Poker - Your Complete Guide

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Beginners Guide: How To Play Poker

What is Poker?

Poker is known as the most popular card table game in the world. Played in offline and online casinos alike there are dozens of different types of poker all with different betting variations.

Poker can be played 1 on 1 against a dealer or against multiple other players in cash games or in a tournament setting.

The aim of the game is to end the sequence of betting with the best 5 cards. Here's how it works.

How to play and How to win

Although there's lots of poker variations lets talk about the most popular first. Texas Hold'em poker.

When playing Texas hold'em online against the dealer the game will begin with betting.

Ante - Your initial bet in order to be dealt 2 initial cards and see 3 community cards (cards you and the dealer can both use to make a 5 card hand) and Bonus - An optional side bet that pays from 7 to 1 up to 100 to 1 depending on your hand.

After you place your ante bet and optional bonus bet you get dealt your two cards and see the three community cards. The dealer also gets dealt two cards but these are face down.

You then decide if you want to play the hand you've been dealt. If the answer is no then you fold that hand and move on to the next.

If the answer is yes then you must place a second bet to continue and see the next two cards. Depending on the casino this may be 1-2 times the size of the ante.

After this you will notice you have two cards as well as five community cards.

What this means is that you have the option of making the best 5 card hand out of a possible 7 cards.

At this point the dealer will turn over their two cards and make their best 5 card hand as well.

Whoever has the best 5 card hand wins!

Oh but by the way the bonus bet gets paid out separate to your fight against the dealer. So you can lose the hand but win the bonus bet.

So how do you know if you've won or not? Well these are the hands ranked best to worst...

  • Royal Flush - Ace, king, queen, jack, 10, all of the same suit
  • Straight Flush - 5 consecutive cards all of the same suit
  • Four of a Kind - 4 identical cards of the same number/face
  • Full House - 3 identical cards plus one pair
  • Flush - 5 cards of the same suit in any order
  • Straight - 5 consecutive cards of any suit
  • Three of a Kind - 3 identical cards of the same number/face
  • Two Pair - 2 pairs of matching numbers/faces
  • One Pair - 1 pair of matching numbers/faces
  • High Card - None of the above. Your highest card is your best

Here's a picture to make it a little clearer.

poker hands

Game Variations

Three Card Poker

Three card poker is played against the dealer only. Available online on both live tables and digital this poker variation is definitely one of the most popular across all online casinos.

Keep in mind the poker basics we've spoken about in Texas hold'em so far (especially the hand rankings) and let's breakdown exactly how three card poker works.

First of all you will see a table like this...

Three card poker table

This is what a live dealer table looks like. Don't worry I'll explain what all the boxes mean right now.

First of all you have the ante. Similar to Texas hold'em this is your initial bet that you have to place first in order to receive cards.

Along with the ante bet you can decide whether or not to place a side bet. Depending on the online casino there may be one or two side bet options. The benefit of these are not just additional payouts but they are completely separate from your game with the dealer. You can win the side bets then decide to fold if you wanted to.

The individual casino rules will explain their payouts but this is what they do:

  • Pair Plus - Placing a bet on this circle will mean should you hit a pair or higher within your three cards you will be paid out between 1 to 1 and 100 to 1 (depending on the hand).
  • 6 Card Bonus - This is a combined bet taking into account your 3 cards and the dealers 3 cards (total of 6 cards). A full 5 card poker hand must be made for a payout on this bet. 3 of a kind or higher. Hand ranking identical to Texas hold'em. Odds range from 7 to 1 up to 1000 to 1.

Once you've placed that bet you receive three face up cards and the dealer receives three face down cards.

Now take a look at your cards...

What we're looking for is a poker hand. Just like we spoke about above the hand ranking is exactly the same with two slight tweaks.

Flush and straight swap places. So a straight is now better than a flush. Probability wise 3 cards makes a flush easier. Also three of a kind moves up the rankings. With only 3 cards available it's now worth a lot more to you.

Now if you're saying, "But how can I get a 5 card royal flush or a straight with only 3 cards?" That's because now it's judged on only 3 cards.

What that means is that your possible hands in three card poker are in order now these:

  • Royal Flush - Ace, king, queen, all of the same suit
  • Straight Flush - 3 consecutive cards all of the same suit
  • Three of a Kind - 3 identical cards of the same number/face
  • Straight - 3 consecutive cards of any suit
  • Flush - 3 cards of the same suit in any order
  • One Pair - 1 pair of matching numbers/faces
  • High Card - Queen or higher

As you can see some of the hands available with 5 cards have been removed and a couple others have changed positions.

