How to play online poker

Read our to guide to getting started playing online poker.
Read our to guide to getting started playing online poker.

Our guide to everything you need to know to learn to play online poker.

Poker for many is the classic card game, dating back centuries. It’s a game that involves both luck and skill, and the card game that most people want to learn. So, if you’ve decided it’s finally time to try your hand at poker and don’t know where to start, then read on, because playing poker online is one of the best ways to learn poker and practise your game.

Variations of poker

One of the first things you’ll need to do is decide which type of poker you want to play, because there are lots of variations out there. There are so many, it might seem overwhelming at first, but most variations of poker can be classified into four categories depending on the procedures for dealing and betting.

– Straight poker: the oldest of the lot. In straight poker, a complete hand is dealt to each player and players then bet in a single round.

– Stud poker: cards are dealt in fixed combinations of face-down and face-up rounds with a round of betting after each. There are several popular modern varieties, such as seven-card stud.

– Community card poker: this is a variant of stud poker in which players are dealt an incomplete hand of four face-down cards, then a number of community cards are dealt face-up in the centre of the table to be used in conjunction with players’ own cards to make up 5-card hands. The category includes the hugely popular Texas Hold’em, which we’d recommend most beginners start with since it’s one of the easiest kinds of poker to learn and one that’s offered by many online poker sites.

– Draw poker: complete hands are dealt face-down. After the first round of betting, players can choose to discard cards and receive new ones. The most popular modern version of this is five-card draw.

Online poker

Playing poker at a land-based casino or cardroom may have more glamour and romance, but many players find that playing online poker is more practical, convenient and not to mention more affordable for regular play. You can play when and where you want, and try your hand at different variations, with faster games allowing you to get more practice under your belt – most online poker sites offer the option to play two or more tables at the same time. Online poker usually gives you more control over betting limits, plus you don’t need to practise your “poker face” in the mirror beforehand, which makes it a lot less intimidating.

The other advantages for those who want to learn online poker is that there are sites that allow you to play with free chips rather than real money, and it’s often easier for beginners to keep track of play in an online game. Most poker apps offer a guided play option to help get to grips with the game quickly. The game interface will tell you what your options are and give you buttons to click to choose the action you want to take.

How to play online poker

Here we’re going to talk about Texas Hold’em since it’s one of the easiest variations of poker to learn and one of the most popular online, with almost all poker sites offering it. It’s also the form of poker you’ll probably have seen in films, so you get to feel like James Bond in Casino Royale or Brad Pitt in Ocean’s Eleven.

Your goal is to form a hand that’s worth more than the other players’ by making sets of cards based on their suit or rank

In order from the strongest, the possible combinations are:

– Straight flush: five consecutive cards in the same suit, the best being the Royal Flush: ace, king, queen, jack and ten in the same suit.
– Four of a kind: Four cards of the same rank, for example four queens.
– Full house: three cards the same, and a pair of another set of cards.
– Flush: five cards in the same suit.
– Straight: five cards of consecutive ranks.
– Three of a kind: three cards of the same rank.
– Two pair: two cards of one rank, and two another.
– One pair: two cards of the same rank.
– High card: if you have none of the above, your hand is ranked according to its highest card, for instance, a hand with a king beats a hand in which the highest card is a queen

Playing poker

To start a hand of Texas Hold’em hand, two players need to make small bets to ensure there’s some cash to play for. These are called the blinds, and they’re made by the two players to the left of the dealer (assigned as the “button” in online poker.) The first player to the left of the dealer makes the small blind, and the next player pays the big blind. In no-limit games, the blinds are dictated by the stakes. A computer dealer will then quickly deal two face-down cards to each player.

The pre-flop

After the blinds comes the pre-flop phase where the first bets are made. Pre-flop means it comes before the three face-up community cards are dealt. When you can bet depends on how far you are from the dealer. Positions further along the queue give more opportunity to judge what other players have.

The player whose turn it is has three choices: to fold their hand, giving up on the game; to call, which means match the current bet; or to raise the bet to a higher amount. In no-limit games, the raise has to be at least the same size as the last bet or raise. Online games have a slider to choose how much you want to raise if you go for this option.

The community cards

After the pre-flop, the dealer spreads three community cards face up in the centre of the table for all players to use to complete their five-card hand. Players may check, declining to bet, until the first bet is made. After this round, the dealer adds a fourth community card, called the turn. 

This means each remaining players now has six cards at their disposal, but still only your best five-card hand is counted. This process is repeated again with a final, fifth community card called the river. If more than one player remains in the hand following this final round of betting, then players will have to reveal their hands and the player with the best hand will win the whole pot. The pot is split only if there is an exact draw.

To finish playing a game online, you can just close the window, or alternatively click “sit out” if you think you might want to return to the table shortly. 

Choosing an online poker site 

The first step to learning how to play poker online for real money is signing up to a site. Then when you log, you’ll be presented with a lobby interface offering access to the wide range of different games. There may be several games under different different tabs.

The first step in deciding on a poker game to join is to consider what kind of game you want to play. No-limit games allow players to bet any amount above the minimum bet up to the total cash they have at the table. Limit poker restricts bets and raises to a certain size. It’s uncommon in tournament play but fairly readily available in cash games. Pot-limit games give players the choice of how much they want to bet, but only up to the current size of the pot. 

Get ready to play online poker 

As you see, there’s a lot to think about during a hand, but poker can become almost second nature once you have practice under your belt. You can try playing for free chips first to practise if you’re completely new to the game.

Now check out our guide to how to play Blackjack.