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Rules, Hand Rankings and Everything Else You Need to Learn to Play Poker


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Learn this one universal card structure

There are many different varieties of poker, and each one has its own specific set of rules. But some of the most popular games like Texas Holdem and Omaha follow a pretty similar structure – which is what we are going to learn today.

Let’s get right to it!

What you need to play

Most poker games require only four things:

  1. A standard deck of 52 cards (jokers are not used)
  2. A minimum of two players
  3. A table or any other kind of flat surface to put the cards on
  4. Some form of currency like chips or actual cash for betting (not required for home games)


There are three basic things to keep in mind when playing:

  1. Never act out of turn because this can influence the decisions of the players before you – which can put you in either a good or bad spot depending on the situation.
  2. Verbal declarations of actions are binding. This is so players can’t just announce a move and then change it based on how their opponents react.
  3. Keep your cards concealed until it’s time to reveal them. Otherwise, the hand may be declared dead.

Game mechanics

In most cases, at least one player is required to place a pre-deal bet called an ante or a blind to get the action going. Afterward, a predetermined number of cards are dealt to all the players.

Upon seeing their respective cards, each player may then choose to take any one of the following courses of action:

  1. Check – pass (only doable when no one else has placed a bet yet)
  2. Fold – take themselves out of play to minimize their losses
  3. Call – match the current bet amount (i.e., the amount of chips or money in the pot)
  4. Raise – bet more than the required amount

Typically, several more of this deal-and-then-bet round happens until either all but one player folds or the game reaches the showdown stage, where all remaining players will be required to reveal their cards to see who has the best hand. The winner gets whatever amount is in the pot at the time. In case there’s a tie, however, the pot is divided evenly among all winners.

To learn more about the rules on how to break ties in poker, click here.

Of course, you can only decide on a winner if you know what hands beat what – which brings us to the next section:

Hand rankings

Most five-card varieties of poker rank their hands in the following manner (listed from strongest to weakest):

Royal FlushFive consecutive cards of the same suit topped by an ace
Ex: Ac Kc Qc Jc 10c
Straight FlushSame as a royal flush but topped by a king or lower

Ex: Kd Qd Jd 10d 9d

Four of a KindFour cards of the same value plus a fifth kicker card
Ex: 3d 3h 3s 3c Js
Full HouseThree cards of the same value plus two cards of another value

Ex: 5d 5h 5s 2s 2c

FlushFive cards of the same suit, which, unlike a royal or straight flush do not have to be of consecutive values

Ex: As Js 9s 5s 3s

StraightFive consecutive cards of at least two different suits

Ex: 9d 8c 7s 6c 5h

Three of a KindThree cards of the same value plus two kicker cards

Ex: 7h 7s 7c 9d 4s

Two PairTwo cards of the same value plus another two cards of the same value and a fifth kicker card

Ex: Qd Qh 5d 5c 6s.

PairTwo cards of the same value plus three kicker cards

Ex: 6d 6h Ks 8c 9s

High CardFive random cards of at least two different suits

Ex: Jc 7s 5h 3d 2c

The cards themselves are ranked based on their face value (e.g., a 10 is higher than a 9). Aces are a special case, however, because they can be used either as high or low cards in straights.

Now, as for the suits, most games only use them to identify flushes. They typically don’t hold any other special value.

Time to play!

Now that you know all the basics, the only thing that’s left to do is play. Don’t worry if you don’t think you’re ready for an actual casino game yet. You can start by playing right at the comfort of your own home. Just sign up for a SafeClub account and you’ll get exclusive access to all the online real money poker action you could ever want!


$30 flat membership