The Ultimate Poker Guide: Playing Poker from A to Z

So, you want to play poker online but have no idea of where to start, right? Well, don’t worry: we were all beginners at some point. Poker is one of the most popular card games around, and it has a global player base: it is known and played in almost every country.
This is mostly because it is an easy-to-learn game; you can learn all the rules in no more than 15 minutes. Mastering the game, however, will take a long time. In any case, even if you are a complete beginner, you can start playing at poker sites in no more than 15 minutes – we are ready to help you with this guide.

Due to this popularity and ease of play, there are literally hundreds of casinos to play online poker. Finding the best online poker sites will be a challenge because every one of them claims to be the best. Well, we are still ready to help you in this regard: after explaining the rules, variants, and tips and tricks for this game, we will be listing the criteria to pick top online poker sites and give you a list of our recommendations. When you are done with reading this guide, you will learn everything there is to know about this card game and be ready to play like a pro. More importantly, you will learn how to play at online poker real money USA sites. Our guide is mainly for US players, but it will be useful for everyone too. Let’s start: We have a lot of things to tell!

The History of Poker Games

All card games, no matter what they are called, are invented either by Spanish sailors or French soldiers. However, poker is the only exception: we must thank the “Yankees” for this game. The game was invented in the United States, and during the 19th century, the exact date is unknown. It first appeared on the steamboats that roam the Mississippi river – those were the “mobile casinos” of the era. The first variant of the game was the “stud” version, which is also known as “classic poker” nowadays. However, that is not the only card game you can play. As we will explain below in detail, there are lots of game variants to play, such as Texas holdem online and Omaha style. It is also the most popular card game in America: Europeans like to play baccarat and blackjack, but for the US players, poker is the best card game to play. Professional players are treated as celebrities in this country and win millions – and by making the correct choices, you can join them too. Let’s continue by explaining how you can do this: We should start from the beginning and with the rules.

Basic Rules to Know to Play Poker

Explaining the rules of poker online games is not that hard, as mentioned above, you can learn the basic principles in 15 minutes. However, note that different stud variants have slightly modified rules, especially when it comes to betting options. The rules explained below are for “classic” game, but they will apply to all other variants too. Only some of the betting options will be different, but your overall goal will stay the same.

Poker is a card game played between the players, not against the “casino”. This is important information to know – in blackjack, for example, your rival is the dealer. In other words, the casino itself. Here, however, your rivals are your table friends, other players like you. At the beginning of a round, all players must place a bet: this is called the “buy-in”. We will call it the “initial wager”. After that, the cards get shuffled and cut. One player takes the role of the dealer and deals the card. Each player gets between 2 and 5 cards, depending on the variant. Likewise, these cards may be open or closed, again, according to the variant you are playing.

Your goal is to form the better hand with the dealt cards, according to the hierarchy of poker hands. This hierarchy is the same in all variants, so let’s take a look at it first:

RANK NAME OF THE HAND EXAMPLE
1 Royal Flush A, K, Q, J, 10 (Same suit)
2 Straight Flush 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 (Any same-suit five cards in consecutive order)
3 Four Of A Kind A, A, A, A (Same four cards, can be different suits)
4 Full House J, J, J, K, K (Three same cards + two same cards)
5 Flush Any same-suit five cards
6 Straight Five cards in consecutive order, any suit
7 Three Of A Kind 10, 10, 10 (Same three cards, may be different suits)
8 Two Pair 7, 7, J, J (Two same cards, may be different suits)
9 Pair 7, 7 (Two same cards)

Players can ask for more cards from the dealer, or pick another card from the ones on the table – each poker variant has different rules in this regard. But your ultimate goal is to form one of these hands, and the better hand than the other players.

When it is your turn, you have three options to decide:

  • First, you can fold. This means forfeiting the game and losing your initial bet. If you don’t believe that you can form the better hand, you can always fold.
  • The second option is to increase the bet amount. You can form a royal flush after getting new cards, for example, and may want to increase the pot. There may or may not be a limit to the maximum pot amount: in tournaments, there is usually no limit (that’s why sometimes they reach millions of dollars).
  • The third option is to “call-in”: This means you don’t want to increase the bet amount, but you won’t be folding too. Basically, you are inviting your rival to end the round and compare the cards to see who is the winner.

One by one, players will be eliminated from the table: When everyone calls in, the round ends and the cards are compared. If only two players are left, this is called a “showdown”, which is the most exciting part of a card game. The tension between these two players is at insane levels, and they may keep increasing the pot to millions of dollars.

These basic rules apply to online pocker too, of course. In other words, you will be playing the same game at an online poker site, so there won’t be any new rules to learn. But you will be getting various benefits by choosing an online poker game, which we will list below.

Online Poker Games: Are They Different?

