Everywhere you look, it seems that people are eager to learn to play poker. Of course, the many variations of poker out there can make the choice of poker you want to discover a little bit hard to narrow down, but there are some basic rules and strategies that you can be taught that apply to every poker variation.
There is one exception in the essentials you’ll need so you can learn to play any poker variation, and that is casino poker. While the ranking of hands that we go over below is always the same, bluffing is not a component of casino poker, nor is the fact that skill will not help you in the long run.
Casino poker is set up so that there is a house edge, which means that even if you do win, if you keep playing, eventually the casino will beat you, taking back not only the money that you won but also more of your own money.
Before we get into some of the basics of game play, it’s important to understand which poker hands beat other hands. Hands at the front of this list will beat all hands that come after (we’ll use the > sign to indicate superiority). Royal flush > straight flush > four of a kind > full house > flush > straight > three of a kind > two pair > one pair. These hands are also ranked according to how rare they are with, as you might have guessed, the rarest hands being the most powerful.
At the heart of any fair game of poker, and a real draw for all players whether amateur or professional, is the bluff. Bluffing is the art of deceiving one’s opponents into thinking that you hold a much stronger hand than you do.
There are a lot of theories on bluffing, but essentially it comes down to being able to read the body language and playing styles of other players. A lot of popular references to poker play stick with people who want to learn to play poker, such as the fact that everyone has a tell.
This is manifestly untrue, and even if it were true, it wouldn’t apply when playing poker online against opponents that you can’t see. It’s best to think that some players have a tell when they are bluffing, or holding a good hand, but this is not an iron clad rule that will help you win in any game.
That said, it is important if you want to learn how to win at poker that you ensure you yourself don’t have a tell, and that includes holding stock still whenever you are bluffing. Again, this won’t apply to an online game, but when playing with a group of friends, you will be under study and it’s best to appear natural at all times.
Of course the rules of poker are different according to the version of poker you want to learn to play. We look in subsequent articles at how to play specific variations like “how to play holdem,” but in the mean time, remember that the one way poker pros recommend to get you a good chance of winning in any situation is to study the game, both the way you play and the way your opponents do.