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How to Play

A staple of Western movies and casino lore, poker is hands down one of the world’s most popular card games. It’s a game of chance, but one that can require skill and strategy to beat the other players at the table, or the house, depending on which style you play.

Check the complete guide on How to play Poker.

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The object of the game is to win the pot. There are two ways players can do this:

1. By creating a winning hand of poker using the cards they are dealt.
2. By using a combination of skill, strategy and in some cases, bluffing, to make other players fold their hands.

Looking for a specific poker game?
Check out the Community & Stud or Novelty Games


Most forms of poker use a single 52-card deck in which all suits are considered equal in value. In some variations, Jokers might be added, Aces may be high or low, certain cards may be considered wild, etc.

Depending on the version being played, players may form hands using personal cards only, or through a combination of personal cards and shared community cards.

Get started in 4 easy steps

  • Dollar signs signifying expense levels next to the middle option $$

    Start with a game plan. With all the excitement of betting, bluffing and strategizing, it can be easy to get carried away in poker. Set a budget before sitting down to a table and stick to it.

  • A chair with a reserved sign resting on the seat.

    Reserve a seat. Before any player can sit down at a table, they’ll have to visit the poker podium and talk to “the brush”, aka the person who controls seating in the poker room. If a spot is available, they can start playing. If not, they’ll be called when a seat becomes available.

  • A dollar bill.

    Pay the rake or session fee. This is a commission paid to the House that allows a player to remain in the game.

  • A dealer stands at the poker table with 5 community cards in front of her.

    Start playing. The dealer begins the round by dealing cards to the table. Depending on the variation, players will typically receive either two or five cards. Be sure to have fun!

1. Start with a game plan

A table


Players will often choose a game based on the minimum or maximum buy-in at a table. This is the amount required to play any particular game. For example, at a table with a $1/$2 bet limit, a common buy-in range might be $50 minimum and $300 maximum.

A credit card crossed out


Poker is a game of chance, and it’s impossible to predict the outcome of the next hand.
Consider using cash only and leaving credit cards at home.

A trophy with a check mark.


Being up and then losing it all is no fun. Decide in advance when it’s time to walk away by setting a win limit. Then, walk away when it’s been reached, even if that happens in the middle of a winning streak.

2. Reserve a seat

A man stands behind a podium.

Before you can join a poker game, you’ll need to stop by the poker podium and speak to the “brush”. That’s the person who controls seating in the poker room. If space is available at the game you want to play, you’ll be seated immediately. If not, the brush will place you on a waiting list and let you know of an opening on a first-come, first-served basis.


Some casinos let you call ahead to put your name on the list. You then have a window of time in which you’ll have to check in to the poker room to keep your reservation.


A dollar bill resting on a chair.

Once you’ve been seated at a table, it’s time to pay the fees needed to be dealt into the game. Depending on the type of poker, this may include a “rake” or “session fee”. These types of fees are how casinos make money on poker games. Think of them like rent you pay for your spot at the table.

  • A “rake” is often 10% of the pot for each hand
  • A session fee is a predetermined amount typically paid every 30 minutes

Depending on the game, you may also be required to pay an Ante bet, money each player contributes to grow the pot before the hand starts.

4. Play Poker!

A player has two cards, some poker chips and the dealer button.

Depending on which variation of poker you’re playing, the rules and number of cards may change. Across the board, once you’re seated at your table and paid the rake or session fee however, it’s time to place your bets and start playing.

  • Remember not to reveal your “tells”
  • Play with a poker face—try not to show how you feel about your cards


If you enjoy the idea of bluffing and playing against other players, try your hand at Community and Stud poker games.


If you’d rather play against the house and aren’t too keen on bluffing, you might want to try your hand at one of these Novelty poker games:

How to bet

Four players sit at a poker table. A speech bubble with an exclamation mark appears above the group, while pointing to the player to the far right.

The actions you can take during each round of betting will help you stay in the game when your hand is good, or get you out before you lose more money than you intended. Each action is usually paired with a verbal statement.


When playing poker in casinos, verbal statements are binding. If you make one that doesn’t match your hand gesture, you must proceed with the action that was spoken.

See all betting actions