How to Play Poker for Beginners

How to Play Poker for Beginners

How do you play basic poker? For beginners, games such as Texas Hold’em can take minutes to learn. But to make serious long-term profits, you have to put the hours in and practice.

Poker is now easily available at top online casinos in Pennsylvania. Open a poker account and start playing Hold’em or Omaha right away. You can even earn a welcome bonus when you join.

Get started the right way with our guide on how to play poker for beginners. You’ll learn the hand rankings and basic rules so you can get playing and winning straight away.

The Objective of Poker

So, what’s the aim of poker? Simply, it’s to end up with more chips than anyone else. In a tournament, the goal is to win all the chips in play. In a cash game, the objective is to end your session in profit without going bust.

Poker is a simple card game played between 2 and 10 players. Multi-table tournaments may feature many tables all playing at once. In general, full-ring games include a poker table of 9 or 10 players.

In a poker hand, each player is dealt cards face down. Several rounds of betting follow, with more cards being dealt out between each betting round. Some variants have community cards which are shared by all players.

At the end of the hand, any players left in will compare their hands. The best poker hand according to a list of rankings wins the pot.

RELATED: 10 Poker Tips For Beginners

Different Variations of Poker

In Pennsylvania, you can enjoy a variety of PA online poker games. Play online for small stakes or enter big-money tournaments and win a share of a guaranteed prizepool. Here are some of the most popular poker variants you will find in Pennsylvania.

Texas Hold’em

Hole Cards: 2 | Community Cards: 5

Texas Hold’em is sometimes called “the Cadillac of Poker.”It’s the world’s most popular poker variant, played by millions across the world. In Texas Hold’em, each player receives two cards face down. After a round of betting, three communal cards – the flop – are dealt face up. A fourth card – the turn - is dealt after a second round of betting, then a fifth card – the river. At showdown, any remaining players compare their hand. The aim is to make the best possible 5-card hand from the two hole cards and five community cards.

Omaha Hi

Hole Cards: 4 | Community Cards: 5

In Omaha poker, each player receives four hole cards instead of two. The main difference with Omaha is that players must use two of their hole cards to form a 5-card hand. In Omaha Hi, only the highest poker hand counts. Omaha is generally played Pot Limit. That means the maximum raise is the current size of the pot after a call.

Omaha Hi-Lo/Omaha 8

Hole Cards: 4 | Community Cards: 5

Omaha Hi-Lo is similar to Omaha Hi where you MUST use two of your cards, plus three community cards. However, in Hi-Lo, the pot can be split between the best high hand and the best qualifying low hand. A qualifying low hand is usually five cards under 8 (for example, 8-6-5-4-2). Like Omaha Hi, Omaha Hi-Lo is generally played Pot Limit. It’s also a popular variant played in online cash games.

5-Card Stud

Hole Cards: 5 | Community Cards: 0

5-Card Stud poker is a classic American variant that is still played online and in some casinos. In 5-Card Stud, every player is dealt one card face down and one face up. An ante is placed instead of blinds, with the lowest up card starting the betting. After a round of betting, each player receives another card face up. This continues until every player has received four cards face up. After one final betting round, the hands are compared and the best hand scoops the pot.

7-Card Stud

Hole Cards: 7 | Community Cards: 0

7-Card Stud poker plays a little like 5-Card Stud, but each player receives seven cards in total. Every player places an ante to start the hand. A round starts with every player being dealt two cards face down, and one face up. The player with the lowest up card starts the betting with a ‘bring in’.After a round of betting, every remaining player receives another card face up. This continues until the seventh card, which each player receives face down.

After a final betting round, the remaining players go to showdown and compare their hands. The highest 5-card poker hand wins the pot. 7-Card Stud is normally played with Limit betting, where there is a fixed amount players can bet after each card.


Hole Cards: 7 | Community Cards: 0

Razz poker is variant of 7-Card Stud where the LOWEST hand wins, not the highest. Players still place antes, but it’s the player with the highest up-card who puts in the bring-in bet. The aim of Razz is to make the lowest possible 5-card hand from seven available. The best possible hand you can make is A-2-3-4-5 of different suits. This hand doesn’t count as a straight in Razz. The second-best hand, therefore, is A-2-3-4-6, and so on. Note that the 5-high hand always beats the 6-high hand. Your hand is therefore only as good as your highest card.

Six-Plus Hold’em/Short-Deck Hold’em

Hole Cards: 2 | Community Cards: 5

Six-Plus Hold’em is a new poker variant that is popular in Asia but is growing online. In Six-Plus Hold’em, a regular deck of cards is used, but all the cards 2-6 are removed. The betting and playing rules are similar to Texas Hold’em – players place small and big blinds, and there are pre-flop, flop, turn and river betting rounds. In Six-Plus Hold’em, the hand rankings differ slightly to regular Texas Hold’em. A flush beats a full house, but the other rankings are the same.

