Whether you’re taking part in a poker tournament or simply playing a game of Texas Hold’em poker at your local casino, 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 among all games of a particular variant. This means that even seasoned poker players will often be playing under rules that they weren’t aware of before joining the table.
We’ll be exploring some of the basic rules of poker that beginners will need to learn before playing for real money, whether at a land-based establishment or during a game of online poker, as well as some interesting house rules that are unique to each establishment.
Basic poker rules for beginners
There are a large variety of poker games, 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, a round of betting ensues, and players can trade in up to three of their cards and draw cards from the deck to replace them to improve their hand.
- Stud poker: Games where 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 are dealt and make 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 will 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 them to improve their hands. Common variants of this type of poker include Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hold’em.
Betting rounds start to the left of the dealer, and once players have been 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).
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. Some, however, are more nuanced. Below are some house rules you may come across while playing at a casino (some are less common than others!).
Straddle bets, simply known as “straddles,” are bets that players put in blind before seeing the cards they have 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, whereas others don’t. Where they are allowed, there are limits around the bet amount, position, and more.
While tipping is encouraged in certain areas of the casinos, in some casinos, tipping the dealer, whether in play or not, is strictly prohibited.
Chip and card visibility
Many casinos have rules around the visibility of a player’s chips and cards. In most cases, chips are to remain visible, with the highest value chips at the front of the stack, so that other players can make quick estimates of the opponents’ chip total. Cards are also usually expected to remain in plain view at the front of the chip stack – not behind chips, in a player’s hands, or hidden off the table.
Verbal declarations are binding
In most cases, verbal declarations take precedence over physical actions, and conditional statements are strongly discouraged, e.g., “If you bet, then I will raise.”
Avoiding the muck
The muck has two meanings – it refers both to the pile of discarded cards on the poker table, and 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. The exception to this 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 and 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 prior.
One player to a hand
This one is quite obvious but often needs to be included in the rules anyway. Each player has only one hand and may not seek advice from others on how to play their hand.
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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 rules you should know about. Be sure, of course, to have the basics down too. Having done that, you’re free to put all your focus into playing a stellar game.
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