Learn How to Play Poker Down Under | Betsquare

Article by Andy Potts
How to Play Poker
Last Updated: Feb 19th, 2024 Share On Your Network:

Introduction to Poker

The origins of poker are shrouded in a rich historical tapestry inspired by several games through the centuries. The roots of poker can be traced back to the 1600s, with a Persian card game known as “As Nas”, incorporating rounds of betting and hand rankings like the ones we see today in all poker formats.

In Europe, the French enjoyed a card game known as “Poque” in the 17th century, which was heavily inspired by the Spanish card game “Primero”, which dealt three cards to every player and encouraged bluffing. In the US, New Orleans and the surrounding area were inundated by French colonials in the 1800s. Many of whom brought over the game of Poque.

Adaptations were made to create the modern-day game of poker we know and love today. By 1834, the game was dealt from a 52-card deck, with five cards dealt to each player – the version we know today as “Five-Card Draw”.

The rebranded game of poker soon meandered its way along the Mississippi River and further inland, eventually becoming a staple game in the saloons of Wild West towns in the late 19th century. Poker was gifted back to Europe from America in 1871 when Queen Victoria was given the rules of the game by the U.S. Minister to Great Britain, and the rest is history.

No doubt, poker enjoys widespread popularity in Australia, capturing the hearts and minds of casual players and seasoned professionals. At the heart of the Australian poker scene are the country’s most prestigious tournaments, including the world-renowned Aussie Millions, attracting a truly global player base.

The allure of poker down under extends way beyond live poker rooms, too, with an abundance of online poker rooms welcoming experienced Australian players and Aussies learning how to play poker for the first time.

In short, Australia has a vibrant poker community, thanks mainly to its televised events and robust online presence. Both reflect the game’s enduring charm and cultural significance across the Australian gaming landscape.

Poker Hand Values

Most poker formats follow the same rankings for hand values, with a Royal Flush considered the pinnacle in the poker hand rankings and a high card being the weakest. Below, we’ll explain each hand in more detail so you know what you’re looking for:


Royal Flush

A Royal Flush is the best kind of Flush you could hope for – Ace, King, Queen, Jack and 10, all in the same suit.

Straight Flush

A Straight Flush is five cards of identical suit whilst also in a numerical sequence, e.g. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 of diamonds.

Four of a Kind

A Four of a Kind is a hand featuring four matching cards, e.g. four Kings, four Aces or four sevens.

Full House

A Full House is a legitimate five-card hand featuring a standard Pair and a Three of a Kind, e.g. a pair of eights and three-of-a-kind Kings (8-8, K-K-K).


A Flush is a five-card hand featuring all cards of the same suit, e.g. 3-6-10-J-A of hearts.


A Straight is a five-card hand of cards in numerical sequence. They don’t have to be in the same suit.

Three of a Kind

A Three of a Kind is a hand featuring three matching cards, e.g. three Jacks, three twos or three nines.

Two Pair

A Two Pair is a hand featuring two pairs of cards, e.g. a pair of Kings and a pair of threes.


A Pair is a hand featuring one pair of cards, e.g. a pair of Aces or a pair of Queens.

High Card

A High Card hand has no matching cards, so your highest-value card acts as the High Card.

Poker Rules and Gameplay

Many say poker is easy to play but much more challenging to master. Below, we’ll explain the basic rules of poker and what’s included in a basic hand to put you in the picture.

Blinds and Antes

It all starts with the dealer button. This moves clockwise around the table after each hand. To the immediate left of the dealer button is the small blind, and to the left of the small blind is the big blind. The small blind pays half of the minimum bet into the pot automatically. The big blind automatically pays one minimum bet into the pot, and then the cards are dealt.

In some games, like the latter stages of multi-table tournaments, all players will be asked to contribute a small amount to the pot before the cards are dealt. This contribution is known as an ante. Antes encourage players to play progressively or risk seeing their chip stack ebb away over time.

Betting Actions

Once every player is dealt hole cards, there are four betting actions players can take pre-flop:

  • Bet – place a bet equivalent to or greater than the big blind.
  • Raise – raise a bet from an opponent acting earlier than you in the hand.
  • Fold – surrender your hand and muck your cards to the dealer.
  • Check – only the big blind can check pre-flop as they’ve already committed chips to the pot (but if a player acting before has raised, the big blind player must call it, raise again or fold.)


