Poker nights are a great tradition to start with friends or family for fun get-togethers. And with your brand new home poker table, you can deliver a casino-style experience that makes you feel like you’re on the World Series of Poker.
But if you’re new to poker, need a little refresh, or just want some tips to improve your poker game, we have you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about how to play poker for beginners.
Getting Started: Basic Poker Supplies
To begin, you’ll need some essential poker supplies, regardless of how large your game is or how many players will be participating. These supplies include:
- Standard 52-Card Deck - No jokers are allowed in a classic game of Texas Hold’em.
- Poker Table or Felt - An oval poker table offers the most authentic experience and typically comes with cupholders and other amenities.
- Poker Chips - Ceramic chips are considered the best poker chips, though clay composite works just fine. Be sure to purchase a 500-chip set.
- Card Shuffler - Card shufflers help keep games honest.
- Chip Tray - Purchase a separate chip tray if one is not included with your table.
- Dealer Button - The dealer button designates who the dealer is.
- Lammers - Lammers indicate how much money you originally put down to play with, though these aren’t crucial.
How to Play Poker for Beginners: Step By Step
Once you have your supplies in order and the table set up, it’s time to begin playing.
Before cards are distributed, players with blinds must make a mandatory bet on the table. The big blind places a premium bet that is twice the amount of the small blind. The big blind is the player two positions to the left of the dealer button and the small blind one position to the left.
Since the dealer button shifts with each turn, it creates strategic advantages each round for players based on their table position.
On the other hand, some variations of poker or casual games use antes, which is a minimum bet placed by all players to play during a round.
2. Getting Your Cards
Once bets are placed, each player will receive two face-down cards only they can view. Afterward, bets are made before the Flop, where players can either abstain from betting, raise the pot, or call the previous bet.
3. The Flop
Once bets are finished for the first round, the dealer will discard the top card of the deck and then deal three face-up community cards. These cards are used by all players and can be combined with the two face-down cards to create various hands based on five-card combinations.
4. The Turn
Bets are placed again, and then the dealer discards another card from the deck and reveals the fourth community card. This is often referred to as the “fourth street” card and can provide keen insight into whether you or your opponent has a good hand based on the community cards available.
5. The River
The final round of betting is placed, and then the last card is placed face up. At this point, each hand is evaluated using a five-card combination between the five community cards and two player cards to see which hand wins the round.
Best Poker Hands Ranked
See where your hand ranks below to determine if you’ve won a round or think you.
- Royal Flush - All royal cards in a row with the same suit (A♦, K♦, Q♦, J♦, 10♦)
- Straight Flush - Five successive cards with the same suit (10♦, 9♦, 8♦, 7♦, 6♦)
- Four of a Kind - Four of the same card in a hand (10, 10, 10, 10)
- Full House - Three of the same card and two of the same card (10, 10, 10, 9, 9)
- Flush - Five cards with the same suit (2♦, 3♦, 7♦, J♦, A♦)
- Straight - Five successive cards in a hand (2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
- Three of a Kind - Three of the same card in a hand (4, 4, 4)
- Two Pair - Two pairs of the same card in a hand (2, 2, 6, 6)
- Pair - Two of the same card in a hand (J, J)
- High Card - Whoever has the highest card in a hand (A)
Texas Hold’em comes with its own set of terminology that's confusing to beginners, especially if they're playing at a casino. Understanding these simple terms will ensure you have a smooth experience.
- Blinds: Blinds are mandatory bets placed by two players before a round of poker. There is a big blind that places the full wager and a small blind that places half the wager.
- Bet: The first wager that is placed on a hand.
- Call: Matching the bet placed by the previous wager.
- Fold: Relinquishing all of your chips and excusing yourself from competing in this hand.
- Raise: Increasing the wager on a table and forcing other players to call.
- Ante-Up: An ante is a minimum bet placed by each player at the table. Traditional Texas Hold’em uses blinds, but antes work just fine for casual games.
- Flop: The first round of Texas Hold’em when the first three cards face down are revealed.
- Turn: The round that proceeds the flop when another card is turned face up.
- River: The final card is turned face up, and each player reveals their hand.
Table Positions Ranked
We mentioned before that having the dealer button confers strategic advantages to players because they are the last to match bets on a table and evaluate their opponents. Below we rank the different table positions from a betting advantage based on an 8-player table.
- The Button/Dealer: This table position gets to bet last and evaluate their opponents' hands and actions during any round.
- The Cut Off: This position is located to the right of the dealer and gets the second to last bet, allowing them to evaluate their opponents' hands and actions.
- Hijack: This position sits to the right of the cutoff and has ample time to study the table before his or her bet.
- Lojack: Similar to the hijack, the lojack sits at a slightly less privileged position at the table to the right of the hijack but has considerably better odds than the proceeding positions.
- Early Position (EP): Considered the no man’s land of poker, the EP sits to the right of the UTG (under the gun) and left of the lojack, making it difficult to call previous bets without knowing the strategy of later bets at the table.
- Small Blind: The small blind sits between the big blind and dealer, acting last pre-flop and first post-flop. The first bet does provide some advantage but should generally be played with a strong hand.
- Big Blind: The big blind sits to the dealer's left and is the first to bet pre-flop but second to act post-flop, giving it very little visibility into its opponents' strategies.
- Under the Gun (UTG): Considered one of the worst positions in poker, the under the gun has to act first post-flop if the blinds fold and have to respond to the blinds bet post-flop if not, acting with very little understanding of the rest of the table.
5 Strategies to Improve Your Poker Game
- Evaluate Competitor's Hands: Community cards help you and your opponents. Evaluate community cards to see whether possible straights, flushes, or full houses are available and see how other players respond to bets to determine the strength of their hand.
- Adjust Play by Position: Early bets don't have the luxury of seeing who calls and folds, meaning that aggressive bluffs could force players into a difficult position if they’re met by stronger hands that call their bluffs. Generally, the earlier the bet, the more conservative, and the later the bet at the table, the more aggressive.
- Play More Aggressively: Playing more aggressively early on in hands, such as pre-flop, allows you to draw more conservative opponents out before the round even begins, thus increasing your odds. Experiment with aggressive bluffs early on–even with bad draws– to prevent opponents from being able to gauge your hand in the future.
- Play Good Hands Aggressively: Again, if you want to build your pot odds, make big raises early on when dealt with a good hand. It’s not 100% guaranteed to work, but it can greatly reduce the competition and build your chances of winning.
- Look for a Tell: Most players have a tell, especially casual or inexperienced players. Poker is a game of luck, but a great player knows how to engineer his or her own luck. Look for tells or signs of weakness in opponents to exploit with aggressive bluffs or stronger hands.
Learning to play poker is a fun and exhilarating experience that will get you hooked in no time. To get the best quality experience, be sure to purchase a professional poker table. Just Poker Tables offers the highest-quality poker dining tables that will transform any room and provide you with endless hours of fun and excitement. We offer free shipping on all items and only carry the highest-rated brands.