When you take a look at our recommended gaming sites, you’ll see that online poker is played in a multitude of ways. With that in mind, let’s run through the basics of a game that fuses luck, skill, mathematics and psychology before we recommend the best places to play it online.
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They say that poker takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lifetime but we have got a few minutes to run through the finer points of the most exciting card game ever invented. Although its origins are varied and often unclear, modern poker is loved the world over.
How to Play Online Poker
In reality, poker is a general term for a card game with one simple aim: winning the pot. However, once you dive in its nuances, you’ll quickly see that there are different ways of reaching that goal. In fact, once you start to delve a little deeper, you’ll see that “winning the pot” isn’t always about making the best hand.
Now, before we get into its subtleties, let’s look at the basics of poker. As we’ve said, your first goal is to make the best hand. Let’s use Texas Hold ’em as an example. The game starts with each player being dealt two cards (known as hole cards). Once everyone has either folded or matched the current highest bet, three community cards are placed in the middle of the table (these are called the flop).
These cards are important because they help you to make the best five-card hand. What’s more, they are available to everyone. Therefore, you can combine one or both of your cards with those in the middle to make the best hand possible, as can everyone else in the game.
After the flop has been dealt, everyone assesses their hand and decides whether they want to stay in or fold. Those that match the current highest bet proceed to the fourth community card, known as the turn.
Another betting round ensues before the fifth card (the river) is dealt. If only one player remains at any point in the hand, they win the pot and no further cards are dealt. However, if at least two players get to the river and neither wants to fold, a showdown takes place.
Poker Hand Rankings
At a showdown, everyone reveals their hole cards and one with the best five-card combination wins. In almost all standard forms of poker (except low ball games), the ranking of hands from best to worst is as follows:
|Hand Name||Hand Description|
|Royal Flush||Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten all of the same suit|
|Straight Flush||A run of five cards (e.g. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) all of the same suit|
|Four of a Kind||Four matching cards|
|Full House||A combination of three matching cards and two matching cards|
|Flush||Five cards all of the same suit|
|Straight||A run of consecutive cards such as 5, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Three of a Kind||Three matching cards|
|Two Pair||Two different pairs e.g. QQ + JJ|
|Pair||Two matching cards|
|High Card||No ranked hand, so your highest card plays|
Now, the aim of making the best five-card hand should always be your goal. However, because bluffing is allowed, there are times when this doesn’t matter. Making your opponent(s) think you have a great hand is often more important than having that great hand. In fact, if we go back to poker’s basics, the fundamental aim is to win the pot by any means necessary. If you can force everyone else to fold before a showdown, you won’t need to show your cards. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how strong your hand is.
That, in a nutshell, is why poker is so popular. Because you can win in multiple ways, poker gives players scope to use a variety of skills. This could be anything from relying on luck to make a strong hand, using maths to guide you or playing mind games to steal the pot. These factors, combined with the inherent uncertainty of the game (i.e. you never know what you’re going to get dealt), makes poker hugely exciting.
It also makes it a notoriously tough game to master. Yes, you can use this guide to learn the basics. However, if you want to become a high-level pro, you’ll need to become adept at psychology, timing, odds and much more.
What Are the Main Types of Online Poker?
As we’ve said, online poker comes in a variety of forms. We’ve given you an overview of the most popular (Texas Hold ’em), but all the leading NZ gaming sites feature a range of options. Although we can’t go through the nuances of each one, we can give you an overview of the leading poker variants online:
Omaha Poker: Omaha is similar to Hold ’em in that it’s a community card variant. As with Hold ’em, betting takes place over four rounds (pre-flop, the flop, the turn and river). Moreover, the aim of the game is the make the best five-card hand or make everyone else fold.
However, in Omaha, you start with four hole cards. What’s more, you have to use two of those (in Hold ’em you don’t need to use all of your hole cards). These dynamics open up many more possibilities and make Omaha a much more volatile game.
Stud Poker: In Stud poker, there aren’t any community cards. Instead, players are dealt their own set of cards (five or seven depending on the format). If we take a game of Seven Card Stud, the first two cards are dealt face down, the next four are dealt face up so everyone can see them before the final card is dealt face down.
This combination of hidden and exposed cards allows players to assess the potential strength of an opponent’s hand. As with all forms of poker, the aim is to make the best five-card hand or make everyone else fold.
Draw Poker: The final variant you need to know is Draw Poker. As the name suggests, the way you make a hand is by drawing cards from the deck. For example, in Five Card Draw, everyone starts with five cards (only the holder can see them).
Players then take it in turns to keep all their cards or exchange as many as they wish. After the draw, a second betting round takes players. Anyone left after that shows their hand and the best one wins.
Poker Formats: Cash Games, Tournaments and Table Games
When you join our recommended NZ online poker and casino sites, you’ll be able to play cash games or tournaments. The former are games where the chips in front of you represent real money. For example, if you join a table where the small and big blind are NZ$1/NZ$2, you may sit down with NZ$200. The chips you receive will be worth NZ$200 and, therefore, anything you win or lose will have a real-world value.
In contrast, poker tournaments allow you to buy in for a set fee and receive a predetermined starting stack. For example, you might enter an NZ$10 tournament and start with 1,500 chips. These chips don’t have real-world value. Instead, your aim is to use them to eliminate players and survive as long as possible. If you can survive longer than others and make it into “the money”, you’ll win a prize based on your finishing position.
Alongside traditional forms of online poker, New Zealand’s leading online casinos also offer additional formats. Commonly known as casino poker, these games are inspired by the likes of Texas Hold ’em and Stud. When you play games such as video poker, Caribbean Stud and the like, the aim is to make the best five-card hand. However, because you’re playing against the house instead of other players, you can’t make the dealer fold. Therefore, these games are much more dependent on odds and mathematics, much like blackjack and baccarat.
Try Your Hand at Poker
Poker is a game anyone can play. If you’re an expert at maths, you can use those skills to your advantage. If you’re great at reading people, you can use this to your advantage. Whatever your talents, there’s a way to use them in poker. If that’s not enough, there are plenty of ways to win. Put simply, poker is not only exciting and challenging, but it’s also a potentially lucrative game if you can master it. To put your newfound knowledge into practice, check out our top-rated NZ casinos and play online poker today.