Below you will find step-by-step guides to basic poker rules for all the most popular variations of poker including Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Seven-Card Stud, Razz and 2-7 Triple Draw. You’ll also find plenty of poker rules for all kinds of lesser known poker games like Strip Poker, Pineapple, 5-Card Draw and Badugi. Included in our extensive poker game rules guide are definitions for common poker terms (blinds, button, position, etc.), explanations for how to make bets, the progression of betting rounds, and much more.
Poker is an exciting game which is very accessible as it only requires a standard deck of 52 cards. In addition to being accessible it also comes in many forms and formats as there are many different variants of poker games available and, each variant has its own set of poker rules. If you're a total beginner at poker please check out our beginner's guide on how to play poker to learn the ropes fast. If you're looking for strategy tips for each poker game, check out our comprehensive poker strategy section with plenty of helpful articles for poker beginners.
In the game of poker, players combine their hole cards with the community cards to make the best possible 5-card poker hand. Both hole cards, one hole card or no hole cards (play the board) can be used to comprise a hand. Depending on the poker game you are playing, the rules may vary slightly, but the essence of the game remains roughly the same. For most poker variants you will only need a deck of cards and some poker chips, learn how to use the community cards to build the best poker hand and learn all the betting rounds in various poker variants.
In this article we will dive in to some of the most popular poker variants to teach you basics and how to become a better poker player.
Basic Texas Hold'em Rules
Texas Hold'em Poker is the most popular poker game, or poker variation, in the world and the one you've most likely seen played on TV. It is also the most popular poker game in home poker games. Holdem is a community card game that can be played with anywhere from 2-10 players and most often it is played in No-Limit format - meaning any player can put all of his or her chips in at any time. This goes in both cash games and poker tournaments. Here's a quick spin through the basic poker rules of Texas Holdem; for a more extensive look, head to our Texas Holdem rules page.
The two players to the left of the dealer are called the small blind and the big blind, respectively.
These two positions require forced bets of a pre-determined amount and are the only players to put money in the pot before the cards are dealt (if no ante in place).
Every player then receives two cards face down. These are called "hole" cards.
Once all hole cards have been dealt to each player the first betting round begins with the player sitting immediately to the left of the big blind. This player can fold, call (match the amount of the big blind) or raise.
Betting then continues clockwise with each player having the option to fold, call the amount of the highest bet before them, bet (if no one before them has bet) or raise (if another player has made a bet).
When the first betting round is completed, three community cards are flipped face up on the table. This is called "The Flop."
The second round of betting begins with the first remaining player seated to the left of the button. The betting resumes, clockwise, with each player having the option to check (if no bet in front of them), bet (or raise if a bet before them), call or fold.
When the second round of betting is finished, a fourth community card is flipped face up on the table. This is called the turn.
The third round of betting commences with the first remaining player sitting to the left of the button.
When the third round of betting is over a fifth and final card is flipped face up on the table. This is called the river.
The fourth and final round of betting begins again with the first player sitting to the left of the button and still in play and operating on the same principle as the previous betting rounds.
If two or more players are left in the hand after the final betting round, they enter into a "showdown." All players left reveal their hands2, (called Showdown), and the player with the highest 5-card poker hand wins. See more on our page about poker hand rankings.
Players make up their best 5-card poker hand by using one, two or none of their hole cards combined with the five community cards on the board. The worst 5-card poker hand possible is 7 high and the best poker hand possible is Royal Straight Flush (10, J, Q, K, A in the same suit).
As you can see from our extensive list of specific poker game rules pages above, poker games can be played in many different poker variants. For starters you can play Texas Hold'em in both cash games and tournament format, which changes the rules and strategy substantially.
Many different varieties of Hold'em poker tournaments also have different poker rules and processes (Turbo, Bounty, Progressive Knockout, Spin & Go, Limit Games, etc) so be sure you're well aware of the rules of the particular poker tournament you're playing. If it's a form of Texas Hold'em, though, the basic rules of hand rankings, dealing and betting will be fairly consistent and easy to pick up.