CHECK OUT: How To Become A Professional Poker Player

Basic Poker Hand Rankings

Want to know how to play basic poker? For beginners, it’s important to understand the basic hand rankings first so you know when you have a strong hand and when you should fold.

In a game of Texas Hold’em, the best hand is a Royal Flush. The worst is a high card hand that contains no pairs, flushes, straight or other combinations.

Most of the time, you will be hitting a lot of pairs, two-pairs, and three-of-a-kind hands. The odds of hitting a straight flush and royal flush are so big they only appear very rarely.

Royal Flush: 10, J, Q, K and A in the same suit (e.g. 10-J-Q-K-A hearts)

Straight Flush: A run of 5 consecutive cards of the same suit (e.g. 2-3-4-5-6 clubs)

Four of a Kind: Four cards of the same value (e.g. 5-5-5-5-A)

Full House: Three of a kind plus a pair (e.g. 5-5-5-K-K)

Flush : Five non-sequential cards of the same suit (e.g. 5-7-9-10-K hearts)

Straight: Five consecutive cards of different suits (e.g. 4-5-6-7-8)

Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same value plus any two cards (e.g. 6-6-6-A-Q)

Two Pair: Two pairs of cards of equal value (e.g. 5-5-K-K-J)

One Pair: One pair of the same value, plus any three cards (e.g. K-K-2-4-5)

High Card: Any five cards where the highest card plays (e.g. A-5-7-8-K)

Poker Rules

Looking how to play basic poker? For a beginning poker player, there are two main rules to learn: betting and hand rankings.

Blinds and Antes: Let’s take Texas Hold’em as our example. In Texas Hold’em, everyone receives two cards face down. The two players in Seats 2 and 3 at the poker table to the left of the dealer button place enforced bets called “blinds.” After each hand, the dealer button moves round the table, and the blinds also move. Blinds will also increase during a tournament. This ensures the players are put under pressure the longer the game continues. Late on in a poker tournament, antes may also be placed by all players before the hand starts.

Pre-Flop: Every player is dealt two cards face down. There is a round of betting where players can either call the previous bet, raise the bet or fold and discard their hand. A raise must be worth at least double the size of the previous bet.

Flop: Once all bets have been called, three community cards are dealt in the center of the table. This is called the “flop” and is shared by all players. Another round of betting follows. If there has been no bet made, players have the option to “check” and take no action.

Turn: After the betting round, a fourth card – the “turn” – is added to the community cards. Another round of betting follows.

River: A fifth community card is dealt, followed by a final round of betting.

Showdown: If any players are remaining after the last betting round, the hands are compared. Players must make the best 5-card hand from their two hole cards and the five community cards. It’s also possible that the pot is split if the players have an equal hand.

Poker Strategies

Now you know the basics of playing poker. For beginners, the next step is to learn a few basic strategies. Here are our top tips for enjoying success in poker:

Learn Good Hand Selection

Starting hand selection is a key skill for beginners. You may have to fold around 70-80 percent of your hands in a standard tournament. That means you will be very selective on the hands you will play. Consider raising with big pairs like AA down to 99, and suited connectors like Aks, KQs, and QJs. You should also pay attention to position. You are at an advantage if you’re in late position as you have more information over your opponents. Be more selective with starting hands when in early position.

Play Your Premium Hands Aggressively

So, you’ve decided to only play a strong hand. Now what? You need to judge the amount you want to raise, and when. A standard raise is around 3-4 times the big blind. This is enough to thin out the field and make marginal hands fold. You can also re-raise strong hands to indicate strength.

Use the Continuation Bet

You won’t always connect with the flop after a pre-flop raise. But the continuation bet, or c-bet, is good for maintaining a strong appearance. For example, let’s say you raise pre-flop with 10-10. You get one caller, and the flop comes J-Q-2. If the first player checks to you, you can make a continuation bet to indicate strength.

Avoid Limping Your Poor Hands

Making late position raises is a key move in Texas Hold’em. But it can be easy to limp (call) bets, just to see if you connect with the flop in some way. Limping is usually a bad idea. You may connect with the flop, but you could still be beaten by a stronger hand.

Never Play Above Your Comfort Zone

If you live in Pennsylvania, you have a choice of hundreds of cash games and tournaments, whether it be at an online poker site or in a poker room. But it’s vital you play in your comfort zone. Start off by playing free or micro-stakes games. Get a feel for the rules and gameplay, and try out a few strategies against your opponents. Once you’re regularly beating your current level, move up a stake level and start again.

Common Mistakes Beginners Make

You’ve learned how to play basic poker. For beginners, the benefits can include winning real money or qualifying for a major live tournament. But most beginners make the same rookie errors. Avoid them and you will have a better chance of making a profit. Here are three common mistakes poker beginners tend to make:

1. Playing Too Many Hands

Good hand selection is essential in poker. Don’t get attached to “favorite” hands and be disciplined with your position.

