LEARN HOW TO PLAY POKERHave you ever seen a game of poker in a movie or TV show? I'm pretty certain you have. What about having played a game with friends, betting with matchsticks or loose change? Possibly yes to that, too. But how would you feel about going to a casino and trying your hand at a poker table, taking the risk of losing your hard earned cash? Nervous? Slightly petrified? If so, we can – and will happily – help you! This site aims to provide you with the basic know-how, along with handy hints, to take your from being a complete novice to a skilful player. Some people play professionally, others play for fun, and some just need a little bit of excitement in their lives. It seems like most of the world is getting into poker, so why don't you as well?
Why Play For Free?
Take it from me, as someone who learned to play poker back in the days before helpful poker bloggers and decent free online gaming, playing poker for free online is a great way to learn nowadays. For starters, you won't lose a fortune (like I did when I started out). It also gives you the opportunity to hone your skills and take chances, with no risk to your bank account, until you feel ready to take the plunge and part with your cash. Nowadays there are many free online poker games – both for desktop and mobile devices – to choose from, and also plenty of friendly bloggers (like myself) who can give you lots of handy tips and strategies to help you improve your game.
Why Play Online?
Learning to play poker online has significant benefits over playing a live game. Of course, one of the biggest advantages is not having to leave the comfort of your own home – you don't even have to get dressed! Casinos don't tend to be the most conducive learning environment: they're loud, bright and smoky. Also, because you are playing with other people face-to-face, you have to concentrate on keeping your 'poker face' and not showing your emotions and cards physically to the other players. If you're just starting out in the world of poker, freeing yourself of these distractions will aid your learning process, leaving you free to focus on your game strategy, player development, and overall enjoyment. Playing online takes the stress out of learning the ins and outs of the game.
You don't have many pairs of eyes watching your moves, meaning you can relax and think more clearly. Another advantage is how online poker playing makes the game faster. You don't have to wait for the dealer to gather and shuffle the cards after every hand – it's done immediately for you – which means you can play a larger number of hands in any given time. More hands in less time equals more practice and faster development.
As much as it's far better to learn and practice the basics online, live poker is a lot of fun. Once you've got comfortable with your tactics and strategy, it's worth giving live games a go. It's much easier to deal with the distractions of a casino when you know what you're doing.
HOW TO PLAY POKER FOR A LIVING
Dreaming of giving up the day job and making a living by playing poker? It may seem like a crazy pipe dream, but, if you're smart enough, and willing to put in the effort, it is possible to make your living this way, even if it is difficult.
Obviously you can't make money from playing poker if you haven't learned to play. Experience is vital to poker: it's a game which requires the player to be able to read situations and make good decisions. Practice makes perfect: play lots of hands on free online games, learn how to read your opponents, and the type of hands they play. This kind of intuition can't be learned from a blog post. Yes, a blog can give you lots of handy tips and hints, but in order to become good, you have to start playing, and play a lot.
Professional poker playing isn't just about strategy though, it's about not risking too much of your bankroll (poker budget) in one game. By doing this, pros overcome the obstacle of luck (known as 'variance' in professional circles).
WHY DO MILLIONS OF PEOPLE LOVE TO PLAY POKER?
So, why is poker such a popular game to play? Firstly, even if you're not playing for money, not much beats the thrill and excitement of a poker game. It's a game of skill and intellect, survival of the fittest. The ability to make the best decision possible at all times, the ability to read your opponent, and timing are all key. If you show yourself to be weak, show too much emotion through your body language and facial features, and make bad decisions, the strong and smart will eat you for breakfast. It's a simple game in theory, and yet at the same time is infinitely recondite. In Texas Hold'em – the most popular version of poker throughout the world – there is an oft said expression: '[Texas Hold'em takes] an hour to learn and a lifetime to master'.
The fact that poker has the element of luck in the short term makes it a unique example of skill-based games. If you get dealt the right cards, you could beat the best players in the world, even if you're a complete beginner. Of course, with respects to long term, the players with the biggest amount of skill are going to be the ones who are going to win and make the big bucks (see blog article 'Is Poker a Game of Luck or Skill?') but it is a game of equals in the short term.
Probably the main reason for playing poker is that it is a lot of fun, even if you can't get your head around all the strategies. Lots of people play simply with the hope that they will get lucky. So, if you have some money burning a hole in your pocket, fancy a bit of a flutter, and like a bit of risk, go ahead. You won't get rich from it, but you will have fun in the process.
CAN ANYONE BECOME GOOD AT POKER?
Surely, to be truly great at poker, you need to have been born with some kind of innate ability? Not necessarily true. OK, maybe if you are a math genius, or have powers of telepathy, then you might find that your rate of success is significantly higher than, say, someone born with no intellectual prowess whatsoever. But, like with most things in life, it is possible to learn the skills needed to become a good poker player, as long as you are reasonably intelligent, and you persevere and practice. At its essence, poker is all about making the right decisions as often as possible, and there are many ways in which this is achievable. For example, some online players possess mathematical genius and are able to use this to come to the best decisions consistently; other players use practically no math at all in their game plan, but come to the same decisions purely out of playing experience. So, if your math is not up to scratch, you can use logic to beat your opponents instead; gaining experience and honing your logical deduction can be just as effective as having math knowledge. Having said that, knowing some basic math concepts would help tremendously with your playing; thankfully, the concepts needed are extremely easy and don't require a university major in applied math. If you're just starting out though, it's more important to get a feel for the game and experience different situations before you think about math techniques.