After you've taken a look at your cards you can decide either not to continue playing and to fold, or to match your ante bet on the play square and to see the dealers cards.

All you need to do is place the same bet you put on the ante on the section that says play. What this means is that you want to play your hand and you now face off against the dealer.

The betting is now done and the dealer will turn over their cards and all we do is see who has the better hand.

As you can see on the picture above on the table it will state "Dealer plays with queen high or better".

What this means is that in order for you to get the maximum payout for your hand which is the dealer paying you on the ante and on the play squares they must have a single queen or better within their hand to qualify. For example a three card combination of queen, 2, 3 as a minimum.

If they do then your payout is 1 to 1 on the play box and a minimum of 1 to 1 on the ante box (higher quality hands can get paid more than 1 to 1 on the ante box depending on the casino).

If the dealer is showing anything less, for example jack, 7, 4 then they do not qualify and you will only be paid out on the ante and not on the play square.

If the dealer does not qualify after turning their hand over then you win on the ante no matter what your cards are.

However if the dealer turns over cards that beat you then you lose both bets immediately. A tie in cards such as you both having the same straight 7, 8, 9 will result in a push.

I'm sure you can quickly work out that it works in your favour for the dealer to qualify every time you choose to play but with as close to a single queen as possible!

And that's three card poker! Check out the bonus deals at the top of the page if you want to give it a try!

Common Strategies & Useful Tips

Poker, like many casino games is most effectively played when you leave your emotions at the door.

Believing you're about to hit a royal flush because it's your birthday and you deserve it, is much less effective than knowing what your percentage chance of the next card being an ace is.

When it comes to percentages the combination of cards and their potential outcomes when the game begins is nearly limitless. This works both for and against you.

Once you have been dealt your 2 pocket cards (in Texas Hold'em Poker) your probability of winning the hand change and the cards you're able to hit as well as the 5 card poker hands you're able to make narrow considerably as well. Sometimes in your favour and sometimes not.

Below are some basic rules that while are no sure path to riches will definitely give you a better understanding of your chances throughout the game.

Probability when playing Texas Hold'em of your first two cards being:

  • 23.5% = Any two suited cards
  • 15% = A single Ace
  • 5.9% = Any pair
  • 0.9% = Ace, King
  • 0.5% = Two Aces

Once the flop comes down (in Texas Hold'em) and we see 3 more cards to make 5 total here are some more odds:

  • 32.4% = Making at least one pair from your 2 pocket cards
  • 11.8% = Your pocket pair turning into 3 of a kind
  • 2% = Hitting 2 pairs (When your not already holding one pair)
  • 0.8% = Hitting a 5 card flush (Your 2 cards plus the 3 card flop)

Now depending on what you're holding at this point will determine how many future possibilities (commonly known as "outs") you have.

The more you play the easier this will be to work out and depending on what the dealer or the other players have makes a massive difference in your ability to win the hand.

There are literally millions and potentially billions of combinations as we go through every stage of play and therefore I'm hoping this will give you a few tips on your way.

For example if you start by being dealt two aces then you know the probability of this happening to anyone is only 0.5% and therefore incredibly valuable.

Or if you hit a flush on the flop you may decide to increase your bet as you probability of winning in most cases has greatly increased.

Either way when it comes to different versions of poker, your strategy should be based on probability and as long as you don't let your emotions get in the way you give yourself the greatest chance of success.

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FAQ's about Poker

Most poker questions will be answered in the beginners guide above but here are some common questions we haven't covered yet.

How do I get started?

Just scroll to the top of the page where we have listed the top poker friendly casinos and take your pick based on our ratings.

How do I claim my free bonus?

When selecting which casino you want to play at all you have to do is click on the one you like most and we will make sure you're sent through to the right place to claim your free bonus!

Which version of poker has the highest payout?

That really depends on the casino and what they offer. However we only choose the best casino options to review and the top ones for poker make it into our list and payout amount and probability play a massive role so we can make sure you get the most bang for your buck!

What's the minimum deposit?

Most online casinos will be as little as NZ$10 or NZ$20. Their individual terms and conditions will confirm this.

How fast can I withdraw my winnings?

This depends on your method of withdrawal. Many can be as fast as within 24 hours however some of the slower transfers can take up to 3-7 days.

Do I have to play against the dealer or computer?

Not at all. Many of the casinos above allow you to play either against a computer, against a live dealer or against other random real players.

If you're interested in getting the best deal possible along with maximum bonuses please email Paul at Don't be shy, we're here to find you the best deal with no cost to you!

Any more questions you may have feel free to email our team for help and advice at the same email

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