Online Poker

Poker is the most popular competitive card game in existence. Learn the ropes here with RightCasino.

Poker is a game played against people, rather than the casino (house). It is a zero sum game – one poker player’s financial gain is exactly balanced by the losses of another. This means that it is a profitable game for good players. Unlike most forms of gambling, there is no house edge. Instead, the online poker client will collect a percentage of each pot, known as the ‘rake’.

Our introductory guide will help you get to grips with the essentials of poker, giving you a firm platform on which to test and develop your skills through our featured poker clients.

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How to play poker

Getting started: learn poker rules and hand-rankings.

Poker is a deep and complex family of games, reflected by the hundreds of books, websites and forums dedicated to the subject.

Note: cards in this poker guide are labelled using the following format:

  • A = Ace
  • K = King
  • Q = Queen
  • J = Jack
  • T = Ten
  • 9-2 = Nine to two
  • H = Heart
  • D = Diamond
  • S = Spade
  • C = Club

For instance, Ace of Hearts = AH

Like all great games, poker is simple to learn but can take a lifetime to master. While there are many game types – which differ from the number of cards dealt to different hand rankings, bet size limits and game structures – most follow the same basic theory. Players aim to win chips off other competitors by either making the best hand or by forcing other players to fold better hands (bluffing).

This introductory lesson will show you how poker is played and explain the hand ranking system. The following lessons will gradually introduce odds, terminology and different poker variants in more detail.

By the time you complete our seven-lesson guide, you‘ll be able to play poker more confidently and have a solid foundation for developing your skills.

Rules and gameplay

The rules below apply to most variants of poker. As Texas Hold’em is the most popular form of poker played today, all references will be based around this game.

This is the poker table layout for a game of Full Ring Texas Hold’em. Full ring is the term for a poker table that holds either nine or ten players.

Cards dealt

A hand begins when the cards are dealt by the ‘dealer.’ In Texas Hold’em, players receive two, face down ‘hole cards.’ The dealer is signified by the ‘dealer button’, which moves clockwise around the poker table to the next player after the end of every hand.

Blinds posted

In most poker game types, the player to the left of the dealer posts a ‘small blind’. The player two spaces to the left of the dealer posts a ‘big blind’.

For most poker game types, the small blind is usually half the size of the big blind: e.g. if the small blind is $0.05, the big blind is $0.10.

First action

Before the flop (‘pre-flop’), action begins with the player to the left of the big blind. The player has three options: call (match the amount of the big blind), raise (increase the amount of money in the ‘pot’ by betting) or fold (abandon his hand and wait for the next one).

Pre-flop

In the case of Texas Hold’em and other community card variants, a player must place money in the pot to see the flop. If all but one player folds, the hand ends.

The flop

The flop consists of three community cards. In Texas Hold’em and other community card variantions, a new round of betting commences after the flop. This time, however, the player to the left of the dealer is the first to act. Players acting after the flop have five options:

  1. Fold – abandon your hand and place your cards in the ‘muck’, declaring yourself out of the hand.
  2. Bet – place a bet to increase the size of the pot.
  3. Raise – raise the bet of the previous player.
  4. Call – call the bet of the previous player.
  5. Check – do not place a bet, allowing the next player to act.

The turn and the river

Next comes the ‘turn’. A new round of betting commences, with the same options from the flop available to the player. The final card is the river, followed by one more round of betting. If there is more than one player still left in the hand, there is a ‘showdown’.

The showdown

A player can win a hand of poker in two ways:

  1. Every other player folds before showdown.
  2. They show the best ranking hand at showdown.

Winning hands are determined based on their relative ‘rank’ compared to other hands on the table. Higher ranked hands beat lower ranked ones.

Poker hands typically consist of five cards, although this is not the case in some variants. In Texas Hold’em, a player does not have to use both hole cards to make a hand. They can opt to use both hole cards, one hole card and four community cards, or even all five community cards.

The player with the winning hand will take the pot. In the case of two or more players having the same hand, the pot is split equally between them.

Traditional hand rankings

Hand rankings form the core of all poker games and should be learned before sitting at a poker table or logging into a poker client.

The hand order below is applicable to Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Seven Card Stud and Five Card Draw. You’ll learn more about popular poker variants in the next lesson.

Hands are displayed in order of strongest to weakest. Ace plays as high and low.

Straight flush

Five consecutive cards of the same suit in a sequence is known as a straight flush. A royal flush is the best hand in the game and goes from ten up to the ace.

If both players have straight flushes, the highest sequence wins the pot.

Four of a kind

Four of a kind is four cards of the same value. In the event that two players both have four of a kind, the higher value hand wins. For example, 2222 is the lowest four of a kind you can have, while AAAA is the highest.

Full house

Full house is three cards of the same value, and two cards of the same value.

The highest three matching cards win if two or more players hold a full house – 88877 beats 77799. In community card games where players have same three matching cards, the rank of the remaining two matching cards breaks the tie.

Flush

Five cards of any rank in the same suit.

The flush containing the highest ranked card wins the hand. An Ace-High flush beats a King-High flush.

Straight

Five cards in sequence (any suit).

If two straights are competing for the pot, the hand containing the highest ranking card will win. A 56789 straight beats a 45678 straight.

Three of a kind or Set

Three cards of the same rank. If two or more players have three of a kind (trips) the highest value three of a kind will win the hand. For example 888 will beat 777.

Two pair

Two pairs of same rank cards. If two or more players have two pairs, the highest value pair will win the hand. For example AA22 will beat KKQQ. The second pair comes into play if the highest ranked pair is identical, i.e. AA77 beats AA66. If both pairs are identical the remaining card – the ‘kicker’ – is the tie breaker.

