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Poker rules and strategy

Learn how to play poker in just 5 minutes with our video. We also cover advanced topics like strategy and psychology.

Poker uses French cards

Poker is played with a deck of French cards, which contains 52 cards, without jokers. The French deck has four suits, which it's beneficial to know in English: ♠ spade, ♥ heart, ♦ diamond, and ♣ club. The coloration of the cards, red or black, has no significance in poker.

French Card Suit Symbol English Name

Furthermore, the French deck has 13 numbers, these go in ascending order from two to ten, followed by the jack, the queen, the king, and the ace.

French Card Symbol Poker Value English Expression
🂢 2 Two
🂣 3 Three
🂤 4 Four
🂥 5 Five
🂦 6 Six
🂧 7 Seven
🂨 8 Eight
🂩 9 Nine
🂪 10 Ten
🂫 11 Jack
🂭 12 Queen
🂮 13 King
🂱 14 Ace

The objective in poker

Poker is a game divided into rounds, in which you can win if, in the final round when the cards are turned over, you have the strongest formation (also often referred to as a poker hand). You might also win without having to reveal your cards if everyone else folds during the round.

In every round, we have the opportunity to fold, stay in, or raise the bet. Poker can be played with real money or just points, chips. Multiple poker games are usually played in succession, and the goal is to win the other players' chips or money. A tie can occur in a round, in which case the remaining players share the bets placed in the round equally.

Steps of a poker round

Poker has several variants, with Texas Hold'em being the most popular, so we will now present how it is played.

Poker consists of four rounds. The round starts from the dealer and goes in the direction of a clock's hands, and the first two players are required to place a minimum bet in the first round. The other players can decide based on their cards whether to place the minimum bet in the first round and thus join the game. The size of the minimum bet is set by the casino.

It's important to know that any player in turn can increase the bet size in a given round. Then, everyone else at the table also needs to increase their bet to this new level if they want to continue playing. Apart from the first round's minimum bet, players can also decide not to raise the bet in a particular round. If someone folds, they forfeit all their bets up to that point.

Four rounds in Texas Hold'em

Steps of a Texas Hold'em poker game round
  1. In the first round, the dealer gives each player two cards that only they can see. These are called hidden cards.
  2. In the second round, the dealer deals three face-up cards in the middle of the table, which are the open cards. Players can consider the open cards as if they were in their hand along with their hidden cards, i.e., they can look for formations (poker hands). Players one by one either hold their bet, raise, or fold.
  3. In the third round, the dealer deals a fourth open card to the center of the table. Again, players one by one either hold their bet, raise, or fold.
  4. In the fourth -and also the last- round, the dealer deals a fifth open card. Once again, players one by one either hold their bet, raise, or fold.
  5. Finally, the remaining players reveal their cards, and it is determined who the winner is.

Poker hands ranking and chances

To understand who the winner is, it's necessary to know the ranking of poker hands. If you're playing online, programs can calculate this for you automatically. We've also prepared a table about this below, but you can download the poker hands ranking table too.

Rank Name Description
1 Royal Flush Same as straight flush, but starts with an ace. Example:
A♠ K♠ Q♠ J♠ 10♠
2 Straight Flush Same as straight, but all in the same suit. Example:
Q♠ J♠ 10♠ 9♠ 8♠
3 Four of a Kind Four cards of the same rank. Example:
9♣ 9♠ 9♦ 9♥ J♥
4 Full House A three of a kind and a pair together. Example:
3♣ 3♠ 3♦ 6♣ 6♥
5 Flush Five cards of the same suit. Example:
A♥ Q♥ 10♥ 5♥ 3♥
6 Straight Five cards in numerical order, any suit. Example:
8♠ 7♠ 6♥ 5♥ 4♠
7 Three of a kind Three cards of the same rank. Example:
8♠ 8♥ 8♦ 5♠ 3♣
8 Two pair Two pairs of the same rank. Example:
K♥ K♦ 2♣ 2♦ J♥
9 Pair Two cards of the same rank. Example:
10♣ 10♠ 6♠ 4♥ 2♥
10 High Card No combination. Your card's rank matters. Example:
A♦ 10♦ 9♠ 5♣ 4♣

Poker hands chances

One important thing to understand is what are the chances of receiving a certain poker hand. In 7-card Texas Hold'em Poker played with one deck, i.e., 52 cards, there are approximately 6 million unique poker hands if we ignore the suits where it does not matter. However, in the table below, we differentiate between the suits, so here we have a total of nearly 133.7 million distinct poker hands.

