How to Play Poker - Step by Step Winner's Guide

Texas hold'em is one of the purest forms of poker and due to its popularity over recent years, more and more people are taking up this game for the sheer excitement this game has to offer. In this article, we are going to cover various topics including, How to Play Poker & the Rules, Poker Hand Rankings, How to Get You Started and Top Tips to get to improve your game along the way.

Instructions on How to Play Poker: Texas Hold'em

Alternatively, WATCH our animation video on how to play poker below:

So the first thing we need to cover are the poker rules and how to play poker, you may have some experience already knowing how to play Strip Poker with your mates, or you may have visited a casino or such and know how to play Blackjack. The overall idea of how to play Texas Holdem is to make the best 5 card hand out of 7 cards, 5 community cards and your 2 Hole Cards.

So let's look at the rules in detail. The dealer will deal 2 cards face down (Hole cards) to each individual player, these cards are private to the individual. The player directly left of the dealer will place a small ante known as the (Small blind) and the player left of the Small Blind will also place an ante, of which is double to the small blind known as the (Big Blind), traditionally this game is played with between 2-10 players at any time.

Once the dealer has dealt 2 Hole Cards to every player at the table, there will be a round of betting, this round of betting starts with the player directly to the left of the Big Blind and continues clockwise, each individual player will have a choice, Check (Continue in the hand without adding anymore chips to the pot into the pot), Bet (To Increase The Amount Of Chips In The Pot) or Fold (To Muck Your Hand), it is up to the individual player to determine which option is best suited to their perception of their individual hand strength based on their 2 Hole Cards and the Community Cards (please see below for Hand Rankings)

After the betting the dealer will then place 3 cards face up known as the (Flop) in the middle of the table, these cards are community cards and to be used by all players to build their hand strength, once the flop has been dealt there is another round of betting (this round of betting and from now on the betting takes place from the player directly to the left of the dealer, the Small Blind), and again once this is completed the dealer will deal 1 more card to the existing 3 cards, known as the (TurnCard) followed by another round of betting for the players left in the hand. The last card to be dealt by the dealer is known as the River Card, this is the final card to be dealt and again we have the last round of betting by the remaining player still in the hand.

After the final round of betting, if there is more than one player left in the hand we have a (Showdown) to determine which player has the best hand and who wins the chips in the pot.

In Summary:

  1  One player will post the small blind and 1 player will post the big blind (players to the left of the dealer).
  2  Each player is dealt 2 face down cards.
  3  The first round of betting.
  4  The dealer will deal 3 community cards (Flop).
  5  2nd round of betting.
  6  The dealer will deal the 4th card (Turn).
  7  3rd round of betting.
  8  The dealer will deal the 5th and final card (River).
  9  Final round of betting.
10  If there is more than 1 player still remaining in the pot, we reveal the players cards to establish the winner.

How to Play Poker - Hand Strengths & Poker Hand Rankings

Let's start by looking at the weakest hand ranking and working up to the best possible hand.


  • High Card: This is a hand where you do not make a pair or more with the Community and Hole Cards.
  • Example:
    Poker hand example | High Card

  • 1 Pair: 2 paired cards and 3 unrelated cards.
  • Example:
    Poker hand example | Pair

  • 2 Pair: 2 x 2 paired cards and 1 unrelated card.
  • Example:
    Poker hand example | Two Pair

  • 3 Of A Kind: 3 cards of the same value.
  • Example:
    Poker hand example | Three of a Kind

  • Straight: 5 Cards in sequence.
  • Example:
    Poker hand example | Straight

  • Flush: 5 cards of the same suit:
  • Example:
    Poker hand example | Flush

  • Full House: 3 cards of the same value and 2 paired cards.
  • Example:
    Poker hand example | Full House

  • Straight Flush: 5 cards in sequence of the same suit:
  • Example:
    Poker hand example | Straight Flush

  • Royal Flush: The highest 5 card values in sequence.
  • Example:
    Poker hand example | Royal Flush

So now that you know How To Play Poker and we have learnt the Hand Rankings, let's take a look at the different variations of Texas Hold em Poker played in the Casinos and online.

  • Pot Limit Texas Hold em – A player can bet any amount to a maximum of the pot in any round.

  • Limit Texas Hold em – A predetermined limit is set to each betting round, normally based on the size of the blinds. i.e. if the blinds are $1 and $2, the size of the bets are based on the $2 from the big blind for Preflop and Flop bets, the Turn and River bets are double of that to the first 2 rounds of betting.

  • No Limit Texas Hold em – A player has no limit to his bet in any round so long as the minimum is no less than the big blind ante.

How to Play Poker: 10 Tips to Improve Your Game

So we have learnt how to play Poker and we are now ready to start playing. It is said that Poker is a game that takes 2 minutes to learn and a lifetime to master, so to start off your journey on the Poker scheme let's look at some basic strategies and some of my tips to give you the best possible start at the tables.

