Whether you’re taking part in a poker tournament or simply playing a game of Texas Hold’em online, every casino has its own house rules. These rules are customized for each poker room and either supplement or substitute the standard poker rules that are common to all games of a particular variant. This means that even seasoned players will sometimes find themselves playing with rules they weren’t aware of before joining a table.
We’ll explore some of the basic rules of poker that beginners will benefit from learning before playing for money, whether at a land-based establishment or in a game of real online poker, as well as some interesting house rules unique to each live or online poker establishment.
Basic poker rules for beginners
There are a large variety of poker games, with some poker variations more suited to a beginner’s game than others. But the same basic rules apply to them all. The three main types of poker that most games fall under are draw poker, stud poker and community card poker.
- Draw poker: In these games, players are dealt a complete hand of five cards, which remain hidden. Once all players have been dealt their cards, there is a round of betting and players can trade up to three of their cards and draw cards from the deck to replace these in order to improve their hand.
- Stud poker: Games in which players receive a combination of face-up (visible) and face-down (hidden) cards are known as stud poker. The most common variants are five-card stud and seven-card stud. In these games, players must make the best of the cards they’re dealt and place wagers according to the strength of their hands. The player who places the highest bid wins unless someone else matches the wager. In this case, both players reveal their cards and the player with the best hand wins.
- Community card poker: Similar to stud poker, players are dealt a combination of face-up and face-down cards. The face-up cards are known as community cards and all the players around the table can use these to improve their hands. Common variants of this type of poker include Omaha Hold’em and Texas Hold’em online.
Betting rounds start to the left of the dealer, and once players are dealt their cards, they have four options: raise (increase wager,) fold (forfeit the round due to a poor hand,) call (if a player raised, all players must either fold or match the stake) or check (if no one raised, the player can check and defer their bet until someone either raises or folds.) These are the basic rules of all poker variations, but there are also rules that will vary depending on where you choose to play.
Poker house rules
House rules may include basic things like only speaking English at the table, no use of cellphones during games and banning intoxicated people from playing, but some rules are more nuanced than this.
Here are some rules you may come across while playing at a casino (some are less common than others and may even be unspoken casino rules) or another venue, so be sure to follow them to avoid any casino etiquette or gambling rule blunders.
A check-raise is when a player checks when it’s their turn to play but then follows another player’s bet with a raise. It is considered a trap that some players use to grow the pot but is also frowned upon by some who consider the check-raise to be bad etiquette. However, it is not always considered to be poor sportsmanship, so be sure to check with the dealer before you accidentally break any rules.
Straddle bets, simply known as “straddles,” are bets that players put in blind before seeing the cards they’ve been dealt. House rules around these types of bets (of which there are dozens of variations) will be found in every casino – some casinos allow them, while others do not. When they are allowed, there are limits on the bet amount, position and more.
While tipping is encouraged in most US casinos, in others, particularly in Asia, tipping a dealer is strictly prohibited. If allowed, you can tip in two ways. Either leave a chip for the dealer on the table or place a side bet, making it clear that the dealer collects the winnings if the bet comes in.
Keep in mind that you can also tip at online casinos. Some of the best online poker sites that provide live dealer games will have a built-in “Tip” function in the game interface that allows you to show your appreciation to your friendly online poker dealer.
When it comes to tipping, you can’t go wrong if you take a bit of time to locate, read and understand a casino’s rules of conduct.
Chip and card visibility
Many casinos have rules about the visibility of a player’s chips and cards. In most cases, chips should remain visible at all times, with the highest value chips at the front of the stack so other players can make quick estimates of the opponents’ chip total. Cards are also expected to remain in plain sight at the front of the chip stack – not behind chips, in a player’s hands or hidden off the table. This is to prevent players from potentially cheating.
Verbal declarations are binding
In most cases, verbal declarations take precedence over physical actions, and conditional statements are strongly discouraged. For example, “If you bet, then I will raise.” In the event that a player disputes a verbal agreement, a casino floorman may be called to resolve any issues.
Avoiding the muck
The game of poker has some of the most interesting and obscure terms, which is why it’s always good advice to take time to get to know both the common phrases as well as some of poker’s more unusual terms. The term “muck” is one of these unusual terms and has two meanings – it refers to the pile of discarded cards on the poker table, while mucking refers to folding your cards. In this instance, we are referring to the pile of discarded cards. In some casinos, if your cards touch the muck, even accidentally, they are immediately considered dead.
Leaving the game
Players are, in many games, required to announce their decision to leave a game at least one round or half an hour ahead of time. The exception is when a player goes bust, in which case they may leave immediately if they don’t intend to re-buy.
Declaration of bets
Players are required to declare their bets and raises. If they fail to do so, the wager is their full amount of chips.
Returning to a game
Should a player leave a game, then return to the same table within an hour of cashing out, their buy-in is usually expected to be equal to the amount removed when they left the game.
One player to a hand
This rule is quite obvious but often needs to be included anyway. Each player has only one hand and may not seek advice from others on how to play their hand. This rule is common to all variants, whether Omaha High or Texas Hold’em poker hands.
Always be polite
It’s probably not a good idea to imitate the way some professional poker players try to outsmart or trick their opponents. While their shenanigans make for great entertainment, if you get too heated or rude at the table, you’re likely to be asked to leave. Keeping a cool head and learning how to read body language during a poker game is still the best way to make good decisions and keep improving your game.
Be prepared before you play
We hope you’ve found these rules for poker games that you may need to know enlightening. Be sure to review all the rules of live and online poker etiquette to have a great time and no matter where you’re playing, it’s best to ask the dealer as soon as you sit down if there are any non-standard house or casino rules you should know about. Having done this, you’re free to put all your focus into playing a stellar game.
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