Download the table about the chances of getting a certain or better poker hand:

Rank Poker hand Count Chance (%) Chance (odds) Chance for this or a better hand
1 Royal Flush 4,324 0.00% 30,939 : 1 0.00%
2 Straight Flush 37,260 0.03% 3,589.6 : 1 0.03%
3 Four of a Kind 224,848 0.17% 594 : 1 0.20%
4 Full House 3,473,184 2.60% 35.7 : 1 2.80%
5 Flush 4,047,644 3.03% 32.1 : 1 5.82%
6 Straight 6,180,020 4.62% 20.6 : 1 10.40%
7 Three of a kind 6,461,620 4.83% 19.7 : 1 15.30%
8 Two pair 31,433,400 23.50% 3.26 : 1 38.80%
9 Pair 58,627,800 43.80% 1.28 : 1 82.60%
10 High Card 23,294,460 17.40% 4.74 : 1 100.00%

Looking at the table, several interesting observations can be made regarding poker strategy. One is that there is more than 2.5 times the likelihood of having a Pair compared to just a High Card. The other is that the chance of having a stronger hand than Two Pair is just slightly over 15%.

It would be useful to remember this table, but in its current form, it may not be the easiest to memorize. That is why we have created a less precise but much simpler version as well:

Rank Poker hands group Chance (%) Chance (odds)
1 Four of a kind or better 0.5% 199:1
2 Flush or Full 5.00% 19:1
3 Straight or Three of a Kind 10.00% 9:1
4 Double pair 25.00% 3:1
5 Pair 40.00% 1.50:1
6 High card 20.00% 4:1

Poker strategy

Books are written about poker strategies and they are the subject of scientific research. There exists a mathematically optimal strategy known as GTO Poker (Game Theory Optimal Poker). However, in a complex game like poker, there are a plethora of conflicting opinions regarding strategies. Particularly considering that strategies must be used in context, meaning that your current opponents and your own personality can significantly influence the success of a given strategy.

In this section intended for "basics", we have tried to gather information about those strategies for which you can find majority agreement. Here we focus on the Texas Hold'em variant, primarily in an online environment and on the common 6-player table. Prepare for the fact that good mathematical knowledge and memory will be crucial to executing a good poker strategy. A significant part of your victory depends on whether you can calculate your chances of winning.

Your starting hand determines your chances of winning

One of the most important decisions we have to make after receiving our initial two cards is whether to enter the game. Fortunately, the winning chances of a given two-card hand can be mathematically calculated. The following table contains those starting card combinations that you can play profitably in the long run. From the table, you can deduce the following:

We suggest practicing with this table. If you play online and keep it next to you, eventually you will master its essence. If you don't feel like memorizing so much at first, here's a one-sentence simplification: only enter a hand where your lowest card is at least an eight. Of course, this excludes many possibilities that you could enter. With this simplification, you can enter approximately every eighth game with a chance of winning about 29%.

Download the table about the chances of winning for a given starting hand in Texas Holdem Poker (6 player version):