THINGS YOU MIGHT HEAR IN A POKER GAME
Like many games, poker has its own vocabulary. This is how experienced players sniff out beginners – they listen to the language they use to talk about the game. For example, the terms 'trips' and 'set' both refer to three of a kind, but do you know the difference? If not, and you get them mixed up in a game, an experienced player will come down on you like a vulture, dollar signs flashing in their eyes. This is another good reason to hone your skills online to begin with; even making the smallest mistake in terminology will give you away. This is why I've compiled all common poker terms and phrases, and slang into one glossary. If you study it thoroughly before getting involved in a live poker game, you won't be taken advantage of.
THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF POKER GAMES
The great thing about poker is that there are many ways in which you can play it. As I have mentioned, Texas Hold'em is, without a doubt, the most popular form of poker, and is a good variation to start out playing if you're a beginner. In basic terms there are two types of poker game: cash games and tournaments.
A game in which players buy chips which are of the same cash value is known as a cash game. These chips are risked during the game. Players have the opportunity to leave a game whenever they want and exchange their chips for cash, their wins having a direct cash value. Big and small blinds don't change in a cash game. If a player uses all their chips, they can simply buy more if they wish to continue playing.
In a tournament, the chips act more like points rather than having a cash value attached to them. You buy into the tournament for a set amount of money, which in turn buys you a set amount of chips. The aim is to stay in the tournament for as long as possible by winning chips from other players. If you lose all yours chips, you are out of the tournament. Starting with small blinds, they then increase every so often (for example, every ten or fifteen minutes). Once one player has won all the chips, the tournament finishes. Obviously this player finishes in 1st place, but there are cash prizes for other players, normally the last 10-15% of players still in the tournament.
In my opinion, tournaments are much, much more fun than cash games; the strategic skill involved is way more interesting. If you want to win on a regular basis, then cash games may be for you, but personally I live for the thrill of making my way to the final table of a big tournament.
The aim in Texas Hold'em is to make the best possible 5 card hand out of a total of 7 cards, determined by the standard hand rankings. The game begins with two cards – 'hole cards' – being dealt face down for each of the players. Only the individual player can see their hole cards. A round of betting called a 'preflop' takes place before the 'flop' – 3 cards dealt face up on the middle of the table – is dealt. The players combine these 3 community cards with their own hole cards. After the flop, another round of betting takes place. A fourth community card is then added to the mix (known as 'the turn'), followed by another round of betting before 'the river' – the fifth community card. After this there is the final round of betting. A 'showdown' occurs if there is more than one player left in the hand after this final bet – each player turns over their hole cards.
Omaha is actually very similar to Texas Hold'em but with two differences. The first is that each player receives 4 hole cards instead of 2. The second is that 2 of a player's hole cards must be included in their hand, along with 3 of the 5 community cards.
5 CARD DRAW
This type of poker is pretty much not played any more, but if you've watched a lot of old movies then you've probably seen it played. It's much more based on luck than Texas Hold'em and Omaha, and is very easy to play, hence why it was so popular. As the name suggest, each player is dealt 5 cards. This is followed by a round of betting, and then players are given the opportunity to change 4 of their 5 cards from the dealer's deck, known as a 'draw'. There is then another round of betting before the showdown.
PLAYING POKER: HAND RANKINGS
The hands are ranked from low to high, and are the same for pretty much all types of poker, including the ones I have mentioned. In the three games above, a hand is made up of 5 cards.
High card – also known as 'nothing', when you don't have anything to pair them with. Example- AK982 (Ace high)
One pair – two matching cards, with three non-matching cards. Example AA983 (pair of aces)
Two pair – two sets of cards which match, with one single card. Example AAKK5 (Aces and kings with a five kicker)
Three of a kind – three matching cards, with two non-matching cards. Example AAA84 (three of a kind, aces)
Straight – five cards which are in numerical order (note: aces can be both low or high, but not both at the same time). Example A2345 (5 high straight) or TJQKA (ace high straight), or 6789T (ten high straight) etc.
*fun fact: If you don't have a 5 or a 10 (T) in your hand, you have no way of making a straight.
Flush – five cards which are all of matching suit (spades, clubs, diamonds, or hearts). Example 73KJ5 all hearts
Full House – three of a kind plus one pair. Example AAAKK (Aces full of kings)
Four of a Kind (quads) – four matching cards. Example AAAA3 (Four of a kind, Aces)
Straight Flush – five cards, matching suit and in numerical order. Example 34567 all spades
Royal Flush – the highest ranking hand, and seldom seen. An ace-high straight flush. Example TJQKA all diamonds.