On this page you’ll find
What is poker?
Poker is any number of different games that are played with playing cards and involve players betting on who has the best hand. The exact rules will depend on which game type you’re playing. Poker typically uses a single standard 52-card deck but the exact number of cards in play, whether cards are dealt face up or face down can all be changed depending on which game you’re playing.
Poker was developed around the 19th century in the US where is soon became a popular pastime. Over the years, the game has grown massively, and now, thanks in part to online Poker, it’s one of the biggest gambling games in the world. Tournaments like the World Series of Poker have been held each year since the 70s. This competition gives players from all over the world the chance to win millions of dollars in prize money.
The most common type of Poker you’ll come across online is Texas Hold ‘Em, so most of what we explain in this guide will be applicable to this game type in particular. In most games, there is forced betting in the form of the big blind and little blind. These bets are made before any cards are dealt, but after being dealt cards, the other players can place bets too.
Players can take various actions throughout the game, including to surrender or “fold” their cards. Folding means you’re out of that hand and won’t be able to continue until being dealt back in. You’ll also be able to “call” or match the current bet. Finally, you’ll be able to raise or increase your bet. Other players at the table must match your bet, raise or fold.
The dealer also adds cards to the community cards, using which the players try to complete the best possible five-card Poker hands. In most games of Poker, there are five community cards, and each player will be using their two dealt cards to make the best possible hand.
Scores of cards and Poker hands will depend on which type of poker you’re playing. But common hands include two of a kind, three of a kind, four of a kind, straights, and flushes. We’ll get into these more later in the guide.
There are usually four rounds of betting to allow players plenty of opportunities to place their bets and try to outwit each other. In Poker, the best hand doesn’t always win, because other players can’t see what cards you have, it’s possible to bluff and make your opponents fold, even if you have a hand that normally wouldn’t beat them.
Why play poker?
Poker is one of the most popular card games in the world for good reason. It’s a lot of fun to play, and unlike some other casino games, there’s plenty of skill involved as well as luck. Here are some of the reasons why Poker is so popular and why we love it so much:
- Lots of variation – There are hundreds of different variations of Poker out there. While that may seem initially confusing to a newcomer, it also gives you loads of opportunities to play different games every day. Even playing the same game type, no two games of Poker are ever the same thanks to different players, hands, and rules.
- Skill-based – Unlike the slots or Roulette table, Poker has a lot of skill involved. Sure, there’s still plenty of luck in who gets the best cards, but the best cards don’t always win. You have to know how to use the cards to your advantage and utilizing psychological tricks like bluffing over other players can help you get ahead.
- Widely available – Poker is one of the most popular card games, so it’s found at nearly every online casino. There are also hundreds of great Poker sites that are dedicated to providing the best Poker tables to players all over the world.
- Playing against other players – Instead of playing against a dealer, you’ll be competing against other players. For some, there’s an added thrill that comes from beating all the players at a table. It also allows you to play against lots of different skill levels.
- Excitement – Poker is one of the most exciting casino games thanks to the four betting rounds where you’ll get to see what your opponents are made of. Poker can go by slowly compared to some other games, but it never stops being thrillingly exciting.
- Big prizes – Loads of people play Poker, and with such a wide player-base, there’s a lot of money to be made. At regular sites, you can usually find high stakes games. A lot of sites also offer tournaments that offer massive cash prizes to the winners.
Online poker tips
Before you start playing poker online, it’s important to make sure you understand the basic gist of the game. The last thing you want is to be playing against players with much more knowledge about the game than you. Players can always be more experienced, but you should never go into a game knowing less than your opponents if you can help it.
Poker has some luck in which cards get dealt but how you make your bets and how you use your cards is all strategy. We’ll cover some information on which are the best hands and some general tips. You can find more detailed tips on our Poker page.
Most of these tips will be applicable to Texas Hold ‘Em Poker, the most popular game type. If you want to know more about different types of Poker, we show you some of the main types later on in this guide.
Understanding poker hands
In Poker the whole aim of the game is to create the best possible five-card hand using your dealt cards and the community cards. You can combine cards in different ways using one or both of the cards in your hand. Most types of Poker have different rules on the best possible hands, so we’ll be covering some of the main hands seen in Texas Hold ‘Em Poker.