Pair

Two matched cards of any suit and three side cards.

The highest ranked pair wins. If players have the same pair, the player with the best kicker wins the pot. For example player A has AK and player B has AQ. The board is AJ245. Player A has one pair AAKJ4, while player B has AAQJ4. Player A has a K kicker, which beats player B Q kicker and is awarded the pot.

High card

High card counts when a player fails to make a pair or better. The highest ranking card either in their hand or on the board is what they play at showdown.

Ace to Five Lowball hand rankings

The following hand rankings apply to Hi/Lo games including Omaha Hi/Lo and Stud Hi/Lo, in addition to Razz and ‘low only’ Stud poker.

Note: suits are irrelevant in these hand rankings and aces are always a ‘low’ card when considering a low hand. The value of a hand begins with the top (‘high’) card and then descends through the card ranks.

Five low (‘wheel’)

The 5, 4, 3, 2 and Ace.

Six low

Any five unpaired cards with 6 as the high card.

In the event of a tie, the next lowest-ranking card after the 6 wins. Therefore, 6, 5, 4, 3, Ace loses to 6, 4, 3, 2, Ace.

Seven low

Any five unpaired cards with 7 as the high card.

In the event of a tie, the next lowest-ranking card after the 7 wins.

Eight low

Any five unpaired cards with 8 as the high card.

In the event of a tie, the next lowest-ranking card after the 8 wins.

Note: this is the weakest hand that still qualifies as ‘low’ in Omaha Hi/Lo and Stud Hi/Lo. In Razz poker the rules are simpler: the lowest hand always wins the pot, irrespective of its value.

Badugi hand rankings

The following hand ranks apply to Badugi poker only – a four card poker game that completely rejects traditional hand rankings.

The basis of Badugi is, in essence, similar to Ace to Five. However, each card must be of a different suit and rank in order for a hand to count.

This means that, if you have multiple cards in the same suit, only one of them counts. The same is true of any matched cards.

Badugi

Four unpaired cards of different suits.

In the event of a tie, the lowest second card wins, proceeding to the third and fourth is necessary.

Three-card hand

Three unpaired cards of different suits, with a fourth card of a matching rank or suit (this card is ignored).

The lowest second card wins if there is a tie.

Two-card hand

Two unpaired cards of different suits, with two additional cards of matching ranks or suits.

The lowest second card wins if there is a tie.

One-card hand

The weakest possible hand, consisting of only one playable card. The lowest card is played.

In the event of two, equal one-card hands, the pot is split.

Types of poker games

Learn different poker games and variations on the rules.

There are many different ways of playing poker. This lesson will introduce you to the most popular poker games and provide an overview of common variations on standard poker rules.

Understanding game types

The various types of poker games are broadly categorised into three groups: draw, stud and community card poker. The games below are organised into their respective groups, along with a brief description of their unique rules.

Draw poker

In following games, players are dealt a complete, hidden hand which they can attempt to improve by replacing a certain number of cards.

  • Five Card Draw: played with traditional hand rankings. All players are dealt five cards, face-down and a round of betting begins. If more than one player remains after the first round, a ‘draw’ phase commences, in which players throw away any number of cards and draw replacements from the deck. A second ‘after the draw’ betting round begins, followed by a showdown. The highest hand wins the pot.
  • Badugi: played with Badugi hand rankings and four card hands. Winning hands should contain all different ranks and suits. Any doubles or matched suits do not count.
  • Baduci: played with Badugi hand rankings and seven lowball hand rankings simultaneously. Players draw five cards and compete for a split pot. One half is won according to Badugi rankings and the other according to lowball deuce-to-seven rankings.
  • California Hi/Lo: essentially identical to Baduci but played with a Joker in the deck as the bug (wild card, with any rank or suit).

Stud poker

In this group of games, players receive a combination of face up and face down cards across multiple betting rounds.

  • Seven Card Stud: played with traditional hand rankings. Two cards are dealt face down to each player, followed by a betting round in which one card is dealt face up. This is repeated three more times, followed by another face-down card. The hand ends with a showdown.
  • Six/Five Card Stud: identical to Seven Card Stud except the last (or last two) face-up cards are omitted.
  • Razz: played with five lowball hand-rankings. Seven cards are dealt but only the five best count towards a player’s hand. Razz is also generally played with limit betting. After antes, each player is dealt two cards face-down (‘hole cards’) and one face-up (the ‘door card’). The highest door card has to ‘bring it in’ with the first mandatory bet: usually a third or half the regular bet but permitted up to the whole regular bet. Other players can either call the best or ‘complete’ by raising to a regular bet. Play then continues as normal. If two or more players have the same door card, the bring-in is determined by suit, with Spades > Hearts > Diamonds > Clubs.
  • Eight-or-Better Hi/Lo Stud: played identically to Seven Card Stud, but the pot is split between the player with the lowest hand and the highest hand. An 8-high hand or lower is required to win. No declaration is required: the cards speak in the showdown.
  • Hi/Lo Stud, no qualifier: largely the same as Eight-or-Better, except there is no qualifier for the low half of the pot.

Community card poker

This group of games is characterised by a number of shared cards (‘the board’) that all players can use to create hands.

  • Texas Hold’em: played with traditional hand rankings and by far the most popular form of poker currently played in casinos. The game begins when each player is dealt two hole cards, followed by a betting round. Subsequently, three community cards are dealt face-up (‘the flop’) After another betting round, a single community card is dealt face up (‘the turn’), followed by another betting round. Finally, a fifth community card is dealt (‘the river’), leading to the final betting round and the showdown.
  • Omaha Hold’em: can be played either with traditional hand rankings or eight lowball hand rankings. In the former, each player receives four hole cards. All other rules are the same as Texas Hold’em. In the latter (Omaha Hi/Lo), each player makes a separate five-card high hand and five-card low hand. The pot is split and divided between the highest and lowest hand (which can be held by the same player.) When playing Omaha, players MUST use two of their hole cards and three community cards to make a hand.

