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The ultimate step-by-step guide for playing poker

As professional poker player analyst Mike Sexton likes to say, it takes a moment to learn poker, but a lifetime to master it. That is because even if its rules are easy to learn, poker is a game of strategy and psychology.

Poker is not just an ordinary card game. To win, you need to read the actions of other players and strategically decide when to fold, bluff and catch someone else’s bluff.

While there are several varieties of poker, Texas Hold’em is the most popular. Below are the basic rules and steps in playing this type of poker game:

  1. Learn the basic hands and their ranking.

Before playing, you need to first learn the 10 basic hands and their rankings. In order from highest to lowest, they are:

  • Royal flush – Includes a 10, Jack, King, Queen and Ace of the same suit
  • Straight flush – Made up of 5 consecutive cards of the same suit 
  • Four of a kind – Any four cards of the same rank 
  • Full house – Made up of 3 cards of the same rank and another 2 cards of another rank
  • Flush – Consists of 5 cards of the same suit
  • Straight – Made up of 5 consecutive cards of any suits
  • Three of a kind – Any 3 cards of the same rank
  • Two pair – Includes 2 cards of the same rank with another 2 cards of the same rank
  • One pair – Consists of 2 cards of the same rank
  • High card – When no 2 cards have the same rank and the 5 cards are not consecutive or from the same suit.
  1. Place the starting bets or ante.
  2. The dealer will give two cards face down to each player, starting on the left.
  3. Each player will look at their cards and choose whether to bet or not. During the betting round, you have the option to:
  • Call – Match the bet of someone else
  • Raise – Add more money to the betting pool
  • Fold –  Give up the hand and return your cards to the dealer.
  1. Once everyone has made their bet, the dealer will reveal 3 cards that will serve as the community cards. This prompts the second betting round which is called the ‘flop’.
  2. Compare the community cards and start planning what hand you can form. Keep in mind that there are still 2 more cards to be revealed.
  3. After the ‘flop’, everyone has the chance to bet again before the dealer reveals the next community card which starts the third betting round—the ‘turn’.
  4. After the dealer deals the additional community card, check your cards again to decide your next action depending on the possible hands you’ve formed with the cards.
  5. After everyone has made their bet, the dealer will reveal the last community card which will begin the last betting round called the ‘river’.
  6. After the ‘river’, everyone will reveal their hand. The player with the highest hand wins. If there is a tie, the tied players will split the pot.

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