To play poker with friends or even online poker one should know the poker rules. The goal of poker is to win as many chips as possible from your opponents. However, unlike most card games, where the object is to make the strongest possible poker hands, it’s quite normal to win pots by other means, such as outright bluffing or betting aggressively. Poker revolves around tactics and strategy.

Explanation of the poker rules

Cash Game Poker

At a Cash game table every player sits down with real money, with the chips corresponding to actual monetary value. How little or how much money we can play with depends on the specific table limit, which has a Minimum and Maximum amount that a player can bring to the game. In a typical No Limit Hold’em game it is possible – as the name suggests – to bet a whole stack of chips (known as being ‘all-in’ or ‘shoving’). Whenever a player loses all their chips they may reload up to the maximum. Note that there is no obligation to stay at the table for a set amount of time or to play so many hands – it is totally acceptable to sit down, be dealt in just one hand, and then leave. Cash games are very flexible in that you can sit in and out and leave at any time.

Tournament Poker

Unlike Cash games, where players can choose how much – within the table limits – to play with, all the participants in a poker tournament pay a set amount of money (the ‘buy-in’) and receive a certain number of chips – this could be a $5 buy-in with each player receiving a starting stack of 10,000 chips, for example. Losing your stack means being eliminated and taking no further part in the tournament, while so-called Rebuy (and Reload) formats allow players to re-join the action – often multiple times – by (re)buying another stack of chips. Another feature of most Rebuys is the option of buying an ‘add-on’ of a set number of chips after the rebuy period has ended.

Table size

Given that only two players are required to play poker, different games, formats and variants have tables that that allow for a specific maximum number of players.

  • Heads-Up Tables – The game starts as soon as two players have joined the table. Heads Up Tables require exactly two players to be seated ‘heads-up’ and compete against each other.
  • 6-Max Tables – between two and six players can be seated at a these ‘shorthanded’ tables. Note that, because an orbit of Blinds takes (at the most) just six hands, the game tends to see more action than tables with more players.
  • 10-Max Tables – with as many as 10 players all seated, the dynamic at these so-called ‘full ring’ tables, which are more traditional (and some would say old-fashioned) is tighter, and best suited to more solid players.

The poker rules of the different variants

While most non-players might have seen No Limit Hold’em being played on TV in recent years, or Stud poker in the saloons of classic ‘wild west’ movies with gun-toting cowboys, there are, in fact, a number of different versions of this great game.

The poker rules of some variants are less or more complicated than others, so it might take a while to get to grips with any nuances and differences. New players might prefer to first get used to playing, for example, No Limit Hold’em before branching out, but experts do recommend eventually broadening your poker horizons by learning how to play alternative versions.

The Cards

Poker is played with a French deck of cards, this being the standard 52-card deck that consists of four suits, namely Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades. Numerically each suit has 13 cards, from Ace, 2, 3… up to King. Note that it is typical for Aces to count as both high and low – for example A 2 3 4 5 and 10 J Q K A are the lowest and highest straights respectively, with the Ace being low in the former and high in the latter.

Traditionally, Hearts and Diamonds are red, while Clubs and Spades are black, and this convention is followed in when playing in a so-called Bricks & Mortar (casino/card room) setting. However, online poker provides different options, the most popular being a four-colour deck that sees (usually) the colours being Hearts/Red, Diamonds/Blue, Clubs/Green and Spades/Black. The purpose of this online difference is to afford players maximum clarity so that they cam much more easily differentiate between suits, this avoiding mixing up Hearts with Diamonds and Clubs with Spades. Given that online poker allows us to play at more than one table simultaneously, such an aid makes life much easier.

The betting round

Poker is played with obligatory ‘ante’ bets called the Small and Big Blinds, which are placed before any cards are dealt. This is to provide incentive for players to get involved in a hand by creating a pot to win. The Big Blind (double the Small Blind) determines the minimum bet that players need to at least match in order to remain in the hand. If no player enters the game, the player who placed the Big Blind automatically wins the pot, which consists of the two blinds.

The first (‘pre-flop’) round begins with the player to the left of the Big Blind. Note that in Cash Games the blind are fixed, whereas in a Tournament setting they increase after each so-called Blind Level in order to accelerate the rate at which the contest continues.

Frequently asked questions and answers

Depending on which particular poker variant there are differences between this or that format, but learning the poker rules is actually very easy and can be done in literally minutes! In the words of the late great Mike Sexton ‘Poker takes minutes to learn and a lifetime to master…’

There are a number of different variants. YPD has partnered with online poker providers who host a variety of games, giving poker fans a chance to enjoy more than the usual No Limit Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha fare.

Of course this is possible, but we recommend that you start initially either with Play money or at very low – ‘micro’ – limits, rather than put the safety of your bankroll in jeopardy. It takes time and effort to become a good player, so learn how to play, get acquainted with the fundamentals and, gradually, the ins and outs of the game, and see what the Poker Gods have in store…

Not at all! Poker is just a card game, after all, and getting to grips with how it’s played and the mechanics of the betting and so on is in fact quite simple.

That is up to you, but given that Texas Hold’em (specifically the No Limit version – NLH) is the most played variant in the world and considered by most to be the supreme poker discipline, it’s a good place to start. Pot Limit Omaha is the next most popular variant, enjoying its status because the game tends to be even more aggressive and intense than NLH thanks to each player receiving four rather than two hole cards.


Daniel Berger

Hi Guys, I am Daniel the chief content manager of YourPokerDream.
I have been working in the poker industry for almost 10 years now.
I do my best to keep you all up to date regarding our partner sites
all promotions and about general poker topics arround the world.

· Published 14.06.2017 · last updated 12.01.2023

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