Poker 101 – How To Play Poker For Beginners

Welcome to Poker 101 for dummies – where beginners learn to play poker.

Poker 101 will give you a grounding in the mechanics of the game and get you started with some winning strategies. Read through the following pages to get an understanding of all poker related info plus lots of extra tips and tricks.

If you are unsure of the Rules of Texas Holdem or the Hand Rankings of Poker, make sure you check them out too.


Poker 101: What We Will Cover

  1. Texas Holdem Strategy: Basics of Betting, Calling & Raising 
  2. Position is king
  3. Common mistakes
  4. Real money limits, stakes and types of poker games
  5. Terminology (below)

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If you are new to poker and looking to have all the basics covered on a single printable PDF, check out our cheat sheet web page.

Use the terminology section below as a dictionary  there is no need to read through it now. Refer to back to this page if you come across a word you don't understand.

Check out the next poker 101 page – Basic Preflop Strategy  – to find out more.

Poker 101 – Terminology 

We will link back to this page throughout Poker 101 for any words you may not understand. Keep an eye out for the hyperlinks!

Poker 101

6-max: A table with a maximum of 6 players allowed to sit down- see 6max vs fullring. This type of game type is more typical to online play. An example of a 6max table shown below:

Ante: An ante is an other forced bet, typically smaller than the blinds which are used late in tournaments to increase the size of the starting pot.

Backdoor: A draw which requires two cards to complete. For example, AK of hearts on a Th6s2d has two backdoor draws – two consecutive hearts for a flush and consecutive Queen and Jack for a straight.

Bankroll management: Bankroll management is a process which all successful poker players undertake. It involves managing the amount of money available for you to play poker to ensure that you have sufficient funds that you do not go broke. See the post on bankroll management which delves into more detail.

Big Blind: The big blind is the forced bet which the player two seats to the left of the dealer has to put in before seeing his cards. The rules fix the big before the game has started. The BB is the minimum bet size for the poker game. For more information see Position is King.

Board: The community cards which everyone shares i.e., the flop turn and river

Blank: A hand which does not change the board or the strength of many of the types of hands players is likely to hold. For example, on a T96 board, a two would be considered a ‘blank.'

Blocker: When you hold a card which your opponent needs to make a strong hand. For example holding the Ace of hearts on a board with a heart flush possibility.

Broadway: The cards from Ten through to Ace are called Broadway cards.

Chase: To call a bet with a drawing hand with the correct pot odds.

Chop: To split the pot between two or more players due them all having similar holdings.

Coin flip or flip: When two players end up all in and their hands have roughly the same equity i.e. it is 50:50 for either to win. AK vs. QQ all in preflop is considered a flip despite QQ having slightly more equity.

coin flip texas holdem

Combo-draw: A powerful draw with a lot of outs to win. For example a flush draw and a straight draw.

Continuation bet: The act of following up your aggressive action on the next street. For example, raising preflop and then betting on flop. See more on continuation betting here.

Cutoff (CO): The cutoff is the position to the right of the dealer button (acts before the dealer). For more information see Position is King.

Domination: You are said to dominate your opponent when you each share one card of the same rank but your second card is of a higher rank. For example, AK dominates AQ as it will win a large percentage of the time (71%).

Downswing: A period of a bad run of luck where a poker player finds it difficult to win. A part of poker which every player must expect. The opposite of an upswing (or hot streak). See an example of a downswing below (after 7500 games).

Double Barrel: To bet two streets in a row, for example, bet the flop and follow up with another bet on the turn.

Draw: A draw is when you are waiting for particular cards to help improve your hand. For example, if you have four cards to a flush you are said to have a flush draw. Similarly, you can have a straight draw when you have four cards to a straight.

Drawing dead: When a player can no longer win the pot no matter what cards come on the turn and river. AK would be drawing dead vs. 99 on a 962 board as even hitting two Aces or Kings in a row wouldn't make the best hand.

Equity: the percentage chance you or your opponent have of winning the pot. For example, AA has over 80% equity vs. a lower pocket pair such as QQ or TT.  See our pot equity tutorial for more details.

Equity realization: Having equity is great but in some cases with difficult to play hands (for example K8o) you will not be able to realize that equity because the hand is difficult to play. See equity realization for more info.

Expected value: expected value is the predicted value of a particular move (such as calling or raising). It is calculated using the value of each outcome multiplied by the probability that each outcome will occur. For more information see Pot Odds, Equity And Expected Value.

FloatingCalling a bet with a speculative hand with the plan to bluff to win the pot on a later street. Typically this strategy is use to exploit weak opponents who will only bluff once before giving up on the pot and folding to a bet. Floating is more successful in position as you have the opportunity to apply more pressure to your opponent plus you will have more information while action in position.

Fold equity: The percentage chance you have of winning the pot due to your opponent folding to a bet or raise. For more information see this detailed article.

Full ring: The classic Texas Hold'em format. A maximum of 9 players may sit as this table type.

Freeroll: A tournament which is free to enter and offers a prize to the winner(s). A freeroll can also be used to describe when two hands of the same rank are all in but one hand has an additional way to win. For example, both players have KQ and are all in on a JsTs5c board. However, one player has a flush draw to complement his straight draw and thus is said to be freerolling –  he can only draw or win, not lose.

Gut-shot (inside straight draw): A draw which has four outs to the straight. For example 76 on A53 board –  a four will complete a straight.

GTO – GTO or game theory optimal is an unexploitable poker strategy based on mathematics and Nash Equilibrium that has arisen in the last number of years. When playing a GTO strategy you cannot be beaten in the long run, only break even against another GTO strategy. The use of unexploitable strategies have been accelerated by the use of GTO solvers such as PIOSolver. For more on GTO strategies and solvers see PokerNerves article.