In regards to rules, no, poker games online are not different at all. As mentioned above, they are still the same games with equal winning chances. Whether you are playing online poker free or online poker real money games, you don’t need to learn the game again. However, there is an important difference: the majority of online card games will be presented as “video poker machines”, which are played against the “computer”. So, your rival won’t be a real person. Most video machines use the ruleset of a 5-card Stud and offer very good RTP rates. They are presented with interesting names, such as:

  • “jacks or better”
  • “deuces wild”
  • “joker poker”

These games add one more type of hand to hierarchy explained above, so they have another hand that makes a payout. Although video poker machines are not your only option. Thanks to the live casino technology, you can play all kinds of online game variants against real dealers. These are actually live broadcasts, which you can join from anywhere in the world. Basically, a real dealer puts a webcam in front of his/her table and starts a broadcast. You and all other players can join this stream and play the game in real-time. Live poker games offer authentic casino gaming experience from the comfort of your homes, and you should definitely try them.

Should You Play Poker Online or at “Real” Casinos?

There is no need to make such a comparison: both options offer a different kind of experience and should be tried separately. However, if you ask us, you should prefer casino sites to play online poker for money. This is because choosing poker online real money games offer lots of advantages, such as:

  1. You can make free online poker practice as long as you want. You cannot play any game for free at land-based casinos, such an option does not exist. But all online casinos offer this opportunity: you can try different game variants without taking any risks and try various strategies without costing you anything. And of course, you can always play online poker for real money, too.
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  3. There will be no need to travel. Online games are always available, as long as you have stable internet coverage. You can play them from your laptop, desktop PC, or mobile phone. In other words, you can play at any moment, and from anywhere you want, there is no need to go to a physical casino building. This will offer you additional opportunities to play casino games.
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  5. You can still play against real people. As explained above, online casino games can be played against real dealers, too. So, you can still get the same authentic casino experience.
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  7. You can play with any budget. Land-based casino games do not have very low table limits: You need to have a medium-sized gambling budget in order to start playing. Online poker games, on the other hand, offer table limits as low as 1 USD/EUR. So no matter what your budget is, you can find a game to play. And if you are a high-roller, you can still find online games with very high table limits.

 

Online Poker Variants: There Is More than One Poker Game to Play

As we mentioned above, this game has lots of variants which offer slightly different rules and winning chances. The most common ones are Texas holdem poker online and Omaha, so let’s take a closer look at both.

  • Online texas holdem: Playing texas holdem online is a quite different experience because there are “community cards”. In this variant, players get only two cards at each dealing. However, there will be open cards on the table too, which are called “community cards”. These cards can be used by any player to complete a winning combination. The pot can increase very quickly in Texas Hold’em and sometimes can reach millions of dollars.
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  • Omaha style: This option is very similar to Texas holdem, but the players get four hands at the beginning, instead of two. The goal is still the same: You are trying to create the best possible hand by combining your cards and the community cards. Omaha is the “light” version of Texas holdem and more suitable for beginners.

There are various other variants too, such as High/Low, 7 Card Stud, Mississippi Stud, Caribbean Hol’em, and Lowball. However, almost all other variants are quite simple games with rules that favor the casino. We recommend playing the most basic variants of poker to get the lowest house edges & best winning chances: 5-Card Stud, Texas Holdem, and Omaha Holdem.

Tips and Tricks for Poker Play: Increase Your Chances

In order to play like a pro, you will need some tips and tricks, too. We have a couple of recommendations to give – they will be very useful to you, especially at the start of your adventure.

  • Practice as long as possible. Learning the rules is easy, but mastering the game is not. Playing poker online for free is the best thing you can do to become a better player: practice this game as long as possible, without taking any financial risks. There are lots of free online poker sites to use, and we recommend a couple of them below. Test every strategy and system, find out which one you like the most. Even professional players prefer free casino games to do a practice.
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  • Do not bluff unless it is necessary. Bluffing is an important part of all poker variants, but the beginners use it very often. Bluffing may seem like a useful tactic in Hollywood movies, but in real life, it is almost never get used. If you bluff just because you feel like it and cannot deliver, none of your rivals will take you seriously after a while. A player who bluffs constantly is an amateur player – use this option only when absolutely necessary.
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  • Learn cards counting. The odds of getting a Flush is 37/9 – only nine cards can make this hand. So, if you count all of those cards, you can be sure that nobody else has a flush at that moment. This is a simple example that can be applied to any hand. In reality, counting the whole deck will be nearly impossible, but you should at least try. By counting cards, you can at least eliminate the high-ranking cards from the deck and get a better idea on which player has what kind of hand.
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  • Being the dealer is a good position for informal games. The player who deals the cards have a tactical advantage: He will play the last hand. In other words, this player will see how all the opponents have acted and is able to use this information as an advantage. So, when it is your turn to be a dealer, you can switch to an aggressive or passive playstyle, according to the decisions of your rivals. Being a dealer will give you an edge, so use it.
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  • Learn your starting odds. Starting the game with a good hand will improve your chances of winning. And knowing the exact possibility of getting a specific hand is important for this reason: you can calculate your odds better. In this regard, you can see the odds of the most common starting hands in the table below:
STARTING HAND (FIRST CARDS) PROBABILITY OF HAPPENING
Starting the game with a pair 5.90%
Starting the game with two pairs 2.02%
Starting the game with two Aces 0.45%
Starting the game with an Ace-King suit 0.30%

How to Discover the Best Poker Sites?

