Poker Game Rules

Poker is the name given to a number of card games where players wager on the strength of the cards they hold. Poker is a game that involves a communal "pot" consisting of the players' wagers, which is awarded to the player who either holds the highest ranking hand when all the cards are shown, or makes a wager which their opponents are unwilling to match.

PokerStars Texas Hold'em poker games are offered in No Limit, Pot Limit and Limit varieties. For a detailed breakdown of poker hand rankings, visit our poker hand ranks page.

PokerStars offers a wide variety of poker games with different rules – Community Card games such as Hold’em and Omaha, where everybody shares part of their poker hand; Stud games where each person is dealt cards, some of which are hidden and some of which are face up; Draw games where each person is dealt five cards but can exchange some or all of them for new ones; even High/Low Split games where the pot is divided between the best ‘high’ and ‘low’ hands.

All poker games begin with some forced wager over which poker players compete. In Seven Card Stud, there are two forced wagers, an ante and a bring-in. In other games, the forced wagers are a small blind and a big blind (and sometimes also an ante). In any basic poker game, players strategically wager using a number of actions available to them. The actions are as follows:

  1. CHECK - If there is no wager on the current betting round, a player may check. The act of checking passes the action to the next person, immediately clockwise from the player. A check does not forfeit interest in the pot, only the current right to bet. If all active players check during a round of betting, the round is considered complete.
  2. BET - If there is not yet a wager on the current betting round, a player may bet. If a player bets, the player immediately clockwise from him or her (and any subsequent players) may fold, raise, or call.
  3. FOLD - The act of folding forfeits all interest in the pot. A player who folds is not required or allowed to wager any further money during the current poker hand, but cannot win that hand either.
  4. CALL - If there has been a bet on the current round of poker play, a player may call. The act of calling requires the player to match the current bet made by his or her opponent(s).
  5. RAISE - If there has been a bet on the current betting round, a player may raise. The act of raising requires the poker player to match the current bet, and then make a greater one. All subsequent players are required to call the raise or raise again ("re-raise") to maintain interest in the pot.

On each betting round, betting continues until every player has either matched the bets made or folded (if no bets are made, the round is complete when every player has checked). When the betting round is completed, the next dealing/betting round begins, or the hand is complete.

If the last bet or raise on the final betting round is called, a "showdown" occurs. This is when it is determined who wins the pot,as players show their hands one-by-one. It may be the case that there is no showdown. This occurs when a player bets or raises, and no active players choose to call the player's bet (in other words, all players fold). In this case, the player doing the betting or raising wins the full amount of the pot.

At the end of the hand, players remaining have options regarding the showing of their hand:

  • Muck winning hand

    If there’s only one player left in the hand before the showdown, they can choose to either show or not show their cards. If you prefer to never show your cards in this situation, check the ‘Don’t Show Winning Hand’ option in the ‘Options’ menu of the main lobby. If this option is not checked, you will be offered the option to show after each winning hand.

    If the hand goes to showdown, the winning hand is always shown automatically.
  • Muck losing hand

    At the showdown, players whose hands cannot beat the best hand shown so far can choose to show or not show their cards. If you prefer to never show your hand in this situation, check the ‘Muck Losing Hand’ option in the ‘Options’ menu of the main lobby.
All players dealt into a hand have the right to see mucked hands that reach the showdown, on request. At PokerStars, these cards are shown in the Hand History and Hand Replayer for each hand. Mucked cards will only be shown to players dealt into the hand. To see Hand Histories from the current session, go to ‘Requests’ > ‘Display Instant Hand History’ in the lobby. To replay any hand, click ‘Visualize’ from the Instant Hand History window, or click the red ‘replay’ icon at the top of the table. Real money hand histories can also be requested by email, by going to ‘Requests’ > ‘Hand History’ in the main lobby.

Basic Poker Play: Table Stakes and All-In

All games on PokerStars are played "table stakes", meaning only the chips in play at the beginning of each hand can be used to bet and raise during the hand. The table stakes rule has an application called the "All-In" rule, which states that a player cannot be forced to forfeit a poker hand because the player does not have enough chips to call a bet. A player who does not have enough chips to call a bet is declared All-In. The player is eligible for the portion of the pot up to the point of his final wager. All further action involving other players takes place in a "side pot", which the All-In player is not eligible to win. If more than one player goes All-In during a hand, there could be more than one side pot.

Poker has hundreds of variants. PokerStars features the most popular poker games in the world. For more information about these poker variants, visit our Poker Room page.

If you need further help in learning poker basics for all our poker games, please do not hesitate to contact us directly at Play poker at PokerStars for fun or for real money. PokerStars is the largest poker room in the world. Play with the best, download our poker software now!


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