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Poker Rules

Official Poker Rules and Regulations

Poker Rules and Regulations

A Comprehensive Guide to the Rules of Poker

Poker comes in a lot of different forms. There’s Texas Holdem, Omaha, Seven Card Stud and a ton of other variations to suit pretty much any playing style. This is why there’s really no way to write a single rule book that would cover everything.

What we can do, however, is craft a more generic guide that covers things most standard poker games share—which is exactly what this page is. Our goal is to help you build a pretty solid understanding of the game so it becomes easier for you to dive into whatever type of poker you decide to play later on.

Let’s get right to it!


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What does “buy-in” mean?

In most cases, players are required to pay a buy-in fee before they can join a poker game or tournament. For limit games, it usually starts at 10 times the amount of the maximum bet. For pot-limit and no limit-games, on the other hand, the full buy-in is normally 40 times the amount of the bring-in, which, in turn, is the same size as the big blind.

Game and tournament organizers, however, are free to change these numbers so be sure to check first before signing up.

How does pre-deal shuffling work?

Every pack must be shuffled at least four times and then cut by, ideally, three people into piles with at least four cards each before dealing can begin. This is meant to preserve the integrity of the game.

Dealing the cards out

After each hand is played, the person that dealt the cards collects them, squares them up and then hands them over to the player to the left of the new dealer for shuffling. This player then slides the shuffled cards over to the new dealer who, in turn, has the player to their right cut the deck.

At no point during all this should the bottom card in the deck be visible to any of the players, so a cut card like a joker is typically used to protect it.

If any player has any complaints regarding the way the cards were prepared, shuffled, cut or dealt, they are free to speak out and demand a reshuffle—unless they’ve already seen their cards or action has already started.

How do the different poker hands rank?

The descending order of hand rankings is: Royal Flush, Straight Flush, Four of a Kind, Full House, Flush, Straight, Three of a Kind, Two Pair, One Pair, and High Card.

In more detail, most standard poker games make use of the following hand rankings (arranged in from strongest to weakest):

  • Royal Flush – five consecutive suited cards with an ace as the highest card as in Ad Kd Qd Jd 10d
  • Straight Flush – essentially a Royal Flush but with a king or lower as the highest card as in Kc Qc Jc 10c 9c
  • Four of a Kind – four cards of the same value plus a fifth kicker card as in 9h 9d 9s 9c Kd
  • Full House – three cards of the same value plus another two cards of the same value as in 5s 5c 5h 10d 10s
  • Flush – five suited cards of any value as in Kd 10d 5d 4d 2d
  • Straight – five consecutive non-suited cards as in 8d 7c 6c 5h 4s
  • Three of a Kind – three cards of the same value plus two kicker cards as in 7d 7s 7c Kh 3s
  • Two Pair – two sets of two cards of the same value plus a fifth kicker card as in 4d 4c 2d 2s Qh
  • Pair – two cards of the same value plus three kicker cards as in 8d 8h 6d 3h 2d
  • High Card – five non-suited cards of random values as in Kd 7h 5c 4s 2d

Some games make use of different rankings, however, so it’s wise to check first before you start playing.

How do misdeals work?

The most common dealing error is accidentally exposing cards that should be hidden. Other errors include players receiving the wrong number of cards. Either way, the misdeal needs to be called out before 2 players make a move.

There are several conditions for a misdeal to be called, and they are as follows:

  1. The first two cards of the hand are exposed in whatever way due to dealer error
  1. The dealer ends up exposing at least two cards
  1. At least two improperly faced cards are discovered
  1. At least two extra cards have been dealt in a game’s starting hands
  1. A player receives an incorrect number of cards—unless the player gets an extra card that happens to be a top card that has been dealt following the proper sequence, making it qualified to be picked up and dealt to the next player in line without causing a misdeal
  1. A card was dealt out of sequence—unless it was exposed, which qualifies it to be replaced by a burn card without causing a misdeal
  1. The button was in the incorrect position
  1. The first card was dealt to the wrong player
  1. At least one card has been dealt to an empty or non-playing seat
  1. No cards have been dealt to an active player

Keep in mind, however, that a misdeal can only be called before at least two players have acted. Afterward, all participants are required to play the hand to conclusion.

When is a hand considered dead?

Just like with misdeals, there are also a number of conditions for a hand to be declared dead:

  1. A player folds or verbally announces their intention to fold
  1. A player throws their hand forward and causes the next player to take action
  1. A player facing a bet in Stud picks their upcards up off the table, turns them face down or mixes them in with the downcards
  1. The hand contains an incorrect number of cards
  1. A joker is used as a hole card to act on a hand in a game where jokers are not in use
  1. A player does not make a move before their time to do so has run out
  1. The cards are thrown into the muck—except in cases where the hand is still clearly identifiable and either its retrieval is beneficial to the game or it was discarded due to some false information received by the player
  1. The cards are thrown into the hand of another player

What are common irregularities to watch out for?

