The rise of online poker has contributed to it becoming one the most popular card games in the world, but there are so many different types of poker that it can seem daunting to the beginner.
Here, Telegraph Betting introduces you to the broad concepts that unite all forms of poker and shows you how they fit together to play one of the game’s most popular variants, Texas Holdem.
We’ll also discuss the four main types of poker under which all poker games can be categorised.
Then, once you’ve got to grips with the basics, you’ll find our guides to the specifics of how to play the most popular types of poker at the bottom of this piece.
How to play poker: concepts common to most types of poker
All games of poker are based around common poker-hand rankings which are used to decide which player’s hand wins in a game of poker.
Some poker game types will use the common hand ranking in different ways, such as making the lowest value hand the most desirable (low-ball poker).
Learn the order of strength of poker hands on our poker-hand rankings page.
It’s possible to win poker hands without holding the best hand by bluffing your opponents.
Bluffing usually involves projecting confidence in your hand by betting in a manner that suggests your hand is better than it is, in the hope that your opponents will believe you and fold rather than risk taking you on in the showdown.
Most forms of poker require some form of compulsory bet at the beginning of a hand usually referred to as the ‘ante’ or ‘blind’. Many forms of the game feature a small blind and a big blind, with the latter generally twice the size of the former.
Whether you’re playing physical poker at home, at a bricks-and-mortar casino, or an online casino the role of the dealer determines the order in which the blinds are put up and players make their bets. The game usually unfolds in a clockwise direction starting with the dealer.
In both physical and online casinos the dealer is generally not one of the players so a token denotes which player is nominally the dealer for each hand. This then rotates clockwise from one hand to the next.
Following the forced bets, the first round of betting begins. Players usually have the following betting options to use depending on their confidence in their hand.
- Call — Matching another player’s bet or raise
- Raise — Increasing the size of your existing bet in the same round of betting
- Fold — To withdraw from the hand, sacrificing any bets already made.
- Check — Until the first bet in a round of betting is placed, players can choose to check (decline to make a bet while reserving the right to bet later in the round).
- All in — When a player doesn’t have enough chips left to call a bet they can play all their remaining chips. Subsequent betting takes place in a side pot and the all-in player can only win the amount of chips in the pot when they went all-in in any subsequent showdown.
Rounds of betting
In poker, each round of betting offers a chance to utilise the betting options outlined in the previous section, based on your confidence in your hand and your perception of the quality of your opponents’ hands. The latter can chiefly be gauged by seeing how much they are betting or raising.
All types of poker feature at least one round of betting, while the vast majority feature at least two.
These rounds usually take place before and after game events such as the dealing of the flop in Texas Holdem and allow for degrees of strategizing by players as the hand progresses. Texas Holdem and Omaha, which are so called ‘community card’ games, can feature up to four rounds of betting.
How to play in a poker in a nutshell: a game in brief
Here we illustrate how to play a game of poker in a nutshell. This is how to play the world’s current most popular type of poker, Texas Holdem.
- Dealer deals each player two cards
- The small blind is placed, followed by the big blind.
- The first round of betting ensues, players bet according to confidence in their hand
- Dealer deals three ‘community cards’ face up.
- The second round of betting begins
- Dealer deals the fourth community card, also known as the turn
- The third round of betting begins
- Dealer deals the fifth community card, also known as the river
- The final round of betting ensues.
- If two or more players still haven’t folded, all remaining players show their cards.
- The winner is the one with the best hand according to the poker hand rankings.
There are various different ways in which betting can be structured in poker. The three structures below are the most common in online poker and are usually listed alongside the type of poker in online poker lobbies.
Pot limit (PL) — A player may bet or raise any amount up to the size of the total pot.
Fixed limit (FL) — Betting and raising must be done by fixed amounts.
No limit (NL) — A player can bet all of their chips any time it’s their turn to bet
The four main poker variations
The many different types of poker can generally be classified as falling into one of the following four categories:
Community card poker
Players are dealt a number of cards less than a complete five-card poker hand. A number of face-up community cards are then dealt with the objective that the players make the best possible five-card hand with some combination of their own cards and the community cards.
Famous varieties include: Texas Holdem, Omaha
The earliest form of poker, each player is dealt a full hand of five cards. A round of betting ensues in which players can raise and reraise until the game concludes.
Famous varieties include: five-card brag, three-card brag
Another poker variation in which players receive all five cards at the beginning of the game, draw poker then allows them to attempt to improve their hand by discarding cards and being dealt replacements.
Famous varieties include: five-card draw
In stud-poker games, players are dealt their cards one by one in a specified combination of face-up and face-down cards, typically with a round of betting between each card being dealt.
Famous varieties include: seven-card stud, razz
Learn how to play popular types of poker and the rules specific to each game
Want to know the rules specific to popular types of poker? Check out the links below.
- How to play Texas Holdem poker
- How to play Omaha poker
- How to play 3-card poker
- How to play heads-up poker
- How to play video poker
Ready to start playing online poker in the UK?
Take a look at our painstakingly researched list of the best poker bonus sign-up offers for UK players.
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