Attention Beginners


We have the information you have been looking for, the Poker 411 to help you get started...

Please read this entire section before beginning. At the end will be links and lists of reading materials that will aid you in your quest to learn the game.


Cliff Notes For Beginners

For those of you that suffer from ADD, short attention span, or just do not have the desire to read this long section without knowing if it contains the information you are looking for, we are offering these notes so that we at Pokerhag, do not waste your valuable time....

Getting Started without money, online with sites that offer free games, join local leagues that are held mostly in bars and restaurants, find or organize a home game with friends that want to learn also.

Getting Started with a little money, online by funding account for $50 or less and playing very low stakes, go to casino and play a very low buy in tournament, find a low buy in home game.

Section on analyzing you motivations for playing that direct you to the best plan for you to get started.

Section that will give some basic facts that you really need to know. This section contains info you will find out in the long run but may save you lots of time and $$$ if you take the time to read ahead of time but is not necessary if you just want to read the first sections....we were just trying to be helpful and save you some grief.

Section on reading materials and which will benefit you the most in the beginning. Again, if you just like the trial and error method exclusively (which is what you will be doing a lot whether you follow our advise or not but may cut out some of the error part), then just skip this section also.

Poker Hand Rankings

This is a list of how hands are ranked in poker starting with the very best to the weaker hands.  This is the standard for games unless otherwise stated by in specific games or in specific venues.

Royal Flush: Ace, King, Queen, Jack and 10, all of the same suit.
Straight Flush: Any five card sequence of the same suit.
Example: 7, 8, 9, 10, and Jack of ♣.
Four of a Kind: A poker hand with four cards of the same value (rank).
Example: 7, 7, 7, 7 (and any other card).
Full House: Three of a Kind combined with a Pair (see below).
Example: Queen, Queen, Queen with 6, 6.
Flush: Any five cards of the same suit.
Example: 2 of ♣, 4 of ♣, 7 of ♣, 9 of ♣,and King of ♣.
Straight: Five cards in sequence, but not of the same suit.
Example: 3 of ♣, 5 of ♥, 9 of ♠, 10 of ♥, Jack of ♣.
Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same value (rank).
Example: 8, 8, 8 (and any other two cards).
Two Pair: Two separate Pairs (see below).
Example: Jack, Jack with 5, 5 (and any other card). Also see Note (1) below.
Pair: Two cards of the same value (rank).
Example: 9, 9 (and any other three cards). Also see Note (2) below.
High Card: Poker hands that do not contain any of the above combinations are ranked by the highest card in the hand. (Ace is high, 2 is low).
Notes on Poker Hands with the Same Rank
NOTE 1: If two players have Two Pair, the poker hand with the highest Pair wins. If they have the same high Pair, whoever has the second highest Pair in their hand wins. If they have the same Two Pairs, then whoever has the highest fifth card wins the hand.
NOTE 2: If two players have the same value Pair, the highest card(s) outside of their Pair wins the hand.


Hope this helps you. If this was enough information to get started, please prepare to be frustrated and/or spend a lot of money. If you really do not want or feel the need for more content than is in these notes, you probably should just save your time and money and go back to playing computer Solitaire or slot machines in casinos. If this sounded interesting, then take the time to read this whole section. Hopefully it will be worth your while.


Where do I begin? We have watched it on TV for years and our friends are having a great time. The problem is where do you start and is it expensive and am I able to learn. It seems to have this language of it’s own. What does it all mean?

I see the ads on TV that say it is free, but afraid that it is just a come on: You may be close to a casino but don't know how to play and that could get expensive.

We were all beginners at one time and there are many excellent ways to play that won't cost anything or very little, both online, and in casinos, or card rooms.

Here at Pokerhag, we want to point you in the right direction and give you lots of options to see what works best for you.

Just to see how things work, go online and sign up with one of the poker web sites to play for free. Some of the most popular sites are Poker Stars, Full Tilt poker, Ultimate Bet, Absolute Poker and Doyles Room.

Each site offers free games and you are given play money. No personal financial information is required at this point so you can play with confidence and only fund these accounts when and if you feel you are ready to make that next step.