The flop is laid out in poker formats where community cards are dealt. This is the first three community cards you can use to make the best possible five-card hands.

After the flop, the same betting actions will be offered. If all remaining players check, they can effectively see the next card – the turn card – for free.

If a player bets or raises an opponent and all remaining players fold, the betting player wins the contents of the pot.

If the game advances to the fifth and final card – the river card – and at least two players are still committed, the hand goes to a showdown, with both players having to show their best five-card hands to the dealer. The dealer then announces the winner, and the chips in the middle of the table are moved to them.

The Role of Community Cards

In some poker formats, you won’t have community cards to work with. Seven-Card Stud is a prime example of a poker game where each player is dealt seven cards – four face down and three face up.

In fact, no community cards are offered in all forms of draw poker games – including Five-Card Draw. Whether you prefer playing with community cards or working with your own cards, it’s personal preference. Playing with community cards requires you to think more about the potential hand ranges of your opponents. That’s because you can see the types of hands the community cards can help to make.

Popular Poker Variants in Australia

When you’re learning how to play poker in Australia for the first time, you’ll need to choose a game format to master first. There are several popular poker variants enjoyed down under. We’ll explain them each in a little detail below:

Texas Hold’em

Texas Hold’em is comfortably the most popular poker format worldwide and retains the number-one spot in Australia, too.

In this format, the end goal is to make the best possible five-card hand using the two “hole cards” dealt to you by the dealer and any of the community cards available for all players to use. No Limit Hold’em is the most popular version, although Pot Limit and Limit Hold’em games are also offered. Pot Limit games restrict bets to no more than the size of the pot, while Limit games have fixed betting limits during each betting round.


Omaha is another poker game with a dedicated player base, especially down under. The dynamics of Omaha are similar to Texas Hold’em, although players are dealt two additional hole cards each, which means players tend to be able to make better hands more frequently in Omaha than Texas Hold’em.

Omaha is also played in a popular Pot Limit format. Like Pot Limit Hold’em, the Omaha version only allows you to bet the size of the pot per round.

Seven-Card Stud

Seven-Card Stud is another poker variant with a rich history. It used to be the most popular version of poker before being overtaken by Texas Hold’em during the 20th century.

Although the aim is the same as Texas Hold’em – making the best possible five-card hand – players are dealt their own cards to work with on each “street” or betting round instead of dealing community cards.

Five-Card Draw

Five-Card Draw is one of the oldest formats of poker you’ll find down under. It’s usually one of the first poker versions you’ll discover as a rookie player. Every player is dealt five hole cards, which differs greatly from Texas Hold’em. Players must then decide whether to continue playing their hands or fold and surrender their ante bets.

The Value of Starting Hands and Table Position

In poker, where you sit at the table can be a game-changer. If you’re one of the last to act in a hand, you’ll get way more information on the strength of your opponents’ hands than you’d have got being one of the first to act.

Imagine being on the dealer button – you get the lowdown on everyone’s actions before you even play your cards. If you’re in an early spot, it’s a bit trickier. You’ve got less info to work with, so you’ve got to be picky about which hands to play. 

Mastering table position is essential as it gives you the confidence to pull off clever moves like snagging blinds to boost your chip stack. The ability to master table position also allows you to control the game’s tempo on your own terms.

When you pair your awareness of table position with an appreciation of the right starting hands to use in early, middle and late position, you’ll be a genuine force to be reckoned with at the poker tables. Premium starting hands include top pairs of aces, kings and queens. Even Ace-King has a swagger about it. Premium starting hands give you a shot at taking down pots quickly and with a minimum of fuss.

Being picky about your starting hands doesn’t mean you’re a poker diva; it’s smart poker. Premium hands give you the edge, increase your odds of success and put you in the driving seat. You’ll not often be dealt these premium hands, though, so it’s important to know what else to play. 

In early position, stick with premium starting hands only due to your limited info on opponents. In middle position, you may consider incorporating lower pairs into your starting hand range, especially if you can see the flop cheaply. In middle-to-late position, consider adding more drawing hands into your range, as you can play these when opponents in earlier positions show weakness, allowing you to try and flop a monster hand like a Flush or Straight.

Basic Betting Strategies for Beginner Poker Players

We’ve already touched upon the main betting actions at the poker table, but now we’ll discuss in more detail when the time is right for each action:

When to Check in Poker

Checking in poker means you don’t want to contribute any further chips to the pot to see the next community card. Essentially, it’s an admission that you’re keen to keep the size of the pot as small as possible. Checking when you have a marginal or drawing hand is usually best. However, a more advanced approach may be to use a check to disguise a very strong hand, also known in the trade as slow-playing.