This is a ranking of the best to lowest ranked hands:
- Royal Flush – The best and rarest hand in the game. A Royal Flush is a hand containing A, K, Q, J, and 10 all in the same suit. So far example if you have a King of diamonds and a Queen of diamonds and there’s an Ace of diamonds, Jack of Diamonds, and 10 diamonds in the community cards, you can make a Royal flush.
- Straight Flush – This is five cards in a sequence, all of the same suits. So for example, if you have four of spades and a three of spades, you can make a Straight Flush is there are the two, five, and six of spades in the community pile.
- Four of a Kind – A Four of a Kind is a hand of four of the same card. For example, four Aces or four Kings.
- Full House – A Full House is Three of a Kind with a Pair. So, for example, you could have three sixes and two fours.
- Flush – A Flush is any five cards from the same suit but not in order. An example is any five cards from the spade suit. You could have two spades in your hand and another three in the community cards or one in your hand and four in the community cards.
- Straight – A Straight is five cards in a row, but not in the same suit. So you could have six, seven, eight nine and ten but from random suits.
- Three of a Kind – Three of a kind is one step down from four of a kind. It’s three cards of the same type. So, for example, three Kings.
- Two Pair – A Two Pair is two different pairs. So, for example, two Queens and two fives.
- Pair – A Pair is simple two of the same card. An example is a pair of Aces, two Ace cards.
- High Card – High card is when you haven’t made any of the above hands. Your highest value card will then be in play. So if your highest card is a King and your opponent has a high card of an eight, you’ll win.
If both you and an opponent have the same ranked hand, for example, if you both have a pair, then the winner is whoever’s pair is the highest. If you have a pair of tens, you’ll beat an opponent who has a pair of nines.
Make sure you check what game type you’re playing as not all of these hands can be used in every Poker game. Some games may have other hands, and certain hands might be ranked higher or lower.
Online poker strategy
As Poker isn’t purely luck-based, there’s a lot you can do to turn the odds in your favor. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite tips that can hopefully help you to improve how you play and win the table more often.
- Start out slow – When you first start playing, you’ll be a complete beginner. That can make you easy pickings for other players if you’re not careful. It’s a good idea to play as much free Poker to practice before you start playing the real thing. You can also start off with low stake games where the maximum amount you can lose will be much lower. Remember not to get carried away with your bets, even if you think you have a great hand. Go slow and steady, and you’ll learn much more. As you start to get better, you can increase your bets and eventually move into bigger stake games and multi-tabling.
- Understand the game type – Lots of players get carried away when they first start and think that the rules they know apply to all Poker games. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, and you’re in for a rude awakening if you rush in without reading the rules. Make sure you know which hands are the best before starting any game, remember that most players will be more experienced than you, so you don’t want to give them an even bigger advantage by not knowing the rules!
- Make the most of bonuses – Most online casinos and poker sites will offer bonuses to new players. Make the most of these, and they’ll allow you to play plenty of hands with minimal risk. Make sure to check the terms and conditions before you sign up as some will have wagering requirements or other restrictions. Current players are also offered bonuses at lots of sites, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for those. Find all the best online poker bonuses on our online casino bonus page.
- Create a distraction-free zone – Before you play, it’s important to rid yourself of any distractions. Playing requires a lot of concentration, and you’ll need to be alert to win. Put some relaxing music on, put your phone on silent and get in the zone. The difference between good players and great players is often how seriously they take the game.
- Manage your bankroll – Your bankroll is how much you have available to bet with. This will be the money deposited into your casino or poker site account. Make sure you set an amount to play with each day and don’t go over it. If your bankroll is getting smaller, play at lower stake games. If your bankroll is getting bigger, you can risk more by playing at high stakes games. Keep an eye on your bankroll and stop playing if you feel you’re spending too much.
- Limit your losses and wins – Before playing, it’s important to set limits on how much you’re happy to lose. You should also set a maximum amount you can win before you stop playing for the day. It’s always a good idea to set limits when gambling as it’s easy to get carried away with playing. Especially when losing heavily, there’s a tendency for players to chase losses which usually just leads to more losses. When playing Poker, it’s important to remain calm so you should avoid playing when you’re overconfident from wins or angry from losses.
What is bluffing?
In Poker, the object of the game is to form the best hand that beats the other player at the table. However, just because you don’t have the best hand, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to lose. Players place bets depending on how good their hand is, and if they think someone else has better than them, they’ll fold rather than wasting money on calling the bet. Deceiving the other players at the table to convince them to your hand is better than theirs is known as bluffing.
