Welcome to Poker 101 for dummies – where beginners learn to play poker.
Poker 101 will give you a grounding in the mechanics of the game and get you started with some winning strategies. Read through the following pages to get an understanding of all poker related info plus lots of extra tips and tricks.
If you are unsure of the Rules of Texas Holdem or the Hand Rankings of Poker, make sure you check them out too.
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Poker 101: What We Will Cover
- Terminology (below)
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If you are new to poker and looking to have all the basics covered on a single printable PDF, check out our cheat sheet web page.
Use the terminology section below as a dictionary – there is no need to read through it now. Refer to back to this page if you come across a word you don't understand.
Check out the next poker 101 page – Basic Preflop Strategy – to find out more.
Poker 101 – Terminology
We will link back to this page throughout Poker 101 for any words you may not understand. Keep an eye out for the hyperlinks!
6-max: A table with a maximum of 6 players allowed to sit down- see 6max vs fullring. This type of game type is more typical to online play. An example of a 6max table shown below:
Ante: An ante is an other forced bet, typically smaller than the blinds which are used late in tournaments to increase the size of the starting pot.
Backdoor: A draw which requires two cards to complete. For example, AK of hearts on a Th6s2d has two backdoor draws – two consecutive hearts for a flush and consecutive Queen and Jack for a straight.
Bankroll management: Bankroll management is a process which all successful poker players undertake. It involves managing the amount of money available for you to play poker to ensure that you have sufficient funds that you do not go broke. See the post on bankroll management which delves into more detail.
Big Blind: The big blind is the forced bet which the player two seats to the left of the dealer has to put in before seeing his cards. The rules fix the big before the game has started. The BB is the minimum bet size for the poker game. For more information see Position is King.
Board: The community cards which everyone shares i.e., the flop turn and river
Blank: A hand which does not change the board or the strength of many of the types of hands players is likely to hold. For example, on a T96 board, a two would be considered a ‘blank.'
Blocker: When you hold a card which your opponent needs to make a strong hand. For example holding the Ace of hearts on a board with a heart flush possibility.
Broadway: The cards from Ten through to Ace are called Broadway cards.
Chase: To call a bet with a drawing hand with the correct pot odds.
Chop: To split the pot between two or more players due them all having similar holdings.
Coin flip or flip: When two players end up all in and their hands have roughly the same equity i.e. it is 50:50 for either to win. AK vs. QQ all in preflop is considered a flip despite QQ having slightly more equity.
Combo-draw: A powerful draw with a lot of outs to win. For example a flush draw and a straight draw.
Continuation bet: The act of following up your aggressive action on the next street. For example, raising preflop and then betting on flop. See more on continuation betting here.
Cutoff (CO): The cutoff is the position to the right of the dealer button (acts before the dealer). For more information see Position is King.
Domination: You are said to dominate your opponent when you each share one card of the same rank but your second card is of a higher rank. For example, AK dominates AQ as it will win a large percentage of the time (71%).
Downswing: A period of a bad run of luck where a poker player finds it difficult to win. A part of poker which every player must expect. The opposite of an upswing (or hot streak). See an example of a downswing below (after 7500 games).
Double Barrel: To bet two streets in a row, for example, bet the flop and follow up with another bet on the turn.
Draw: A draw is when you are waiting for particular cards to help improve your hand. For example, if you have four cards to a flush you are said to have a flush draw. Similarly, you can have a straight draw when you have four cards to a straight.
Drawing dead: When a player can no longer win the pot no matter what cards come on the turn and river. AK would be drawing dead vs. 99 on a 962 board as even hitting two Aces or Kings in a row wouldn't make the best hand.
Equity: the percentage chance you or your opponent have of winning the pot. For example, AA has over 80% equity vs. a lower pocket pair such as QQ or TT. See our pot equity tutorial for more details.
Equity realization: Having equity is great but in some cases with difficult to play hands (for example K8o) you will not be able to realize that equity because the hand is difficult to play. See equity realization for more info.
Expected value: expected value is the predicted value of a particular move (such as calling or raising). It is calculated using the value of each outcome multiplied by the probability that each outcome will occur. For more information see Pot Odds, Equity And Expected Value.
Floating: Calling a bet with a speculative hand with the plan to bluff to win the pot on a later street. Typically this strategy is use to exploit weak opponents who will only bluff once before giving up on the pot and folding to a bet. Floating is more successful in position as you have the opportunity to apply more pressure to your opponent plus you will have more information while action in position.
Fold equity: The percentage chance you have of winning the pot due to your opponent folding to a bet or raise. For more information see this detailed article.
