Online Poker – Introduction to the Game
Almost anyone who wants to can learn how to play poker because the rules are straightforward. Online poker is one of the most popular gambling offerings. Poker has come a long way from the days of playing at the back of smoky bars. The game evolved dramatically and became more accessible to gamblers. Most online casinos offer poker games where players with different skills can try their luck. You can choose to play poker for real money or free. Players also have a variety of poker tournaments and other competitions that are perfect when looking to improve gaming skills. As the saying goes, it can take a moment to learn poker but a lifetime to master.
So, once you grasp the basics of playing poker, you have to hone your skills. The better they get, the more poker games you can play. One of the poker rules to learn from the get-go is that this is a strategy game. It is about mental capacity and the ability to deduce what other players are holding. In this handy guide, we discuss most of the things to know about how to play poker. Hence, if you are a beginner or looking to refresh your gaming skills, this guide should prove useful.
Basic Poker Rules
When most people ask to learn to play poker, they are usually referring to Texas Hold’em. No-Limit Texas Hold’em is the most played online poker game. For that reason, we will use the same to discuss poker rules. The objective of any poker game is to end up with the highest-ranking hand. However, you can also win by bluffing your way through the game until all the other players pull out, and you are the last one. So, you might not have the best hand, but you still win.
Texas Hold em is played with 2 to 10 players and a standard deck. Each player receives two cards, called hole cards, facing down. A round of betting called the pre-flop follows. You can check, bet or fold, depending on the starting hand. Three community cards are then placed in the middle of the table facing up. This betting round is called the flop. Another round of betting follows and another community card called the turn is dealt. Players bet another round then the final card, the river, is shared. Next comes the final betting round. You need your hole cards and the five cards on the table to make a winning hand. Note that poker rules vary with the type.
One of the poker rules to learn before playing any poker game is card values. If you are to know what a poker hand is worth, then you should be able to calculate cards. A poker hand consists of five cards and the player with the highest hand wins the pot. The cards are ranked from high to low – K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. An Ace can be a high card, above King, or a low card, below 2. A deck contains four suits – hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades – all worth the same. You play poker with chips denoting the amount of money. Although you win with five cards, the number of cards dealt depends on the variant.
As you learn to play poker, particularly Texas Hold’em, the term ‘blind’ comes up often. So, what is it? Before the cards are dealt, players to the direct left of the dealer (or dealer button) must put up forced bets called blinds. They are called blinds because you have to wager without seeing any cards. The gambler to the left of the dealer is the first to provide the small blind.
Then the player to the left of the small ‘ante’ puts up the big blind. The purpose of blinds is to make the hand more interesting before the betting round begins. Also, blinds prevent players from folding without consequences. In a fixed limit poker game, the little blind is half the minimum bet while the big blind is double that wager. For example, in a $2/$5 game, the small ‘ante’ would be $1 and the big blind $2.
Betting options in poker
It takes several betting rounds to get the five cards needed to create the best poker hand. You have to use the hole cards and community cards for this. The number of betting rounds depends on the poker game. During each betting round, you must decide how to play your current cards. Hence, the calls you make in every round of betting determine your cards’ value. Therefore, you should think about your betting actions carefully. Betting always starts with the player to the left, moving clockwise. The following are the betting options to consider:
If in the current betting round other players haven’t bid, you can choose to pass to the next player. You can check if you put up the big blind, or if all the other players checked, thus completing that round of betting.
When you play poker, you can choose to stay out of a betting round if you have a bad hand. It means that you forfeit your hand and, so have no chance to win the pot until the next round.
You can bet in the current round if no other players have wagered yet. The size of the bet depends on the poker rules of that specific game; whether it has a pot limit, fixed limit, or no limit. Always check your hand before betting.
The move involves putting chips into the pot to match the current wager. It is usually made when you are unsure about your hand. Calling allows you to see your opponents’ next moves and strengthen your hand.