Poker strategy

Learn basic poker strategies and start playing like a pro.

Poker is an incredibly complex game and advanced strategies can take hundreds of hours to master. However, there are beginner strategies that novices can employ to compete more effectively. Sticking to our simplified poker strategy guide will help you avoid the kind of silly plays that puts novices on tilt. Once you start gaining experience, you’ll gradually learn more advanced skills and develop your own playing style. As it’s by far the most popular form of competitive poker, this page will focus exclusively on Texas Hold’em.

Bankroll management

If you’re going to succeed at No-Limit Texas Hold’em, bankroll management is everything. You’ll live or die at the tables by how well you manage your bankroll. A poker bankroll is how much money you have to play poker. For example, if you deposit $500, your bankroll is $500.

As a rule of thumb, you’d never want more than 5% of your bankroll at any one table for cash games. This way if you do lose an all in, you still have $475 (95%) of your bank roll to play with. Putting 100% of your bankroll on the table is not wise. Sure, you can double it up to $1000, but chances are you’ll lose and be left with nothing.

As a general bankroll strategy for cash games, it’s recommended for you to always have between 20-40 buy-ins for the stakes you’re playing. For example:

  • $10 buy-in cash game – bankroll of $200-400 (move up stakes at $500).
  • $25 buy-in cash game – bankroll of $500 -$1,000 (move up stakes at $1,000).
  • $50 buy-in cash game – bankroll of $1,000 – $2,000 (move up stakes at $3,000).

For any sort of tournament play, it’s advised that you never pay more than 1% of your total bankroll for entry.

Position

This is one of the poker fundamentals and applies to all the strategies described below.

In poker, the blinds rotate around the table. The earlier you have to perform an action, the weaker position you are in, because you will not be able to observe other players’ bets.

Each seat at a poker table has a name assigned to it; they are as follows from the left of the button:

  • Small blind
  • Big blind
  • Under the gun (UTG)
  • Under the gun +1 (UTG+1)
  • Under the gun +2 (UTG+2)
  • Middle position (MP)
  • Middle position +1 (MP+1)
  • Middle position +2 (MP+2)
  • Cut off/hijack (CO/HJ)
  • Button/dealer (BTN)

In early position, you want to play fewer hands as post flop you’ll be in a bad position to act. In the middle position you’d want to open a few more hands as you’re in a better position throughout the remainder of the hand. In late position you can open more speculative hands.

When you make a raise in early position, your raise must get through 10 players, which is going to be difficult, while in late position you may only need to get past 2 or 3 players.

Post flop action starts clockwise from the dealer. The closer you are to the right of the dealer position the better. As for each street, you can watch the actions of players before you and use that information to make your play. Playing hands in early position puts you at a great disadvantage as you must act first with no information.

Tight-aggressive No-Limit Hold’em strategy

As a new poker player the easiest strategy to learn is tight-aggressive (TAG). As the name suggests you don’t play many hands, but the hands you do play are played aggressively. Here are some basic principles for playing tight aggressive:

  • Don’t play junk: starting hands like 45, 57, K9, Q7 are not strong enough to call or raise, so you should fold pre-flop. Stick to pocket pairs and high face cards such as AK, AQ, KQ and KJ. As your skills improve, you can start playing more speculative hands like 87, A2, A3 etc.
  • Bet for value: if you think you have the best hand, bet for value to win more money. Don’t get tricky with slow play – if you have a good hand, bet hard!
  • Be aware of your position: play fewer hands in early position, and more hands in the later position.
  • Never limp: limping is a sign of a novice player, any good player at the table will immediately start to raise you every time and attack you. If you enter a pot first, always raise.

These are just a few of the basic concepts. The more hands you play, the faster you’ll learn and develop your own style.

Fixed-Limit Hold’em strategy

Your actions in Fixed-Limit games should be based on three factors:

  • Your hole cards
  • The action of players prior to you
  • Your position

Fortunately, the nature of Fixed-Limit Hold’em means you can mathematically optimise your actions depending on your starting hand. Simply consult the table below and you will not go far wrong – except for one scenario …

If your starting hand does not appear in the handchart, you should fold pre-flop.

Fixed-limit Hold’em action guide

Very strong hands: AA, KK, QQ / AKs (suited), AKo (off-suit)

Actions of the oppositionEarly pos.Middle pos.Late pos.Small blindBig blind
Royal FlushCAPCAPCAPCAPCAP

Strong hands: JJ, TT, 99 / AQs, AQo, AJs

Actions of the oppositionEarly pos.Middle pos.Late pos.Small blindBig blind
All players foldRaiseRaiseRaiseRaiseRaise
One player calls the BBRaiseRaiseRaiseRaiseRaise
Two or more players call the BBRaiseRaiseRaiseRaiseRaise
One player raises, all others foldFoldRaiseRaiseRaiseRaise
A player raises, at least one opponent calls the raiseCallCallCallCallCall

Mediocre hands: AJo, ATs, ATo, KQs, KQo

Actions of the oppositionEarly pos.Middle pos.Late pos.Small blindBig blind
All players foldFoldRaiseRaiseRaiseRaise
One player calls the BBFoldRaiseRaiseRaiseRaise
Two or more players call the BBFoldRaiseRaiseRaiseRaise
One player raises, all others foldFoldFoldFoldFoldCall
A player raises, at least one opponent calls the raiseFold (KQs call)Fold (KQs call)Fold (KQs call)Fold (KQs call)Call

