Poker tips for beginners

Poker tips for beginners

So, you’ve decided to learn all about poker, that legendary game of wits and luck, where keeping your cool can be the difference between epic win and crushing defeat. Well, you’ve come to the right place!

In this guide, we give you an overview of the game and its variations before moving on to some useful tips that will help you become a proficient poker player.

Poker is a pretty straightforward game, although it does have quite a few details and rules you need to know.

What do you need to play poker?

The minimum requirements for a game of poker are:

  • One standard deck of 52 playing cards (excluding jokers)
  • Two or more players
  • Chips, tokens, money or some other kind of ante (these are optional, as poker can be played without them)

Briefly, each player is dealt five cards (variations include 3-card and 7-card). They take turns to swap out any cards to get a better hand. If playing for some kind of ante, players then place their bets. The hands are revealed, and the highest ranking hand wins.


Poker hands are ranked according to this 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, 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

It is possible, for example, for two players to have the same type of hand. In this case, the face value of the cards will determine who ranks higher.

For example, two players each have a straight flush. The two hands look as follows:

  • Player 1: 7, 8, 9, 10, J of hearts
  • Player 2: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 of spades

In this example, player 1’s cards have a higher face value, so, even though they both have a straight flush – which is a very good hand indeed – player 1 wins.

Wild cards

A wild card is one that can stand in for any other card. Most often, jokers are used as wild cards. These extra two cards can be used as any other cards to make up a higher-ranking hand.

Other popular wild cards are:

  • deuces, or 2s
  • one-eyed jacks – jacks whose faces are in profile

However, it is entirely up to the dealer which cards – if any – are assigned wild, and any cards can serve.


Traditionally, the two primary types of poker were stud or draw poker. In recent years, community card-style games have grown in popularity.

Draw poker

This is the most standard, basic form of poker. Each player receives five cards, face down, which only they can see. They may switch out any or all of these cards to improve their hand once it is dealt and will place their bets according to how well they believe their hand will fare. Once all bets are placed, players reveal their hands, and the highest-ranking hand wins the pot.

Draw poker variants include:

  • Kansas City lowball
  • Gardena jackpots
  • California lowball
  • Baduci
  • Double-draw and triple-draw
  • California high/low split
  • Johnson
  • Q-Ball
  • 5-card draw

Stud poker

Stud poker variants can include 5-card and 7-card games. These are dealt with some face down and some face-up, so that opponents can see them. Depending on the variation of the game, cards may be dealt over more than one betting round.

Examples of stud poker are:

  • 7-card stud
  • 6-card stud
  • Caribbean stud
  • Mexican stud
  • High-low stud
  • Razz

Community card poker

In community card games, hands are split between community and player. All players must use the community cards on the table, plus their personal cards, to make up their best possible hand.

Examples of community card poker include:

  • Texas hold ‘em
  • Omaha hold ‘em
  • Manila hold ‘em
  • Pineapple


As your career in poker progresses, you’re going to come across a lot of advice. Some of it will be good, some bad, and it’s important to learn to discern what is a good idea and what’s just someone trying to sell you a system that doesn’t work. Remember that poker is partly a game of chance. That’s why it’s useful to ingrain good habits right from the start. Our top ten tips for becoming a successful poker player are:

1 – Know your game

Even though there are many variations to poker, the basics are fundamentally unchanged. The rankings of hands are universally agreed upon wherever poker is played, so make sure you understand them. On top of that, be clear on the rules of any specific game you enter. The dealer will be sure to mention any wild cards, and so on, but make sure you know what style of poker you’ll be playing and that you know the rules.

2 – Look for quality games

Unfortunately, poker has had a seedy reputation for decades. It’s only in recent years that televised poker tournaments and online games have helped clean up its image. As a result, there are still many unscrupulous, illegal, or otherwise dodgy games happening. Don’t fall into the trap of mixing with shady characters just for the lure of a high-stakes game. It is not worth the risk. Rather seek out reputable, quality games like those at brick-and-mortar or online casinos. (Check out our reviews to see which online casinos offer quality live dealer and video poker games.) 

3 – Stake it out

As a newcomer to the game of poker, don’t go straight for high-stakes games. It’s far better to cut your poker teeth on several low-stakes games first. This way, you will learn more about the game and its players, as well as developing your own unique poker playing style.

4 – Understand the odds

Poker is a game with infinite variation in the hands it can throw out. It isn’t unheard of for a full table of players to have nothing hands, or very low-ranking hands; a royal flush certainly isn’t a regular occurrence. That’s why it’s important to understand not only the ranking of hands but also the odds of a hand showing up. Your hand may look mediocre at first, but the chances of something better showing up among your fellow players may be slim.

5 – Bluff with caution

When playing a live table game in person with other players, it can be tempting to try to bluff them into folding in favour of your weaker hand. However, seasoned players are wise to this technique and some can spot a bluff more easily than you think. It might be a tell-tale sign that you’re hiding a weak hand. Even if you are very good at bluffing, do it too often and people will begin to recognise your style, which can backfire.

6 – Take your time

Unlike blackjack, where calls have to be made in a matter of seconds, you have a little flexibility with time in poker. It’s acceptable to spend a few moments thinking about your hand before committing to a bet, and to consider other players’ behaviour and potential hands. Poker is a mental game, and that kind of play takes time.

7 – Your opponent has cards, too

Players can get so caught up in trying to figure out whether their opponent is bluffing or not, or guessing how confident they are in their hand, that they sometimes forget to think about the actual hand. While it’s impossible to know exactly what cards they do have, there are some variations of poker that allow at least some glimpse. Community card games, for example, rely on all players sharing two cards. If those community cards are, let’s say, a jack of spades and a two of hearts, you can be pretty confident that nobody at the table will have a straight flush.

8 – How are you feeling today?

People make most of their decisions emotionally, and that includes things like poker bets. When you’re in a bad mood, or feeling anxious or overtired, you make bad choices. Don’t play poker when you’re in a bad mood or not feeling well; rather wait until you’re in top shape again and can really put that brain into action.

9 – You’ve got to know when to fold them

It can be a painful choice to fold a hand and concede to another player, but sometimes it just isn’t worth trying to bluff your way through a poor hand. You may also reach a point in the proceedings when your budget limit is approaching. Whatever the reason, when the time comes to fold, don’t put it off for a few more rounds.

10 – Stick to your budget

Gambling is a risky proposition. No matter how good a poker player you are, there will be times when you simply get dealt poor hands and hit a losing streak. That’s why it’s important to set yourself a budget before joining any game – and to stick to it. In fact, we recommend setting both a losses and wins budget, so that you have a clear point of when to walk away, whether it’s as a winner or empty-handed.

Online live dealer poker is very much like an in-person game, except that you can’t look into another player’s poker face and try to guess their hand. You can, however, join cash games or poker tournaments with small to large groups and still enjoy the thrill and excitement of live poker, but from the comfort of home. When choosing an online poker game, always ensure the operator is a properly licensed online casino and that the live dealer poker games are run by reputable gaming houses.

Video poker is much like regular poker, except that there are no other players, just you and the algorithm that is driven by a random number generator (RNG). This is a great way to play poker as a newcomer, especially if you want to familiarise yourself with the rules and develop a style of play before playing with other live people.

Do you have any poker stories you’d like to share? Any great wins or crushing losses? What have you learned at the table? Do you know when to fold ‘em? Share your thoughts about poker and help your fellow gamblers make wise choices.