Bluffing is what sets Poker apart from a lot of other games out there and is one of the reasons why it’s so popular. It allows players to get ahead and make wins, even if they had bad luck. It’s all about using the bets to your advantage and making your weak hand look stronger than it is. In the world of online poker, bluffing is often less effective than in real life, but it can still be a useful strategy.
If you’re planning to implement bluffing into your game, here are a few tips:
- Don’t bluff too often – Your image at the Poker table that the other players have of you is based on your bets. If you’re betting big all the time and rarely showing good hands in showdowns, players will know that you’re bluffing. If you bet more conservatively but raise high occasionally, your bluffs will be harder to read. You should be careful not to bluff too much because if a player calls your bluff you can lose your bet plus players will suspect you of bluffing in future hands.
- Semi-bluffs are more effective than pure bluffs – A Pure bluff is a bluff that has more or less no chance of success unless your opponent folds. Ideally, you should be semi-bluffing. That is, having a good hand but making it look like you have a great hand. You’ll be more likely to win this way. Plus, if a player calls your bluff, they won’t necessarily realize you were bluffing.
- If you’re a beginner, concentrate on the basics before getting into bluffing – Before getting into complicated strategies like bluffing, make sure you understand the basics of the game. It’s always tempting to start rushing ahead when you first start. Improving your general skills and knowledge of Poker is a lot more important, however. Make sure that you have gotten a decent amount of practice before you start bluffing.
Playing online poker for free
One of the best ways to get better at a game is through practice. Normally, when playing casino games, you’ll have to gamble money, meaning that it’s hard to practice for a long time without risking a lot of money.
Luckily, for new players, there are ways around this. Lots of online casinos will offer free demo versions of the most popular games. While you won’t be able to play against other players for free, you might be able to play Poker against AI at some of the big sites.
Some Poker sites also offer free buy-ins to certain tournaments, particularly if you’re a new player. These can allow you to at least try out a Poker tournament for the first time and give you a better idea of how they work
Finally, some sites also offer bonuses that will allow you to try out games without risking your own cash. If you’re a new player, we recommend to always try out risk-free games as much as possible. You can gain a lot of experience even when playing a free version of the game and it will help you understand the rules and hands much better.
Even if you’re an experienced player, free games are a great way to try out different strategies and prepare yourself for the real thing.
Online poker bonuses
These days almost every Poker site and online casino offer some kind of bonus to new players. It’s one of the best parts of playing casino games online and part of the reason for the big surge in the popularity of online gambling.
Because there are so many new gambling sites out there all competing with each other, the sites offer players an incentive to sign up. Poker sites and casinos are nothing without players, so sites are always in competition with each other to bring new players in. That’s great for players because it means that most sites offer big bonuses to new players.
The most common type of bonus you’ll find offered is the matched deposit bonus. An example of this would be a site offering a 100% bonus of up to $500 on your first deposit. That means that if you sign up for the site and deposit $500, you’ll receive $500 in bonus cash.
You won’t be able to withdraw this bonus amount. It will need to be gambled a set number of times first. This is known as a wagering requirement. Most sites will request that you wager the bonus cash between ten and thirty times before you can withdraw it and any winnings.
Some sites also offer no deposit bonuses. These are some of the best bonuses around, and while they’re smaller than matched deposit bonuses, they’re much easier to get. All you need to do is sign up, and the free bonus will be added to your new account. This way, you can try out the online Poker without having to make a deposit first.
If you’re looking for the best online casino and online poker bonuses, you’ve come to the right place. At Xfire, we make it our mission to find the best bonuses around. We feature them all here on our site, giving you the chance to find the biggest and most exciting casino bonuses. Whether you’re looking for matched deposit bonuses, no deposit bonuses, or something else. We’ve got them all here. Our casino bonus page is updated regularly so you can always find the latest casino bonuses and bonus codes.
Types of poker
Before you jump into the world of online poker it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the different game types out there. Because Poker is such a classic game, there are loads of different rule sets, hands, and names for the game.
Texas Hold ‘Em is the most common game type, but some casinos and Poker sites will offer lots of different types of Poker. Here are some of the most popular poker games you’ll find online:
Texas Hold ‘Em
The most popular game of Poker in the world and without a doubt the most common too. If an online casino offers Poker, you can bet it will have at least one type of Texas Hold ‘Em available. Two cards are dealt with each player at the start of the game. Five community cards are also dealt and the player who makes the strongest five-card hand wins. Players have four betting rounds and compete against each other while betting.