Full ring: The classic Texas Hold'em format. A maximum of 9 players may sit as this table type.
Freeroll: A tournament which is free to enter and offers a prize to the winner(s). A freeroll can also be used to describe when two hands of the same rank are all in but one hand has an additional way to win. For example, both players have KQ and are all in on a JsTs5c board. However, one player has a flush draw to complement his straight draw and thus is said to be freerolling – he can only draw or win, not lose.
Gut-shot (inside straight draw): A draw which has four outs to the straight. For example 76 on A53 board – a four will complete a straight.
GTO – GTO or game theory optimal is an unexploitable poker strategy based on mathematics and Nash Equilibrium that has arisen in the last number of years. When playing a GTO strategy you cannot be beaten in the long run, only break even against another GTO strategy. The use of unexploitable strategies have been accelerated by the use of GTO solvers such as PIOSolver. For more on GTO strategies and solvers see PokerNerves article.
Hero: When discussing the hand online, the player whose cards are known is said to be the hero.
Heads Up Poker: Playing poker against one opponent in a 1vs1 situation. For more on heads up poker see heads up poker strategy- adjusting to your opponent.
HUD (Heads up display): A HUD is a display which is used in online poker which provides information on opponents.
Isolate: To raise with the intention of singling out a single player after they have entered the pot. Typically isolation moves are performed vs. weaker players after they have limped into the pot.
Kicker: A kicker is used to break ties between players when they have hands of the same rank. For example, the kicker for the hand AK on an A72 board would be the king. The king kicker means that AK would be a stronger hand than AQ – in this case, AQ hand is out-kicked. See this article for more on kickers.
Limping: Limping is the act of calling a pre-flop bet when the pot is unopened. For example, a player is first to act under the gun (UTG) and calls the big blind. See this article for why limping is a bad strategy.
Middle position (MP): Middle position is the 2nd position to act after the cards are dealt in 6max (after UTG) and the 3rd and 4th position to act in a full ring game (9 players). For more information see Position is King.
Nuts: The nuts is the strongest hand possible. The ultimate nuts is the Royal flush as this can never lose. However, some hands won't always be possible, and therefore the nuts is referred to the strongest possible hand on the current board. For example, the nuts on a KT9 board without a flush possible would be QJ.
Offsuit: Two cards which are not of the same suit. For example AK with Ace of Diamonds and King of spades (often shortened to AKo).
Open-ended straight draw (OESD): A draw which has eight outs to the straight. For example 76 on A54 board – a 3 8 or will complete a straight.
Outs: The number of cards which could potentially improve your hand strength. For example, with QJ on a T92 board, we have eight outs to a straight (4 Kings and 4 Eights) and we have six outs to top pair (3 queens and 3 jacks).
Outdraw: When your opponent had a worse hand than you, but his hand improved to one better than yours on future streets. For example, a flush draw would ‘outdraw' a one pair hand if the turn or river completed the five card flush.
Overcard: this is when you have a card which is greater than the highest card on the flop or turn. For example, AQ has one overcard on a K52 flop and has two overcards on a T52 flop. Overcards are important as they give us an opportunity to make good a hand on later streets.
Overpair: When you have a pocket pair which is larger than the highest ranking card on the board. For example, KK is an overpair on a Q52 flop.
PFR (pre-flop raise): A HUD stat which shows how often a player raises when entering the pot. Typically range from 12-22% for winning players depending on the game type.
Postflop: The later rounds of betting which occur after the flop is dealt. See Texas Holdem strategy for more on playing postflop poker.
Pot Equity: This is the percentage chance that you will win the pot at any given point in the hand. It is how much of the pot ‘belongs' to you. For example with KK pre-flop, you will have approximately 80% chance of winning (equity) vs. QQ. For more information see Pot Odds, Equity And Expected Value.
PLO: PLO or Pot Limit Omaha is a poker game type similar in structure to Texas holdem although you are dealt 4 cards instead of two and are limited in bet size to the pot. Check out PLOQuickPro for pot limit omaha strategy.
Pot Odds: This is the odds that are being offered to you to call when facing a bet or raise. If you are confronted with a half pot bet, you are offered odds of 2:1 (you have to call 1 to win 2). See our poker books page our review of Essential Poker Math by Alton Hardin for all the basics of poker math, including pot odds.
Preflop: The round of betting which occurs straight after the card have been dealt. See Texas Holdem strategy for more on playing preflop poker.
Rainbow: When there is no possibility of a flush draw on the flop or turn due to all cards being different suits.
