Poker Rules

In order to become a successful poker player, it’s important to start with the basics. If you understand the rules clearly, you can better absorb how the game is best played. You must learn the rules of the game before learning the various strategies. Let’s start with the very basics:

The Objective

The purpose of the game is often to win money, which is represented by chips. However, there are two ways to do this:

1. Have the best five-card hand at the showdown.
2. Persuade all of the other players to fold – if everyone believes that you have a good hand, they may prefer to fold rather than to add chips to a pot that they probably won’t end up winning.


Gameplay rotates to the left of the dealer.


Number of Players

Every game has a set number of players, and it’s no different for poker. Traditionally, it has been a game for two to seven players, but six to seven is the ideal number. The cards are dealt and play continues clockwise.

The Card Deck

Poker players use a standard 52-card deck with no jokers. The highest card is an ace, going all the way down to two. However, the ace can be used as a low card, if preferred. As far as the different suits go, they’re all equal. In some games, there are wild cards, which can take on whatever suit and rank their possessor decides on. Oftentimes it’s the joker that is used as the wild card, or whatever the players decide on, whether it’s deuces or one-eyed jacks.



Money is represented by chips during the game. These chips generally come in various denominations, labelled with numbers like 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 and are in colors like white, red and blue. Before the game has started, players buy chips from the host and redeem the amount of chips they have won at the end for cash.

Poker Hand Ranking

In poker, different hands of cards hold different values.

Royal Flush:

This happens when all five cards are of the same suit and include everything from a 10 up to an ace (10, j, q, k, a).

Straight Flush:

If you have a straight flush, you’ll have any straight, or consecutive cards, all of the same suit.

Four of a Kind:

This hand contains four cards of the same rank and one other card, like 7,7,7,7,K. That odd card out is called the kicker. Four of a kind is also known as quads.

Four of a Kind

Four of a Kind

Full House:

This is any three cards of the same rank together with any two cards of the same rank. For instance, you could have three aces and two kings, which would be called “aces full of kings.”


A flush differs from a royal and straight hand in that the numbers on the cards don’t need to be consecutive. Instead, they have to be the same suit and the highest card in the hand determines the rank of the flush.


This hand contains any five consecutive cards of varying suits.

Straight Hand


Three of a Kind:

A three of a kind has any three cards of the same rank.

Two Pair:

With this hand, you’ll have any two cards of the same rank together with another two cards of the same rank.

One Pair:

This hand has any two cards of the same rank.

High Card:

This is essentially any hand not in the above hands. It’s also known as no pair. The five cards are all of different ranks and not all are consecutive or of the same suit.


A buy-in is necessary for anyone to take a seat at the poker table. In most limit games, the buy-in is set at 10 times the high limit of the table. If the game you’re playing is no limit, the buy-in, instead, will be at about 20 times the amount of the big blind.

Dealing and Betting

The first dealer is chosen at random. If you’re playing poker online, the cards are shuffled and dealt by the computer server. Traditional games of poker begin by burning a card, or dealing the top card of the pack face down, before dealing cards to the players at the table. After the deal, there will be a betting round. During this time, players have a chance to increase their bets, if they choose. The first betting round starts with the player to the left of the dealer if all of the players have placed an equal ante in the pot. Learn more about betting here.


With misdeals, the deal will be adjusted so that the players receive the cards they are entitled to. However, if play has already started, the deal stands as is and should be played through. A misdeal can be any of the following:

  • Exposed cards on the first or second deal by fault of the dealer
  • If more than two extra cards are dealt
  • When an active player is dealt out
  • If a player is dealt the incorrect number of cards

Incorrect number of cards dealt.

Dead Hands

A dead hand is a hand that is marked or damaged in some way. This rule is in place to prevent cheating so that players cannot identify certain cards.


Because the game of poker is sometimes arbitrary, players often make exceptions to the normal rules. Here are a few:

  • You must protect your hand throughout the entire game. Those who don’t protect their hand have no recourse if there is an issue.
  • Playing with a deck of cards that is missing one or more cards will make no difference in the results of the hand.
  • If a dealer deals the cards before betting is complete, those cards are considered dead.
  • Should a player choose to play without looking at the hand they were dealt, they are subject to having their hand declared dead if they have a joker. (Unless the joker has been deemed a wild card, per house rules).

    Joker incorrectly dealt.

The Showdown

The showdown is when all the players must show all of their cards face-up on the table to win any part of the pot. Players are responsible for holding onto their cards until a winner is declared. All losing hands must be killed by the dealer before the pot is awarded.