How to Play Poker: Rules and Hand Rankings

Texas Hold’em is the world’s most popular variant of poker. This article will quickly teach you the rules and how to play the game.

How the game starts

One player acts as dealer. This position is called the button and it rotates clockwise after every hand.

The two players to the left of the dealer are called the small blind and the big blind, respectively, and they are forced to put bets of a pre-determined amount into the pot before the cards are dealt.

Every player at the table is then dealt two cards face down – these are called your ‘hole cards’.

Then there is a round of betting that goes clockwise around the table where you can choose to play your hand with a ‘call’ (match the amount of the big blind) or a ‘raise’. If you choose not to play your hand, you ‘fold’.

This stage is known as ‘pre-flop’ and the action you should take is dependent on your starting hand. If you are unsure about the value of different starting hands in poker then check the step below which outlines all you need to know.

When all the pre-flop betting has finished, we move onto the next stage of the hand called the flop.

How the play continues

Three community cards are dealt face-up in the middle of the table. This is called the flop.

The betting resumes, clockwise from the button, with each player having the option to check (if no bet is in front of them), bet (or raise if a bet is before them), call or fold.

When this round of betting is finished, a fourth community card is dealt face-up. This is called the turn.

After another round of betting follows before a final shared card – called the river – is dealt.

One final round of betting on the river concludes the hand. with players now able to use their hole cards and all five cards in the middle to make the best possible five-card poker hand. Not sure what the best Texas Holdem poker hands are? We explain that further below.

End of the hand

There are two ways a hand can end.

The first is when the action on the rival ends with a call – both players show their hole cards and the player with the best hand wins. This is known as a showdown.

The other is that someone will bet enough that everyone else folds. This is how many hands end in Texas Hold’em and that’s the magic of the game – you don’t always need the best hand to win.

Poker Hand Rankings

Though bluffing is a well-known aspect of poker and a huge part of the game, it’s still important to aim to make the strongest poker hand – especially for beginners. The hand rankings are as follows:

Best Starting Hands

As a starting point, it’s essential to know which hands are best to play and why.

Below is a chart of the Top 10 Starting Hands in Texas Hold’em:

Big pairs like two aces (aka Pocket Aces or AA), two kings, or two queens are three of the strongest starting hands in the game. Why is that? Because you begin the hand with one pair even before the community cards are dealt. You can also improve to strong hands like Three of a Kind or Quads once you see the flop, turn and river.

Suited cards like Ace-King, Ace-Queen, and King-Queen are also strong holdings. Why? Because if any of these appear on the community cards you will likely hold the best pair possible (aka top pair). These cards are also good for making straights and flushes.

Example Hand

If you have KK (pocket kings) and the community cards are 9-9-K-5-2 you have a full house. You use your two hold cards (KK) along with the 9-9-K on the board to make K-K-K-9-9, the best five-card hand possible.

If the community cards were 9-8-K-5-2 you would have Three of a Kind, K-K-K-9-8.

And if the board was 9-8-4-5-2 you would just have a Pair of Kings, K-K-9-8-4.

Now that you’re clear on that, find out how to join our poker tournament on 888poker on Sunday 29th March 2020.

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