyone receives their five cards face down, the first round of betting begins. Your options are to call, raise or fold.

The draw

You have the opportunity to replace up to five of you current cards by drawing new ones. You can also keep all five of their cards if you like them.

Second round of betting

Now that everyone has their 5 cards, it is now time for a second round of betting. The betting will begin with the player that is still in the game that is to the immediate left of the dealer. This player has the option to check, bet or fold. You’ll then have the same option.


As long as there at least two players are still in the game after the second and final betting round, a showdown takes place. Whoever has the best five-card hand wins the pot.


Understanding these rules will make you a better poker player. Reading them is just the first step to understanding them… but what you really have to do is start playing poker.

So what do you think? Do you understand the different games of poker a bit better now?

10 thoughts on “How to Play Poker: The Definitive Guide to Poker Rules”

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