How To Play Poker: A Guide For Beginners

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If you want to learn poker, it’s best to start with the most popular and interesting variation of all poker variations: Texas Hold’em Poker. It’s one of the most fun, challenging and rewarding.

This article is aimed at teaching beginners the basics of Texas Hold’em Poker, how to play poker and basic poker strategy.

How To Play No Limit Texas Hold’em Poker

No-Limit Hold’em, sometimes known as “Texas Hold’em,” is more than likely the poker game you’ve seen on TV and the one your friends play in their home games.

This is Texas NL Hold’Em in a nutshell

Two Hole Cards: Two cards are dealt to each player, face down.

Five Community Cards: Each player then uses those two cards (or one or none of those cards) in combination with five shared community cards to make their best-five card poker hand.

Make The Best Hand: The player with the best hand, or the one who makes everyone else fold their hands, wins the pot! 

You Can Bet As Much As You Want: There are four rounds of betting and any player who is in the hand, can put all of their chips in the middle at any time! This basically means that you can double or triple your total stack and even lose your whole stack in one hand! That’s the beauty of No Limit Hold’em!

There are plenty of other great poker games but in terms of simplicity and sheer popularity, No-Limit Hold’em reigns supreme. The game’s unique blend of strategy, psychology, random chance and number crunching is virtually unmatched by any other popular game.

How To Play The Game

Before you start playing, let’s get familiar with the basic hand rankings in poker. 90% of new players lose because they think they’re winning when they really aren’t! 

Poker hand ranking

Listed from Best to Worst

  1. Royal Flush (All the same suit, sequence A-K-Q-J-T)
  2. Straight Flush (Any sequence all the same suit, for instance 9-8-7-6-5)
  3. Four of a Kind (Four cards that are the same value, for instance A-A-A-A)
  4. Full House (Three of a kind AND a pair)
  5. Flush (All the same suit)
  6. Straight (A basic sequence such as 6-5-4-3-2)
  7. Three of a kind (Three cards that are the same value such as 5-5-5)
  8. Two-pair (Two pairs, such as 9-9 AND 5-5)
  9. Pair (Any pair whether it’s A-A or 2-2)
  10. High Card (Whatever your highest card is)

This isn’t hard to memorize but it’s essential that you do. Here are a few of the most common misconceptions:

— A straight beats flush (NOPE, just remember that all one suit > sequence)

— Two-pair beats three-of-a-kind (NOPE; in poker you’d rather have three aces then two aces and two kings)

— Overall card strength doesn’t matter but high card does (An ace-high flush is always better than a king-high flush)

Where Can You Play Poker

Want to play poker? Head over to one of the many real money poker clients in India such as PokerBaazi and try your luck there! All poker software providers offer play money versions for you to test your abilities.

How To Play Poker For Beginners

No Limit Hold’Em Poker uses a standard 52-card deck online. The game can be played anywhere between 2-10 players. If there aren’t any tables available, you can choose to play against thousands of players in a tournament format as well! 

Here’s how the basic game works

The dealer deals two cards each to every player starting from his left and ends the deal on himself or the person to his right (if you have a separate dealer for dealing all the hands.) The player on the dealer’s left is the first to act and they have a choice to:

  1. Bet (this is No-Limit Hold’em so they can bet ANY amount they want)
  2. Check (doing nothing basically).

If anyone decides to bet, the rest of the players have an option to:

  1. Call (Match the amount of the raise into the pot)
  2. Fold (Give up the hand and all the chips they’ve already put in the pot)
  3. Raise (Put even more chips into the pot)

This continues until everyone has matched the biggest bet or all the chips are in the middle. Once the first betting round is complete, the dealer opens three community cards face-up in the middle aka the Flop. These cards can be used by all players. Once again everyone still in the hand gets a chance to bet and consequently raise or fold.

Once that betting round is complete the dealer puts a fourth card on the table that anyone can use. This is called the Turn. The same process repeats and the dealer opens the fifth card on the board called the river. Everyone gets one more chance to bet/check/raise/fold. 