Speculative hands: 88 to 22 / KJs, KTs, QJs, JTs, T9s

Actions of the oppositionEarly pos.Middle pos.Late pos.Small blindBig blind
All players foldFoldFoldRaiseRaiseRaise
One player calls the BBFoldFoldCallCallRaise
Two or more players call the BBCallCallCallCallRaise
One player raises, all others foldFoldFoldFoldFoldCall
A player raises, at least one opponent calls the raiseCallCallCallCallCall

Mixed hands: KJo, KTo, QJo, QTo, JTo / From A9s to A2s, K9s, 87s, 98s

Actions of the oppositionEarly pos.Middle pos.Late pos.Small blindBig blind
All players foldFoldFoldRaiseRaiseRaise
One player calls the BBFoldFoldFoldCallCheck
Two or more players call the BBFoldFoldCallCallCheck
One player raises, all others foldFoldFoldFoldFoldFold
A player raises, at least one opponent calls the raiseFoldFoldFoldFoldFold

If someone raises before you

The only scenario not covered by the action chart above is if you join the pot and there is a raise after you. This is dealt with accordingly:

  • If there has been one raise after you: call with any good hand, with exception of a very strong hand. In which case, you should raise further.
  • More than one raise after you: this probably indicates that your opponent has a very strong hand (unless they are inexperienced and trying to bluff). Only call with strong hands, raise with very strong hands and fold on anything else.

Sit and Go strategy

Sit and Go (SNG) or ‘tournament poker’ is an elimination style of poker. Once you’re out of the tournament, the game is over for you.

In this version of the game, a prize pool is made up from an equal entry fee – chips are essentially just used as counters and do not represent actual money.

For Sit and Go games which consist of 9-10 players, positions 1-3 are usually paid. The strategy for these types of games are quite complex and depend on a number of variables to play optimal. However following these basic concepts can help you tremendously when starting out:

  • The early stage: during the start of the game, play tight, you’ll have enough chips in relation to the blinds to wait for good strong hands and not be too worried about getting short stacked.
  • Middle stage: as the blinds increases and stack sizes shorten in relation to the blinds, playing more hands in later position is key to winning the small and big blinds to keep topping up your stack.
  • Late stage: when there are four players left and only three get paid is where you start to make moves. The key to remember here is that when you call all-in, your hand should be a lot stronger than if you’re pushing all in.

Basic hand strategy for Sit and Go and Multi-table Tournaments

Follow the action chart below if your stack is greater than the sum of 20 big blinds. As always, you need to factor your position into your action before the flop:

Your cardsEarlyMiddleLate & blinds
AA, KK, QQRaise / All inRaise / All inRaise / All in
AKRaise / All inRaise / All inRaise / All in
JJRaiseRaiseRaise / All in
TT, 99, 88Raise / callRaise / callRaise / call if someone has made a bet before you
77Raise, but don’t go all in if raisedRaise, but don’t go all in if raisedRaise / call if someone has made a bet before you
AQFoldRaise / call if someone has made a bet before youRaise / call if someone has made a bet before you
AJ, ATFoldFoldIf nobody has raised before you, raise. If not, fold.
KQ, KJFoldFoldIf nobody has raised before you, raise. If not, fold.
All other cardsFoldFoldFold

If you’re short stacked and have 12 big blinds or less, going all-in is usually your only option. Here are some hand ranges to use as a template for going all in with 12 big blinds (‘BB’) or less during a Sit and Go or larger tournament:

  • Early position: 77, 88, 99, TT, JJ. QQ, KK, AA, AK, AQ.
  • Middle position: 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99, TT, JJ. QQ, KK, AA, AK, AQ, AJ.
  • Late position: all pairs, any ace, any two picture cards: JT, QT, KT, AT.

The information above should be used as a basic guideline for new poker players starting out. As you improve you’ll start to be able to make reads on players and adjust accordingly on how you should play each hand.

Poker is completely situational and no two hands are ever the same, the information here should be used as a template only.

Basic hand strategy for cash games

Most cash games allow you to buy in for 100 big blinds, with the blind structure remaining constant. Cash games play very different from Sit and Go tournaments, as there’s no need to keep accruing chips as the blinds remain the same and a player can always re-buy to a 100 big blinds before the start of a new hand.

Starting out playing cash games can sometimes be a rollercoaster ride when making the jump from tournaments. Below are two starting hand charts ranges for 9/10-max cash games, and 6-max which can be used by new players learning the game.

9/10 max cash game starting hands:

  • Early position: 99, TT, JJ, QQ, KK, AA, AK.
  • Middle position: 77, 88, 99, TT, JJ, QQ, KK, AA, AK, AQ.
  • Late position: all pairs, any two face cards: JT, QT, KT, AT.

6 max cash game starting hands:

  • Early position: 66, 77, 88, 99, TT, JJ, QQ, KK, AA, AK, AQ.
  • Middle position: 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99, TT, JJ, QQ, KK, AK, AQ, AJ, ATs, KQ.
  • Late position: all pairs, any two face cards, JT, QT, KT, AT any ace suited.

6-max games generally have more action as there are fewer players to get past pre-flop, so your pre-flop raising range can be much wider. Both hand charts are just templates to use when you first start off, as you get better and discover tells from the opponents at your tables, you can start to open up your pre-flop range and play more hands.

You might be thinking, ‘why aren’t hands like QJ or KJ in the early posting hand ranges?’. Well, in lesson five you’ll learn about reverse implied odds, which both of these hands fall under. Sure they look pretty, but it’s a good chance that you will get called by hands such as AQ/AJ which are a 72% favourite against QJ, or AK/KQ which are a 73% favourite against KJ.