If you are confident about your cards, you can opt to bet more than the previous player. A raise doesn’t have to be big. Small amounts in every betting round can confuse your opponent. Another way to capitalize on a raise is to use it to increase the pot size because the next player has to match the new wager.
You can’t play without knowing how each hand ranks. Hand rankings determine who wins the pot. Therefore, players must learn which poker hands beat what. The objective of a poker game is to have the highest ranking hand. So, you have to be aware when you are holding a good or bad poker hand. The decisions made during betting rounds all depend on the hand you are holding. It might take a while to get familiar with hand rankings, but practice poker play helps a great deal. The more you play poker the more you learn. Here are the hand rankings from lowest to highest.
A hand with any five cards that don’t form any of the known combinations is ranked using its highest card. For example, a hand with an Ace as a high card beats a King-high hand. In the case of a tie, the smallest card is used to break it.
It consists of any two cards of the same rank. You can beat a high card with a pair. A-A-K-Q-J shows the best possible pair you can land when playing poker.
A two pair contains any two cards of the same rank combined with another two from a different rank. The highest pair in the combination dictates the rank of the two pair. A-A-K-K-Q is the best possible two pair.
Three of a Kind
A hand that contains any three cards of equal rank and two non-paired ones is called a three of a kind. The best possible three of a kind hand you can get includes three Aces with a King and Queen as the side cards.
It contains five cards of different suits in order, for example, 7-6-5-4-3. The highest possible combination is A-K-Q-J-10, which is called a Broadway. An Ace can be used as either a high or low card in a Straight hand.
The hand is made up of five cards of the same suit but in a different order, for example, K-J-7-5-2 of spades. You determine the rank of the hand through the highest rank. The above example, for instance, is a King-high flush.
A full house hand contains three of a kind cards of the same rank combined with a pair, for example, A-A-A-K-K, which would be Aces full of Kings. A deck has over 3,000 possible full house poker hands.
Four of a Kind
A four of a kind consists of four cards of different suits but the same rank, for instance, 5-5-5-5-Q. In the case that two players each have a four of a kind hand, then the player with the higher-value fifth card, called the Kicker, wins the pot.
A Straight Flush contains five cards (Straight) in the same suit, for example, 9-8-7-6-5. A deck has 36 possible Straight Flush combinations. The highest card in a Straight Flush determines the suit. If more than one player holds a Straight Flush, then this card indicates the best hand.
The strongest poker hand is the Royal Flush. It is the best possible five-card combination you can hold and, thus cannot be beaten. A deck has only four possible Royal Flush alternatives all equal in value – A-K-Q-J-10. In Texas Hold’em and Omaha, it’s impossible to have more than one player with a Royal Flush.
Learning to play poker involves many elements, and it might take some time before you are familiar with most of them. One aspect that influences your winning chances is the gaming style. Poker players have a wide variety of strategies from which to choose. Regardless of this, two players can end up using the same approach. In this guide, we look at the main strategies used to play poker.
- The Rock – This method is tight-passive. As a rock player, you don’t bet or raise often because you are holding a strong hand. You can play poker using a tight-passive style if you have aggressive competitors. Being a rock also helps reduce losses.
- Tight-aggressive – Also called TAG, the poker strategy involves frequent betting and raising. Calls and checks are, however, rare for a tight-aggressive player. This player is picky with starting hands and will only enter pots with great poker hands. A player wins the pot with the strongest hand or by making the other players fold.
- The Calling Station – The loose-passive technique is popular among beginners. When you play poker a loose-passive, you rarely bet or raise. It’s a suitable method if you are playing with aggressive opponents who will take care of the betting. However, the Calling Station is often unprofitable.
- Loose-aggressive – As a loose-aggressive player, you bet or raise frequently with few calls. Post-flop play is more aggressive than passive. LAGs require better skills than TAGs and usually involve more pre-flop hands.