•If you start with the online route, we suggest that you start playing "limit" as opposed to "no limit" as you can conserve your play chips. Now you can easily get more chips to play with but most sites have a limit of new chips they give you each half-hour or hour. The point is: you want to learn how to keep and add to your chip count, not have to go back to the well all the time. There is really no right or wrong here, just getting started is the important thing. Remember, you will be playing online with a screen name that you choose and nobody will know who you are and regardless of how you play, there is no chance of being embarrassed. When you feel comfortable, you can fund your account and move up the ladder in money cash games and tournaments.

•To play online for money but limit how much you spend, there are sites like Spade Club and Club WPT that allow you to subscribe and play unlimited amounts of games for a fee of about $20 a month. These are sort of a hybrid to the play money at the other sites and they run tournaments and actually allow you to play for cash, prizes and entries to real tournaments like you see on TV. It sort of has the feel of some of the leagues you will see at some of the live free games and tournaments.


•If you are interested in playing live and being a beginner, don't want to spend the money to play in a casino, there are free poker games and leagues just about anyplace. These games are usually held in bars and restaurants and will be found in nearly every community. The Amateur Poker League is a large organization that sponsors free tournaments in thousands of bars and restaurants all over the country. For a small amount of dues, you can play every week, or several times a week if you want, in tournaments and can advance to regional events where cash prizes are given and even entry fees paid to large national tournaments like the World Series of Poker. This play is legal and a good way to meet other players that are just starting out. Many of these players form friendships and find it satisfying to continue to play with no risk financially instead of stepping out into the real casino money games. There are also many regular free games in bars and restaurants that are not part of a large organization and just frequented by a regular group that likes to get together to play.

We will also put a listing for places like these on our Events (offline) pages.

•Another type of game is the "home game". This is very common and it may take some effort to find but many of these are free games or very low stakes games that are hosted in people's homes. They are usually a regular crowd of mostly friends who just love to play and maybe not wanting to have to go to the bar or restaurant. In most states (but not all, know your state law), these home games, even when played for money, are legal as long as the host of the game is not taking a fee or "rake" to conduct the game. Many people that play poker play with the same group for years and enjoy that playing environment.

•If you would rather play in a casino and want to learn and still limit the amount of money you spend, the easiest way is to find small buy-in tournaments. Depending on the size of the casino and poker room, some places are easier to find these tournaments to play in. In Las Vegas, of course, you will be able to find many poker rooms that offer regularly scheduled, small buy-in events. Be sure to pick the ones that do not offer re-buys because you want the amount you pay to be the whole amount you need to participate. It is common to be able to find $30-$60 tournaments with many casinos. Here in North Texas, we can drive to casinos in Oklahoma and find these tournaments since the poker rooms are large. There are usually at least two or three a week that have buy-ins of under $100. This is a good way to play as a newbie live since you will not spend more that amount but if you are not careful, you could be out in the first five minutes.

VERY, VERY, VERY IMPORTANT: While you are learning the basics, either online or in a casino, it is important that you research and read all you can on the subject. You should quickly learn about starting hands and some of the basic math (don't let this scare you) that will help you keep from losing all your chips right off the bat.

If all you know about the game is what you have seen on TV, you have a very skewed view of the game. On the shows we watch, they only show you a small portion of the tournaments. A three-day tourney is edited down to a two-hour program and only the exciting hands are shown. There is actually a lot of folding and sitting and watching and the importance of that cannot be stressed enough. After you have read this section, guidelines will be given so that you can have a gratifying experience.

When you start your study, we strongly suggest that you stick with materials that correspond to your skill level. We will assume that you know how to play cards, know the basic rules of poker, know what beats what. You should quickly learn if you don't already know about posting blinds, and playing position. It is also important to know the difference in the "limit" and "no-limit" games.

Probably the most important thing you should figure out in the very beginning is understanding your own motivation for wanting to play. You need to ask yourself some very basic questions:

1) Is this something I want to do for fun and for the social interaction.

a) this is what will motivate most people. It is fun and people that like games and being with people either online or in a casino form a community of sorts, speak the same language, and enjoy the sport.

b) generally speaking, the limit games lend themselves to this type of activity. The play is more casual, you can play more hands without risking all of your bankroll/stack at one time. It is far more relaxed play and the player usually like to talk and interact with each other.

2) Do I want to make a bunch of money

a) there are of people making a LOT of money playing poker.

b) the reality is that less that 5% of players are profitable (much less than that online).

c) you can be a winning or break even player pretty easily if you play within yourself and your skills and abilities. To do this you must really take stock of yourself at all times and know where you are with your game. You can play perfectly in each situation using statistics and still lose. There is so much luck and variance in the game that you have to be prepared for downswings which will happen no matter how good you are.

