Rules of Poker
Poker is a name for a group of different exciting card games. In all poker games, the pot can be won either by getting the best 5-card poker hand in showdown or by betting before showdown resulting other players to fold their hands. Rules of different poker games vary in number of cards dealt, number of betting rounds or are the some cards dealt face-up or are community cards that all the players share used. Odds to make different kind of poker hands can vary also a lot between different poker games. After all, poker is an exciting card game that combines gambling, strategy and skill. Online poker has revolutionized this old card game and nowadays it’s possible to battle in your favorite poker games against people around the world directly from home.
In the following sections, we have gathered the rules for the most commonly played poker games. Let’s start from poker hand rankings:
Poker Hand Ranking
These traditional poker hand rankings aren’t only specifically part of Texas hold’em rules, but apply to Omaha and other most common poker games as well.
- Royal Flush — five cards of the same suit, ranked ace through ten; e.g., A♥K♥Q♥J♥10♥
- Straight Flush — five cards of the same suit and consecutively ranked; e.g., 9♣8♣7♣6♣5♣
- Four of a Kind — four cards of the same rank; e.g., Q♣Q♥Q♦Q♠4♦
- Full House — three cards of the same rank and two more cards of the same rank; e.g., J♣J♥J♠8♦8♥
- Flush — any five cards of the same suit; e.g., A♠J♠8♠5♠2♠
- Straight — any five cards consecutively ranked; e.g., Q♣J♦10♥9♠8♦
- Three of a Kind — three cards of the same rank; e.g., 8♣8♠8♦K♣4♥
- Two Pair — two cards of the same rank and two more cards of the same rank; e.g., A♠A♣J♦J♣7♠
- One Pair — two cards of the same rank; e.g., 10♥10♣9♥4♦2♦
- High Card — five unmatched cards; e.g., A♣J♦10♠5♣2♥ would be called “ace-high”
Texas Hold'em Rules
Texas Hold ‘Em is currently the most popular poker game online and you can play it on every poker site. It is no wonder that Hold Em is the most popular game since the rules are pretty simple to learn. If you have ever watched poker on TV it has most likely been Texas Hold Em. In
In Texas Hold Em players are trying to make the best 5-card poker hand by combining their dealt two cards to five community cards on the table. The same community cards are used by all players at the table. So the best poker hand is constructed by selecting 5 best cards from the total of 7 cards that are available. The poker hands can be constructed either by using both of your hole cards and 3 of the community cards, other one of the hole cards and 4 from community cards or by using none of the hole cards and only use 5 community cards, whatever works best for the best possible 5-card poker hand.
Starting the hand
The game starts by selecting one player as button (also known as a dealer, in home games this position usually also deals cards). Then the two players sitting in the immediate left of the button are required to post a small blind and big blind to initiate the betting and making the pot. Small blind is usually half of the sum of big blind. (eg. 50c and 1$). The player sitting immediate left to the big blind starts the action by doing one of the three options: calling the sum of big blind, raising 2$ or more or folding the hand. The action then moves clockwise around the table and only players who haven’t folded their hand are moving to the next betting round. There are total of four betting rounds: Pre-flop, Flop, Turn and River. Community cards are dealt to table within these betting rounds.
In pre-flop, players are making their decisions solely based on their two own cards, also known as hole cards. Good selection of pre-flop hands is a vital part of strategy in Texas Holdem.
The value of the hands changes drastically on Flop. That is when three community cards are dealt in centre of the table. If you had JhTc pre-flop and the flop comes Jc 6s 2h, you now have top pair of jacks with T as your kicker. After the flop, players already know 5 of the 7 possible cards used to construct a poker hand and have pretty good idea whether they have a good hand or not. Once the flop is dealt, players start betting from small blind and the action moves clockwise.
After the betting round 4th community card called the Turn is dealt. Now players are only missing one more card and have pretty clear idea about their hand. Betting on turn goes same way as in the flop. If there was a bet and call on flop, the pot is already pretty big and Turn might be the street where really important decisions in hand are made. If the hand didn’t end on turn, the River is dealt.
In river, players know their final value of the hand as there are no more cards coming. It’s time for final betting round. If there was betting on previous streets, river is the place where it’s usual than that someone makes a big bet or bets all of the chips on the table by going All-in. If 2 or more players make it to showdown (by not folding their hands), the cards are revealed and the player with the best 5-card poker hand wins the pot. This event is called a showdown.