Pot Limit Omaha
The next most popular form of poker to Texas Hold'em, especially at online poker sites and in online poker games, is definitely Pot Limit Omaha, which has many similarities in basic poker rules to Hold'em but a couple of key differences. Some of the biggest differences are:
Each player is dealt 4 hole cards instead of 2.
A player must use exactly 2 of their hole cards to make up their final 5-card hand.
It seems like a small difference but it alters the optimal strategy for each game substantially. We highly recommend you try it out and see just how much fun Omaha poker can be. For further reading, check our articles here:
If you dive into any number of poker's multitude of great variations, like draw games, lowball games, Limit games, Hi-LoGames, Chinese Poker etc, you will need to learn specific poker rules for each poker game. Again, check our our extensive list of poker game rules above. If there's a poker variation you'd like to learn how to play and we don't have a guide for it, let us know in the comments and we'll do one up for you!
Like most other games and sports, poker does have an organization managing the rules. This is the professional Tournament Directors Association (also often called the Poker TDA). Founded in 2001 by poker players Matt Savage, Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher and David Lamb to standardize the rules of poker, the TDA has grown in leaps and bounds since.
Today it has more than 2,500 members in 63 countries around the world. There are managers of large live- and online poker rooms, circuits, poker leagues or independent tournaments. They meet every two years at the "Poker TDA Summit" to review the rules and put in place new reforms. Note that WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel sits on the board of directors.
You can read the full Poker Tournament Rules document on their website. These poker rules are used in most major tournaments around the world.
Official Poker Rules from International Poker Federation (FIDPA)
As poker has truly become an international game over the past decade there has been growing interest in building a consistent, worldwide set of rules for poker tournaments and games.
Many poker players from around the world face the same problem where players have to adapt to the different rules of each destination, which tends to increase the risks of misunderstandings and conflicts.
Spearheaded by famed poker professional Marcel Luske of the Netherlands, the International Poker Federation (FIDPA) has done just that. They compiled a set of rules that, if adopted internationally, will avoid the vast majority of disputes that can be seen in casinos or poker tournaments around the world.
Poker is a fantastic game for so many reasons and features that make the game what it is. A big part is the poker rules: a set of objective and subjective rulings that create a fair, honest, and transparent game that can be played for unfathomable amounts of money.
Whether it is a $5 buy-in home game in your friend's kitchen or the $300,000 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl, the poker rules need to be followed, understood, and respected for a fair and true game of poker to be carried out. Sometimes it is good to have a refresher on poker rules and to be aware of what to do to keep within their parameters. We have seen people squander huge amounts of money by making poker gaffes, whether it is raising or checking out of turn, talking too much during a poker hand, and getting a time-out (think of Will Kassouf during the World Series of Poker Main Event) or just losing your EV (expected value) because you did not notice that someone forgot to pay the blind. Here are some of the most common ways people break the rules during a game of poker, and how to handle it when those occur:
Raising Without Declaring the Raise
Due to online poker becoming more and more popular and a way for players to be introduced to the game, a common practice you might see at your local live games is non-verbal raising. It looks very cool to raise without saying anything, but this example could leave you looking very foolish:
Player A opens UTG to $10, there’s a 3-bet to $35 by the button and you are in the Big Blind. You go for a raise to $100, so flick in the $100 chip. The dealer signifies that you have just called, and the other two players call.
What went wrong with this hand? Well, whenever you just put a single chip into the pot that is larger than the previous action, this indicates a call. This is one of the many poker rules which can cost you a lot of money and EV if done too many times. To correctly raise to $100, using the previous hand as an example, you need to vocalize. Something as easy as “raise” is enough to let the dealer know you are raising to $100, and not just cold-calling the previous raise.
Acting Out of Turn
If you do this deliberately, it could be deemed cheating against poker rules and you could see yourself forfeiting your stack if it is a tournament and being kicked out of the poker game. If you are not yet to act but say “check”, you will not be allowed to bet or raise on your next action. If you make a verbal action to bet or raise, and there is no bet, call or raise by a player leading up to you, your actions could be binding. The poker rules stipulate this to stop any potential cheating or deliberate acting out of turn, which some players have tried before to get an advantage.