If more than one player is still left in the hand after the final betting hand the cards are exposed and the player with the highest ranked hand wins the pot.

What Are The Blinds

Even for new players, you might have heard the term “blinds” in poker. They are indeed a part of Texas Hold’Em but they’re not as complicated to understand as you might think.

The small blind and big blind are both relatively small bets that the two players on the direct left of the dealer are forced to put in the pot before every hand starts. You’re forced to put them in without seeing your cards meaning you are “blind.”

The blinds are placed to add an extra bit of pressure on the players. If not for the blinds, the players can just fold each hand without any consequences! 

Bluffing In Poker

Bluffing is an important part of poker but as a beginner you might want to avoid bluffing too much unless you’re very confident that your bluff will work. How come? Well you’re still learning relative hand strength which means you might not even know if you’re actually making a bluff or not. That’s not great.

If you really want to get into it and start bluffing, we recommend you use the technique called semi-bluff. That means you don’t just fire bets with bad cards but instead play hands that have the potential to hit the board and make a hand even if you’re called.

Bluffing in poker

How To Play A Poker Tournament

There are two distinct ways of playing No Limit Texas Hold’Em poker:

  • Cash Games
  • Tournaments

A cash game of poker has a minimum and maximum buy-in as well as set blinds that never change. For example, Rs.1/Rs.2 blinds with a minimum Rs. 20 and Rs.200 maximum buy-in.  A poker tournament, however, has a set buy-in amount and all of the money collected from entries is accumulated in a prize which is then divided amongst the players who make it into the paid places.

All of the players start with the same stack sizes. The blinds also keep increasing after a certain amount of time. This forces the players to be proactive and keep making moves so that they do not get blinded out or basically run out of chips! As players start losing their stacks, the tables are combined until one table remains and we play down to one player. 

The player at that table who collects all the chips from other players is the winner of the tournament. The top 10-15% of the finishing players are paid an ascending share of the prize pool (as pre-determined by the tournament organizer) with the winner collecting about 25-30% of the total.

Basic Poker Strategy

The first thing to do is learn about the basic strategy of poker. But that’s just the first step. In order to succeed at the game, you must also learn about the intermediate and advanced concepts around poker strategy. But first, let’s start with Beginner Tips.

One of the most important and basic tips for beginners is to NOT PLAY MANY HANDSYou should be playing around 18-20% of hands at a standard 9-way table. Also, you might only want to play good hands/premium hands when you’re starting off.

But what are good hands? You can start with 9-9, T-T, J-J, Q-Q, K-K, A-A and A-J, A-Q and A-K. You can loosen up that range if you’re playing against less than eight other opponents. Another tip is to avoid calling a lot. A lot of new players get stacked off very easily with marginally good hands because they don’t know the strength of their hands in that particular situation. 

Rookie poker players would rather call than bet because they don’t want to risk even more on what might not be as strong a hand as they originally thought. There’s a catch here. It is that betting is actually much better than calling. Why? Because you can win hands by betting without showing your cards! You cannot do this by just calling! 

Furthermore, if  you’re up against better players, they’ll bet moderate amounts (value bets) and extract value from you because you’ll call them all 4 betting streetsFor all these reasons it’s worth putting in a bet or re-raise in even if you don’t feel completely comfortable doing it.

Do Not Get Embarrassed Of Losing A Hand

The thing about poker is that even if you’re the best player in the world, you’re going to lose big pots, hands or misplay certain spots and get stacked-off. 

When you’re learning the game, you’re going to be facing a lot of bad moments where you will end up feeling undone. Do not let that de-motivate you. Keep playing and improving your game and soon you’ll get the hang of it!

Intermediate How To Play Poker Tips

Every poker hand has a bit of context behind it. You cannot say for certain which hand is going to win but there are certain hands that win more than some.

