Poker is one of the best known and well loved card games where betting is involved. But "how to play poker" is still a common question. The aim of the game is to win the pot of bets placed during a hand. The size of the pot depends on a few circumstances including; the blinds, the ante and the actual bets placed while the hand of poker is played. To win the pot of money you must either; have the strongest hand of all players involved at the showdown or convince the other players to fold their hands, possibly representing that you have a stronger hand than you actually have (bluffing).
An important factor when playing poker is the hand rankings and which hands are stronger or weaker. These can be found on our order of hierarchy page. Ensure that you familiarise yourself with these as you don't want to mistake your hand for a stronger hand when playing in big pots, it may cost you a lot.
Once you have learned which poker hand rankings are better you need to understand the probability of making the hand. The highest ranked poker hands are the most difficult or unlikely to achieve but the higher your hand is ranked, the better your chances are of winning the pot.
As a rule poker cards are dealt by a dealer. The dealer does not normally play the game of poker itself except in smaller, less formal games. The cards are dealt around the poker table in a clockwise direction starting with the player to the dealers left. Once the cards have been dealt the first round of betting begins. You have the choice to; check (to bet nothing but continue to play the hand, this can only be done when no other player has bet before you), call (to match a bet made by an opponent), raise (to match a bet made by an opponent and to bet more additionally) or fold (declining the chance to match a bet and retiring from the rest of that hand, leaving any of the chips that you bet into the pot for the winner of the hand to take.)
There are varying structures of poker betting depending on the format of the poker table that you are playing at. For example, at a $2/$5 poker table, you will only be able to bet in $2 increments until any player shows a pair or until all players have had a chance to bet once or twice. These structures depend on the rules of the specific casino or online poker site you play at. After this point the betting at a $2/$5 poker table would take place in $5 increments. As all casinos and online poker rooms have differing rules regarding betting formats it would be advisable to familiarise yourself with such rules before playing poker for real cash.
The one fact that encourages players to participate in poker over other casino games such as blackjack, roulette and slots is that poker players compete against themselves and NOT the dealer, casino or site. You pay to play poker through a rake system which may vary from one casino or poker site to another. The rake is a predetermined percentage of the pot which is taken by the casino or poker site but maximums are often set and other conditions may apply. You would be wise to make sure you know exactly what is being taken from your bets before placing them.