Learn to Read Your Opponents
Knowing poker rules is not enough when studying the game. If you are to win the pot, you need to learn how to play the player, not just the cards. A hand can be good or bad depending on what your opponents are holding. So, pay keen attention to what the other players are doing. Firstly, identify the strategy that an opponent is using to play poker. Is it purely aggressive, passive, or a bit of both? You don’t have to wait for the betting rounds for this. Check out how a player buys into the pot. Are they going in strong? An aggressive player will want to capitalize on great starting hands.
Look at an opponent’s body language to see if they have any tells. However, identifying tells can take some time to master. Nonetheless, a few responses like leaning towards the table when holding good hole cards are common. A player with little interest in the community cards might be leaning towards a fold. Remember to watch out for each player’s moves from one betting round to the next.
The art of Bluffing
You can’t get the most out of poker if you don’t know how to bluff. In a poker game, you don’t always need the best hand to win the pot. Sometimes, you can force your opponents to fold, leaving you with the prize, regardless of the type of hand you are holding. When you bluff, you attempt to pass off a weak hand as strong.
So, you bet or raise. Whether a bluff works or not depends on several aspects, most importantly, timing. If you play poker right, you have to know the most opportune moment to bluff. For one, a believable bluff should figure into your gaming history.
The other players are watching you play poker the same way you are watching them. So, you can’t suddenly switch to aggressive wagering when all the previous betting rounds have been passive. Your opponent’s image matters just as much. For example, never bluff a player who always calls. Gamers who fold too often are the best targets. If you are to be successful at deception, learn to hide your tells when you play poker. Even if you are confident about taking the pot with that Straight Flush you are holding, don’t show it.
Behaviour at the Poker Table
When you play poker online, it’s easy to forget about proper etiquette. For the longest time, there have been some unwritten poker rules about how players should conduct themselves at the table. Granted that virtual tables are different, but you can still maintain some best practices. Table etiquette is particularly crucial when playing live dealer poker. One thing to avoid is slow rolling.
If you are holding a Royal Flush and know that it’s over your opponents, there is no need to prolong the moment. Slow rolling can infuriate the other players. Taking your time before deciding on a move is important. However, don’t take too long. The other gamers are online to play poker and perhaps win some money. Therefore, don’t make them spend most of their time waiting for you to decide whether to bet, check, raise or fold. In live gaming, remember to be courteous when chatting.
Differences in the Rules – The Most Popular Poker Games
Texas Hold’em is synonymous with online poker. However, if you are to play poker in different forms, then you have to be familiar with the multiple variants. Whether you choose a popular poker variant or something less known, you should know the applicable poker rules. We have already looked at how to play Texas Hold’em. In this section, we compare it with a few other popular poker variations.
Omaha has almost as huge a following as Texas Hold’em, and the gameplay is similar too. However, Omaha uses four hole cards instead of two. For the best five-card hand, you need two of the holes and three community cards. Different types of Omaha are available, including Hi or Pot Limit and Hi-Lo (or 8 or Better).
7 Card Stud was the leading choice before Texas Hold’em took over. In 7 Card Stud, you get individual cards, two facing up and one facing down. Before the cards are dealt, players have to put up antes. The player with the lowest up-card has to provide a bring-in bet before the initial round of betting. Seven Card Stud has a fixed limit and no community cards.
Five Cards Draw require blinds, just like Texas Hold’em, which start with the player to the left of the dealer or button. Each player gets five cards and no community card or final card. After the first betting round, players can draw 0 to 5 cards, which the dealer then replaces.
3 Card Poker pits you against the house rather than other players. Because a three-card hand wins the pot, the highest rank is a Straight Flush. You have to place an ante before three cards are dealt, face down. Then you can discard the cards or play, which means placing a play bet that has to match the ante.
Poker Strategy and Tips
How you play poker dictates your winning probabilities and even the potential pot side. Poker is a strategic game that can take a while to master. Arming yourself with information about the best ways to play poker goes a long way. One tip beginners should keep in mind is that aggression pays off when playing online poker. Although caution reduces risks, too much of it can rob you of winning opportunities.
