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Unlike most other casino games, poker is a game where the players play against each other – not against the house. The casino still make money of course; by taking a percentage out of every pot for the cash games and by taking a fix amount from every buy-in for tournaments.

The basic premise of poker is that the player with the best five-card hand wins the pot. Unlike games such as roulette or black jack, poker is a game of asymmetrical information where you know more about your own hand than you know about the other players’ hands. Combined with the continuous betting system of poker, you get a game where psychology is just as important as the physical cards.

Cash games and tournaments

texas holdemThe tradition of playing poker cash games is much older than the advent of poker tournaments. When you participate in a cash game in a casino, you sit down at the table and participate for as short or long as you want to. As long as you have money to pay with, you can always buy new chips and continue to bet.

If you want to participate in a tournament, you pay a pre-determined buy-in fee and get a stack of tournaments markers. In a standard tournament, you can only continue to play for as long as you have those chips left. There are specialty tournaments where you can purchase more chips later in the tournament, but such tournaments are still very different from playing cash game poker, since the rules governing when and how much you can add to your stack are very strict.

Small tournaments without a fixed start time are known as Sit & Go (SnG) tournaments. You buy into it and as soon as it has enough players, the game starts. Sit & Go tournaments are often limited to just one table, but there are more novel version available as well that can involve more than one table.

Sometimes casinos offer free tournaments that you can participate in without paying anything. (The prize pot is filled by the casino.) This is especially common online. Free tournaments, also known as free rolls, are typically used as form of promotion. In some of them, you can win entrance to other tournaments, including tournaments that are quite expensive to buy into.

Poker variants

There are many different types of poker available, especially online where it is fairly cheap for casinos to offer a wide range of poker variants since they don’t need to pay for a human dealer for each poker table.

Here are some example of popular poker variants:

  • Five Card Draw
  • Five Card Stud
  • Seven Card Stud
  • Seven Card Stud Eight-or-Better
  • Texas Hold’em
  • Omaha Hold’em
  • Omaha Hi Lo
  • 2-7 Triple Draw
  • Razz
  • Badugi

Hand ranking in poker

Please note the novelty poker games can employ other hand rankings. Always check the rules before you start playing.


Rank Name Description
1.Royal (Straight) FlushA-K-Q-J-10 of the same suit
2.Straigth FlushFive cards of sequential rank, all of the same suit

Example hand: J-10-9-8-7 of spades

3.Four of a Kind

(Also known as quads)

Four cards of the same rank

Example hand: 7-3-3-3-3

4.Full House

(Also known as Full Boat)

Three cards of one rank + two cards of another rank.

Example hand:7-7-4-4-4

5.FlushFive cards of the same suit
6.StraightFive cards of sequential rank, of at least two different suits

Example hand: 7-6-5-4-3 where 7-4-3 are spades and 6-5 are diamonds

7.Three of a Kind

(Also known as Trips or Set)

Three cards of the same rank

Example hand: 9-8-8-8-2

8.Two PairTwo cards of one rank + two cards of another rank

Example: 2-4-4-7-7


(Also known as One Pair)

Two cards of the same rank

Example: 2-4-4-7-9

10.High cardIf no player has any of the hands listed above, the player with the highest individual card wins.


Example: The hand Q-6-5-4-2 will win over the hand J-10-9-7-6.

Community card poker

In some poker variants, including Omaha and the famous Texas Hold’em poker, community cards are used.

In Texas Hold’em, the number of community cards are five, and they are all placed face up on the table so every player knows exactly what they are. Each player is allowed to use as many or as few of the community cards as they wish to form their own poker hand. At the start of the game, each player get two personal cards dealt to them face down. You are allowed to look at your own two cards, but not on the cards of any other player. The communal cards are then gradually placed at the table; first three cards (the flop), then the fourth card (the turn) and then finally the fifth card (the river). After the flop, after the turn and after the river, respectively, there will be a round of betting.

There are other variants of poker, such as Omaha Hold’em, where the rules regarding the community cards are less flexible and each player is obliged to include a certain number of community cards in their hand, even in situations where a hand formed without any community card would be of higher ranking.