Post-flop play

If betting persists after the flop, use the following chart to determine your actions across the turn and river:

Top pair or better

Actions of the oppositionYour holdCommunity cardsDescription
Top pairHole card paired with the highest community card.
Over pairHole cards are a pair that ranks higher than highest community card.
Two pairsTwo pair with community cards.
MonsterAny better poker hand than the above: 3 of a kind, straight, flush, full house, four of a kind, straight flush.

Strong draw

Actions of the oppositionYour holdCommunity cardsDescription
Strong 2-card flush drawHole cards and 2 community cards are suited.
Strong 1-card flush drawA or K hole card suited with three community cards.
Strong straight drawFour sequential cards.

Action after the flop

Your holdFlopTurnRiver
Top pair or betterBet/raiseBet/raiseBet/raise
Strong drawBet/raiseBet/raiseCheck/fold
Any other cardsCheck/foldCheck/foldCheck/fold
ExceptionIf you were the big blind and checked before the flop, play ‘check/call’ with top pair and strong draws, and ‘bet/raise’ with overpair or better.

Bet/Raise

  • If nobody has bet, bet 2/3 of the pot.
  • If someone bets before you, raise three times their bet.
  • If there was a bet or raise before you or a raise after you, go all-in.

Bet sizing

This segment on bet sizing will be in relation to No-Limit Texas Hold’em.

Most people who are uneducated about online poker think the game is just about luck. “How do you know what they have? You can’t see them, it’s impossible to know.” That’s actually incorrect, even in online poker you’re able gain a lot of tells on your opponent, one of the most obvious being bet sizing tells.

Generally speaking, you need to bet the same amount when you have a strong hand like a set and when you are bluffing. In this way, your opponent is unable to gain any tells about your play and is always left in a guessing game. If you bet big with strong hands, and small with bluffs, any average player will pick up on this and use it against you, by raising when you bet small and folding when you bet big.

How to size your bets

The size of your bet should be based on the current size of the pot. The size of the pot will be visible on most online poker sites. If not, just hover over the chips that are placed in the middle of the table to find out. Poker theory tells us that every time our opponent calls a bet with incorrect odds, we make a profit (EV+) from their mistake, so it’s important that we size our bets correctly to play optimal and make more money.

The most common sizings are:

¾ pot: this is the most common bet sizing amount for most situations. It’s ok if you bet a little bit over or under ¾ pot, as not all poker sites will give you the option to bet exactly ¾ of the pot. Betting to this amount also allows us to build bigger pots with our stronger hands and win more money.

½ pot bets: this sizing should rarely be used as betting ½ pot gives your opponent good pot odds and implied odds to make their hand. If they are getting the correct price to call, your bet is losing you money (EV-). The only time you should use ½ pot bets is when your hand can’t get outdrawn and you don’t see your opponent calling anything bigger.

¼ bets or smaller: you should never really bet this small as your opponents will get great pot odds to call and you won’t be making a lot of money with your strong hands either.

The only time you would want to make a bet this size is to “induce” your opponent to make a bluff on the river. A small bet usually represents weakness, if you believe your opponent to have a no pair hand come the river (maybe the flush or straight missed), they are not calling a bet of ¾ pot that’s for sure. By betting ¼ pot or less, you can sometimes trick your opponent into bluffing as they think your hand is weak and you will fold to a raise.

This is an advanced play and it’s better off to stick with betting ¾ pot for value than trying to get tricky.

Pre-flop bet sizing

A standard pre-flop raise is usually three-four times the big blind. Either is fine but make sure to keep all your sizing pre-flop uniform.

If you start making it four big blinds with strong hands like AA, KK, AK and then three big blinds with 66, 77, JT players will quickly notice and make reads on you. The reason for betting 3-4 big blinds is this gives unfavourable pot odds for the small and big blind to call making our raise profitable (EV+).

As a rule of thumb, for each limper in the pot, add +1 big blind to the size of your raise.

Poker odds

The complex mathematics of poker: simplified.

There’s some incredibly complicated maths involved in poker games. Unlike fixed odds games where probability can be assigned clear, discrete values, the skill element in poker makes this tricky. Poker odds are best defined according to three variables: expected value (EV), pot odds and implied odds. This page will provide a basic overview of these variables and explain how they affect your chances of success in poker.

Expected value

Expected value (EV) is the amount of money you can expect to win or lose on average by making a certain play, calculated by adding together the probability of every possible outcome and multiplied by the payoff. The resulting figure is the amount one can ‘expect’ from a given wager, all things being equal.

Put simply, EV is the average amount you expect to win or lose on a bet. If you expect to make a profit, a bet is described as +EV. If you expect to lose, it is –EV.

Let’s consider an example in poker (courtesy of pokerforum.com):

You have AH, JC in your hand. It comes to the river and AC, TC, 5D, 8C and 3C is on the board. You are in first position, with a £100 pot and the big bet is £10.

First, we can reasonably assume the following:

  • Your opponent will fold if they do not have a club.
  • They will raise with KC.
  • If you check, they will bet with a club and check with no clubs.

There are 8 clubs in play, any of which could be in your opponent’s hand, 6 of which will lose to your hand. Therefore, the chance of your opponent calling is 6/8:

£10 * 6/8 = £7.5

If your opponent raises, implying the King or Queen, you will lose £10:

-£10 * 2/8 = -£2.5

Therefore, the EV of betting is £7.5 + -£2.5 = £5. Thus, betting would be a +EV play, but can you do better?

If you check, with the intention of raising if you opponent bets, then the numbers start to look a little different. Assuming, again, that your opponent will raise with the nuts and only bet on a club, you will lose £20 if they have KC or QC:

-£20 * 2/8 = -£5

If your opponent has any other club, you win £20:

£20 * 6/8 = £10.8

Thus, this scenario represents the play with the highest +EV.