About Betting in poker
If all but one players have folded their hole cards in any of the betting rounds, hand ends without player who bet having to show his/her hole cards. Betting without actually a good poker hand is called bluffing and is a big part of poker strategy. Most of the poker hands end this way without player having to show the holecards. Seeing other players’ holecards gives valuable information to other players about the players’ strategy and selection of starting hands.
Pot Limit Omaha
Omaha poker, most commonly known Pot Limit Omaha or PLO is the second most popular poker variation after Texas Holdem. Omaha is for players who like action and bigger pots! The table structure, community cards and how to action circles at the table clock-wise is exactly the same as it is in Hold Em. The biggest difference between these two games is that instead of two cards, players are dealt four pocket cards to play. This makes better hands like straight, flushes and full-houses much more likely because players have more cards and more chances to make hands. The starting hand values in Omaha are more close to each other than in Texas Hold Em, which makes playing a lot of hands smaller mistake than it does in Holdem.
Game in action
Action on pre-flop, flop, turn and river goes exactly the same than in Texas Hold em. The biggest difference between these games is in starting hands. Every player gets dealt 4 cards, but unlike in Hold Em, you have to always use exactly two cards from your own hand and two cards from the table. This is a very important concept to understand. For example if you have Ace of spades in your hand with 3 non-spade cards and there are 4 spades in a board, you don’t have the nut-flush since you have to use 2 cards from your hand. In Hold’ Em you can make nuts with just one card but in Omaha that’s not the case.
One way to approach Omaha is to think that one Omaha starting hand makes multiple Hold em hands. For Example quality omaha hand QJT9ds makes 6 different Hold Em hands: QJ, QT, Q9, JT, J9 and T9 and two different flushes! You can imagine it is much easier to construct straights, flushes and full houses playing with 6 different Hold em hands in same time.
Pot Limit Omaha
Another big difference with PLO (Pot Limit Omaha) and NLHE (No limit Hold Em) is the betting structure. As the names of these games say, Hold Em is usullay played with No limit and Omaha as Pot limit. Pot limit means that in every phase at the hand, the maximum you can bet is the pot, so going all-in and betting multiple pots in is not allowed. You can learn how the pot is calculated and a lot more about PLO from our Pot-Limit Omaha article.
Other Omaha Variants
PLO is definitely the most popular omaha game there is, but there are also lots of other games that are coming more and more popular. We have gathered a small information about other omaha variants here:
Omaha with five cards works just the same as normal Omaha but instead of four cards, players are dealt five cards to start with! Players still use two cards of their five card starting hands and combine them with the board in order to make the best 5 card poker hand. This makes hitting good hands even more likely.
A good strategy to 5-card PLO is to play actually tighter pre-flop that normal PLO. In omaha you should mostly just draw nut-hands but in normal 5-card PLO it is even more important to just draw to nuts and not play that many hands that are unlikely to make nut hands. Making a hand like queen-high flush is pretty tricky to play in 5-card PLO and it’s hard to see where you are at with the hand.
Omaha High-low is a bit more complicated form of Omaha. High-low means it’s a split pot game, so there are two winning hands in many pots, High hand and low hand. So what is a low hand? It’s constructed by combining 5 lowest card from board and your own cards, with Ace being the lowest card. The highest card that can make a low hand is an eight. Some starting hands like AKQJ are incapable of constructing low-hand since there are no two low cards from A-8. Also, sometimes the board runs with high cards in a way that there is no low pot. In these situation, the pot is not split and the high hand scoops the pot.
Board Ac 7h 3c Qc Kh
Interesting board with 3 low cards ( A, 7, 3) and 3 clubs. The best high hand to this board is flush with Kc and the best low hand is 42 forming the nut-low (A, 2, 3, 4, 7). Decent starting hand like Ad Kc 4c 2d would scoop this pot by best high and low hand.
Board 3h 6c 5d Jh Td
Board with a low and a straight possibility. The best high hand is 74 and the nut low is A2. The ultimate nuts would be A274. Also hand like A24x makes second nuts to high hand and is very strong hand.
Board Ac Qd 5d 5h 9c
Board with a pair and just 2 low cards (A, 5). This means there is no low pot. The nuts to scoop the pot would be 55xx with 4 of a kind. Aces also form a nut full-house here being very strong hand.
