Poker rules

Poker rules

Poker’s enduring popularity can be ascribed to a couple of things: first, it’s a unique combination of luck and skill, which makes it a satisfying and rewarding game to play; second, it has some really clear rules that make it simple to play the game, no matter where you are, or who you’re with. You can be in an exotic location, surrounded by menacing characters who can’t speak a word of your language, or you could be in the comfort of your own home, playing an online live dealer game. You could even be playing in a queue at the bank! Wherever you play, you know exactly what to expect… provided you know all those rules, of course.

In this guide, we will cover the variations in rules across the major types of poker, including draw, stud and community card games.

Poker games can broadly be broken down into three main types:

  • Draw poker
  • Stud poker
  • Community card poker

Draw poker

This is the traditional form of poker that has been played most widely and for the longest around the world. It is played by dealing five cards to each player, face down. After placing their initial bets, players can switch cards to improve their hand. They can then raise their bets, and afterwards, all players still in the game reveal their cards. The highest ranking hand wins.

Stud poker

In stud poker, each player is dealt a combination of face-up and face-down cards. They have to construct their best five-card hand out of these cards, which can number five or seven. Betting and dealing is more complex than draw poker, but the highest ranking five-card hand will still win.

Community card poker

In this form of poker, two cards are placed in the centre of the table, face up, and each player receives a further three cards, face down. The community cards in the middle of the table are considered part of every player’s hand. Therefore, their five-card hand will include these two known cards. Rankings follow the same structure as other versions of poker.

Rankings table




Five of a kind

Five cards comprising any combination of cards with the same face value, plus wild cards

Four 3s plus a wild card

Royal flush

A straight flush comprising A, K, Q, J and 10 of the same suit

A, K, Q, J, 10 of clubs

Straight flush

Five consecutive cards of the same suit

8, 7, 6, 5, 4 of hearts

Four of a kind

Four cards with the same face value

Four 9s

Full house

Three cards with the same face value, plus two cards with another face value

Three kings and two 7s


Five non-sequential cards of the same suit

9, J, 6, 2, Q of spades


Five sequential cards of various suits

2, 3, 6 of diamonds, and 4 and 5 of clubs

Three of a kind

Three cards with the same face value

Three queens

Two pairs

Two pairs of cards, each with the same face value

Two jacks, two 6s

One pair

Two cards with the same face value

Two 4s

5-card draw is what most people think of as the ‘original’ poker. The rules for play are as follows:

  1. All players receive five cards, dealt face down
  2. The first player to receive cards begins the action by either placing a bet – usually pre-set – or folding
  3. Going clockwise, each player has the opportunity to call, raise or fold
  4. Once the first round of betting is done, each player can now switch any or all of their cards for replacements, in the hopes of getting a better hand. Players do not have to switch out any cards unless they want to.
  5. During the second round of betting, players again have the choice to call, raise or fold
  6. Once the second round of betting is over, as long as there are two or more players still in the game, everyone reveals their cards
  7. The player with the highest ranking hand wins the pot
  8. In the event that two players hold an equally ranked hand, they will share the pot equally.
  9. Suits have no effect on the rankings of a hand

7-card stud is the most popular of the stud games. Its rules are as follows:

  1. Prior to playing, the lower and higher bet limits are set. These are known as the small bet and big bet.
  2. All players receive three cards – two face down and one face up
  3. Starting from the player with the lowest-ranked card, players take turns to act
  4. Cards are ranked first according to face value, then according to suit. Suits are ranked, from highest to lowest, by spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs.
  5. The first player chooses whether to pay a bring-in (a percentage of the small bet), or complete by paying the full small bet
  6. The second player can raise, call or fold. Raises are done in increments of the small bet amount and are usually limited to three raises per round.
  7. Players are each dealt a fourth card, face up, and a second round of betting follows, starting with the player with the highest-ranking hand showing
  8. From this round, any player with a pair showing may choose to increase the bet/raise to the big bet amount
  9. Players are then dealt their fifth card, face up, with another round of betting following, starting with the player with the highest-ranking hand showing
  10. At this stage, the big bet becomes the minimum bet/raise amount
  11. Players receive a sixth card, face-up, followed by another round of betting, starting with the player with the highest-ranking hand showing
  12. Players receive their final card, face down, and, starting with the player with the highest-ranking hand showing, a final betting round takes place
  13. As long as there are two or more players still in the game, everyone reveals their cards
  14. The player with the highest-ranking hand wins the pot
  15. In the event that two players hold an equally ranked hand, they share the pot equally.

Community card poker games have exploded in popularity in the last twenty years, primarily due to the growing interest in Texas hold ‘em poker. While there are many varieties of community card games, we will focus on the rules for Texas hold ‘em in this guide.

  1. Each player receives two face-down (hole) cards
  2. Players take turns to place their opening bets
  3. Three community cards – the flop – are dealt in the middle of the table, face up, following which another round of betting takes place
  4. A fourth community card – the turn – is dealt, face up, followed by another round of betting
  5. A fifth community card – the river – is dealt, face up, followed by a final betting round
  6. Players may use any combination of their hole cards and the community cards to create a five-card hand
  7. If a player does not wish to use any hole cards, they may play the ‘board’, ie, just the community card hand

Poker is a game played around the world by everyone from manual laborers to royalty. If you want to be a successful player, it pays to remember that there are etiquette and behaviour expectations that help make the experience enjoyable for everyone.


  • Respect your fellow players. Rudeness is poor form and won’t be tolerated for long by other players. It costs nothing to be courteous, and you can expect the same in return.
  • Speak up. When you are committing any action, it’s best to reinforce it verbally to ensure everyone is clear what you have done.
  • Wait your turn. No matter how eager you may be to fling your winning hand on the table, there are still protocols and rules to follow. Wait your turn, and don’t pressure other players into making hasty decisions.
  • Don’t interfere. There will, in any good game, be a level of banter and bluffing. However, it is bad form to interfere in another player’s game play or choices.
  • Bluff, don’t bull. It’s one thing to hint that you may have a strong hand, but lying or misrepresenting your hand is an outright no.
  • Don’t be a bad winner. Obviously, you will want to celebrate a win, but it’s considered bad form to rub other players’ faces in it.

Poker can be a fun and rewarding game, even if you’re not playing for stakes. Getting to grips with the rules of poker and its many variations can seem tricky, but remember that all these games are fundamentally still poker. If you are unsure about the specific rules for a particular game, speak up and ask the dealer to clarify. You will much more easily be forgiven for asking a question than breaking a rule.

How au fait are you with the rules of poker? Could you teach your fellow players a thing or two? Tell us about your favourite type of poker and help other gamblers learn a trick from you.