The problem with playing according to EV is that it doesn’t really work if: a) you’re up against a strictly psychological player who deliberately plays against the odds b) you’re playing a novice who doesn’t understand the odds.

Pot odds

Pot odds are actually one means of determining the expected value of a poker action. Pot odds are the ratio of the current size of the pot compared the size of a bet. For instance, if the pot stands at £30 and the cost of a call is £10, then the pot odds simplify to 3:1 (equivalent to ¼ or 25%.)

Pot odds can be used to determine the EV of a drawing hand (a hand that is currently worthless, but has potential if you hit the right cards on the board.)

In this case, the EV of a call is determined by comparing the pot odds to the odds of drawing a winning card. When the odds of drawing the right card exceed the pot odds, this play is +EV, if not it is –EV.

Implied pot odds

Implied odds indicate how much you’re expected to win if you make your draw: there is no mathematical formula for working them out.

If you think you can extract more money from your opponent when you make your draw, then you have good implied odds and should call. If you make your draw but don’t think you can extract more money from your opponent, then you have bad implied odds and should fold.

A lot of time in poker you will not be getting the right odds to call, but you know that if you do call and make your hand, you will be able to get more money from your opponent. In these situations it’s fine to call with bad pot odds if you think you can win a greater amount later in the hand.

Reverse implied pot odds

Reverse implied odds are the opposite of implied odds, in that you can estimate how much money you will lose after you complete your draw.

Take the following example: you have 5C 7D and the flop is 8H, 9H, TD and three players have seen the flop. You can make a straight with any J and any 6. However any J or 6 that is a heart could give another player the flush and any player who holds a Q will make a higher straight if the J lands.

It would be better to fold this hand on the flop if any further action took place, as it would be highly likely that if you did make your hand, another player would make a better hand.

Variance

Regardless of the poker game you’re playing, you’ll be dealing with variance whether you like it or not. Variance is the up-swings (winning money) and down-swings (losing money) that you get with playing any form of poker.

To give you an example, pocket AA versus any random hand is a 85.2% favourite to win the showdown. If you have pocket AA pre-flop and you manage to go all-in, you’re expected to win approximately 4 times out of 5. However, in poker you can go all-in five times and lose all five (less than 0.1%).

On the flipside, you could have a random hand and be up against AA, and win all five times.

This is what we mean by variance in poker, although you’re statistically likely to win, you don’t. The key with variance is that over an infinite number of hands it will all even out back to neutral. Even though in your last lesson you lost pre-flop with AA five times in a row, over the course of a week, month, or year, your variance with eventually even out.

Most new poker players fail to learn this concept and claim that poker is ‘rigged’ or they are just extremely unlucky. Even the world’s best players face variance, and it’s not uncommon for them to lose as many as 20 buy-ins in a single day, only to recoup their losses later on in the week or month.

Poker glossary

Learn poker terms, jargon and slang with our extensive glossary.

The world of poker is made up of complex jargon that can be very confusing for newcomers. Our rundown of poker terminology will help you cut through the babble and converse with advanced players.