Seven Card Stud
Seven-card Stud is unique from a lot of other Poker games in that there are no community cards. Instead, players are dealt five cards and must make the best hand using five of them. In Seven Card Stud, some rule types permit the use of wild cards, making a five of a kind the best hand in the game. Before Texas Hold ‘Em became popular, this was the most common type of Poker found at casinos.
Omaha Hold ‘Em
In this game, players are dealt four cards. You’ll need to make the best possible hand using two of your cards plus three of the five community cards. Unlike Texas Hold ‘Em, you won’t be able to use just one of the cards in your hand. You must use two of the four cards you’re dealt. The hand rankings in Omaha Hold ‘Em are similar to the rankings in Texas Hold ‘Em.
Sometimes known as “Split 8 or Better”, Omaha Hi-Lo is similar to Omaha Hold ‘Em but with a split pot. Players will be competing to have the best high hand and the best low hand. High hands are made up of the higher value cards, while low hands are made from eight or lower. It’s possible for a single player to win the entire pot, either by forcing their opponents to fold or by making a winning high hand and low hand. Like Omaha Hold ‘Em, players are dealt four cards and will have to use at least two to make a hand.
Razz is very similar to Seven card Stud Poker only here the lowest hand wins. As with Seven card Stud, players are dealt seven cards and will need to make the best possible hand using five of them. There are no community cards here, so it’s harder to know what kind of hands other players have. Whereas in Seven card Stud a hand straight containing high cards like tens, Jacks and Kings would likely win, in Razz a hand with lower values like Ace, twos, threes, fours, and fives would win. Another variation of this game is known as London Lowball and makes straights and flushes less valuable.
Chinese Poker is a bit of a beginner-friendly game as there are fewer hands to worry about. Here players are dealt thirteen cards and must divide them up into three sections, the front, middle, and back. The game uses points for scoring, and players can win a higher number of points for better hands. There are lots of different variations of Chinese Poker that introduce different rules affecting folding, wins, and hands.
Draw Poker is a category of Poker games that allows players to change their cards during betting rounds. Players are dealt a complete hand but can replace their cards if they prefer. This adds a bit more strategy and lets players potentially gamble to improve their hand. There are a few different variations of Draw Poker which we’ll cover more in a bit.
2-7 Triple Draw
This is a type of Draw Poker where the lowest hand wins. Players are dealt five cards at the beginning of the game and must make the lowest possible hand with them. They can choose to fold or to swap between one and all of their cards for new ones. In this game type straights and flushes are considered bad hands and aces are considered a high card.
Five Card Draw
Five Card Draw is another type of Draw Poker. It’s often considered the simplest and easiest game of Poker to learn. Most types of Video Poker are based on this game type. Players are dealt five cards face down one at a time. During the betting phase, cards can be replaced if requested by the player. Unlike 2-7 Triple Draw, you’ll be playing to make the best possible hand of five cards rather than the lowest. Flushes and Straights are high-ranked hands.
Caribbean Stud Poker
Caribbean Stud Poker is derived from the rules of five card Stud Poker. However, the key difference with this game type is that players are up against the dealer rather than each other. Similar to Blackjack, you’ll be trying to land the best hand and beat the dealer. Many players prefer Caribbean Stud Poker for this fact as it means the game is a little simpler to play. The dealer only plays if they are dealt a face card or an Ace.
Casino Hold ‘Em
Casino Hold ‘Em is pretty similar to Texas Hold ‘Em with one major difference. As with Caribbean Stud Poker, in Casino Hold ‘Em you’ll be playing against the casino, not against other players. Both the player and the dealer will be dealt two cards, and the dealer will only continue playing if they have a qualifying card. Rather than placing bets during a betting round, the payout of the game is predetermined and based on your winning hand.
Video Poker is an RNG casino game that allows you to play different variations of poker against a computer. Most games are based on Five Card Draw Poker. They work a bit like slot machines, only you’ll be trying to create a winning hand rather than matching symbols. In Video Poker, you’ll usually be able to swap your cards to improve your hand. Different hands payout different prizes.