One of the more annoying occurrences for a player could be the dealer mucking your hand even though you have a huge monster on the flop. The poker rules will most often favor the dealer, and the onus is always on the player to protect your hand. This extends to all instances too, whether it is the dealer reaching over to kill your hand or another player peeking a glance at your cards (which Ali Imsimrovic was alleged to have done against Paul Phua not long ago). Whilst it is in bad taste and bad gamesmanship, peeking at another player's cards while they look is not breaking poker rules. It is on you to protect your hand, usually by peeling the corner while covering it fully to stop any glaring eyes and putting a chip or card protector on your hole cards.
Avoid String Betting and Raising
A string bet or raise breaks one of the poker rules that will make players roll their eyes at the table. It happens when a player makes one forward motion to call, then goes back and forth to make a raise, without any verbalization or indication of the raise. This is breaking poker rules and will lead the dealer to rule that you have only called. Poker rules have dubbed this process as “string” betting or raising because the process is strung out. In the same way, you cannot fold than call in one action, you cannot call and raise in another. Poker rules make it so you only have one action per turn.
Miscalling Your Hand at Showdown
The unwritten saying in poker rules is that the cards speak. The dealer is the one responsible for identifying hands at the end of the showdown, but the player is the one who is in charge of keeping their cards away from the muck until a winning hand has been shown by a dealer. It is usual for a player to get to showdown and call out their hand, to get to a resolution quicker than turning over their cards silently. This can lead to players miscalling their hand and another player mucking their hand despite it being the winner. Poker rules declare that doing this deliberately is bad gamesmanship and completely unethical. Doing this could lead to the floor ruling that your hand is dead and the pot goes to the other player.
If poker rules are broken, the dealer will not always notice. A poker dealer is always under intense stress, having to deal with as many hands as possible without making any mistakes, and they also have to monitor what each player is doing at the poker table. It is on the players to speak up if they spot the infraction, and to make a point to call the floor over to deal with the issue. The floor is usually the poker room manager, who will come over and make a final judgment on an issue adhering to poker rules. You can imagine Jack Effel, who is often in the poker news every summer when he has to deliberate on a tough situation, like when the dealer miscounted Nick Marchington’s stack in a hand against Dario Sammartino, leading to Jack’s ruling. You may also see situations like when Hustler Casino Live’s co-founder Ryan Feldman had his opponent, Armenian Mike, declare he was all-in before pulling his chip stack back over the line. As mentioned above, you cannot do this. The floor was called over and they were very poor in the way they followed the poker rules and made a final ruling.
In poker, it is always better to urge on the side of caution, ask the dealer for help or advice, and take things slowly. A lot of these errors, like acting out of turn or misreading your poker hand, come from being too fast. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. Taking your time in poker and reading up on the rules can make you a lot of money in the long term.
Examples of Players Breaking Poker Rules
As the game of poker becomes increasingly more complex with so many tournaments online and the fields of players in live poker becoming hard to observe. In recent times there have been more and more allegations of players breaking poker rules. Whether it is Ali Imsirovic and Jake Schindler being accused of using Real Time Assistance while playing high-stakes online, or Mike Postle allegedly accessing real-time hole card information in the Stones Live $5/$10 game every weekend, it is currently rife. The biggest and most prominent cases of breaking poker rules come in the online poker field, whereas the cases in live poker are few and far between.
Here are some examples of the poker rules being broken, with the point of view focusing on the rules they broke and what has or will happen next in these scenarios:
“TheV0id” Crushes Stacked WCOOP Final Table
“TheV0id” is the PokerStars username of the player who would win the prestigious 2007 World Championship of Online Poker, getting past a field of 2,998 players and scooping the eye-watering top prize of $1,373,311. The winner was found to be Natalie Teltscher. This is not grounds for rule-breaking, but what was revealed later could fit the bill for breaking poker rules. Online poker rooms have stated that “ghosting” or “multi-accounting” is not to be permitted in any sense. “Ghosting” is when you have someone else play on your account, whilst they pose as you. This could be done for a multitude of reasons, but most commonly is found when a player has a hot run to get deep into the money. When ICM becomes intense, amateur or semi-professional players may want to have a strong pro ‘close” out of the game for them and guide them to a win. This would class as ghosting. “Multi-accounting” is defined in the poker rules as someone who is using more than one account in a tournament, which could be advantageous in huge and soft field tournaments. Justin Bonomo, who sits on top of the all-time money list at $58 million in cashes, admitted to multi-accounting on PokerStars previously.