Glossary table

Action:during a poker hand, whoever is next to ‘act’, is where the action is. You may also here poker players say “I got some good action last night at the casino.” This simply means they played in a good poker game, where money was flying about.
Ante:a small portion bet contributed by each player to start the pot.
All-in:after running out of chips, a player may not add more money to their stack during a hand.
After going all-in with their remaining chips, the player competes for the value of their final bet. A side pot is created for the remaining players.
Backdoor draw:a backdoor draw is when more cards are to be dealt and if the correct cards come, a player can make either a straight or flush. For example, you’re playing Texas Hold’em and you have AH KH, the flop is TH 4S 6C. Here you have a backdoor flush door and a backdoor straight draw. If two hearts or a Q and J come on the turn and river, you have hit your backdoor flush/straight.
Bad beat:when an underdog hand beats a favoured hand.
Bad beat jackpot:a special bonus paid to the loser of a hand. Certain additional rules apply.
Big blind:the larger of the two blinds in a Hold’em game.
Blank:a forced bet made by one or more players before any cards are dealt.
Board:all the community cards in a Hold’em game.
Bottom pair:a pair incorporating the lowest card on the board.
Burn:when the dealer discards the top card from the deck, face down, between each betting round.
Button:a white acrylic disk that indicates the current dealer.
Buying the pot:to bluff, hoping to ‘buy’ the pot by out-betting the other players without being called.
Call:matching the most recent bet or raise.
Calling station:an inexperienced player who calls a lot, but doesn’t raise or fold frequently.
Cap:putting in the last raise permitted during a betting round.
Case:the last card of a given rank in the deck.
Check:choosing not to bet, with the option to call or raise later in the betting round.
Check raise:to check and then raise after a player behind you bets.
Cold call:when a player raises, then a second player re-raises, then you just call the re-raise.
Come hand:taken from craps: a drawing hand.
Community cards:cards, presented face-up in the middle of the poker table that are shared among players. Used in Hold’em and Omaha.
Complete hand:a straight, flush, full house or straight flush – hands incorporating five cards.
Connectors:a Hold’em starting hand in which the two cards are in sequence, for example 56, 9T, QJ. A suited connector are two hands in sequence of the same suit.
Counterfeit:your hand is counterfeited when the community cards make a better hand without using your hole cards. For example you’re holding 22, and the board is 99ATT. As there are two pairs already on the board, 99 and TT, both higher than 22, making your hand redundant.
Cracked:this refers to a big pocket pair being beating at showdown by a lesser hand. For example AA losing to 56 come to showdown. You’ll here players say “I got my aces cracked by 56.”
Crippled:when someone loses a big proportion of their poker chips.
Dealer:the player in a poker game who handles and distributes the cards.
Dominated hand:where two people hold the same card, with one having a higher kicker than the other. For example AK dominates AQ, and KQ dominates QJ.
Draw:if the right card comes, the player can improve their hand to make either a flush or a straight.
Draw dead:When it’s impossible to win the hand, regardless of what cards come down.
Equity:a player’s expected share of the pot.
Expectation:often written ‘EV’ – amount a player expects to gain on average based on a certain play.
Extra blind:a blind put in by a player just entering the game, returning to the game, or changing position at the table.
Family pot:a pot in which most or all players call before the flop.
Fast:to play a hand aggressively, betting and raising as much as possible.
Favourite:a poker hand that is the statistical favourite to win.
Flop:the first three community cards, dealt face up.
Fold:giving up your hand and surrendering the pot.
Foul:you break a rule at the poker table, or make an incorrect action during a hand.
Free card:a round where no betting took place and players got to see an extra card, be it on the turn or river.
Free roll:when a player can’t lose any money they invested into the pot, but has a chance to win everyone else’s. Free rolls are also popular tournaments where players don’t pay an entrance fee but can win cash prizes.
Gutshot straight:when a player needs one particular card to make their straight. For example holding AK on a TJ2 flop, they require a Q to complete their gutshot straight.
Heads up:a pot contested by only two players.
Hit:as in “the flop hit me” – the flop contains cards that help your hand.
Hole cards:cards dealt face-down to a player at the beginning of a round in community card games.
House:the establishment running the game.
Implied odds:pot odds that do not currently exist at the moment, but may be included in your calculations because of bets you expect to win if you hit your hand.
Inside straight draw:seeking one specific card to make a straight (same as a gutshot).
Kicker:an unpaired card used to determine the better of two otherwise equivalent hands.
Limp:to enter a pot by just calling, usually the sign of a novice player.
Live blind:allowing players to raise their hand who were forced to make a bet (small blind/big blind) before the cards were dealt.
Maniac:someone who is playing most hands aggressively and throwing around a lot of money.
Main pot:the first pot during a poker hand, as opposed to the side pots created if one or more players go all-in.
Muck:the pile of discarded cards in front of the dealer.
No-limit:a version of poker in which a player may bet any amount of chips during action.
Nuts:the best possible hand given the state of the board.
Offsuit:a Hold’em starting hand with two cards of different suits.
One-gap:a Hold’em starting hand with cards two values apart in rank.
Open ended straight draw:seeking one of two card values to hit a straight.
Out:a card that will cause your hand to win.
Outrun:to defeat another player who had a better hand than you at the start of the hand.
Overcall:to call a bet after one or more others players have called already.
Overcard:a card higher than any other on the board.
Overpair:a starting pair higher than any card on the flop.
Pay-off:calling a bet when the bettor has a hand that you can’t beat, but the pot is large enough to justify the action.
Play the board:to show a hand in Hold’em when your cards don’t make a better hand than the one shown on the board.
Pocket:cards that only the player can see (e.g. starting cards in Hold’em).
Pocket pair:a paired Hold’em starting hand.
Post:to put in a blind bet.
Pot limit:a version of poker in which a player may only bet up to the size of the pot.
Pot odds:the amount of money in the pot compared to the bet you have to call. If the pot is $75 and a bet of $25 has been made. The total pot is now $100 and you must call $25, so your pot odds are 3:1 or 25%.
Price:the pot odds you are for a draw or call.
Protect:to make a bet to protect your hand which you think is ahead, but scared of being out-run on the turn or river.
Quads:four of a kind.
Rag:a low kicker usually accompanied with an ace. People may refer to A2 as “ace rag.”
Rainbow:a flop containing three different suits, meaning no flush can be made on the turn.
Raise:to increase the current bet.
Rake:the amount of money taken out of every pot by the dealer.
Rank:the numerical value of a card.
Represent:to play as if you hold a certain hand, without necessarily holding it.
Ring game:a regular poker game as opposed to a tournament.
River:the fifth and final community card, played face up.
Rock:a player who is hard to beat.
Runner:typically ‘runner-runner’ to describe a hand that was made only by hitting the correct cards on both the turn and the river.
Scare card:a card that might render good hands useless.
Second pair:a pair including the second highest card on the flop.
Sell:when players sell a part of their ‘action’ in a ring game or tournament. For example a player may sell 50% of their action for a big tournament, the person who buys it, will receive a percentage of winnings if the player makes cash. Very similar to buying shares. Sell also refers to acting like you have a weak hand to get called, ‘oh you sold that hand well.’
Semi-bluff:a bet or raise that you make with a no pair hand that has the ability to make something big on the turn or river.
Set:when you have a pair in your hand and the board has the same value card giving you three of a kind.
Short stack:a small number of chips that compared to the other players at the table.
Showdown:when all players remaining in the round turn their cards over and determine who has won the pot.
Side pot:created when one player goes all in, but the remaining players in the hand still have chip to bet.
Slow play:to play a strong hand which you don’t raise, hoping to misrepresent your holdings as something weak.
Small blind:the smaller of two blind bets typically used in Hold’em.
Split pot:a pot that is divided amongst two or more players with equivalent hands.
Spread-limit:a betting structure wherein a player may bet any amount within a range on ever betting round.
Straddle:an optional extra blind bet, equal to twice the big blind.
String bet:a bet or raise in which a player doesn’t get all the chips required for the raise into the pot in one action.
Suited:a Hold’em starting hand in which two cards are of the same suit.
Table stakes:indicators the limit and maximum buy in for each table.
Tell:a clue or hint that a player unknowingly gives about the strength of their hand.
Tilt:to play wildly or recklessly because emotions have taken over, usually referred as going ‘on tilt.’
Time:a request by a player to suspend play while he decides what he’s going to do.
Toke:a small amount of money (typically $0.50 or $1.00) given to the dealer by the winner of a pot – a tip, essentially.
Top pair:a pair with the highest-ranked card on the flop.
Top set:the highest possible three-of-a-kind, with the player holding a pocket pair.
Top two:two pair, with two hole cards pairing the two highest cards on the board.
Top and bottom:two pair, two hole cards pairing the highest and lowest cards on the board.
Trips:three of a kind, without a player holding a pocket pair in their hand.
Turn:the fourth community card, played face up.
Under the gun:the position of the player who is going to act first on a betting round.
Underdog:a person or hand not mathematically favoured to win a pot.
Value:as in ‘bet for value’, meaning you would like your opponents to call your bet because you believe yourself to have the best hand.
Variance:a measure of the losses and gains endured throughout a game.

