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Basics of Playing Online Poker

Over the past 5 years poker has seen a massive boom in terms of both players and prize pools. There are thousands of people who make very good livings from poker; however they all started with little to no background knowledge on the game. This article is going to give you an advantage by going through some of the basic online poker principles. We will be looking at; hand rankings, game formats, game structures, poker bankroll, game improvement tools, rakeback & bonuses, before looking at some key points.

Hand rankings

As you start your poker journey, the most important thing you need to understand is hand rankings. Each hand will hold a different value to the other and learning which hand ranks the highest is a key tool to study and become familiarised with.

With every hand in poker, you need to make your best 5 card hand from your 2 whole cards and the 5 community cards. You can use as many of each as you wish, but it’s important to remember that all players can use the 5 community cards also.

  • High Cards – This is the lowest ranking hand. Your hand will comprise of 5 random cards which will not be co-ordinated in any way, meaning that the highest card will be the start of your hand. So, Ad, Ks, 6h, 3c, 2d will result in a hand where your high card plays.
  • One Pair – From this we hold one pair from our 5 card hand which means that two of the cards match, hence a pair. Example 7d, 7h, As, Kc, 4h for a pair of sevens.
  • Two Pair – We now have two pairs in our hand. Example, Jc, Jh, 8c, 8s, Ah.
  • Three of a kind – This is where we have three cards of the same value in our hand. Example, 8h, 8s, 8c, Jh, 2S
  • Straight – A straight consists of 5 cards that that all run in accordance. Example, 2h, 3c, 4h, 5c, 6d. Remember that an Ace can act as a low and a high card when it comes to making a straight, so A2345 and TJQKA are both viable straights in poker.
  • Flush – a flush is where we can have 5 cards all of the same suit but in any order. Example, 3h, 6h, 9h, Kh, Ah.
  • Full House – A full house is where we have 3 of one number and two of another. Example, 8h, 8c, 8d, 4s, 4d
  • Four of a Kind – This is where we have all four cards of one number. Example, 5c, 5s, 5h, 5d, As.
  • Straight Flush – We now have a hand where all 5 cards are the same suit and all 5 cards run accordingly in order. Example, 4h, 5h, 6h, 7h, 8h
  • Royal Flush – The same as a straight flush, however it runs from TJQKA the entire same suit.

Game Formats

There are many different game formats in poker which all have slightly different rules for each discipline. Often the underlying concepts are all pretty similar, but the games dynamics can differ greatly.

  • Texas Holdem – The biggest and most popular game, Texas Holdem is known as the ‘Cadillac of poker’. Before any cards are dealt, two mandatory bets are made by players in the small and big blind. These bets are made on each hand and are rotated in a clockwise fashion. Each player is then dealt two cards known as the hole cards before a round of betting takes place. Once this is complete and everyone has had a chance to act, 3 community cards are dealt face up on the table. Another round of betting takes place before the fourth community card is dealt face up called the ‘turn’.  A round of betting takes place and the final card is dealt face up called the ‘river’. One final round of betting occurs before the final players in the hand declare their cards.
  • Omaha – Probably the second most popular format of poker, Omaha is very similar to that of Holdem except from the fact that you are dealt four cards before the flop. You must use exactly two of your four cards that are dealt to you to complete your 5 card hand. The betting rounds remain the same to that of Texas Holdem.
  • Other Poker Games – there are many different games that online poker rooms offer to online poker players. One of the favourites is seven card stud where you get two cards dealt to you face down before four cards are dealt face up, finishing with one final card face down. Betting rounds occur after you receive each card and the highest ranking hand wins at the end of the betting. Other poker games that can be found in online poker rooms include can include Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo, Razz, PLO8, 5-card stud, 7-Card Stud Hi-Lo, 5 Card Draw and  2-7 Triple Draw.

Poker Bankroll

Once you have the basic rules of each game mastered, it’s time to think about your online poker bankroll. This basically means how much money you can first afford to deposit on a site and then look to increase as you go.

No matter the size of your bankroll, when starting out its important to play as low as possible whilst you are learning the rules and regulations of each game. Playing too high could become an expensive learning curve and is ill advised.

You should treat your bankroll with respect and never play above your means. You should be looking to have at least 40 buy ins (full time players playing at higher stakes typically need to have even much more than this) for a level to determine where exactly you should be playing. If your bankroll increases or decreases then you should adjust your limits accordingly.

Game Improvement tools

Since the poker boom a few years back, there have been a host of sites offering free and paid software claiming to help you improve. The quality of such software varies dramatically, but there are some which are simply invaluable when it comes to improving your game.

The first one is Holdem Manager (HEM). HEM is tracking software that allows you see stats of not only your play but also that of your opponents play. It’s a great way to find leaks in your game but also to track how your game has improved. Whilst the outlay of around $80 to buy may seem expensive when you are starting up, if you can afford it, it will more than pay for itself in a short space of time.

The second is a training site subscription. Often the best way to get to grips with poker is trial and error at the tables and whilst this is a very valid point when first starting, as you become more competent joining a training site to improve your game can be another invaluable tool.

Again, they are not the cheapest with most sites ranging at around $30 per month, but again, they will simply pay from themselves over time due to the amount of information you will get from them. Some of the main sites are Cardrunners, Deuces Cracked and Leggo Poker.

Key Points

  • Get a basic understanding of poker before jumping into any real money games
  • Learn the hand ranking and make sure you know them religiously
  • Try different formats of the game to see which you find most enjoyable
  • Look to actively take steps to improve your game
  • Enjoy playing poker!