Although all of the many games filed under the category "poker" have specific rules and nuances, there are some general poker rules that are universal across all variations.
If you're looking for game-specific rules, such as how to play Texas Hold'em, Omaha or 7 Card Stud, you will find them in one of these articles:
If you're in the market for something even more specialized, like No-Limit or Pot-Limit betting rules, or even the rules for a game such as Badugi, you can find it on the main Poker Rules page:
General Poker Rules: The Buy-In
Once you get a seat at a table (this is usually done by putting your name on a waiting list), the first thing you have to do is buy in.
- There is always a set minimum players have to buy in for and often a set maximum.
- As with any rule you're unclear on you can always ask the dealer for the buy-in limits.
- In fixed-limit poker, the minimum buy-in amount is typically 10 times the higher betting limit.
- In a $5/$10 Limit game the minimum buy-in would be $100
- There is no maximum amount players can buy in for in a Limit game.
- In No-Limit poker guidelines around buy-in amounts vary more from one game to the next.
- The general minimum buy-in in a No-Limit game is 20 times the big blind.
- In a $5/$10 No-Limit game the minimum buy-in would be $200
The general maximum buy-in is 100 times the big blind.
- In a $5/$10 No-Limit game the maximum buy-in would be $1,000
Some games (mostly the higher-limit games) have an unlimited maximum buy-in.
Most live poker rooms allow players to make one short buy. This means that after a player has bought in and subsequently lost all her chips, she's allowed a one-time rebuy for less than the minimum.
How to Add Chips in a Poker Cash Game
- As long as a player has less than the maximum buy-in, he can add to his stack at any time.
- If a player announces he would like to add on while he's in a hand, the additional funds will not be live (meaning it's as if they do not exist) until the next hand is dealt.
- There is no minimum amount for a player to add on to his stack. As long as he has a single chip left from an original full buy-in, he can add on any amount he wishes, up to the buy-in maximum.
How to Move Tables in a Poker Room
- If a player moves to a different table of the same structure and limit, she must bring her exact stack from the old table to the new table.
- She is allowed to buy more chips when she reaches the new table, as long as she doesn't exceed the maximum buy-in.
- If she has more than the maximum amount already, she must keep all of those chips in play.
- If she moves from one limit to a different limit, she is viewed as a new player at that limit, and must adhere to its buy-in rules, whether that means buying more chips or cashing some out.
General Rules for Poker Dealing
Various rules govern the dealing of the cards. Here are some common dealing anomalies you may run into at a poker table.
During a deal, it's common for the dealer to accidentally flip one card over, or "flash" enough of its face for another player to see the face value of the card. In such a situation the dealer does the following:
- The flashed card is turned faceup in front of the player it was supposed to be dealt to.
- The dealer continues dealing as if nothing has gone awry, until all players (minus the one player with a flashed card) have their proper amount of cards.
- The dealer then deals the player with the flashed card a new card from the top of the deck and announces to the whole table the value and suit of the card exposed.
- This exposed card now becomes the first "burn card," and play continues as it normally would.
- There can only be one flashed card per deal. If more than one card is exposed, the deal is considered a misdeal.
- Any card that falls off the table due to the dealer's action is considered a flashed card, regardless of how many (if any) players have seen its value.
How to Handle Misdeals in Poker
A misdeal is when the dealer makes a mistake large enough during the original deal to warrant taking in all the cards and starting over with a freshly shuffled deck. There are a few circumstances that precipitate a misdeal.
- The first or second card to be dealt gets flashed.
- More than one card being dealt gets flashed.
- The dealer starts the deal on the wrong player.
- One or more players receive more or fewer than the proper number of cards.
Other dealing situations that result in a misdeal can come up too. These unique circumstances are addressed in this article:
If the dealer can fix the problem that caused the misdeal without affecting the hand, she will usually remedy it rather than declare a misdeal. For example:
- If the dealer deals the first three cards before realizing that she started on the wrong player, provided no one has looked at their cards yet, she can just move the cards to their proper places and continue.
- If a hand is dealt to a seat with no player, typically that hand is just killed, meaning it's folded.
Rules for Betting and Raising in Poker
- Check-raising is permitted in all games, except in certain forms of lowball.
- In No-Limit and Pot-Limit games, unlimited raising is allowed.
- Although the maximum number of raises for a Limit game can change from room to room, typically a Limit game is allowed one bet and three raises.
- Once the third raise is made, all betting is capped (no more raising is allowed on that betting round).
- Despite the previous rule, unlimited raising is allowed in heads-up play. This applies anytime the action becomes heads-up before the raising has been capped.
- Once the raising is capped on a betting round, it cannot be uncapped by a subsequent fold that leaves two players heads-up.
- In Limit play, an all-in wager of less than half a bet does not reopen the betting for any player who has already acted and is in the pot for all previous bets.