The more you bet, the bigger the prize. Aggressive play is also effective in pushing opponents to bet, raise or fold. Even as you play poker aggressively, exercise patience. Refrain from spending too much money on too many hands. Also, consider folding on bad poker hands if you can.
Bankroll management is fundamental when gambling on online poker. Don’t go in on high stakes if you are not confident about your hand. Additionally, know which poker hands are worth spending money on. Poker is a mental game. For that reason, always ensure that you are in the right frame of mind to make the necessary decisions.
So, avoid distractions when playing and don’t play when mentally exhausted. No strategy guarantees that you will land a Royal Flush. However, smart poker gaming makes it easier to strengthen your hand. Take the time to learn the different poker styles and strategies then pick what works for you.
Practice – Free Online Poker Games
Before you play poker for real money, try free games first. Demo poker games are readily accessible at most sites. They provide the same features as real games except that you play with virtual cash. Thus, you don’t need a bankroll to bet on poker games. Demo modes allow you to play poker limitlessly without worrying about losing money. Hence, they are perfect when looking to test new titles.
For example, if a poker site has a new 7 Card Stud, you can play the demo version first. Note that live games are not available in demo modes. Another way to play free games is through bonuses. Some poker platforms in the Philippines offer no deposit bonuses that players can use to bet on selected poker games. Alternatively, you can get bonus codes from affiliate websites to use on certain poker sites.
Playing Poker Online for Real Money
Now that you are a bit more knowledgeable about online poker, you might consider playing for cash As with any other game, gambling for money comes with risks. Hence, players have to be careful. Knowing that a full house beats a three of a kind or that some games don’t have community cards is not enough. You have to improve your winning chances at every turn.
Therefore, where you play poker, the games you play and the strategies used all matter. Note that poker skills are built through practice. So, take the time to play poker for real money whenever you can. Below we highlight some crucial factors for consideration to improve your gambling experience.
Registering at the top online poker sites
Due to the popularity of online poker, players in the Philippines have more than enough gambling platforms from which to choose. However, not everyone is worthwhile. For one, the poker site should have a valid licence. Poker gambling is only legal in the Philippines if it’s on a registered website. Therefore, verify the legitimacy of a poker site. Additionally, read reviews of the best-rated poker sites in the Philippines. A good review should indicate if an operator is safe, reliable, and trustworthy. Find out about specific poker rules of a particular site, for example, if a dealer burns cards so that you know how to proceed.
Deposits and Bonuses
Poker sites usually have some exciting bonuses and promotions. The right bonus goes a long way when looking to increase your betting power. You can boost your bankroll significantly, meaning that you get to make a few more bets than you would have originally. However, be careful about the offers you claim to play poker with. A good bonus should provide value, not just in the amount, but the terms as well. Deposits are other elements to consider. The poker platform you select should provide deposit methods that are easily accessible in the Philippines. If you wish to play poker with cryptocurrency, then a few sites allow it.
Choosing a poker game to play
Your game choice is as important as any other decision. Poker has numerous varieties all with different rules. For example, a three of a kind is a stronger hand in 3 Card Draw than in Texas Hold’em. If you choose 7 Card Stud, then you know you won’t be playing with a community card. Therefore, take the time to research a poker game before investing money in it. Consider your skills and experience when picking a game. Texas Hold’em and Five Card Draw, for instance, are suitable for beginners. You also have to decide between pot limit, no limit and fixed games.
Online tournaments are interesting ways to play poker. A poker tournament ups the fun factor because you are gambling for bigger stakes than in regular cash games. However, just as the potential wins are big, so are the risks. For this reason, participants should be familiar with this kind of competition. Tournament poker requires players to buy in for a specified amount. The wagered money goes into a pool while the organisers take a small percentage. When playing in a tournament, all participants get the same number of chips. The player who ends up with all the chips from the other players wins.