Pai Gow Poker
Pai Gow is a traditional Chinese game that’s usually played with dominos. Pai Gow Poker uses playing cards instead of dominos. The game uses a standard 52 card deck but also includes one Joker. Players have to make two separate hands, one from two cards and the other from five. The five card hand must outrank the two card hand and players have to either beat the dealer or each other, depending on the variant. Hands are similar to standard Poker, but the Joker can sometimes be used as either a wild or an Ace.
Online poker vs poker in a land-based casino
Playing Poker at a land-based casino can be a lot of fun. It’s hard to beat the social aspect of the casino, especially if you enjoy going with all your friends. Online casinos do have a lot of benefits over land-based casinos, however, and many players are starting to enjoy online sites a lot more.
Here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of playing Online Poker over land-based Poker:
Advantages of online poker
Convenience – Switching your computer on and loading up your favorite casino or Poker site is a lot easier than taking a trip to your nearest casino. Unless you live in a big city, the chances are you’re far from any major casino that will offer Poker. With online play, you can instantly load up a site and join a table. In most cases, you won’t even have to wait.
More variety – Online casinos and Poker sites have a massive variety of different Poker games and tables for you to play at. Whether you’re interested in classic Texas Hold ‘Em, high limit games, or a more unusual game variant, you’ll find it all online. By contrast, land-based casinos typically have a more limited selection on offer.
Casino Bonuses – One of the best parts of signing up to a new casino is the big bonus you can collect. Nearly every online casino and poker site offers a welcome bonus to new players. There are also often loyalty schemes and other bonus rewards available for current players too. Bonuses help add to the excitement and give you a way to test out a site without risking your own money.
Availability – Online Poker is usually available to play 24/7. As long as there are other players online, you’ll be able to join a table and start playing. This is a significant advantage over land-based casinos that have opening times and may not always have a Poker table available.
Disadvantages of online poker
Less social – The one big advantage that land-based casinos have over their online counterparts is the social aspect. Nothing beats going to the casino with a big group of friends and being able to chat and enjoy the experience with other people. Thankfully, lots of sites now offer chat options and live casino Poker also adds a new way to be more social while playing Poker online.
Some sites only offer Video Poker – While you can usually find a good selection of Poker online, some of the best online casinos only offer Video Poker. If you’re looking specifically for sites that offer Poker, check our online casino reviews.
Live casino games provide players with a more authentic casino experience while playing online. Most online casino games use random number generator (RNG) to determine which cards players receive. The dealer is effectively a computer program, and while this is fair, it takes away some of the fun from the game.
With live Poker, rather than playing with a computer, the dealer will be an actual person. Live games use a live stream of a dealer in a studio who will deal with real cards to you. These games give players a chance to experience how a real casino works. Having a real dealer can make games a lot more exciting and unique.
The only downside is that most online casinos only offer live Poker where you play against the dealer. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as playing against the dealer can still be a lot of fun. If you prefer to play against other players, try out the other version of Poker that the casino offers.
Online poker tournaments
Tournaments are one of the most exciting ways to play poker, and online sites usually offer loads of different tournaments. You’ll find high stakes tournaments plus plenty of options for beginners too when you visit the best online poker sites.
Tournaments let you compete against other players for big cash prizes. Most sites will have an entry fee, where you’ll be given a set amount of chips. You’ll need to beat all the players at your table or collect a certain number of chips to progress onto the next stage. As you get further in the tournament, you’ll have better chances of winning the top prizes.
You can find out all the details of the latest online Poker tournaments here at Xfire. We actively search the best online casinos and poker sites to bring you the best tournaments with the biggest prizes. We can let you know how to enter and the best tops to get ahead, so make sure you stay up to date by checking in regularly.
If you enjoy playing games while out and about, you’ll no doubt love playing mobile Poker. Most online casinos and poker sites are now accessible on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. If you want to play poker while on the go or traveling, you can easily load up your favorite site and join a table.
Providing you have a stable internet connection, mobile Poker lets you enjoy online Poker wherever you go. Most sites don’t even require you to download any software to your mobile device. Occasionally you might come across a site that offers a mobile app to download, but in most cases, it’s not required. Often the apps will give you a better experience, however. They allow you to load games faster, receive notifications, and even special bonuses.
If you’re looking for the best online casinos and poker sites that offer mobile-play, you can take a look at our mobile casino section. We list all the best sites that now allow you to play on a smartphone or tablet. We’ll let you know if the sites have any limitations, performance issues, or special bonuses for mobile users.