Good strategy to Omaha high-low is to play hands that can scoop the pot, meaning forming nuts to the board. In general middle runways which are okay in PLO like T987 are very bad in in high-low (aka. PLO8). Hands that contain A2 are strong, and a hand like AKQ2ds is very strong since it has potential to good high hands and also good low hands with A2. It is also worth noting that a good high runway like KQJT is also playable since when the board hits to this hand, usually there is no low pot and the hand will scoop the pot.
Omaha with six cards is starting to be a little crazy. It’s the same normal omaha, but dealt with six starting cards. It is a game where someone is going to hit the nuts almost every hand and it can be a bit hard even to realize what is your current hand since there are so many cards. Also just plain nuts are many times not that good of a hand. You should also have re-draws and outs to make a better hand. Superior hands in PLO like nut-straight with nut flush draw or nut straight with top set are not that rare hands while playing with 6 cards. Omaha 6 is not as popular as 5-card omaha. You can find it from some sites though if you want to give it a shot…
Formats of poker
Now we have covered basic rules of the most popular poker games and variants. On top of that, Texas Hold’ Em or any other game can be played with lost of different kind of formats. On this page, you will find an explanation to most commonly played formats: Different kind of poker tournaments and cash games.
Multi-table tournaments (MTT)
Poker tournaments are extremely popular both live and online thanks to tours shown on TV like World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour.
In tournament poker you pay your buy-in and get a stack of chips. When you have no more chips, you’re out of the tournament. The eventual winner is the player who collects all the chips.
Online poker tournaments are the cheapest way to potentially win big money. There have been several $10 buy-in online tournaments, for example, that have awarded over $200,000 for first place. With bigger buy-ins the prize are even higher.
Poker tournaments run online every day on a scheduled time, you can scroll through the schedule on the lobby of a poker client and make your own tournament plans in that way. The biggest day for tournaments is sunday, that’s when basically all of the sites are running their major tournaments. The famous PokerStars Sunday Million runs every week and offers a $1 million prize pool for a buy-in of just $109.& Go!
The biggest online tournaments draw even more players than the biggest live tournaments thanks to the ability to host thousands of players with no physical space needed.
Sit & Gos
Sit & Gos are smaller tournaments that unlike scheduled tournaments, start whenever the right amount of players have registered to tournament. The number of players can be only enough for one table or multiple tables. The most common sit n go usually with either 6 or 9 players. There are also heads-up sit n gos that are for 2 players only. Sit & Gos start all the time on online poker sites thanks to the massive volume of players nowadays.
Sit & Gos take much less time than massive multi-table tournaments but the rewards are also smaller since there are usually smaller amount of players. The prize distribution is similar to scheduled tournaments, top finishers being rewarded.
Jackpot Sit & Gos
Very popular newer format of sit go’s among online poker players are Jackpot Sit & Gos (also known as Spin & Gos on Pokerstars or BLAST Poker in Partypoker). A lot of different sites nowadays offer them with a slightly different name. Jackpot sit n go’s are hyper-turbo, 3- or 4-handed tournaments that multiply the prize pools before the battle begins. So to speak, the prize pool is determined at the start of the tournament and you can’t know beforehand whether the $1 tournament has a prizepool of $3 or $10.000. This brings an exciting element to poker that is appealing to many players. However, this brings a lot of casino game elements and variance to this format, which takes it further from traditional poker.
Online poker cash games, or ring games as they’re sometimes called, are a classic form of poker where each player buys in with a certain amount of cash and receives chips that have real money value.
Each cash game table will have a minimum and maximum amount a player can have on the table. The amount is related to the size of the blinds at that table.
For example a 1c/2c blinds table online will have a minimum buy-in of $2.00 and a maximum of $20.00. Online cash games are played as “table stakes” games meaning the maximum any player can bet in any one hand is the amount of chips on the table. Players can top up their chips up to the maximum during play or leave when their stacks get low.
As you can cash out at any time you can play for 10 minutes or 10 hours. Many poker players enjoy the flexibility of cash games compared to tournaments, where you are generally locked in for a longer amount of time to make it into the money.
Johannes is the Editor in Chief at Beasts Of Poker and is an expert in both live & online poker. Johannes played online poker semi-professionally for 5 years while completing his Master’s Degree in Technology.