For example, you have pocket sixes. The guy on your right has bet, you called and the flop comes A-2-6. This is an ideal flop for you as your hand strength is very much concealed. People are going to find it really hard to put you on an exact hand and sometimes they themselves might’ve flopped something big like a top pair or two pairs! 

You can make the same argument about straights and full houses. On the other hand there are hands that are difficult to conceal. If you’ve got trip fives (that’s one five in your hand and two on the board) then a lot of people are going to expect three-of-a-kind.

One of the most easy hands to identify is a flush even for beginners. However, you might catch someone in a bad spot with a smaller flush and you will get full value! 

Position Is Key

Position is the order in which players are supposed to start the round of betting/checking. Post-Flop, the action always starts from the left of the dealer (in the small blind).

Playing in position is generally the best because you get to see what everyone is doing before you and can make your move accordingly. You basically have the most information when you’re In-Position. 

Let’s take a look at 4 reasons why you should play in-position:

  • When it’s your turn to act, you have more information than your opponents.
  • Position gives you “bluff equity,” meaning simple, cheap and effective bluffing opportunities.
  • Acting last lets you make more accurate value bets.
  • Having last action gives you control over the final pot size.

Some more basic pointers for you to get better:

    • Do not get attached to good hands: It’s great when you are dealt pocket Kings or Queens. It’s all great up until the moment when an Ace spikes on the flop. This doesn’t mean that your pockets are bad 100% of the time, but you must be cautious that you don’t get stacked off. It’s also important to judge the strength of your big pocket pairs on flush/straight heavy boards. 
  • Ace/Queen is not a very strong hand: Remember when we said flushes and straights tend to win in most situations. A-Q is the opposite and can be disastrous in inexperienced hands. In big pots, it’s most likely not going to be the best hand even though it looks nuts pre-flop! 
  • Pocket Jacks is one of the most dreaded hands in poker: Similar to A-Q, pocket Jacks are only good until an over-card comes on the board and you start doubting the strength of your hand.

 Advanced How To Play Poker Tips

Once you have understood the fundamentals of poker, it’s time to take it up a notch. One of the most important things while playing poker is to study your opponents. Player profiling is very important. If someone is betting a lot of hands and opening a lot of hands, you can assume that they are playing a very wide range of hands and could have any two cards in their hands.

Similarly, if someone is folding too often and not getting into too many pots, this means that they’re mostly playing only premium hands. This is not always true, but these are the basis on which you do player profiling. 

Pot Odds: Poker involves math. However, it’s not like you have to be really mathematically gifted. Just understanding the basic odds behind hitting certain hands can be very beneficial for people just starting out.

Here’s a really simple one for you: 221-1. That’s the odds of getting pocket aces. That means statistically you’ll only get aces on average every 221 hands. Puts things in perspective doesn’t it? Here’s a guide to some of the most common odds you’ll run into in online poker or live poker:

  1. Being dealt a pair — 17-1 (5.9%)
  2. Being dealt aces — 221-1 (0.45%)
  3. Being dealt ace-king suited — 331-1 (0.3%)
  4. Flopping a set with a pocket pair — 8.5-1 (11.76%)
  5. Flopping two-pair (without a pocket pair) — 48-1 (2.02%)
  6. Making a flush by the river (flopped four of one suit) — 1.9-1 (35%)
  7. Making an open-ended straight by the river — 2.2-1 (32%)
  8. A full house by the river (flopped three-of-a-kind) — 2-1 (33%)

Also Check: A Guide to Bankroll Management : Part One

How To Play Poker Online With Real Money

Now that you know a lot more about the basics of how to play poker, it’s time to get into action! You need to find yourself in a low-stress environment to try out your new skills and there’s no place better than the top platforms available to you in India such as PokerBaazi

All of these platforms also allow you to have free Play Money that you can play without the pressure of losing money! It’s like playing free online poker! Hopefully this blog will help you in starting out your poker journey and get better than you currently are instantly! 

For more interesting articles about poker strategy and how to play poker, keep reading India Poker News!