There are a total of 14 things game officials and players alike need to be on the lookout for to ensure the smooth progression of each game:

  1. Incorrect placement of the button in button games, which should immediately be fixed with the necessary adjustments in the next hand
  1. Premature exposure of hands (whether intentional or not), which can result in the hands in question to be declared dead
  1. The appearance of a card with a different colored back, which voids all action (unless it happens in a stub) and prompts the dealer or official to return all wagered chips to their respective owners
  1. The appearance of two or more cards of the same suit and value, which also voids all action and prompts the dealer or official to return all wagered chips
  1. A player who discovers a defective deck uses it to their advantage instead of alerting the dealer or official, which may cause the offending player to forfeit their claim to a refund and all wagered chips to remain in the pot until the conclusion of the next deal
  1. Chips from the previous deal remaining in the pot, which disqualifies any player who was inactive in the previous hand from participating in the current one
  1. A face-up card appears in a deck, which is supposed to be discarded until dealing is finished for the current round
  1. A joker appears in a non-joker game, which should be handled in one of the following three ways:
  • The card is discarded
  • The card is replaced if it is found before a player makes a move
  • The card, if discovered but kept secret, causes a hand to be declared dead
  1. Playing an irregular card, the blame for which always falls on the offending player
  1. At least one card is missing from the deck, which should not affect the validity of a hand
  1. A dealer hands out an extra card before the first betting round beings, which causes the card in question to be put back into the deck and treated as a burn card
  1. The appearance of an exposed card, which should be handled in one of the following three ways:
  • If it’s the dealer’s fault and the player announces it prior to looking at their hand, the card does not play
  • If it’s the players fault, the card plays
  • If it’s a down card that was dealt off the table, it is declared exposed and therefore does not play
  1. Cards that are accidentally dropped on the floor, which should still be played
  1. Cards that are dealt before betting is finished, which should not be played

How does betting work?

The betting system in most standard poker games revolves around these 16 basic rules:

  1. All games except specific variants of lowball allow players to check-raise.
  1. Unlimited raising is permitted in pot-limit and no-limit games.
  1. Limit games with at least three players who have not gone all in, on the other hand, only allow one bet and three raises.
  1. Money games only allow unlimited raising during heads-up play, provided the heads-up play begins before the raising is capped.
  1. An all-in wager that falls below the value of half a bet cannot reopen the betting for players who have already acted and put in chips for all previous bets in limit games. A player facing such a wager has the option to call, fold or complete it. In contrast, all-in wagers that are worth at least half a bet are considered full bets, which allows a player facing it to call, fold or make a full raise.
  1. Bets must always be at least the same size as the previous wager or raise in a round except in cases where a player is going all-in.
  1. Players are not allowed to wager chips—even in quantity—that are smaller than the smallest one used in the blinds or antes. This means that all chips that are too small to play must be always be changed up in between deals.
  1. Players who announce an action (e.g., call, fold or raise) are required to follow through because such verbal statements are considered binding.
  1. Players in turn who rap the table are considered to be signaling their intent to pass.
  1. Players are not allowed to deliberately act out of turn. Those who do are barred from betting or raising during their next turn. Also, out-of-turn actions or declarations thereof may be considered binding, provided there are no bets, calls or raises made by another player after it was made.
  1. A player retains their right to act by calling “time” (or any other predetermined word) before any three or more players behind them take action.
  1. Players who put chips into the pot are bound by their action unless they were not aware that the pot has already been raised, in which case, they are allowed to get their chips back and make a different move as long as no other player has acted yet.
  1. Pushing your chips forward into the pot and causing other players to act binds you to your action in limit games.
  1. Players are not allowed to string raise.
  1. Players are required to announce that they are raising for the action to count. Otherwise, the move will be ruled as a call even if the actual value of the chips that went into the pot exceeded the call value.
  1. Insufficient bets and calls must always be brought up to the proper amounts.

Rules for the top 25 different poker games

Card games are won by experience, not memorizing rules

There you have it! Again, different poker games have different sets of rules, so it’s still best to read up on the specific type you’re looking to play before diving in—which you can do right here. And once you’re done with that, why not sign up for SafeClub account as well so you can start practicing playing real money poker online right away? Our platform is 100% safe, 100% fair and it lets you keep 100% of your winnings. Give it a shot today!


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