Your two starting cards Chance to win the round Expected return value (1 USD bet) Chance to start with this hand Chance to start with this or a better hand
A,A 49.51% 1.9508 0.45% 0.45%
K,K 43.32% 1.5775 0.45% 0.90%
Q,Q 38.30% 1.2729 0.45% 1.36%
J,J 34.05% 1.0142 0.45% 1.81%
A,K (same suit) 32.15% 0.8641 0.30% 2.11%
10,10 30.44% 0.7944 0.45% 2.56%
A,Q (same suit) 30.56% 0.7589 0.30% 2.87%
K,Q (same suit) 29.55% 0.7015 0.30% 3.17%
A,J (same suit) 29.28% 0.6723 0.30% 3.47%
A,K 28.96% 0.6704 0.90% 4.37%
K,J 28.28% 0.6167 0.30% 4.68%
A,10 28.27% 0.6021 0.30% 4.98%
9,9 27.11% 0.5978 0.45% 5.43%
Q,J (same suit) 27.57% 0.5737 0.30% 5.73%
A,Q (same suit) 27.21% 0.555 0.90% 6.64%
K,10 (same suit) 27.32% 0.5506 0.30% 6.94%
Q,10 (same suit) 26.64% 0.5101 0.30% 7.24%
K,Q 26.28% 0.5028 0.90% 8.14%
J,10 (same suit) 26.33% 0.4904 0.30% 8.45%
A,J 25.79% 0.4597 0.90% 9.35%
A,9 (same suit) 25.75% 0.4474 0.30% 9.65%
8,8 24.51% 0.4416 0.45% 10.11%
K,J 24.88% 0.4097 0.90% 11.01%
K,9 (same suit) 24.73% 0.3946 0.30% 11.31%
A,8 (same suit) 24.98% 0.3933 0.30% 11.61%
A,10 24.66% 0.3817 0.90% 12.52%
Q,J 24.26% 0.3721 0.90% 13.42%
Q,9 (same suit) 24.07% 0.3565 0.30% 13.73%
A,7 (same suit) 24.27% 0.3444 0.30% 14.03%
10,9 (same suit) 23.90% 0.3432 0.30% 14.33%
J,9 (same suit) 23.82% 0.3408 0.30% 14.63%
K,10 23.80% 0.3356 0.90% 15.54%
A,5 (same suit) 24.19% 0.3309 0.30% 15.84%
7,7 22.35% 0.3116 0.45% 16.29%
Q,T 23.20% 0.3006 0.90% 17.19%
A,4 (same suit) 23.63% 0.3002 0.30% 17.50%
A,6 (same suit) 23.50% 0.2954 0.30% 17.80%
J,T 23.03% 0.2895 0.90% 18.70%
K,8 (same suit) 22.97% 0.283 0.30% 19%
A,3 (same suit) 23.05% 0.2705 0.30% 19.31%
Q,8 (same suit) 22.24% 0.2436 0.30% 19.61%
K,7 (same suit) 22.37% 0.2406 0.30% 19.91%
A,2 (same suit) 22.39% 0.2357 0.30% 20.21%
10,8 (same suit) 22.12% 0.2345 0.30% 20.51%
J,8 (same suit) 22.01% 0.2298 0.30% 20.81%
9,8 (same suit) 21.72% 0.2165 0.30% 21.12%
A,9 21.93% 0.2136 0.90% 22.02%
6,6 20.59% 0.2054 0.45% 22.47%
K,6 (same suit) 21.75% 0.1996 0.30% 22.78%
K,5 (same suit) 21.29% 0.1692 0.30% 23.08%
K,9 20.98% 0.1659 0.90% 23.98%
A,8 21.07% 0.1533 0.90% 24.89%
Q,7 (same suit)  20.65% 0.1434 0.30% 25.19%
K,4 (same suit) 20.75% 0.1406 0.30% 25.49%
8,7 (same suit) 20.39% 0.1367 0.30% 25.79%
Q,9 20.41% 0.1334 0.90% 26.70%
10,7 (same suit) 20.46% 0.1333 0.30% 27%
10,9 20.44% 0.1322 0.90% 27.90%
9,7 (same suit) 20.30% 0.1299 0.30% 28.21%
J,7 (same suit) 20.38% 0.1293 0.30% 28.51%
J,9 20.28% 0.1248 0.90% 29.41%
K,3 (same suit) 20.25% 0.1154 0.30% 29.71%
5,5 19.05% 0.1118 0.45% 30.17%
Q,6 (same suit) 20.19% 0.1109 0.30% 30.47%
A,7 20.25% 0.0981 0.90% 31.37%
K,2 (same suit) 19.76% 0.0909 0.30% 31.67%
A,5 20.15% 0.083 0.90% 32.58%
Q,5 (same suit) 19.72% 0.0806 0.30% 32.88%
7,6 (same suit) 19.31% 0.0736 0.30% 33.18%
8,6 (same suit) 19.11% 0.059 0.30% 33.48%
Q,4 (same suit) 19.22% 0.0547 0.30% 33.79%
A,4 19.51% 0.0484 0.90% 34.69%
A,6 19.43% 0.0458 0.90% 35.60%
K,8 19.04% 0.043 0.90% 36.50%
10,6 (same suit) 18.95% 0.0407 0.30% 36.80%
9,6 (same suit) 18.82% 0.0402 0.30% 37.10%
J,6 (same suit) 18.92% 0.038 0.30% 37.41%
4,4 17.76% 0.0369 0.45% 37.86%
Q,3 (same suit) 18.69% 0.0281 0.30% 38.16%
6,5 (same suit) 18.45% 0.0233 0.30% 38.46%
A,3 18.87% 0.0148 0.90% 39.37%
10,8 18.50% 0.0138 0.90% 40.27%
J,5 18.56% 0.0131 0.30% 40.57%
Q,8 18.43% 0.0104 0.90% 41.48%
Q,2 (same suit) 18.25% 0.0063 0.30% 41.78%
J,8 18.31% 0.004 0.90% 42.68%
7,5 (same suit) 18.10% 0.0007 0.30% 42.99%

