Poker is a fun card game you can play with family and friends. Some people play poker professionally and attempt to win thousands of dollars. Whether a friendly competition or a tournament, once you have mastered the basics, you will be well on your way to playing poker like a pro.
The Objective of Poker
The main objective of poker is to win the pot. The pot consists of the bets made by yourself and other players during one hand of the game.
Poker is played using a standard pack of 54 cards with the two jokers removed, for a total of 52 cards. There are some game variations where one or both jokers are used. However, when first learning how to play poker, it is best to stick with the basic poker rules until you fully understand the game.
Poker Hand Rankings
Hand rankings determine who wins the hand and the pot and will be one of ten different possibilities as follows:
- Royal Flush – This is the best hand you can get in poker. It consists of the top five high cards—A, K, Q, J, and 10 of the same suit—hearts, spades, diamonds, or clubs.
- Straight Flush – This is the second-best hand you can get in poker. It is any flush of the same suit when your hand is not a royal flush.
- Four of a Kind – Four of the same card with one other card.
- Full House – A full house is one pair and a set of three cards of the same value.
- Flush – A flush is when you have five cards of the same suit—diamonds, clubs, spades, or hearts.
- Straight – A straight is a run of five cards of any suit in consecutive order, such as 7, 8, 9, 10, J.
- Three of a Kind – Three of the same cards with the same value and two other cards with different values.
- Two Pair – Two pairs of different cards and one card with a different value.
- One Pair – One pair of two cards of any value and three cards with different values.
- High Card – The highest card out of the five that do not make up any other hand ranking.
The thing to remember with hand rankings is a royal flush is the best, and a high card is the lowest. The other hand rankings follow their numbered sequence above.
In cases where two or more players have the same rankings, a tie is broken based on who has the higher-value cards. When they are an exact match, the pot is split between the players.
Poker usually has at most ten players at a time. However, most of the time, the number of players will vary between six and eight players. You can also play poker with just two people. Regardless of the number of players, you must learn the poker positions because it can alter your advantage in the game.
10 Player Seating
- The Button – The button position is directly across from the dealer in a traditional casino poker game. It is often considered the best position since this player goes last. As such, they will have time to strategize based on what everyone else does during their turn.
- The Small Blind – The small blind sits to the left of the button. They must pay the small blind each hand.
- The Big Blind – This player sits to the left of the small blind. They must pay the big blind each hand.
- The Cutoff – This seat position is to the right of the button. It is considered the second-best seat to have at the table.
- The Hijack – This player sits to the right of the cutoff.
- The Lojack – The lojack sits to the right of the hijack.
- Middle Position – The middle position is to the right of the lojack.
- Under the Gun – The under the gun seating positions can consist of one, two, or three players. These seats are to the left of the big blind and the right of the middle position.
7-, 8-, or 9-Player Seating
For a seven-player setup, you would have the button, the small blind, the big blind, the cutoff, the hijack, the lojack, and the middle position. Player eight would sit to the left of the big blind in the first under the gun seat, and player nine would sit to the right of that player and to the left of the middle position seat.
4-, 5-, or 6-Player Seating
The seat configuration for four players will be the button, the small blind, the big blind, and the cutoff. A fifth player would take the hijack position, and a sixth player would take the lojack position. In six-player games, the hijack position can be called the middle position, and the lojack position the under the gun position.
2- or 3-Player Seating
For two players, one would be the button and the small blind. The second player is the big blind. For three players, you would have the button, the small blind, and the big blind.
What Is the Maximum Number of Players You Can Have?
Poker can be played with a maximum of 14 players. Players 11, 12, 13, and 14 would be seated to the left of player 10, with player 14 being to the right of the middle position seat.
The most popular poker game is no limit Texas hold’em. The objective is to make the best five-card hand out of the two cards you are dealt and the five cards placed in the middle of the table.
Before any cards are dealt, the player in the big blind position must bet the maximum bid. Next, the player in the small blind position must bet half the maximum bid. For example, if the maximum bid is $2, then the big blind player bets $2, and the small blind player bets $1.
Next, the cards are dealt one at a time, starting with the small blind player and continuing around the table clockwise until each player has two cards. When there is no dedicated dealer, the button becomes the dealer for that hand.
Now the player seated to the right of the big blind player must decide between three actions after reviewing the two cards in their hand.
- They can fold. If they fold, they do not make a bet and will sit out this hand.
- They can call. If they call, then they match the bet of the big blind player’s bet.
- They can raise. The minimum raise is double the big blind player’s bet. So, using our example, the minimum they could raise is $4. The maximum is based on the betting rules of the game. In no-limit games, there is no maximum. Players can go all-in at any time and bet everything they have.
Once this player finishes their turn, the player to their left goes next. Each player gets the three same choices on their turn. Play continues in a clockwise direction until it gets back around to the big blind player.
If the previous player raises, each player must call to remain in the game. On the other hand, if everyone else folds, the hand is over, and the remaining player wins the pot. This can happen at any time before the showdown.
Now, if someone raises, all players that called must recall and match the raised bet. They can also decide to raise, forcing the other active players in the game to at least match their bet. Raises are usually limited to three or four per betting round.
Additionally, players can fold at any time. However, any bets they made remain in the pot.
The dealer deals the top three cards of the deck face up in the center of the table. These are the “community” cards because players can use them to build their best five-card hand.
Next, the second round of betting starts with the first player to the dealer's left still in the game. Since there are no mandatory bets, they get a fourth option—they can check. Checking is where they do not raise the bid.
Play continues clockwise until each player has checked or increased their bet. Players that checked must at least call and meet the new bid to remain in the game.
If there are still players left in the game at the end of the flop, a fourth card is dealt face up in the center of the table. The first player to the dealer's left can check or raise the bet. Again, all other active players must at least call if the bet was raised.
The fifth community card is dealt face up on the table. Now there is one final round of betting. Players can fold, check, raise, or go all in. To remain in the game, all players must at least call if someone raised. If a player goes all-in, all other players must also go in to remain active.
This is the last stage of the hand, where players lay their cards down face up on the table. Next, players will use the five community cards and their two cards to make a set of their five best cards.
A player could choose to use both of their cards and three community cards, one of the cards and four community cards, or all five community cards. Whoever has the highest ranking wins the pot.
Now the button, small blind, and big blind all move clockwise—to the left—one spot. The deck is shuffled, and the pre-flop stage starts again.
Several variations of poker exist, such as seven-card stud, Omaha, five-card draw, and high-low Chicago. Each will have different rules. Once you have the basics down, you can play these games too.
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