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Basics, Rules, Phases of the game, Betting actions

 The rules may seem complicated at first sight, but once you have played a while (play-money, of course) you will find them rather easy. The poker room software will offer you the options available to you in any given situation, so it will be self-explaining.

In Hold’em, the player that wins the pot at the end is the player that holds the best “hand” of five cards after combining his two “hole cards” or “pocket cards” (his own cards that only he can see) with the five cards on the table (“board” or “community cards”). If in any phase of the game one player bets and nobody calls his bet, then of course the betting player wins without a “showdown”.


“Hand” has a double meaning in poker: it can mean the hand of an individual player, but the term is also used to describe a complete playing round from the beginning where the blinds are posted and the hole cards are dealt, until the end - the showdown.


After all players have taken their seats (in the following we will always assume that we have 10 players at our table), everybody gets dealt one card, and the player with the highest card gets the dealer button first (“highcarding for the button”). The player on the dealers left (or next clockwise) is the “Small Blind” who has to post half a small bet before seeing his hole cards. The next player clockwise is the “Big Blind”, his deposit has to be one small bet.


If you join an ongoing game, as you will do when you play online, you just take a free seat. In this case, you will have to post a big blind. You can also choose to sit out until it would be your turn to be the “Big Blind” anyway.


After all the blinds have been posted, the player left of the Big Blind has to speak first. He can fold, call (by posting a small bet), or raise (by posting a big bet). The player on his left has the same choices now.If  players have called before him, he can call too, or raise if he wants. If one player has raised before him, he can call two bets (cold-call), but he can also re-raise (three-bet) again. The basic principle is that at the end of a betting round everybody has put the same amount of money into the pot if he wants to see the next card (exception: all-in situation, see later). If a player has called initially and somebody else raises behind him, he can decide between folding, calling the raise and re-raising when it’s his turn again.


The Small Blind has already posted half a small bet, so if the pot is not raised, he can fold or put another half small bet in (complete). If somebody has raised, it’s 1 and a half bet to him.


The Big Blind has already posted a small bet, so he can just check (meaning he does not have to put extra money in), or call if somebody has raised, or raise and or re-raise himself.


Betting is limited to 4 small bets per round pre-flop. If the pot is bet to the maximum, it is called “capping”.


Now that everybody has acted “pre-flop”, the dealer deals 3 cards for everybody to see on the table (the “flop”). Now every player has to evaluate the strenght of his hole cards combined with the flop.


This time, the first player to the left of the “button” (dealer) has to “speak” first. If he has folded before the flop, it’s the next player to his left and so on. This player can now check or bet (one small bet). The next player can check (only if nobody has bet before him), bet (if everybody has checked before him), raise (if somebody has bet before him) or re-raise (if somebody has raised before him. He can also fold, but if the checking option is still open, there is no need to fold right away – check first, then fold if someone bets.


After this betting round is over, the dealer deals another “community card”, which is called the Turn.  After that card, all players re-evaluate their hand strength, and another betting round begins. The same betting rules as in the round before apply, only this time the minimum bet is a big bet (e.g. 10 cents in a 0,05/0,10$ game). Maximum is 4 big bets per player now.


Once this betting round is over, the dealer deals a last community card, called The River. After that, nobody can improve his hand anymore. Another betting round follows, and at the end of the betting after everybody who remains in the “hand” has posted his equal amount of bets, the players show their cards and the best hand wins the pot (showdown).


Sometimes the pot is split between two or more players, when they have hands of exactly equal strength.


All-in situation:


This is a special situation. When at some point during a hand a player does not have enough money left to make a call, he is then considered all-in. There will be a main pot, in which will be the money that the all-in player can win, and a side pot that belongs to the player that holds the best hand of all the remaining players. If this player’s hand is better than the all-in players hand, he wins both the main and the side pot. If the all-in player holds the best hand, he wins the main pot. The side pot goes to the best hand of the remaining players.


Hand ranking


At the end of each round that is played to the showdown, the winner is the player with the best combination of his 2 hole cards and the board cards. Only the five best cards count. Theorethically, using all seven cards you cold have 3 pairs, but then only the two highest pairs would count. Or you could have a straight and a flush, then only the flush would count. Or the highest combination could consist of the 5 exact board cards without any player’s hole cards being used, then the pot is split.


The sequence of card values is (in decreasing sequence): A=Ace, K=King, Q=Queen, J=Jack, T= Ten, 9, 8, 7, and so on. The colours or suits are s=spades, c=clubs, h=hearts, d=diamonds


A hand would be described in written form as for example Ah Qc – Ace of hearts and Queen of clubs. Describing a hand as AKo would stand for Ace and Queen offsuit (of different suits), JTs for Jack and Ten of the same suit.


Ranking of the different hands, from lowest to highest value


High Card


When nobody has hit a pair or better, the player with the highest hole card wins, if two players have the same high card, the highest second hole card wins.


Example: Player A holds AT, player B holds K T, Board is Q 9 8 2 3, no flush. Player A wins because his Ace is the highest card and nobody has a pair.


One Pair


Two cards of the same value, such as Qh and Qd. When both players have pairs, the higher pair wins. When both players have the same pair, the player with the higher kicker card (second hole card) wins. The kicker rule is actually a bit more complicated and will be explained in detail in the forum.


Example: Player A holds AQ, Player B hold QJ, Board is QT923. Both A and B have a pair of queens, but A wins because of his higher kicker (also: B is outkicked by A).


Two Pair


Should be self-explaining. If both players have two pair, the highest pair decides. If both players have the same highest pair, the player with the higher second pair wins. If both have the same two pair, the player with the higher kicker card wins.


Example: AA QQ beats KK QQ, or JJ TT beats JJ 77.


Three of a kind – 3oak


In Hold’em, they are called a set (when you have two cards for the 3oak as hole cards with one on the board) or trips (when there is a pair on the board and you hold the matching card). Again, if both players hold 3oak, the higher set oder trips wins. When both players hold the same trips, the kicker again decides.


Example: Player A holds TT, Board is A K T 7 3. Player B holds 77. Player A wins.




5 cards of connected value. If both players have a straight, the highest straight wins. If both have the same straight, the pot is split. A2345 is the smallest possible straight. KA234 is not a straight!




5 cards of the same suit. If two or more players hold a flush, the player with the highest card of that suit wins.


Example: Player A holds Ad Kd, Player B holds Qd Jd, Board is Th, 9d, 8d, 5d, 2c.


Player A wins ( he is holding the so-called “nut flush”, because his Ace makes his flush the best possible card if nobody has hit a straight flush). Note: the fact that player B also has a straight does not matter.


Full House


Three of a kind plus one pair. If two players have a full house, the player with the highest 3oak wins, if the 3oak is the same for both, then the pair counts. No kicker rule if both have the same full house exactly – the pot will be split.


Example: Player holds Kh Qh, board is Ks Qc Qd Ts 8h: Full house, also “Queens full of kings”.


Quad or Four of a kind (4oak)


Four cards of the same value. Kicker rule only applies when the quad consists of 4 cards on the board.


Example: Player holds Kh Kd, board is Ks Kc Jd 4s 2h


Straight flush


5 cards that are suited and connected. In the (rather unlikely) case that two players have one, the higher one wins.


Example: Js Ts 9s 8s 7s


Royal Flush


AKQJT of the same suit, the rarest and highest of cards.


Deposit options for US poker fans

If you are based in the US, finding a poker room that accepts US players is only one of your problems. It is also difficult to make money transfers. But there are a number of options for deposits and withdrawals for US gamblers and we have described them here ... read more

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Play Poker and Blackjack at the same room

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