2. Bluffing

Bluffing is a key weapon in serious poker players’ arsenals. But bluffing is only good if you have a good read on your opponents. Try to put opponents on ranges of hands, then you will be able to make better moves regardless of your own hand.

3. Playing at the Wrong Levels

It’s worth mentioning again that the biggest mistake beginners make is playing at the wrong level. You may jump in at stakes normally occupied by experienced players. Alternatively, you may play at stakes so cheap there are just too many fish to combat. As a novice, start off with freeroll tournaments or micro-stakes cash games. If you can comfortably crush the low stakes, move up to the next level and see how you fare.

Poker Terminology

Poker is a game that’s full of strange terms. Here is our guide to popular ones:

ABC: Tight gameplay where only premium hands are played

Action: The player’s turn to make a decision

Add-On: An additional amount of chips received during a tournament

All-In: To commit all of your chips in a pot

Ante: An enforced bet made before a hand

Bankroll: Amount of cash available

Big Blind: Enforced bet made before a hand by the player seated two to the left of the dealer; the big blind is worth double the small blind

Blind: An enforced bet

Bluff: To make a raise or bet when holding an inferior poker hand

Board: The community cards shared by all players

Bring-In: Ante bet in Stud and Razz

Burn: A card discarded by the dealer before the flop, turn and river cards are dealt

Button: Seat 1 player

Buy-in: Entry to a tournament or cash table

Call: Match the previous player’s bet

Check: Option to make no bet

Continuation Bet: A post-flop bet made after you’ve raised pre-flop

Cut-Off: The seat directly on the right of Seat 1

Early Position: A player in one of the blinds; the first to act post-flop

Fifth Street: The last community card

Flop: The first three community cards

Flush: Five cards of identical suits

Fold: Throw away your hand

Full House: A hand containing a three of a kind and a pair

Freeroll: A free-to-enter tournament

Freezeout: A tournament with a single buy-in

Hold’em: Texas Hold’em

Late Position: Seat 8, 9 or 10; one of the last players to act

Limp: Call a bet

Loose: Calling a lot of bets

Muck: Fold your hand

No Limit: A poker variant with no maximum raise limit

Nuts: Best hand available

Omaha: Four-card poker variant where players must use two of their hole cards

Out of Turn: To make a bet or raise before your turn

Play the Board: The players’ best hand contains all five community cards

Pocket Pair: A dealt pair in the hole

Pot: Amount of chips in the middle

Pre-Flop: Action before the flop has been dealt

Post-Flop: Action after the flop has been dealt

Push: To move all-in with your entire stack of chips

Raise: To bet at least double the size of the previous bet

Re-Buy: To re-enter a tournament after you have lost your chips

River: Fifth and final community card

Royal Flush: A hand containing 10, J, Q, K and A of the same suit

Runner-Runner: Hitting the two cards you need to win on the turn and river

Showdown: Comparing hands at the end of the hand

Sit ‘n Go: A small tournament that starts as soon as all seats are occupied

Small Blind: An enforced bet made by the Seat 2 players. The small blind is worth half the big blind

Straight: Five consecutive cards of different suits

Single-Table Tournament: Online tournament with 9 or 10 players maximum.

Texas Hold’em: Popular variant of poker played live or online

Top pair: A pair containing one hole card and one community card

Trips: Three of a kind

Turn: Fourth community card

Under the Gun: First player to act seated next to the big blind

Where to Play Poker

With our guide to poker for beginners, you should have the tools needed to take on the best! But where should you play? In addition to online poker, there are several brick-and-mortar cardrooms in Pennsylvania offering Hold’em and Omaha. Parx Casino in Philadelphia boasts a state-of-the-art cardroom offering 48 tables. Wind Creek Casino in Bethlehem also runs regular poker tournaments and cash games throughout the week.

You can also read our guide to the best online poker sites. As long as you are over 21, you can play legal poker tournaments and cash games in the comfort of your own home. Online poker is 100-percent legal in PA in 2020. Find a poker room that’s right for you and claim your welcome bonus when you make a first deposit.

Poker for Beginners FAQ

What’s the easiest poker game to learn?

Texas Hold’em is the easiest poker variant to learn and play. Hold’em cash games and tournaments are widely available in Pennsylvania and online.

What’s the best way to learn how to play poker?

Sign up to one of our top-rated online poker rooms and try some free-play Hold’em tournaments and cash games. There is no risk, and you can get a feel for poker rules and poker strategy.

Is poker skill or just luck?

Poker combines skill, psychology and luck. The better poker pros will have a higher skill level than amateurs and can use aggression and bluffing to win hands.

Which poker game is the most popular?

Texas Hold’em is the most popular form of poker. Discover the best online poker sites with Hold’em games by following our in-depth guide.



Jon Young is a writer & magazine editor with over 12 years' experience in the gaming sector. He has written on everything from poker, slots, mobile gambling, sportsbooks & online casinos in Pennsylvania. When not trying to take down the Mega Moolah jackpot he can be found playing poker tournaments in casinos.

Cited by leading media organizations, such as: