Poker is one of the most exciting and fastest growing mind-sports in the world. People are playing it for fun with friends and family, as a hobby online and off, and professionally at the highest level. Online poker has made this fascinating game accessible to a much wider range of players – from beginners to hobbyists to pros. Now you don’t even have to step out of your home to learn how to play poker or experience good game of poker as Spartan Poker is available online -- on your desktop and mobile phone.
Learn how to play poker
Most people new to poker wonder if it is a difficult game to learn and how they can quickly start playing it. Our step by step guide on How to Play Poker will have you playing it in no time. Let’s dive right in.
Poker is played in many variations and Texas Hold’em is the most popular variant. Let’s start our journey on how to play poker there.
The ultimate objective of Texas Hold’em Poker -- and in fact most variants of the game -- is to win the pot (all the bets that have been put on the table).
The rules of Texas Hold’em poker are simple and logical. You can learn them in just a few minutes. Mastering the game, however, takes a bit longer and lot of practice and skill.
How to play a poker game: The players, the deck and card ranks
Texas Hold’em poker is played with at least two players and the number can go to up to a maximum of ten players. It is played with a 52-card deck excluding the joker. Cards are ranked from Ace (the highest) to Deuce or 2 (the lowest). However, in some hands an Ace is also treated as the lowest card – for example in a hand where you have 5, 4, 3, 2 and an Ace.
At the start of a game the dealer hands out two cards each to all the players and, over several rounds of betting, puts five community cards on the table. The player with the best five cards (two of his own and three community cards) wins the pot. So, how do you decide which hand is the best?
The decision is based on poker hand rankings. Poker hands are ranked in specific order, starting with a Royal Flush at the top and High Card at the bottom.
If you want to learn how to play poker and master it, you must memorise these rankings well.
A royal flush is the best hand you can have. It consists of A, K, Q, J, 10 of the same suit (diamonds, hearts, clubs or spades).
A straight flush consists of five cards of the same suit in sequence. For example, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 of Hearts is a nine high straight flush. In fact, the royal flush is an ace high straight flush.
Four of a Kind (Quads)
Four of a Kind (Quad) are four cards of equal rank of any suit. For example, an Ace of Hearts, an Ace of Diamonds, an Ace of Spades, an Ace of Clubs, and an Eight of Diamonds.
Full House or Full Boat
A full house, also known as Full Boat, consists of three of a kind and a pair. For example, King of Spades, King of Diamond, King of Hearts, 7 of Clubs, and a 7 of Hearts.
Flush consists of five cards of the same suit, no matter the order or sequence. For example, a Queen, 2, 3, 4, 5 of Diamonds.
Straight consists of five cards in sequence from any suit. For example, 7 of Diamonds, 8 of Hearts, 9 of Diamonds, 10 of Spades, and J of Clubs.
Three of a Kind/ Set
Three of Kind, as the name suggests consists of three cards of the same rank from any suit and 2 cards of different ranks from any suit. For example, an 8 of Hearts, an 8 of Diamonds, an 8 of Spades, a 5 of Hearts, and a 4 of Diamonds.
A pair is if you hold two cards of the same rank. Two Pair is if you hold two of those. For example, a 3 of Hearts and a 3 of Diamonds; and a 5 of spades and a 5 of hearts. The fifth card can be of any rank from any suit.
One pair consists of two cards of the same rank and the rest three cards can be of any rank from any suit. For example, a 9 of clubs, a 9 of Diamonds, a 5 of Diamonds, a 3 of Hearts, and an 8 of Hearts.
High card means the hand with the highest card wins. For example, a 5 of Diamond, a King of Spades, a 7 of Hearts, an Ace of Clubs, and a Queen of Diamonds.
How to play poker online: Button, blinds and bets
Texas Hold’em Poker is divided into four rounds of betting. The initial pot is formed by forced bets from the two players to the left of the dealer. These bets are called blinds because they are made prior to a player seeing his cards. There are two blinds – the small blind and the big blind (which is double the value of the small). The player to the left of the dealer posts a small blind and the player to the left of the small blind makes the big blind.
The game has a rotating dealer button. This means one player will act as the dealer for one game then pass on the role of dealer to the player on their left for the next one. To choose the dealer, the players are dealt with one card face down and the player with the highest-value card starts as the dealer.
Since the dealer keeps shifting, the small and big blinds also rotate. Blinds encourage people early in play to place bets since there is something in the pot worth winning. The value of the big blind is what the betting starts at.
Let the action begin
The player to the left of the big blind kicks off the first of four rounds of betting once the first two cards (pocket or hole) are dealt. This round of the game is called pre-flop. The first player has three options: call, raise or fold.
- Call: If the player wants to stay in the game based on their pocked cards, they must call the bet by the big blind, which means bet the same amount as the big blind.
- Raise: A player with good cards may want to raise the stakes, which means increasing the bet over and above the one made by the big blind. The amount you can raise depends on the table limits (which we will cover later in this article)
- Fold: A player with a weak hand may choose not to bet any further in the game and discard his cards. A player may fold his cards in any round of betting. When a player folds, he loses all the money he may have bet till then and has no chance of winning the pot.
Once all players have placed their bets, we move to the next round.
Flop: In the flop, the dealer deals three community cards, face up on the table.
Once the flop has been dealt, the second round of betting begins.The rules are the same as in the pre-flop except for two small exceptions:
- The first player to act is the next active player to the left of the dealer
- The first player to act can check or bet because there has been no bet placed.
A bet on the flop in Limit Hold'em variant is the amount of the big blind, and in No-Limit, it has to be at least twice that of the big blind.
Turn: After the round of betting on the flop, the dealer places another card face up on the table. This is called the turn. Players once again place their bets based on the card that is added to the table.
Betting on the turn is similar to the flop except that the size of the bet for this round and the final round is doubled in many games.
In No-Limit, a player can bet any amount of chips, including their entire stack (referred to as going ‘all-in’).
River: This is the last card that the dealer puts face up on the table. And a last round of betting takes place. Once all players have placed their bets or folded their hands, we move to the showdown.
Showdown: When learning how to play poker, you must know about the showdown. This is where the players who are still in the game (those who haven’t folded) show their pocket cards. The player with the best five-card hand takes the pot.
Here are some rules of a showdown:
The player who bet biggest on the river is the first player to reveal their hand. If any other player chooses to show their hand first, they are free to do so.
If all players checked on the river, the player closest to the left of the dealer shows their hand first, continuing clockwise around the table.
If the player's current hand is weaker than winning hand shown, he has the option to show or muck their cards. If two players share an identical hand, the pot is split.
At any time during the game, if all players but one folds, the last man standing wins the pot and the next game begins.
Games with betting variations
How to play a poker game- Texas Hold’em Variant
Texas Hold’em poker itself has many variants, largely based on how the betting takes place. It’s important that you know how to play poker across these variations.
Limit Poker allows a maximum of four bets during any betting round. These bets can include a Raise, Re-raise, and the final Raise; unlike No-Limit Poker and Pot Limit poker where there is no limit to the number of raises that a player can make. In Limit Poker, the Bet, as well as the Raise, are agreed in advance. For example, the Bet and the Raise amount in a 1/2 Limit game must be equal to 1. No more, no less. By the end of the game, i.e. in the last two rounds, the Bet and the Raise must be equal to 2.
In Pot Limit, you can raise a bet up to the total amount in the pot. For example: If the total amount in the pot is 30 and the first player to act in the betting round bets 10, then the second player can bet a total of 20 (30 - 10) for his portion of the call and raise by the same amount, the total amount of money in the pot when the action got to him, including his call. In a Pot-Limit game, there is no cap to the number of raises allowed.
In a No-Limit variant of Texas Holdem poker, there isn’t any bet limit. Every player can make any amount of bet in any round, including staking his entire stack. However, the minimum bet amount should be equal to the Big Blind.
Some points to remember when learning how to play poker online
Missing the blinds
In order to prevent late entries to a game, especially for players who want to avoid placing the blinds, you have to post an initial fee that is equal to the big blind, or you can sit out and wait until the big blind reaches your position. The ‘late’ player can choose to:
• Post Big Blind
• Wait for Big Blind
If the player chooses to wait for big blind, he will be sitting out and won't be able to join the action until the big blind comes around to their position. If the player was at the table, then sat out for a while and missed the big bling, he will also have to miss the small blind and the dealer's button. If you missed the blinds, you are required to post an amount equal to the big blind plus a 'dead' bet that is equal to the small blind.
Main and side pots
If a player runs out of chips to match a bet, he need not fold his cards. Allow us to explain with an example: Player B has a stack of Rs 100, but the current bet by Player A is Rs 200. Player B can go all-in and bet his Rs 100. At this stage, the pot is split into two – a main pot and a side pot. The main pot has all the chips bet till player B went all-in. But since Player A had bet Rs 200, only Rs 100 of his bet (which is the amount bet by Player B) will be put into the main pot and Rs 100 would go into a side pot. The betting in the round continues at Rs 200 with each of the bets being split equally between the pots. Betting in all future rounds go only into the side pot.
If Player A has the best hand, he receives all chips (both the main and side pots). If Player B wins, he takes only the main pot, but the side pot goes to the player with the second highest-ranking poker hand.
If many players go all-In, several side pots are created. Players who have participated in all the rounds of betting are eligible to win the main as well as side pots.Players who have gone all-in stand to win only the main and side pots created till they went all-in.
How to play poker online – The Omaha Version
Another version of poker, similar to Texas Hold’em is Omaha poker (also called Omaha Hold’em). In the process of learning how to play poker, understand the variants of poker. In Omaha, players get four pocket or hole cards instead of two, and that’s the biggest difference between the two variants. Players must make combinations using only two of their four pocket cards and three of five community cards on the table. The best ranking 5-card hand takes the pot.
Omaha High/Low gameplay: While most games reward the best-ranking hand, in Omaha High/ Low even the lowest ranking hand is important. The pot is split equally between the highest ranking and lowest ranking hand. While playing Omaha High/Low, a player can make their five-card combination using only two of their four pocket cards and three of the five community cards that are placed on the table.
How to play the poker game: 7-card Stud
The 7-card stud is a classic variant of poker. The basic rules stay the same, with the best five-card hand winning the pot. However, in a big difference from Texas and Omaha, players are individually dealt seven cards each. The game has five rounds of betting. But before the betting starts, each player contributes a fixed nominal amount to the pot (called the ante). The action then starts on third street.
In this round, players are dealt three cards each, one of which is face-up or exposed. The player with the lowest exposed cards starts the betting (called the bring-in). Player betting options are similar to the other variants of the game (you can call, raise, fold or check).
In fourth street, a fourth card is dealt to the players, face-up. The player with the highest poker hand in exposed cards starts the betting. For example, if in a table of four, player A has QQ exposed, player B has QJ, player C has two 8s and player D has a suited 8 and & 7, player A will start off the betting round as he has the strongest hand.
A fifth card is dealt face up, and the player with the best poker hand starts the betting.
Yet another face-up card is dealt to the players, and once again the player with the best hand starts the betting.
The river (or seventh street)
A seventh card is dealt face-down to the players. Betting once again begins with the player who has the best exposed hand. Once all the betting is completed, we move to the showdown.
The last person to raise, shows his cards first. The best five-card hand wins the pot.
Like Texas Hold’em, Omaha and 7-card stud, there are many other variants, including:
Open Face Chinese Poker
All of these are available on Spartan Poker. So, continue reading on how to play poker.
How to play poker strategies for beginners
1. Don’t play too many hands: One of the most common mistakes that beginners make is not being selective enough with their poker hands. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that every hand is a winning poker hand. Some hands are more likely to win than others and as a beginner you need to the take the time to memorise poker hand rankings, study poker probability, learn positional play, and get familiar with player psychology.
2. Limit the Bluffing: As beginner poker players, you may have seen some spectacular bluffing examples on televised poker games. While bluffing is a legitimate strategy, you should know when to use it. It is good to try occasional bluffs but the real art of knowing when and how to bluff only comes with knowledge, practise, and experience.
3. Play with players worse than you: This may seem like a very simple tip, but you'll be surprised at the number of players who go against this factor. If you are better than the players you are playing against, it makes sense that you will be a winner in the long haul. If you are the 10th best player in the world, it would not prove to be profitable to sit at a table with the top 9 poker players in the world. Choose your games and limits very carefully; a good table selection can help you make more money.
4. Play to your positional strength: Every poker pro will tell you that the best position to play from is the button. Try to play as many hands when you are in later positions. Play tight and safe when you are one of the early players. Play maximum hands when you are in the button.
5. Don’t multi-task: When you are new to poker, stick to a single table. Yes, multi-tabling has its own thrill. That can wait till you have mastered the basics. Playing at a single table will allow you to watch how the game proceeds and take better decisions on your hand.
6. Don’t jump the gun: As a beginner learning how to play poker, don’t play in high stakes games based on just a few wins. High stakes games are usually played by experienced hands, and you will be starting at a disadvantage.
7. Play a lot, practise a lot: The more you play, the better you will become. If you are starting out, play a lot of tournaments. Look for freerolls. Tournaments are a great way to get familiar with the game and the action.
8. Become familiar with the interface: Take time to learn the interface and become familiar with it. While the Spartan Poker games are easy to play and designed to be intuitive, it pays to spend some time understanding the gameplay
9. Make friends and have fun: Poker is a great way to meet like-minded people and make friends. So, don’t hesitate to chat or connect with other players. It will make your poker journey more enjoyable and you may even learn some tricks of the trade on how to play poker online.
How to play poker: The ins of poker outs
One of the most important things to know if you want to learn how to play poker to win is the number of poker outs you have at any given point in time. What exactly are poker outs? Outs are the cards that may be dealt which will improve your hand. Let us illustrate with an example. Assume you have an 8 and 7 of clubs as your pocket cards. The flop has an 8 of diamond, a 7 of spade and a K of clubs. You now have a two pair. A great hand. But what are the chances that you can make it a full house. How many outs do you have? To make a full house you need another 8 or a 7. Any of these four cards in the turn or river -- 8 of spades and 8 of hearts, 7 of diamonds and 7 of hearts -- will give you a full house. Which means you have four outs.
How do you use the outs? We are going to let you into an open secret – the rule of 4 and 2. This thumb rule was first introduced by Phil Gordon, a former poker player, in his book, The Little Green Book.
First calculate, your outs. If you are on the flop, waiting for the turn, multiply it by 2. In our example, you had 4 outs for a Full House so your probability of drawing the hand is 4x2=8%. Similarly, if you are on the turn, waiting for the river, multiply your outs by 2.
Here’s a chart to calculate your probability and odds if you know your number of outs.
Skill vs Luck
When learning how to play poker it is important to know whether poker is a game of chance or does skill have a role to play? At its heart, Poker is a game of probability. What are the chances that you will win the pot when you hold two pocket aces? Is an ace-king of the same suit a better hand than two kings? These are questions that most players grapple with. For the record, if you hold two pocket aces in a table of 10 players, you have a 31% chance of taking the pot. And two kings (25.6% chance of winning) are always better than an AK of the same suit (19.5%). In fact, two jacks as pocket cards have the same probability of winning as a suited AK.
But probability or chance is only one part of the story. Over time, the odds actually even out. In the long run, it’s your skill that helps you win more in poker.
Amin Rozani, Spartan Poker’s MD, who has been playing the game for over 10 years says: “This is a game that requires a great deal of mental acuity, logic and even people reading skills,” he says.
Sure, you can learn how to play poker online in the time it takes you to read this article. But becoming good at it takes years of experience and putting into practice what you learn today.
How to play poker? Simply put, poker is a game of mathematics, of bluff and bluster, of concentration and calculation, of patience and strategy, of knowing when to up the ante, when to go all in and when to fold. Yes, there is an element of luck involved. But, in poker, you can make your own luck. As they say: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
Besides learning, how to play poker online, what are the benefits of playing poker online?
Playing poker online is easy, fun and safe.
1. Skills: Poker improves your concentration, decision-making, ability to calculate quickly, observational skills, emotional maturity and ability to strategise.
2. Access: You can play online poker anytime anywhere on a desktop or on an app on a mobile phone. Poker rooms are available 24/7.
3. Variety of games: You can choose a poker game of your choice – be it Texas Hold’em or Omaha or 7-card Stud or any other.
4. Variety of tournaments: Spartan Poker hosts a tournament almost every half hour, including freerolls. So, you can take your pick and start playing.
5. Learn as you play: Some are unsure of playing live poker offline, especially if you are new to the game. The online anonymity lets to you get comfortable with the game and pace yourself and play as you like.
Why you should play poker at Spartan!
Whether you are a beginner wanting to learn how to play poker online or an experienced poker player looking to polish your skills by playing against the best, you have come to just the right place.
Spartan is one of the biggest online communities of poker lovers in India. We have players across skill levels and tournaments with different slabs of buy-ins.
The site offers a wide variety of card games and an international gaming experience that’s hard to beat.
To get beginners started, Spartan offers a welcome bonus, a wide range of poker tournaments and a selection of freerolls to learn and win.
How to play poker FAQ?
1. How long does it take for someone to learn how to play poker?
It’s a tough question to answer. Strictly speaking, to learn the basic rules and gameplay shouldn’t take a good student more than week. But to play with skill can take time and practice. The more you play, the better you will get. If you have never played a card game before, you might take longer than someone who is used to playing other card games to learn how to play poker.
2. Is poker the same as teen-patti (three cards)?
No, poker is not the same as teen-patti though there are quite a few similarities. Poker is a much more advanced, complex and evolved version of teen-patti. In poker, you must make a five-card winning hand compared to teen-patti. The concept of community card makes poker a far more engaging and intellectual game than three cards. Also, poker requires a lot more skill than teen-patti, where luck plays a significant role. But, if you are familiar with teen-patti, you will be able to master the rules of poker much faster.
3. Is playing poker legal?
Yes, playing poker on sites like Spartan Poker is legal. Spartan Poker observes all the laws of the country and all payouts are made after proper deduction of taxes. So, step right up, learn how to play poker and take home a truck-load of rewards.
4. What is the VIP club?
The VIP club is an exclusive group of poker fans, who become eligible for some fantastic rewards such as free tournament tickets, mobile phones, foreign holidays luxury bikes and cars, etc. To become a part of this elite club, you just have to register on Spartan Poker. Once you become a member, you can keep earning points and becoming eligible for big rewards. After learning how to play poker, play more and win more to be a part of this exclusive club.
5. What are poker freerolls?
Freeroll poker are tournaments that we specially organize for players who are new and learning how to play a poker game. You can join any of the freerolls without paying any money and still stand a chance to win prizes. Freerolls are a great way to learn poker, become familiar with the interface and also make some money.