- A player facing less than half a bet may fold, call or complete the wager.
- An all-in wager of half a bet or more is treated as a full bet, and a player may fold, call or make a full raise. (An example of a full raise is on a $20 betting round, raising a $15 all-in bet to $35).
- Unless otherwise noted, the smallest chip that may be wagered in a game is the smallest chip used in the antes, blinds, rake or collection.
- Smaller chips used for tipping do not play even in quantity. If the minimum playable chip is $25, even five $5 chips do not play.
- A verbal statement denotes a player's action, and is binding. If in turn a player verbally declares a fold, check, bet, call or raise, he is forced to take that action.
- Rapping the table with one's hand (or waving it) is considered a check.
- Deliberately acting out of turn is not tolerated. Details on how to deal with an action out of turn vary depending on the house rules in play.
- A player who bets or calls by releasing chips into the pot is bound by that action, unless the dealer failed to announce a raise of a bet preceding the play. If the player is unaware of the previous bet, and the dealer has NOT announced it, the player may take his bet back if he wishes.
- Some poker rooms rule that any forward motion with chips is a binding bet, or call.
- String bets are not allowed. A player must place her total bet (call + raise) in the pot in one motion. She cannot return to her stack to grab more chips while betting.
- The only exception to the above rule is if the player has verbally declared her bet before she begins the physical action.
- If a player puts a single chip in the pot that is larger than the bet, but does not announce a raise, her bet is always considered a call.
- All wagers and calls of an improperly low amount must be brought up to proper size if the error is discovered before the betting round has been completed.
Rules for Poker Showdowns
- A player must show all cards in the hand faceup on the table to win any part of the pot.
- Cards speak, meaning regardless of what a player declares he has in his hand, he only has the hand denoted by his cards.
- The dealer reads all hands, and declares the winning hand.
- Players are responsible for holding onto their cards until the winner is declared.
- Although verbal declarations as to the contents of a hand are not binding, deliberately miscalling a hand with the intent of causing another player to discard a winning hand is unethical, and may result in forfeiture of the pot.
- Any player, dealer or floorman who sees an incorrect amount of chips put into the pot, or an error about to be made in awarding a pot, has an ethical obligation to point out the error.
- All losing hands will be killed by the dealer before a pot is awarded.
- Any player who mucks her winning hand before the dealer has declared the hand as the winner forfeits the pot to the next best live hand.
- Although it is within the rules for any player who has been dealt in to request to see any hand that has been called, even if the opponent's hand or the winning hand has been mucked, it is considered extremely poor etiquette, and insulting, to do so.
- If a player shows cards to another player during or after a deal, any player at the table has the right to see those exposed cards. This is known as "show one, show all."
- The player who made the final aggressive action on the final betting round must open his hand first at showdown. This means the player who called on the river can wait for the player who bet on the river to show his hand first.
- If all players check on the final betting round, the players must open their hands in order of table position. The player closest to the left of the dealer must open first.
- It is considered a grave breach of etiquette for a player to withhold showing a clearly winning hand at showdown until her opponents have shown first. This is known as slow-rolling. Regardless of position, a player holding the best possible hand is expected to show her cards immediately as the showdown begins.
Rules for Dead Hands in Poker
There are a few situations that may arise in which a player will have his hand declared dead, regardless of his intentions.
Note that it's your responsibility as a player to protect your hand by holding onto your cards, or placing a chip or other item on top of them.
The following circumstances will cause your hand to be declared dead.
- A player folds or announces that he's folding when facing a bet or a raise.
- A player throws his hand away in a forward motion, causing another player to act behind him (even if not facing a bet).
- In Stud, when facing a bet, a player picks his up cards off the table, turns his up cards facedown, or mixes his up cards and down cards together.
- A player's hand does not contain the proper number of cards for that particular game (except at Stud a hand missing the final card may be ruled live, and at lowball and draw high a hand with too few cards before the draw is live).
- A player acts on a hand with a joker as a hole card in a game not using a joker. (A player who acts on a hand without looking at a card assumes the liability of finding an improper card.)
- A player has the clock on him when facing a bet or raise and exceeds the specified time limit.
- A player throws his cards facedown and they touch the muck pile.
- Despite the last rule, if he folded his hand due to false information received from another player, it may be retrieved from the muck at the discretion of the floorperson, as long as it is clearly identifiable among the other mucked cards.
- A player throws his cards into another player's unprotected hand (regardless of whether they are face-up or facedown).
Odd and Obscure Poker Rules
Glitches sometimes occur in a game of poker. Some are unique; others happen more often. How to deal with these irregularities is always up to the floorperson's discretion. For advice on how to resolve situations such as:
- Player missing a blind
- Buying the button
- Multiple boxed cards in the deck
- Removing small chips from play in tournaments
... and more, head to this article: Odd Poker Rules & Exceptions