Types of Poker Tournaments
One challenge of poker tournaments is that they come in many forms. So, settling on one can be daunting. Nonetheless, you have to know the best alternatives to invest in because they influence your winning chances. Tournament poker can offer life-changing wins but that should not be the only thing to consider when picking a competition. Learning how different tournaments work should prepare you to play poker on a bigger scale than usual. The following are a few examples of poker tournaments although there are many more out there.
Sit & Go
SNGs have a predetermined number of participants and when this number is met, the tournament begins. A sit & go can host between 2 to 360 poker players. In most cases, SNGs involve single tables with a maximum of 6 or 9 players but you can still find a few multi-table sit – go’s. Also, SNGs typically have registration periods. You can play poker in different types of sit & go’s, such as knockout, bounty and double or nothing’s. Depending on the tournament, an SNG can last between 30 to 60 minutes.
MTT – Multi-Table Tournaments
Like the name suggests, in this tournament you play poker on two or more tables. The appeal of MTTs is that they allow you to turn a small bet into huge wins. All players in a multi-table tournament buy in for the same amount. As they play poker on the different tables, they bust one by one. The remaining players then move around the tables until only one player is left to win the pot. Several players get paid in MTTs while the winner gets approximately 30% of the pool.
A knockout tournament is played on multiple tables where a bounty is put on each player’s head. When you knock off a player, you receive the bounty. It means that more gamblers get a payout compared to a traditional MTT. In a progressive knockout, when you eliminate an opponent, his or her bounty is added to yours. Consequently, the more players you knock off, the bigger your bounty gets. You can win big from a small investment in progressive knockouts.
Rather than cash, a satellite tourney gives out entries to other bigger tournaments. Satellite tournaments have become popular ways to play poker on the grand stages. Instead of spending money on a high buy-in tournament, you can spend a small amount to get into a satellite tournament and play poker for an opportunity to win entries. For this reason, these tourneys are ideal for players with limited bankrolls. A satellite poker tournament can have several steps to earn entries into desired tournaments.
Do you want to play poker at a faster speed than usual? Then a turbo tournament could be the perfect alternative for you. The blind stages in turbo tourneys are faster than in regular poker games. A blind level can last 4-6 minutes. Super turbo tournaments are much faster with blind levels of 3 minutes or less. However, not all turbos run at the same rate. Due to the accelerated pace, your bankroll depletes rapidly when playing in a turbo tourney.
Poker Tournament Strategy
Playing at a poker tournament is the dream of any decent player. The enticing prize pools can have you signing up at the first online poker tourney you come across. However, avoid doing that and formulate a strategy first. Firstly, decide how to play the beginning, middle and late stages. Because blinds increase through the stages, it makes sense to gamble aggressively later in a tourney.
Playing tight in the early stages means that you don’t risk your stack for second-grade hands. Be careful with your pre-flop betting. Ensure that it reflects whatever is going on at the table to avoid calling attention to yourself. As players get eliminated, you can start taking more risks. Remember that in the late stages, your stack gets smaller and the blinds bigger. So, be careful not to be left out of betting rounds.
Poker Tournaments vs Cash Games
Before deciding whether to play cash games or tournaments, you must know the similarities and differences between the two. A cash game has a minimum and maximum table limits. The blinds are constant and gamblers have to play with the money on the table. Tourneys, on the other hand, have a set buy-in for all participants with blinds changing over time.
Therefore, as the blinds increase, you go through your stack faster than when you started. In a cash game, you can leave the table whenever you want and the player with the highest hand wins. A poker tournament only ends when one player remains. Whether the dealer burns the card or not depends on the game and poker site.
Online poker is an excellent gambling option if you do it right. The classic card game provides many variants that cater to different competencies, budgets and experiences. From cash games to tournaments, you can play poker whichever way that pleases you best. You also have options to play poker for free. Whatever the case, players in the Philippines can easily find what they need. Before diving in both feet, though, learn how to play different types of the game. Also, stay hungry about learning more. Poker has many moving parts that can take years to grasp.