Live dealer poker

Experience the thrill of Live Dealer Poker!

The complex game of competitive poker isn’t for everyone; some people enjoy the simpler pleasures of so-called ‘casino poker.’ Could this fast and strategic game be for you?

What is live dealer poker?

While standard poker is a zero-sum game where the dealer position rotates around the table, live dealer casino poker pits players against a single dealer, with hand rankings determining pay-outs according to a paytable.

In essence, live dealer poker is very similar to video poker and like video poker, it is highly optimisible (generally utilising a single deck), meaning it is possible for players to significantly reduce the house advantage will effective betting systems. You can read more about betting systems for video poker, which are also applicable to casino poker, here.

Live poker is played according to three card stud rules or a form of hold’em, where players receive two starting cards and place bets before a five card flop.

  • Live dealer poker

    Live dealer poker is based on casino poker – a single-deck card game where players gamble against a croupier. Hand rankings are based on poker rules and players receive higher pay-outs on higher ranked hands. Information about pay-outs is generally displayed in a pay-table.

  • Playing live dealer poker

    On recieving their starting hand, players post an ante-bet. After a three-card flop, players can ‘fold’ or ‘call’. If the dealer’s hand does not qualify for the turn (they must have at least a pair of 4s), the player’s ante bet pays according to the strength of their hand. If both hands qualify and the player calls, two more community cards are dealt.

    If it comes to the showdown and the dealer and player have cards of equal strength, they push and all bets are returned. If the player’s hand is superior, their call pays out at 1/1.

  • Meet the dealers!

    Many casinos provide dealer galleries, allowing punters to meet their team of croupiers before playing. If you’re a VIP, you may even be able to request tables run by your favourite dealer. Some casinos also permit interactions between players and the dealer, creating a really immersive and involving experience.

Mobile poker

Access full poker clients via your mobile device and play on the move.

Advances in 4G and iGaming technology have made it possible to access most gambling content – including poker clients – from nearly all popular smart devices. The upshot being that you can play online poker and compete in tournaments from a variety of portable platforms.

What is mobile poker?

By recent estimates, around $10 billion is wagered through mobile platforms every single year. While the vast majority of that cash comes from casual players on fixed-odds games, many brands allow you to access full poker clients from your smart device.

Mobile poker is exactly the same as all other forms of online poker – using the same interface and lobbies – but with all the convenience of a portable gaming platform.


  • PokerStars mobile poker

  • Partypoker mobile poker

  • Rush Poker at Full Tilt Poker

Rush and Zoom Poker for mobile and tablet devices

Rush Poker (Full Tilt Poker) and Zoom Poker (PokerStars) are revolutionary new ways to play online poker on your mobile device. The concept is simple – each time you fold a hand you’re instantly offered the choice of being dealt in a new hand at a new table, reducing the waiting time between hands to less than a second. The rules of each game remain the same, as do your chips. The only thing that changes is the table at which you’re sitting and the players.

The average online poker table plays anywhere between 60-100 hands per hour, playing a single table of Rush or Zoom Poker yields around 250 hands per hour. This format of poker is perfect for anyone wanting to play on a mobile phone or a tablet device, you’re always getting constant action, and you don’t need to open up more than one table.

Poker tournaments

Learn the rules of Sit and Go poker and compete in online tournaments.

Poker is played internationally as a competitive sport, with players competing in tournament events both in live casinos and online. The rules of tournament poker are different from ring games – this page will take you through the basics.

Playing tournament poker

Al players in tournament (or Sit and Go) poker pay a standard entry fee and begin with the same number of chips. They keep playing until one player ends up with all the chips.

As play advances, compulsory blinds and antes increase, meaning you need to keep winning in order to stay in the game. When your stack is gone, you’re out of the event. The last player standing is declared the winner. Depending on the rules of the house, a number of places are paid – this varies based on the number of entrants.

Online tournaments

Online poker tournaments are conducted identically to live events, with players using the casino software to participate.

Buying in

Entry to online poker tournaments is usually accomplished by registering for a table tournament in advance and paying an entry fee. However, seats in poker tournaments are sometimes offered as prizes by casino brands and poker clients.

When competing in an online tournament, sign into your casino or poker client as per usual and search for a tab or category labelled: tournament/Sit & Go/tourney/events or similar.

Be aware, you might be required to download software in advance of playing at an online tournament.

Gameplay

After signing up for your tournament, you’ll be seated at a random designated table which will pop up automatically once it begins. Games are conducted using the casino software.

When the action is on you, you‘ll typically have to act within a set time limit, the time is shown at the table, and you have a selection of buttons to press to make your move.

The majority of poker clients provide stats about the active tournament, including your current position and the average stack. When the tournament ends, any winnings will be credited to your account. You may also be able to request a detailed breakdown of the tournament results.