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Poker Rules: The Basics Of Popular Poker Games & How To Play

Learn how to play poker

Poker is perhaps the most popular card game in the world and with good reason – it has varied game speed, uses psychological gameplay, and employs many rules that are pretty basic. From blinds and antes to betting rounds, we explain the rules stud, community, and five-card draw poker (video poker follows the same rules as draw).

What is stud poker?

Stud poker involves players receiving a mixture of face-up and face-down cards;  these are dealt out over multiple rounds (or streets) of betting. The most popular version of this game is stud poker, which is the most common form played in land and online casino, as well as home games.

Basic rules of stud poker

While the variations of the game mean that different numbers of cards are dealt, the basic rules of stud poker are that there is a combination of face-up and face-down cards.

An important difference in the rules of stud games and other variations of poker is that stud is usually a non-positional game – the first player to bet doesn’t move around the table in a pre-determined order, rather, it’s the person with the best combination of face-up cards.

Cards dealt face-down are known as ‘hole cards’ with their name leading to the phrase ‘ace in the hole’ – the idea that some cards hold something of value which only the player is able to see.  

Basic rules of seven-card stud poker

Seven-card stud poker is played between a minimum of two people, with the maximum often being eight players; although some games can have as many as nine involved.  

Each player is dealt one card face-up and two face-down. The betting begins after the person with the lowest face-up card pays the ‘bring-in’ (an enforced bet). If the lowest card is tied, then the suit is used to decide who makes the first bet; although there are variations, this is typically decided in ascending alphabetical order, so clubs, followed by diamonds, hearts, and spades. The other players are allowed to place their bets once the bring-in has been paid.

After the first street of betting, the second, third, and fourth rounds begin with each player being dealt a face-up card, before a face-down card is dealt to open the fifth round. This means that players have seven cards by the fifth street, with the winner being the person with the best five-card hand.

What is draw poker

Players in draw poker are dealt a full set of face-down cards in the first round of betting. The participants then try to improve their hand by getting rid of cards they don’t want and replacing them with ones issued by the dealer. The most common version of the game is five-card draw.

Basics rules of draw poker

Draw poker is considered by some people to be a game for more experienced players, this is because some variations are quite challenging. However, the basics of many examples of draw poker are quite simple – you’re dealt all your cards at the beginning and then discard the ones you don’t like at the start of each street; these are then replaced by new cards dealt by the dealer.

Like many of the varieties of poker, the first person to bet is the player sat to the dealers left. Once all players have decided whether to keep or ditch their cards and placed their bet, the action progresses through additional streets until there is one final winner.

Basics rules of five-card draw poker

Five-card draw is believed to be the easiest of all poker games – this is why many video poker games are based on five-card draw.

Five-card draw features two to eight players and the basic rule to remember is that all cards are dealt face-down in the first street. The first street (the ‘draw round’) starts with the player to the big blind’s left, with the following rounds of betting beginning with the person to the left of the dealer.

Each player who stays in the game following the draw states how many cards they want to get rid of, before being dealt with replacement cards. The second street is called ‘after the draw’ and it follows the same process as the ‘draw round.’ All remaining players go into a showdown round, with the winner being the player with the best hand.

Community poker

Community poker is so-called because there are cards shared between players. These are called window cards and dealt face-up, with the players getting their own private cards dealt to them. The most played version of community poker is Texas hold ’em, which is the most popular variant of poker.

Basics rules of community poker

While the number of opening cards differs depending on the variation played, in community poker, the window card(s) are dealt face-up. Players are then dealt their own cards face-down and the aim is the make the best hand using the face-up and face-down cards.

A key rule of community poker is that many of the variations use an ante. An ante is a bet posted by each player before the round of betting and is in addition to any blinds posted – for example, the player in the big blind pays both the ante and the big blind.  

Another rule to be aware of is the change to the blind levels. For instance, in cash poker, the blind levels remain the same, while in tournament levels they increase after a set amount of time.

Basics rules of Texas hold ’em

Texas hold ’em may be the most popular card game. It’s played by millions of people across the world because it’s fast-paced, has a wide range of stakes, and its rules are extremely simple to understand.

Texas hold ’em is usually played between two to ten players. Each player is dealt with two opening cards face-down, with the cards issued to the left of the dealer. Once all players have their cards the dealer places three cards face-up in the middle of the table.

Once the three community cards are out, the player to the left of the dealer is first to act and can either check or bet – if they chose to check, then the same options are passed around the table. If a bet is made then the other players can call, raise, or fold. If the round is checked, then another card (the ‘turn’) is dealt and the betting options are reopened. The final round in Texas hold ’em comes when a fifth community card is dealt, with the winner being the person with the best hand or the player that managed to get the other player(s) to fold their hand.

Where can I practice the basic rules of poker?

Once you've read through and understood the basics of poker, the next step in your development as a player is to put what you've learnt into practice. 

We've reviewed some of the best sites for practising the basics of poker and you can read what we have to say about them by following the links below: 

Poker is one of the most popular casino games and it has an enormous number of variations. Whether you’re a fan of stud, draw, or community poker, the basic rules are often very simple to pick up and mastering them can be very profitable. If you’re thinking about heading an online this card game, check out our reviews section, where you’ll find the best online casinos for playing poker.

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