3) How much money do I have to dedicate to this

a) since Pokerhag is the home of the "mature" player, there is a chance that as an older player, you may have more assets than many of the "young guns" you see on TV. The big difference may be that we have worked hard for what we have and have a lot more to lose than the younger players or the degenerate gamblers that are always willing to play for their last dollar.

b) you should make an honest assessment of how much you are willing to spend. You can determine how much you spend on entertainment or other hobbies and earmark that amount for poker. You may already play other casino games or do sports betting and have a gambling budget. It is just a good idea to know where you are with the funds you are willing to spend because there is not limit as to how much you can spend if you let it get out of hand.

4) How much time do I expect to spend playing

a) you should have a good idea of how much time you have or want to devote to you new source of entertainment. If you have a job, can you play an evening a week or once on the weekend. If you are very busy, you may only have a day a month to play.

b)we will warn you right now that this is a very addictive game and loads of fun so if you are wanting to improve you game, time is a requirement. You will hear some people say they had to give it up just because they could not quit playing, whether free or for money.

c) just like with determining the money issues, it is just as important to do the same with your time. Of course like anything else, the more time you spend, the faster your skills will improve.


Playing for free money online and in live free games are not the same as games where you play for money.

These games are a great way to learn and may satisfy your playing ambitions, but do not think that you will have the same success if you are successful at these games when you move into playing for money. The same can be said for playing for very low stakes and then moving up to higher stake games. As a general rule, the higher the stakes the better the player. There are some excellent players that play in free leagues and online for free but the better players usually test themselves in the money cash games or tournaments.

WSOP and WPT offer bootcamps that teach you how to play a better game. If something like this interests you, you can click on the links below to register for classes.


One thing that it is important to take into consideration when playing free games, live or online, if your goal is to move to tournaments or games for money be careful . You will learn lots of bad habits that may give you a rude awakening when you go to play for money. The play for free is much loser and it can be an expensive lesson to learn if you do not know the difference.

Playing online is different than playing in live games.

It is much different to be sitting behind a screen and making moves than it is to be sitting across from people and you can see their face and they can see yours. It is much more personal and until you have done both, it may be hard to understand. It is true that many successful young professionals that start playing online find making the transition to live play quite an adjustment and the same can be said for successful professional players (usually the older ones) that always played live games and find making the transition to internet difficult. The really good ones can do it but many get lost in the shuffle.

Playing Limit games is different than No Limit games.

The tenor of the game is much different and the competiveness and aggressiveness makes it much different. This makes your bankroll (the amount of money you have to play with and that you can afford to lose). In Limit games your budget will stretch a little further but in No Limit, you can be wiped out in no time at all. You must have the funds to back up your play or you will not be having any fun at all....and remember this is supposed to be fun.

How your age may affect the way you are viewed when playing in live games.

It is a fact that when you sit at a table to play, assumptions are made based on your age and gender. Sad but true, we "mature" players, especially women, are viewed differently than a youngish male. We are judged as weak (we can be pushed around) and as nits(as tight, cautious players) and are not viewed as any kind of threat. This can work to our advantage, and it is up to those in this category to do our homework and make all that work for us.



If you are just getting started, below is a list of books to start out with:

Poker for Dummies/Harroch.... this is a good basic starting place with good descriptions of the very basics written in a easy to read/understand format.

Internet Poker, how to play and beat online poker games/Krieger,Watterson.... good basic book for online play but it has one of the best charts to use to determine starting hands and will serve you well whether online or live play.

Internet Texas Hold'em/Hilger... another basic book and developing a strategy that works for you in the beginning.

Complete Book of Hold'em Poker/Carson... this book has lots of good information for live play and has basic stategies.

Killer Poker, No Limit/Vorhaus... This book covers strategy for cash games and tournaments played live.

Caros Book of Poker Tells/Caro... This book has been around for a long time and should be read by anyone who is playing live. It should also be re-read and studied. Has great information for reading information your opponents may be giving.




Beginners Game Information

These pages are for beginning players that are looking to learn a few new games. These give basic game play and strategy. For more help with strategies and more advanced gameplay, visit our Forums.


Texas Holdem


Omaha Hi Lo

5 Card Draw


7 Card Stud


Chinese Poker



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