From its reputed beginnings in 10th Century China, poker has grown to become one of the most loved and widely played traditional card games. It’s a game played by people across the world, from enthusiastic hobbyists to dedicated professionals, and has given rise to a huge global industry.
In 2021, it’s easier than ever before to learn how to play poker. The game itself is surprisingly easy to learn, but it’s a challenging one to master and keeps even the most experienced pro player engaged round after round.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at how to begin playing poker and suggest some helpful tips that will get you started with playing strategically.
It goes without saying that the first step in getting started with poker is to learn how to play poker properly. You need a firm grasp of the basics of the game like hand rankings and poker slang to feel confident to sit at “the felt”, even if you’re playing at home with friends.
The poker hands that govern the game today have remained the same for decades and they order the value of hands from highest to lowest. It’s worth remembering, however, that poker is multi-layered, so you can still play and win with a “bad hand”.
- The Royal Flush is the highest-ranking hand and is made up of an Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and 10 of the same suit.
- A Straight Flush is similar to a Royal in that all of the cards need to be consecutive and of the same suit, but they can start as low as 1.
- Four of a Kind has four cards of the same rank and a fifth card of any rank, such as four Kings and a Jack.
- The Full House is made up of three cards of the same rank and two cards of another. For example, three Queens and two 10s.
- A Flush contains five non-consecutive cards belonging to the same suit.
- A Straight, meanwhile, is made from five consecutive cards from all four suits.
- Like the Four of a Kind, the Three of a Kind features cards of the same rank – in this instance three – and two unmatched cards.
- A 2 Pair includes two cards of the same rank, two cards of a different rank, and one unmatched card.
- A straight Pair contains two cards of the same rank and three unmatched cards.
- And finally, the High Card features five non-consecutive cards of different suits that don’t feature multiples of the same rank.
Once you’ve tried your hand at a few games and gotten comfortable with making blinds, calling, folding, and checking, you’ll no doubt be looking for ways to improve your game as a beginner.
Unless you’re a poker prodigy who could give Phil Ivey a run for his money, at this early stage you don’t want to complicate things too much by trying to implement every strategy you come across. However, you can start to play strategically, which will set you up well for more complex strategies further down the line.
The easiest way to do this is to stick with low stakes games until you’re consistently winning. While they may not be as thrilling to play as some of the higher stakes games around, it’s easier to learn every aspect of the game when there’s less money riding on the outcome. Playing low stakes games for a while will help you understand elements like table positioning, and give you a chance to play different hands until you find a few that stick.
When you are dealt a solid opening hand don’t be afraid to play aggressively. A hand with high pairs or one containing Queen to Ace are great hands to be dealt because you can bet and raise with them, rather than checking and calling.
Another tip to remember is to not overwhelm yourself with too many poker resources. Sure, reading poker books and watching pro players is a great way to take things to the next level, but take your time and monitor your progress. You’ve only just started out in the game, so don’t dive headfirst into making risky plays just because you’ve seen a player you admire winning with them.