Hero: When discussing the hand online, the player whose cards are known is said to be the hero.

Heads Up Poker: Playing poker against one opponent in a 1vs1 situation. For more on heads up poker see heads up poker strategy- adjusting to your opponent.

HUD (Heads up display): A HUD is a display which is used in online poker which provides information on opponents.

Isolate: To raise with the intention of singling out a single player after they have entered the pot. Typically isolation moves are performed vs. weaker players after they have limped into the pot.

Kicker: A kicker is used to break ties between players when they have hands of the same rank. For example, the kicker for the hand AK on an A72 board would be the king. The king kicker means that AK would be a stronger hand than AQ – in this case, AQ hand is out-kicked. See this article for more on kickers.

Limping: Limping is the act of calling a pre-flop bet when the pot is unopened. For example, a player is first to act under the gun (UTG) and calls the big blind. See this article for why limping is a bad strategy.

Middle position (MP): Middle position is the 2nd position to act after the cards are dealt in 6max (after UTG) and the 3rd and 4th position to act in a full ring game (9 players). For more information see Position is King.

Nuts: The nuts is the strongest hand possible. The ultimate nuts is the Royal flush as this can never lose. However, some hands won't always be possible, and therefore the nuts is referred to the strongest possible hand on the current board. For example, the nuts on a KT9 board without a flush possible would be QJ.

Offsuit: Two cards which are not of the same suit. For example AK with Ace of Diamonds and King of spades (often shortened to AKo).

Open-ended straight draw (OESD): A draw which has eight outs to the straight. For example 76 on A54 board –  a 3 8 or will complete a straight.

Outs: The number of cards which could potentially improve your hand strength. For example, with QJ on a T92 board, we have eight outs to a straight (4 Kings and 4 Eights) and we have six outs to top pair (3 queens and 3 jacks).

Outdraw: When your opponent had a worse hand than you, but his hand improved to one better than yours on future streets. For example, a flush draw would ‘outdraw' a one pair hand if the turn or river completed the five card flush.

Overcard: this is when you have a card which is greater than the highest card on the flop or turn. For example, AQ has one overcard on a K52 flop and has two overcards on a T52 flop. Overcards are important as they give us an opportunity to make good a hand on later streets.

Overpair: When you have a pocket pair which is larger than the highest ranking card on the board. For example, KK is an overpair on a Q52 flop.

PFR (pre-flop raise): A HUD stat which shows how often a player raises when entering the pot. Typically range from 12-22% for winning players depending on the game type.

Postflop: The later rounds of betting which occur after the flop is dealt. See Texas Holdem strategy for more on playing postflop poker.

Pot Equity: This is the percentage chance that you will win the pot at any given point in the hand. It is how much of the pot ‘belongs' to you. For example with KK pre-flop, you will have approximately 80% chance of winning (equity) vs. QQ. For more information see Pot Odds, Equity And Expected Value.

PLO: PLO or Pot Limit Omaha is a poker game type similar in structure to Texas holdem although you are dealt 4 cards instead of two and are limited in bet size to the pot. Check out PLOQuickPro for pot limit omaha strategy.

Pot Odds: This is the odds that are being offered to you to call when facing a bet or raise. If you are confronted with a half pot bet, you are offered odds of 2:1 (you have to call 1 to win 2). See our poker books page our review of Essential Poker Math by Alton Hardin for all the basics of poker math, including pot odds.

Preflop: The round of betting which occurs straight after the card have been dealt. See Texas Holdem strategy for more on playing preflop poker.

Rainbow: When there is no possibility of a flush draw on the flop or turn due to all cards being different suits.

Rake: Rake is a percentage of the pot that a poker room or casino will take to play for the dealer, services, etc. Rake is how the poker room or casino generates profits from poker games. See this page for how rake works in poker.

Rakeback: This is the refund a poker play may get from a poker room or casino when a certain amount of play has been completed (hours or hands played). Rakeback is similar ‘tax-back' which is returned to good customers of the poker site.

Range: A group of holdings you think your opponent may hold. See poker hand ranges for beginners.

Shorthanded: When the number of players falls below five on a table, it is considered to be a shorthanded table.

Set: A set is three of a kind with a pocket pair in the hole. For example, a set of sixes would be 66 on a KT6 board. Sets are stronger than a standard three of a kind because you cannot be outkicked.

Sit n go: A tournament which begins when enough players sit down on the table (rather than starting at a specific time of day).

Sit and go poker

Small blind: The small blind is the forced bet which the player one seat to the left of the dealer has to place before seeing his cards. The value of the small blind is typically half that of the big blind. For more information see Position is King.

Suited: Two cards which are of the same suit. For example AK of hearts (often shortened to AKs)

Tell: Unconsciously giving away a piece of information to your opponent. For example, a shaking hand may mean a good holding.

Trap: To play in a manner which disguises the strength of your hand. For example calling preflop with AA instead of raising. See examples of traps here.

UTG: The first player to act after the cards are dealt. For more information see Position is King.

Villain: Often used to denote out an opponent in an online discussion. For example, the villain makes a big call with a weak hand.

VPIP (Voluntarily put in the pot): A HUD stat which shows how often a player puts money into the pot by raising or calling voluntarily. VPIP is a measure of how many hands a player plays. Typically range from 15-25% for winning players depending on the game type.


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That's it for poker 101 terminology. Check out the next poker 101 page – Basic Preflop Strategy  – to find out more.