A Beginner’s Guide to Poker


Though it’s often said you can learn how to play poker fairly quickly – at least poker at a basic level – experienced players are likely to add that it can also take a lifetime to really master. Yet this exciting game continues to grow in popularity and attract people who want to enjoy the fun and sample the intriguing way it can influence your decision making.

There are quite a few types of poker played around the world. However, this poker guide focuses on Texas Hold’em Poker, the easiest and most popular version of the game, and gives you all the information you need to get started. So read on to see just how rewarding this poker game can be.


Poker Rules & Table Set Up

Your poker strategy will develop as you become better acquainted with the basic poker rules. However, as a novice, you will also learn faster if your early efforts are successful. So before launching into poker hands and other topics, here’s a few poker tips about key concepts and features of the game to help you become familiar with what actually goes on at the poker table.


Notice first that a ‘blind’, which is compulsory, is an initial bet placed before every hand of poker by the two players sitting to the dealer’s left. There are two kinds of blinds (small and big), and this is a bet which increases over the course of the game.

Small Blind – The small blind is the player sat between the button (the dealer) and the big blind. The small blind bet is always 50% of the big blind bet.

Big Blind – The player seated to the left of the small blind places the big blind bet. It is, of course, double the amount of the small blind bet.

Ante – Another compulsory bet, the ante is a further bet (placed by every player) which appears during the late phases of a game. The purpose of the ante is to promote gameplay.


Beginners should note that betting rounds have to be properly completed before card play can begin, and this procedure continues throughout the game. That ensures all players have agreed exactly what is at stake. These are the options:

Check – If you check, you decline to bet, but without folding your cards. So the action passes on round the table to the next player. But you can’t check if a bet has occurred in that round. However, if every active player decides to check during a betting round, then that round is deemed complete.

Fold – Folding is scrapping your cards until the next deal comes round. Remember you can only fold if you’re facing a bet. Advance folding out of turn is frowned upon, and is even illegal in some venues.

Bet – If there has been no bet, you can choose to bet yourself. And once your own bet has been placed, the remaining players can decide to fold, call or raise. Incidentally, the minimum table bet will always equal the big blind bet.

Call – In any round of poker, a call is made once a bet has been placed. Calling simply means matching the current table bet.

Raise – When you wish to up the size of the initial bet, you must ‘raise’ the bet by proposing a bigger one. Raising must be one procedure – you can’t increase the amount of your bet in smaller stages.


Poker Hands


Poker Hands Chart:

Rank OrderHand NameDescriptionProbable OccurrenceCombinations
1Royal FlushAll the same suit, sequence A-K-Q-J-T1 in 649,7374
2Straight FlushFive cards in a row, all in the same suit e.g. 5-6-7-8-91 in 72,19336
3Four of a KindFour cards of the same value e.g. K-K-K-K-71 in 4,164624
4Full HouseThree of a kind as well as a pair e.g. J-J-J-Q-Q1 in 6933,744
5FlushFive cards all the same suit e.g. 5-6-Q-2-10 all Spades1 in 5085,108
6StraightA basic numeric sequence, but different suits, e.g. 7-6-5-4-31 in 25310,200
7Three of a KindThree cards of the same value, plus two not paired e.g. 9-9-9-7-K1 in 4654,912
8Two PairTwo pairs e.g. Q-Q-7-7-41 in 20123,552
9One PairAny one pair e.g. 2-2-6-J-K1 in 1.361,098,240
10High CardNo matches, highest card only e.g. K-Q-7-4-21 in .991,302,540


The above chart shows the value of ten poker hands ranked from the highest (a Royal Flush) down to the lowest (a High Card). This information will be invaluable to beginners because the most common novice mistake is to believe they have a winning hand, when really they don’t.


Poker Betting Option

As a poker novice, it’s always safest to announce the amount by which you want to raise the bet before you place your betting chips in the pot. That guarantees you will avoid any strictly illegal moves covered by ‘string betting’ rules.

As a strategy, you may want to raise the bet for several reasons:

  • Because you’re pleased with your cards and want to boost the size of the pot.
  • As a way to force a rival player to fold.
  • As a means of reducing the number of players in the round.
  • To force an opponent to pay for a hand he is drawing to.
  • To essentially ‘take control’ of a hand.


Poker Bluff

Bluffing is probably one feature of poker which most people feel quite familiar with. A poker bluff involves aggressively making or raising a bet as a strategy to get your opponent(s) to fold a superior hand to your own. That allows you to claim the pot by default.

However, experienced players know a bluff is at its most effective if you choose the right moment to make your move. In other words, when your opponent will be most likely to buy your bluff and fold. And clearly, bluffing at the wrong time would be an expensive mistake.

It takes time and experience to develop your bluffing skills. So don’t be in a hurry unless you really know what you’re doing.


How to Play Poker in Tournaments

In its simplest form, players pay a fee to take part in a poker tournament, which goes towards the tournament prize pool. All players begin with the same number of chips. The blind bets begin small but grow in size as the tournament progresses. Some players soon lose their chips, which means tables start to combine.

When only one final table remains, the player who eventually wins all the chips on the table wins the tournament. Prize money is shared among the top-finishing players, and the winner receives around 25-30% of the original prize pool.


Start Playing Poker Online


Register to ‘play online’

It’s easy to register for a William Hill play online poker account. Just click the ‘sign up to William Hill’ button. Enter the personal information requested on our registration page. Then click to confirm, add your deposit, and you’re ready to play your first hand.