When to Bet in Poker

Betting in poker means adding further chips to the pot. It means you need to be confident about the strength of your hand. In basic terms, whenever you bet into your opponents, you need to be happy that your hand has showdown value. If all hands went to showdown at that moment, would your hand have a strong chance of winning? Or are you still drawing and hoping to land the one card you need on the turn or river? If it’s the latter, you’re better off checking and keeping the pot small until you have a made hand.

When to Raise in Poker

Raising an opponent’s existing bet is a power play in poker. It’s designed to tell them – and others at the table – that you believe you’ve got the best hand. Raising thins out the field. It scares off weaker players who’ll try and see more flops with marginal and drawing hands. It also means anyone keen to stick around in the hand needs to add more chips to the pot – a win-win scenario if you’re confident about winning at showdown or, better still, if you already have “the nuts”!

When to Fold in Poker

Knowing when to fold your hands at the poker table is not a sign of weakness. When learning to play poker, you must embrace making calculated decisions and playing the long game. Defence is often the best form of attack. Preserving your chip stack for a better hand to bet or raise opponents is always the best policy.

Learning to Read Your Opponents and How to Bluff

Poker is a game of incomplete information, so you must do everything possible to gain an advantage. This includes learning to read your opponents for physical tells and their betting patterns.

Mastering player reads is a poker superpower. First off, you should check the vibe of your opponents. Do they look nervous or unnecessarily fidgety? Do they have a smug smile saying, “I’ve got a killer hand”? A player’s eyes are the windows to their poker soul. It’s one of the main reasons why so many poker players wear sunglasses at live poker tables.

Listen carefully to what your opponents say, too. If they try to appear uber-confident and even vocalise that they’ve got “the nuts”, this is often a move designed to intimidate you into a fold. In many cases, players who try to appear strong are weak.

Pay attention to their betting patterns, too. A sudden shift from cautious to all-in may spell trouble for you. Alternatively, it may spell panic from them, overbetting the pot and bluffing to try and induce folds. You can’t be a mind reader, but you can be a poker detective. Look for any patterns, anomalies or tells to improve your poker edge.

Speaking of bluffing, it’s important to add this skillset into your own poker arsenal, too. To be a successful bluffer, you must confidently sell your story. Mix it up; don’t bluff every hand, as your opponents soon see through you and call your bluffs. Pick your moments; be bold if your opponents are tight or weak. A well-timed bluff is like poker magic – just the right amount of smoke and mirrors!

Common Rookie Poker Mistakes to Avoid

If you’re still reading, the chances are you’re keen to avoid some of the rookie errors newbie poker players make at the tables. Below, we’ll highlight some of the pitfalls to avoid as a poker novice down under:

  1. One of the biggest flaws in rookie poker players is their passive betting style. They are too scared of losing to bet aggressively with their premium hole cards. If you’re too passive, your opponents will notice and take charge of hands, putting you firmly on the back foot.
  2. Getting creative with weaker opponents at your table is a no-no. This includes bluffing. Never bluff the ‘donks’ at your table. They rarely consider the strength of their opponents’ hands. If they’re betting strong, there’s a good chance they’ve got a made hand.
  3. Poker beginners will also tend to feel like a kid in a candy shop. They’ll crave action at the tables and inadvertently play too many starting hands. Sticking to premium starting hands will give you the best possible chance of success.
  4. Beginner poker players rarely value bet, if at all. Some rookies will reach the river card and watch their opponents check to them, only to timidly check too, leading to a showdown. In this scenario, it’d be better to value bet into an opponent’s river check, giving them a decision to make, not you!
  5. Poker beginners also play at stakes too large for their bankroll. Knowing the right games for your bankroll is important to help ride out the inevitable upswings and downswings at the poker tables. We’ll cover bankroll management in more detail in the next section.

Bankroll Management

No poker player can stay the course without sound bankroll management. It’s the bedrock of becoming a successful player long term. Think of bankroll management like your own financial compass, guiding you through the game’s volatility. 

In all forms of poker, there will be upswings and downswings. It’s part and parcel of a game influenced heavily by probabilities. However, by sticking to a strict plan for managing your poker bankroll, you can ensure you have some skin in the game for as long as possible.