Where you sit influences strategy

Your position at the poker table matters a lot when it comes to your chances of winning and your strategy. Of course, it's not about your physical position, but rather about where you are in the betting order. As we mentioned, the order of play moves in a clockwise direction. The dealer is the last to act in each round.

The later you act, the better your opportunities are (so being the dealer is the best position). According to the clockwise order, the first position is called the Small Blind and the second position is called the Big Blind. These positions are considered bad because both players have to make mandatory initial bets. Positions at the table are usually divided into "early", "middle", and "late" categories based on their distance from the dealer.

The later the position you occupy, the more information you have about the other players.

It can generally be said that you will get involved in the game much more often in the late or blind positions than in other cases.

When and how to raise bets

In every round, we have the opportunity to raise the bet. Raising the bet is an important part of the strategy, and there are three main reasons why we can raise:

The size of the bets is also grouped based on the potential winnings (called "pot" in English) already in the game:

When and how much to raise is a complex question. Generally, the following situations occur:

When to raise small?

When to raise big?

Raising big bets is an important strategic weapon as it puts pressure on your opponents.

When to raise a medium amount?

If you do not find a suitable recommendation for your case in the small and big raises, then you may need to make a medium raise.

The "Outs": counting winning options

In poker, the term "Outs" is used, which refers to potential community cards that could result in a stronger poker hand for you.

Let's take an example. You have a Queen of Clubs and a Three of Clubs in your hand. A Seven of Clubs, Nine of Spades, and King of Clubs have already been dealt in the middle. In this case, there are several ways in which the yet-to-be-revealed two community cards could improve your position.

For instance, if another Club is dealt, you would have a Flush. There are 13 cards of each suit in a deck, for a total of 52. Counting the community cards and your own, 4 of the 13 Clubs have already been revealed. That means there are still 9 cards that could help you to a stronger Flush poker hand.

From the perspective of a Flush, you therefore have 9 "Outs". This information can be used to calculate the odds of getting a Flush. A not exact, but quick and easy way to calculate the odds is to multiply the number of Outs by two. So, in this case, 9*2 = 18. So, there would be an 18% chance of getting a Flush in this round.

In this example, while the Flush is the strongest poker hand you can expect, there are still opportunities for other strong poker hands. For example, with the revelation of two more Queens, you would have Three of a Kind. The odds for this can also be calculated in the previously mentioned way.

Is it worth to raise? Expected value

We just talked about calculating winning odds. We will use this as a basis to decide whether it's worth raising our bet or accepting a bet raise. We're talking from a mathematical perspective here, not a psychological one.

Let's go back to the previous example and suppose there's already a total of 200 chips on the table in the common Pot. There are only two of you playing at the table, you and your opponent. Your opponent decides to raise the bet by 20 units, making the Pot now 220. The question is, do you accept this raise?

First of all, you'll be making an assumption that you'll be able to beat your opponent with a Flush. You just calculated that you have about an 18% chance of getting a Flush. If you hold the bet, you can think of it as betting 20 chips for a prize of 220 chips, which you have an 18% chance of winning.