Natalie “TheV0id” Teltscher was found to be the sister of Mark Teltscher, a well-known British poker pro. It was reported by Micky Doft on PokerNews that Mark was playing the $2,500 WCOOP event using two accounts, and would use his sister’s to go on and win the huge online event. “TheV0id” was removed from the tournament, and each player got moved up one pay jump, leaving Kyle “ka$ino” Schroeder as the winner. Natalie Teltscher tried to take this to the courtroom, but she had admitted to letting an “agent” play, which is breaking poker rules and PokerStars rules. Players like Vanessa Rousso and Josh Arieh were on that final table, and also saw their pay jumps boosted by one.
Gordon Vayo v PokerStars
After Black Friday, there were only more poker rules, regulations, and lines in the sand to follow. Players in the United States found themselves immediately cut off from events like WCOOP and SCOOP, with the biggest online tournaments on PokerStars. It became known that poker players in the US could bypass poker rules and use a VPN to get onto PokerStars. Well-known US poker pro Gordon Vayo, a former World Series of Poker Main Event runner-up, thought he had hit it big time when he won a 2017 Spring Championship of Online Poker event. The top prize was $692,461 and all was looking rosy for Vayo until PokerStars seized his funds.
PokerStars determined that he had broken poker rules and terms of service by playing in the US and using a VPN, leading to Vayo taking legal action. He claimed he was in Canada, and a long-ensuing battle began. Vayo is a well-known pro who has over $6 million in live earnings, a resident of Los Angeles who lives part-time in Ottawa, Canada to play on PokerStars. Stars claimed that he used a VPN to bypass poker rules and play from the comfort of his LA home. The poker giant conducted an investigation and determined he was using a VPN from LA. Vayo was found to have VPNs on his computer and that one may have connected to the poker client, which is breaking TOS and poker rules.
Sun Run Leads to Ghosting Claims
British poker player David Afework recently had a sun run of a lifetime in the World Poker Tour WPT500 event online on partypoker. He got past a field of 2,088 players including a final table of well-known pros including Jamie Staples and Henning Andre. This payday was supposed to have been $160,210 if it wasn’t for the fact that partypoker withholding his winnings.
David “Devplaza” Afework was disqualified, and partypoker claimed that he “gave his account to a third party”. Afework claims that he played the online event on his laptop, with the only person nearby being his girlfriend. It was later revealed that he lives with another poker pro and that this could have caused IP issues which made partypoker believe he ghosted his way to the first-place finish. This would break poker rules, as ghosting is heavily prohibited and is a big issue in online poker due to software like TeamViewer where people can access each other’s PCs very easily.
Imsirovic Peeks at Paul Phua’s Cards
Whilst breaking poker rules is much harder to get away with in live poker, partly because a dealer or floor manager can immediately put a ruling to poker rules there, and then, it can still happen. In April it happened on one of the biggest poker stages, where apparent poker prodigy Ali Imsirovic was caught peeking at Paul Phua’s hole cards when the Triton founder peeled them up. This is against poker rules but more in an ethical and subjective sense. It is wholly against gamesmanship, but it is hard to enforce a ruling unless definitive evidence is given proving he broke poker rules. Alex Foxen posted a clip from the streamed event showing fairly clearly that Imsirovic rubbernecked Phua’s card. This incident of breaking poker rules in a live setting was the tip of the iceberg for Foxen, who lifted a lid on heavy online cheating by Imsirovic. He claimed that the young poker player had used Real-Time Assistance while playing online and that the high-stakes community knew about it. This has led to Imsirovic being banned from PokerStars and Triton live series as well as being banned on GGPoker.