Think of your poker bankroll as your lifeline. It’s the capital you’ve set aside solely to enjoy this game. If you’re hellbent on taking poker seriously, here are some simple tips to shape your view of bankroll management in poker:

  • If you’re a cash game player, it’s always best to sit down and play at stakes where you can afford up to 100 buy-ins. If you have $200, you’ll be best served by playing the NL2 ($0.01/$0.02) micro-stakes tables, which have maximum buy-ins of $2 at a time.
  • Multi-table tournaments are even more challenging to win regularly than cash games due to the bigger entry fields to navigate. With that in mind, many of the best tournament poker players give themselves anything from 100 to 200 buy-ins at the entry fees they wish to play. This preserves your bankroll as you’ll inevitably go five, ten or even 20 tournaments without cashing before a big win.
  • Rule number one – always separate your poker bankroll from your living expenses. Poker should never interfere with your everyday finances. It should be fun and enjoyed responsibly.
  • Set yourself a stop-loss from a single poker session. For example, if you lose 5% of your total bankroll in a session, you’ll automatically stop playing for the day and return and play again. This makes it easier to clear your head of the losses and return with a fresh perspective, avoiding the potential for tilt.

Online Poker Vs. Live Poker

Alright, let’s break down the poker showdown: online versus live, Aussie style. Online poker? It’s just like having a 24/7 live poker room in your pocket or office. Online poker rooms are accessible day and night with a reliable mobile or internet connection. 

Online poker gaming also allows you to juggle more poker games than a circus act. Seasoned online poker players will multi-table to improve their hourly win rates. Of course, when you’re learning how to play online poker in Australia for the first time, it’s best to play one table at a time until you’re ready.

Online poker is also well-suited to speed demons. If you’re strapped for time, online poker will be your jam. There’s no waiting around for human dealers to shuffle up and deal. The automated software handles all of this for you.

At the other end of the spectrum is the face-to-face drama of live poker that online poker simply can’t compete with. You must be Sherlock Holmes at live poker tables, watching for reads and tells. By its very nature, live poker also offers a much more sociable poker experience.

When it comes to game variety, online poker sites are veritable poker buffets, with a huge choice of game and tournament formats, whereas live poker rooms offer more of a set menu. In terms of game fairness and integrity, online poker games are powered by independently tested and verified random number generators (RNGs) and algorithms. At the same time, live environments have the “poker police” – CCTV and floor staff keeping the peace. That’s poker, Aussie style, for you – choose your battleground!

Resources for Learning and Practice

If you’re learning how to play poker and master the rules so you can play in a poker room down under or at an Aussie-friendly online poker room, we’ve compiled a list of great reading material that’ll elevate your game. Even if you’re learning how to play online poker in Australia, there are books out there focused solely on the online format:

  • Master Micro Stakes Poker, Alton Hardin
    Hardin’s book is aimed solely at novice poker players thinking of playing 6-max or full-ring cash game tables at the lowest stakes, covering position, hand equity, pre-flop strategy and essential math.
  • The Theory of Poker, David Sklansky
    Sklansky’s Theory of Poker is one of the bibles of poker, covering a host of poker variants, including Seven Card Stud, Five-Card Draw, Razz, and Texas Hold’em.
  • Sit-and-Go Strategy: Expert Advice for Beating One-Table Poker Tournaments, Collin Moshman
    If you’re learning to play online poker in Australia, sit-and-go’s may be your bread-and-butter game of choice. Moshman’s guide explains how multi-table tournament strategies can also be applied to sit-and-go’s.
  • Poker: The Real Deal, Phil Gordon and Jonathan Grotenstein
    This is an easy-to-digest guide to poker, covering the basics using simple anecdotes and examples. It focuses on the do’s and don’ts of poker – largely focused on Texas Hold’em.
  • The Biggest Bluff, Maria Konnikova
    Penned by a poker novice who has sought to master the game herself, Konnikova’s entertaining book also includes snippets of insights from one of poker’s greatest ever players, Erik Seidel.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Within this beginner’s guide on how to play poker and the basics of poker rules, we’ve covered the nuts and bolts of what makes this game so special. The beauty is there’s always something else to learn at the poker tables. Even the most experienced professionals are on a continuous path of development and refinement to optimise their winning potential.

Now, armed with our advice and recommended resources, you can also read up and apply everything you’ve learnt when signing up to Australia’s most popular online poker sites.

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