Rake: Rake is a percentage of the pot that a poker room or casino will take to play for the dealer, services, etc. Rake is how the poker room or casino generates profits from poker games. See this page for how rake works in poker.
Rakeback: This is the refund a poker play may get from a poker room or casino when a certain amount of play has been completed (hours or hands played). Rakeback is similar ‘tax-back' which is returned to good customers of the poker site.
Range: A group of holdings you think your opponent may hold. See poker hand ranges for beginners.
Shorthanded: When the number of players falls below five on a table, it is considered to be a shorthanded table.
Set: A set is three of a kind with a pocket pair in the hole. For example, a set of sixes would be 66 on a KT6 board. Sets are stronger than a standard three of a kind because you cannot be outkicked.
Sit ngo: A tournament which begins when enough players sit down on the table (rather than starting at a specific time of day).
Small blind: The small blind is the forced bet which the player one seat to the left of the dealer has to place before seeing his cards. The value of the small blind is typically half that of the big blind. For more information see Position is King.
Suited: Two cards which are of the same suit. For example AK of hearts (often shortened to AKs)
Tell: Unconsciously giving away a piece of information to your opponent. For example, a shaking hand may mean a good holding.
Trap: To play in a manner which disguises the strength of your hand. For example calling preflop with AA instead of raising. See examples of traps here.
UTG: The first player to act after the cards are dealt. For more information see Position is King.
Villain: Often used to denote out an opponent in an online discussion. For example, the villain makes a big call with a weak hand.
VPIP (Voluntarily put in the pot): A HUD stat which shows how often a player puts money into the pot by raising or calling voluntarily. VPIP is a measure of how many hands a player plays. Typically range from 15-25% for winning players depending on the game type.
Get your Free guide for crushing the play money game – learn the best strategies for beating the play money games with ease.
That's it for poker 101 terminology. Check out the next poker 101 page – Basic Preflop Strategy – to find out more.
Table Of Contents
Other Poker Game’s Rules:
Learning how to play poker should not be difficult. If you want to understand why so many people love this game, this beginner's guide to the rules and the basics of poker is all you need.
Poker is a simple game to learn, but the poker rules can be challenging for a complete beginner.
But don't let that put you off. It is not hard to learn how to play poker, and you can move from the basics of the game to the tables of the top online poker sites in no time.
Here's everything you'll learn in this guide on how to play poker:
- And lots more
Before you move to the 'practical' side of this guide on how to play the most popular variants of this game, you need to learn the basics of poker.
When most people say they want to know 'how to play regular poker,' they imply that they want to learn the basics of Texas Hold'em.
Texas Hold'em is (by far) the most popular poker game out there and it's the one you find at every online poker site.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. With so many poker variants to play online and offline, the only proper guide on how to play poker for dummies is the one that gets you access to all the best games out there.
Not just to the most famous one.
Many poker rules are consistent from game to game, although among the dozens of variants such as Texas hold'em, Omaha, and seven-card stud you will find some ket differences you need to kno.
Let's have a quick look at the poker rules of the most played poker games online:
How to Play Texas Hold'Em
|How Many Players||2-10|
|Poker Rules||How to play Texas hold'em|
Also called the 'Cadillac of Poker,' Texas hold'em is the one you are going to play over and over again.
This is the most popular poker game online and it is also the one you are most likely to play with our friends in your next home game.
Whether you play it in the form of a tournament or as a ring-game, the basic poker rules and the hand rankings don't change.
> Discover how to play Texas Hold'em
How to Play Omaha Poker
|How Many Players||2-10|
|Poker Rules||How to play Omaha|
|Where to Play||Top poker sites|
The second-most popular poker variant. Omaha poker finds its roots in the game of Texas Hold'em, although the rules of the two games are slightly different from each other.
Many players find learning how to play poker Omaha to be the natural step to take after they have successfully mastered the basics of Texas Hold'em.
In the poker rules page dedicated to the game, you find the perfect beginner's guide to moving your first steps in the world of Omaha.
> Learn how to play Omaha poker
How to Play Seven-Card Stud
|How Many Players||2-8|
|Poker Rules||How to play 7-card Stud|
|Where to Play||Top poker sites|
Before Texas hold'em became king, anyone who wanted to learn the basic poker rules and how to play poker had to go through the game of seven-card stud.
As the name suggests, this is a variant of stud poker. 7-card stud is also the 'S' game in the H.O.R.S.E. poker — but if you are still learning how to play poker, it's probably too early for you to jump on that.
> Discover how to play seven-card stud poker
Other Poker Rules to Learn
If you want to go deeper and you want to learn how to play even more poker games, PokerNews is the right site for you.
