Learn the Basics of Poker


Poker is a game of chance, but skill plays a key role in winning. Whether you’re playing online or in a live setting, learning the game basics will set you up for success.

Card Hands and Variations

The cards used in poker are a standard deck of 52, ranked from high to low (Ace can be high or low) and containing four suits. Depending on the game, a few jokers are added to the deck as wild cards.

Generally, players must place an initial bet before the cards are dealt. Often called an ante, these bets are small and determined by the rules of the specific variant being played.

Dealing Cards

The dealer shuffles the cards and deals them clockwise around the table, one at a time. During the first betting round, which is known as the preflop, the player on the right of the button must place an ante into the pot.

If the bet is matched by any of the other players, he must then fold. If the bet is not matched, he must either call or raise, which means he increases the previous bet’s size.

Betting rounds follow each other, until none of the players elects to take a card, at which point the dealer announces the last call for cards. The last card is then exposed and the player with the highest hand wins the pot.

When a player’s hand is strong, it is important to play it aggressively. This will give you the best chance of winning the hand.

Aggressive players tend to make a lot of bets and raise their hands. They often win big pots – but this doesn’t mean that it’s always the right thing to do.

Passive players don’t make many bets, and prefer to check or call rather than raising. They are also less likely to bluff, or make a falsely large bet to get their opponents’ attention.

Getting Started

The best way to start playing poker is to find a game with friends. You can do this by asking around for a group of people who want to learn the game or by finding someone in your area who regularly hosts a home game.

Position and Strategy

The position you are seated in at a table will have a huge impact on your play. In general, you should look to get a seat in the early or middle positions. These are where you’ll have the most control over the final size of the pot.

You should also learn to read other players, and pay close attention to what they are doing with their hands. You can use this information to make educated decisions about what to bet or raise.

When reading other players, watch for “tells” such as when they suddenly start making bets or raises that don’t seem to make sense. This can be a sign that they have an ace-high pair or some other kind of strong hand.