To decide if it's worth it, you need to calculate something called the Expected Value, or EV for short. The EV is a mathematical term often used in gambling. It shows whether a particular bet would be profitable or unprofitable, and to what extent.

You calculate the EV by multiplying the value of the win by the probability of the win, and then subtracting from this whole the product of the bet and the probability of loss.

In our example: (220 * 0.18) – (20 * 0.82) = 39.6 – 16.4 = 23.2

This 23.2 chips would be our average gain in the long run if we engage in such a bet. So, in this case, we do well to accept the raise. Of course, in practice, it's not necessary, or even we may not have enough time, to calculate this precisely. Approximations can be comfortably applied.

Poker psychology

Poker is a game of skill. To succeed in the long run, you need to make the right decisions in every situation. However, no matter how skillfully you play, with strong math and strategy, you will lose from time to time due to bad luck. It's very important to learn to handle the psychological impact of short-term bad luck and good luck so that they don't affect your optimal game. One of the best things you can do is to learn the typical cases and symptoms of changes in mental state related to poker, so you can recognize them in yourself in time. This is what we're going to talk about now.

The "Bad beat"

A "Bad Beat" is a common term in the poker world. It refers to a situation where you're playing well and victory is almost certain, but you lose due to an unexpected event. Interestingly, players tend to remember bad beats more than they remember easy wins.

When you suffer a bad beat, it's important to remind yourself that this is part of the long-term game. You should never get angry and start playing aggressively with higher stakes. Bad beats happen whether you're playing live or online, and they happen with the same probability.

The "Downswing"

A "Downswing" is a temporary period in your poker career when, despite playing correctly, you're experiencing continuous losses. For example, you're getting weak hands, or your strong hands aren't delivering the expected results.

During these times, you need to be particularly alert to a mental state known as "Tilt". If you're in a state of Tilt, you won't be able to play to the best of your abilities. A string of bad luck can easily send you into Tilt, as a result of which you abandon your otherwise good long-term strategy and become even more unsuccessful. This run of bad luck can cause a temporary lack of self-confidence, which can make you question your own abilities and your faith in your strategy. Of course, there's always the opportunity to learn and try new things concerning poker, but the best time for this won't suddenly be in the middle of a downswing.

If you notice that poker is not bringing you joy, one of the best things you can do is to take a break, whether it's short or long. You also need to take great care of your bankroll if you find yourself in a downswing. Players in a state of Tilt tend to play with higher stakes, and may even spend more on poker than planned.

The "Upswing"

An "Upswing" is the opposite of a downswing. You experience this when you frequently get very strong hands, weak opponents, and you win a lot. When things are going well, the game is very enjoyable and your self-confidence grows. However, an upswing can also be risky for your game if you overestimate your abilities. During these times, players typically bluff too often, participate in too many rounds, and play with higher stakes than would mathematically be expected based on their chances of winning. One of the biggest dangers is if a player feels ready to play with larger stakes due to an upswing. Players going through an upswing are usually brought back to reality by a soberingly large loss.

The "Tilt"

A poker player's biggest enemy can easily be themselves. If people could completely turn off their emotions during a poker game, it would greatly enhance their chances. "Tilt" is a term often used in poker, referring to a state of frustrated mindset. Tilt can be described as a combination of anger and weak playing style.

One of the most characteristic symptoms of Tilt is the player participating in too many rounds, especially with weak hands. At these times, the player is particularly confrontational. They raise more and more frequently, and stay in a round for too long. Such a player often finds themselves in a difficult situation after the dealer reveals the first three community cards.

Another symptom of Tilt is the constant chasing of results. In this situation, the player may not even realize what led them into the state of Tilt. They have already lost too much to feel that they can opt out, and they stubbornly continue to play. There are very few players who can perform at their best during extended play. Related to this, players on Tilt easily lose control of their bankroll: they enter faster and higher-stakes games, often with the idea that they can recover their losses.

Typical types of Tilt state

To easily recognize the state of Tilt in yourself or others, let's name a few common types:

Ways of playing poker: Cash Game, Tournament, and more

People often play poker in two ways: Cash Game (directly for money) or Tournament (in competition). Individuals who play poker often stick to one mode of play throughout their lives. The rules are the same, but they require different playing styles.

