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By Ben Jones
Editor in Chief

The Basics

Beginner's Guide To Online Poker - Get Started At Poker

If you’re new to online poker, this guide is a good first step. In terms of advice specifically for newcomers, the team at has come up with this guide so you know what you’re doing before you start. If you already have an understanding of poker, head over here for some poker tips.

When you play online poker, you need to understand that you are playing against other players. It’s not like an online casino where you bet against ‘the house’; with online poker, other players are your opposition – the same as real poker.

Playing Poker Online

Before you start playing online poker, you’ll need to choose which provider you will use. Luckily for you, we’ve done the hard work and tried and tested them all. If you have a look at this page, you’ll find our top recommendations.

The other clever thing to do is to download the free software while you’re reading this page from our number one recommendation. To do that click here, and run the .exe file. By the time you’ve finished this page, it will be installed on your PC.

You can play poker online for real money or pretend cash, the choice is yours. When you’ve downloaded the software, you’ll need to set up an ID that will be your screen name (use anything you like) and then you can start playing. If you’re playing for real cash, you’ll need to deposit some money first!

Your next choice is which type of poker to play.

Poker Variations

The most popular variation is Texas Hold ‘Em, but there are plenty of other games available (including Omaha and Seven Card Stud). Our recommendation is to play Texas Hold ‘Em, as that is what nearly everyone starts with and there are always tables available to join, so we're going to focus on Hold 'Em in this guide.

Types Of Poker Tables

Limit Texas Hold ‘Em is a great way to learn the basics of Texas Hold ‘Em before trying your hand at the more ambitious ‘No Limit’, as betting amounts are pre-determined and limited to a fixed sum. In other words, you can’t lose your whole stack of chips on one hand as the amount you can bet has a limit.

The other version of online poker is No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em: Quite simply, it’s Texas Hold ‘Em with no restriction on the amount you can bet – if you get a great hand, you can go ‘all in’. It’s where the hottest action is, but things can get pretty crazy!

You’ll then need to decide whether to play in a tournament or a ring game. The difference between the two is that a tournament is played continuously until there is a winner, and a ring game is what is called ‘sit and go’. You sit down and leave when you like. If you're short on time stick with ring games, as you don't want to have to leave before a tournament winner is crowned!

Poker Hands

Next, you need to understand winning hands. There's no point going all in on a weak hand! The diagram below should help:

Basically, a royal flush is the best going down to a high card – it’s top left to bottom right in the order of quality of hand.

So, one final thing and you’re ready to play! Now that you’ve downloaded the software you need to know the process of how betting works. It can be a little daunting for newbies, but it’s usually just a simple check, raise, or fold.

Placing Poker Bets

Before the hand gets started, online poker (and poker in general) forces players to place blind bets. Placing a ‘blind’ means the placement of a bet by a player even before he gets his pocket cards – there are no exceptions, you have to place a blind when it's your turn to do so.

The person sitting immediately to the left of the dealer places the ‘small blind’, while the player seated after that places the ‘big blind’. Generally, ‘big blind’ is double the amount of the ‘small blind’. So, once the blinds are in, the hand starts.

Texas Hold 'Em Walkthrough

Before the flop

The dealer will now deal clockwise so that each player is dealt two cards. You then need to look at your cards and decide whether to bet or to sit out the round (fold). You don’t have the option to ‘check’ in the first round, and the available options to you are ‘call’ (match either the blinds or if someone has raised before you), ‘raise’ the bet yourself or ‘fold’ (if you’ve got a weak hand).

Each player has to place a bet for the same amount before the ‘flop’ comes out. If a player chooses to raise the bet, then the others have to call, re-raise or ‘Fold’ their cards. If you fold, you lose anything you have already put in and you don’t participate in that hand.

The Flop

The dealer will then deal three cards on the table with their faces up. These are ‘community’ cards that all players can use to make their hand. The dealer will eventually deal five cards as betting progresses and each player makes their best hand of five cards, including their two plus the community cards out on the table.

After the flop comes out, the second round of betting starts and the first player seated after the dealer goes first. Each player can call, raise, check or fold and once all players agree on an amount to be bet, or indeed everyone checks, the dealer will deal the next card.

The Turn

Next up comes a fourth community card, also known as ‘the Turn’. At this stage each player has a total of six cards available (four on the board plus their two). After the Turn the usual round of betting starts.

The River

Finally, the fifth community card is dealt, which is sometimes called ‘the River’. At this point, the game will be getting interesting with players folding on the way through, and those left battling against each other. After this last community card is dealt, the final round of betting takes place.

Who Wins?

The goal is to come up with the best five-card hand out of the two cards originally dealt to you, plus the five community cards. After the betting is finished, each player shows his hand and the player with the best hand wins the pot. Refer to the little diagram above.

So, there you have it. Online poker is fun, fast, and exciting, and we think you're going to love it!