Finding the best online poker sites can be challenging, due to the reason we mentioned above: there are simply too many options. And finding the online poker sites USA will be more challenging, due to the gambling laws in this country. That’s why we have prepared a separate section below about online poker for US players. However, as long as you follow a strict list of criteria, you can easily find the best online poker site in no time.

  1. Make sure it is licensed. Before embarking on your journey to find the best online poker sites for US players, you should know that safety and legality come first: Never play at unlicensed online poker US sites. A casino site must be licensed from a reputable agency such as the UKGC, Malta Gaming Authority, or New Jersey Gambling Commission. You can see the license info at the bottom of the main pages: The logo of the licensor is listed here. Click on the logo to verify the license and make sure that you are playing on a legal website. In addition, always check your address bar to see whether a green-colored lock symbol is displayed near it or not. That symbol shows that your connection is encrypted with SSL, and your information is secured.
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  3. Make sure the games are fair. If the casino games are not fair, even the most professional player in the world can win a game. Checking for fairness is not an easy thing to do and requires relying on third parties. There are agencies out there which audit the fairness of all poker online USA sites, such as eCOGRA and iTechLabs. Look for their logo: if you see it, this means the games are as fair as they can be.
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  5. Make sure there is a live dealer games service. Playing against a real person is important for two things. First, poker is a game that should really be played with other people. You cannot “bluff” a computer code or analyze its “body language”. However, by playing against real people, you can do both and increase your chances, as explained above. Second, the table limits of live card games will be higher, so you will be able to win bigger prizes. In short, make sure that you are able to play against a real dealer.
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  7. Make sure all variants of the game are supported. There are literally dozens of card variants (Texas holdem poker game is the most popular), and each one offers a different experience. You should not limit yourself to a single variant and have to be able to play all. Always ask for more. The online poker USA site of your choice must offer you all the stud and hold’em variants with different table limits. In this regard, make sure that the casino is working with top-tier game providers, too. For live casino games, Evolution Gaming, Ezugi, and Netent Live are the best ones. For regular online card games, we recommend Microgaming, iSoftBet, and Playtech. Casino sites that work with multiple providers will be your best option.
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  9. Make sure there is a tournament you can join. Nowadays, you can join a global tournament from the comfort of your home and compete against professionals. Such tournaments offer incredibly high prizes (even millions of dollars) so make sure that the US online poker site of your choice is a part of these events. Best poker sites USA always have their own gaming network and able to organize their own tournaments.
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  11. Make sure multiple platforms are supported. You should not be forced to use a PC to play: the casino of your choice must be able to support different platforms and operating systems. In other words, you should be able to play mobile online poker, from any device, desktop or mobile. As mentioned above, practice makes perfect, and if you prefer mobile casino games, you can practice anytime and anywhere you want. Make sure that you are playing at the modern mobile-friendly casino site, that supports both iOS and Android devices.

Online Poker in US: Important Tips About Poker Sites USA

Playing at internet casino for real money in the US is a tricky subject: All forms of gambling, including online poker in the US, are banned on a federal level in this country. Some states legalized certain forms of gambling, but if we make a general assessment, we can say that real money poker is generally prohibited and considered illegal in the United States. At the moment, only these states declared casino games as legal: Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. Playing casino games for real money is still illegal in other jurisdictions. In order to play poker online for money USA, you must be a resident of these states.

As a result, most of the best poker sites for US players are located abroad. In other words, if you want to find the best poker site for US players, you must expand your horizons and look for other options. And as long as you follow the criteria we have listed above, you can access to safe, secure, and fair casino games no matter which state you are living at. And we are ready to help you in this regard: Below, you can see a list of our recommended online poker USA websites.

Take a Look at These Online Poker Sites Today!

We showed you how to pick the best platforms for playing online poker. However, in order to use the criteria listed above, you still need to have experience. That will come in time, but why wait? We already picked the best USA online poker sites for you and checked them thoroughly. Our experienced team knows what to look for and does not get fooled by “advertisements”. We know how to check the game variety, legality, security, and fairness. And after doing a comprehensive evaluation, these are the best online poker sites US we can recommend:

(A casino list will be here SOON)

Start Playing Casino Poker Games and Become the Ultimate Player

There you go, you have learned everything about playing the game and how to pick the best US online poker sites. Now, you are ready to play like a real pro. Just pick one of our recommended US online poker sites and grab your bonus, so you can start playing and winning in no time. Remember that we will be updating this guide on a regular basis and add more poker sites for US players, so don’t forget to visit us often. Do not forget that mastering this game will take time, but you will be rewarded handsomely: Good luck!

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