Cash game poker

In popular culture, this is the most recognized way of playing poker. It's what you typically see in movies, where the protagonist simply sits down at a table. In a Cash Game, there is no start or end time for the game. If there's a free seat, you can sit down and play (and you can leave at any time). The tables specify a minimum and maximum amount that you can buy-in with. Additionally, the table sets the mandatory initial bet for the Small Blind and Big Blind (these do not change during the game).


Tournaments are organized events, meaning they occur at specific times (sometimes you may have to wait until enough players have signed up). Often, an entry fee ("buy-in") is required to participate in a tournament, although there are opportunities for free entry ("Freerolls").

At the start of the tournament, you receive a set number of chips. These chips don't have a direct cash value. The goal in tournaments is to achieve the highest possible placement, meaning to stay in the game as long as possible. You're eliminated from the game when you lose all your chips. The prize structure is determined by the tournament organizers, well in advance of the event. It's possible that only the top finisher will receive a prize, but usually multiple top players do. Prizes in tournaments can be quite high, potentially reaching several million dollars. The most well-known poker events are the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and the European Poker Tour (EPT).

Blast Poker

Blast Poker, offered by 888 Poker, is an exhilarating version of the traditional Ultimate Texas Holdem game but at a faster pace. Players engage in this variant against two opponents for a prize pool ranging from twice the buy-in to a staggering 1,000,000 times its value. Each participant starts with a set amount of chips, and the duration of a Blast game varies between two to ten minutes based on the buy-in and prize pool size. As blind bets increase periodically, the game intensity ramps up. Once the primary gaming period concludes, the "Blast" phase initiates where players automatically go All In until a single victor emerges.

HexaPro Poker

HexaPro is a game mode of No Limit Texas Hold'Em Poker that aims to combine the best features of Poker Tournaments and the sit-down Cash Game poker. Similar to tournaments, the player buys into a game with a fixed amount and can win a multiple of that buy-in. Before starting the game, the possible winning amount is drawn at random, which can be at least one and a half times and up to a thousand times the buy-in value. The minimum buy-in is 1 EUR, while the maximum is 100 EUR.

In HexaPro, we always play against two other players who also paid the same buy-in as we did. At the beginning of the game, everyone receives chips worth 500 points, and the goal is to not get eliminated. The last player remaining wins the prize drawn at the start of the game. However, if the drawn prize is equal to or greater than ten times the buy-in, then the three players will split the prize according to their placement: 80%, 12%, and 8%.

The rules in HexaPro are the same as in No Limit Texas Hold'Em, but the gameplay is significantly faster. This is due to the compulsory minimum bets of players sitting in the Blind position constantly increasing. For smaller buy-in values, this amount increases every minute, and for larger ones, every two, three, or four minutes. Moreover, after a certain number of rounds, a compulsory Ante bet is also applied to every player.

HexaPro is very popular, so when you register for a round, you will get a player suitable for your level within seconds. If you'd like to try it out, you can do it here.

HexaPro Prize Multiplier and Odds
HexaPro Multiplier Chance of Drawing
1,000x 0.001%
100x 0.005%
25x 0.1%
10x 4.6%
5x 14%
3x 25%
1.5x 56.294%

Where to play poker

If you are new to poker, then we recommend to try some low risk approach first. For example, you can get free poker tournament tickets to win real money prizes. We made detailed review about this offer. Many of the poker providers allow you to switch between fun mode and real money mode. Fun mode is a great way to practice without risking. Many providers also allow you to set up your own online poker room, so you can play with your friends.

888 Poker

888 Poker

56 free poker tournament tickets as a no deposit bonus. No payment is needed for this bonus. The total value of this bonus is $20. Check our video about the bonus. The tickets are released in three installments.

BWin Poker

BWin Poker

100% bonus on your first deposit. The maximum value of the bonus is 100$/300$/500$ depending on your location. The bonus is released in 10 parts as you progress with the wagering requirement.

Unibet Poker

Unibet Poker

€20 worth poker tickets as a bonus for your first deposit. Five tickets in total. Minimum €10 deposit required.

Pokerstars Poker

Pokerstars Poker

100% bonus on your first deposit. The maximum value of the bonus is up to 600$ depending on your location.