Pick one poker variant to learn from the list that follows and find out how to play some of the most exciting and lesser-known poker games out there!
Use these guides to learn how to play poker and master not only the most 'obvious' games like Texas hold'em bu also all the other different variants out there.
In our guides for beginners, you find the official poker rules, the basic strategy tips, and the hand rankings — because knowing how to calculate points is key if you want to win at poker.
Common Traits of Most Poker Rules
The Value of Poker Hands
One element used in most poker variants is the system of hand rankings.
The highest ranked hand is a Royal Flush (five cards of the same suit, ranked ace through ten), followed by a Straight Flush (five cards of the same suit of consecutive ranks).
The third-best combination is the Four-of-a-kind, which is then followed by the Full House (three of a kind plus one pair), the Flush, the Straight, the Three-of-a-kind, Two Pair, One Pair, and High Card or no pair.
When a hand reaches the showdown, the player with the highest-ranked hand wins the pot.
That's true of Texas hold'em, pot-limit Omaha, seven-card stud, and five-card draw.
Of course, in 'lowball' games like razz or deuce-to-seven triple draw, the hand rankings are turned upside down and the 'worst' hand according to traditional hand rankings is the winning one.
Poker Hands Ranking
- Royal Flush10JQKA
- Four Of
- Full HouseJJJKK
- Three Of
- Two Pair499KK
- One Pair3QK1010
- High Card248QK
Poker For Dummies
- Poker Hands Chart: The official classification of all poker hands with a free pdf to download and print.
- What Beats What in Poker: the perfect starting guide to learn how to count points in poker and discover the real value of each hand.
Blinds and Ante Bets
Games like hold'em and Omaha feature small and big blinds, so called because they are 'blind' bets players have to make before they are dealt any cards.
Meanwhile stud games usually use 'antes', which also involve players putting chips in the middle before the hand begins.
From there players bet more as the hand progresses, thereby creating larger pots.
Limit vs. No Limit Poker Games
Some games are played with no-limit betting, which means players can bet as much as they like at any point in the hand, including going 'all in.'
Pot-limit betting means that the current size of the pot creates an upper limit on how much a player can bet.
Games that are played with fixed-limit betting have predetermined amounts from which players cannot vary when they make their bets and raises.
There are other terms that tend to be used in all different poker games, including many having to do with the actions you perform when playing.
When the action is on you, you can:
- Check: Decline to bet
- Fold: Withdraw from the hand, if someone else has bet already
- Bet: Place a wager on the table
- Raise: Add more chips by matching your opponent's bet and putting in a greater amount.
- Call: Match the bet of your opponents to stay in the hand and continue to play.
All of those terms are an important step in your journey to learn how to play poker since they tend to come up in all poker variants.
The Betting Rounds
In games with community cards like hold'em and Omaha (also sometimes called 'flop games'), the betting rounds are referred to as:
- Preflop: The bets made before any community cards are dealt
- Flop: The bets made after the first three community cards are dealt)
- Turn: The bets made after the fourth community card
- River The bets made after the fifth and last community card.
- How to bet in poker: a beginner's guide to betting in Texas hold'em.
- Texas hold'em betting tips: This short article gives you some actionable tips to learn how to play poker with your stack of chips.
The Table Stakes
One other poker rule common to just about every variant of the you'll play – whether you are playing live poker or online poker – is one called 'table stakes.'
Poker For Dummies Video
Table stakes means that once a hand begins, you can only bet whatever amount you had on the table to begin the hand and are not allowed to add anything more during the hand as it plays out.
If you only have $100 on the table to begin a hand, you can't pull out your wallet and add more halfway through the hand – you can only play out the hand with whatever you had to start.
Practice Poker Online for Free
Now that you know the basic poker rules and you have links to go back to your poker guides when you need to, it's time to look for the best websites to practice poker online.
Don't start to play poker for real money right away. Try out the games for free first. That's the only way to discover if you have really learned how to play poker.
Poker For Dummies Book
Poker Odds For Dummies
Looking for a site to practice online poker for free?
Don't miss the updated list of the best free poker sites in 2020!
There are countless options to give the game a test run, but the best way is to try out the real deal.
Sign up for a poker account with one of the big online poker rooms and give the freerolls a try.
That way, you can practice poker online without any risk; you're not wagering any money.
And if you want to try out cash games instead of tournaments, all major poker sites online have so-called play money tables.
That way you can practice the game, learn the rules, and figure out how the software works, readying yourself for the big stage.
Poker For Dummies Texas Holdem
Register a free gaming account and test your poker knowledge in the next freeroll!