Image of how to play poker to defend against the sharks.

1. Learn to Walk Before You Try to Run

What I mean by this is as I said above that Poker is a very easy game to learn but it’s also a very difficult game to master. Start off by playing small stakes and gradually move up stakes when you feel comfortable you are winning at the lower stakes. Many players make the mistake of trying to play at limits were the experienced players have been playing for a long time and find they lose money very quickly. It might be a good idea to start playing Free Online Poker games, most online poker sites offer a chance to play with ‘Play Money’ before you feel confident to deposit and play for real money.

2. Be Selective of Your Starting Hands

Poker ultimately is a game of skill but you also require allot of patience. Don’t be tempted to play too many hands, wait for the better hands to start with and don’t get carried away with hands that haven’t got too much potential to win many pots. Good online players tend to play around 20-25% of their starting hands so bear this in mind when selecting hands to play with. Although it may be tempting to play many hands, don’t fall into the trap as playing too many hands will certainly cost you money in the long run.

3. Make Sure You Are In the Right Frame of Mind to Play

I have to admit this is something I found difficult to master, By being in the right frame of mind, I mean make sure you are mentally prepared to sit down at the poker tables, many times I have played when I have been tired, angry, had a beer, upset or just generally not feeling at my best. You need to be as focused as you can at the table. If you are not in the right frame of mind to play poker, then my advice to you would be to play another time when you are focused as you will only lose money by playing when you don’t feel 100%.

4. Bluffing!!!

Although Bluffing is a very important part of Poker, this is something not to be used that often. One of the single biggest mistakes new players make at the tables is by Bluffing too much. It is easy to get carried away especially when there is allot of money in the pot, but be careful when and who you bluff as over Bluffing will cost you lots of money at the start of your Poker adventure.

5. Pay Attention to Other Players at the Table

Good Poker players pay attention to other players even when they are not in the hand, it is very important to pick up on others players playing patterns to maximise your winning potential. For example, if you notice a player betting a certain way in a certain situation you’ll have important information on that players habits and then you can adapt your game accordingly.

6. Think Carefully About the Community Cards

When you first start playing Poker this is something very easily missed. Be mindful of the possibility that other players are looking to outdraw you with hands, such as Flushes or Straights. If the board contains cards of the same suit or cards sequential to each other, be careful of the Turn card and the River card, as people will stick around in the pot if they have a good chance to improve their hand at a later street.

7. Don’t Call for Callings Sake

Many Players when they are first starting out get far too involved with their hands and keep calling for callings sake due reasons, such as they see folding as weak. We have previously spoken about being selective about your starting hands. We now have to think about hands that maybe haven’t hit the Flop and you are faced with a bet, folding isn’t a weakness in fact it’s a key strength to a good poker player. If you think your behind in a hand and haven’t got the correct odd’s to carry on, then folding is the correct action.

8. Bank Roll Management

This is one of the most talked about topics in Poker, Bank roll management is key to be able to carry on playing. Don’t play at stakes that your bank roll can’t support. A good rule of thumb is to play at stakes were you have around 50 buys ins, you may think you are the best player in the world but no one win’s all the time and variance (also known as bad beats) happens to everyone and you need to be able to cope with variance and continue playing.

9. Pick the Game That Most Suits Your Style of Play

As there are different forms of Texas Hold em there are also lots of different formats to which you can play Texas Hold em, such as Heads Up, Cash Games, Multi Table Tournaments and Sit and Go’s. When you first start playing, it’s a good idea to play all formats and choose which type of game suits your style of play best, each of the game’s have subtle differences so try and master one before moving onto the next. A good poker player is well rounded in all of the different formats but its better advice to learn each format separately before moving onto the next.

10. Beware of Tilt

Tilt is a term you are going to hear allot. It’s a term used to describe a situation that detracts you from playing your best poker, it’s an emotional state that makes you start playing erratically and mostly over aggressive, you may find yourself chasing loses and playing at stakes that your bankroll doesn’t support. In my experience, Tilt normally appears when I have been massively unlucky in a hand causing me to lose allot of money. If I could have all the money back that I have lost to Mr Tilt, then I could probably retire. If you find yourself in a Tilted frame of mind, then it’s better to switch the computer off or leave the Casino and play again when you feel ready.


If I can leave you with my most important tip as you think about how to play poker, it is knowing when to quit, this might be after you have won a certain amount of money, or it could be after you have lost a certain amount of money, control and discipline is half the battle when it comes to Poker. Being disciplined from the start is what is going to separate you from the pack, disciplined players make the best player’s long term.

In this article, I have covered everything you need to know about how to play poker before you start your path with Texas hold em. Like many Card games, Texas Hold em is highly addictive and so much fun. I hope you can learn from my own personal experiences and hopefully my tips will give you an edge to quickly becoming an experienced player at the tables.
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By David C (Rob Akery Student)