Most of the time when you’re at the casino, it’s you against the house. Not so with poker. In this game, it’s you against the players at your table – and if you’re in a poker tournament, the players at all the other tables, too. The house takes a fee, but after that, your edge in skill over your opponents can translate to big money.

There’s still an element of chance, though. No matter which variant of poker you’re playing, the cards you start with are dealt at random. The most popular form of poker these days is no-limit Texas Hold’em, the game they play in the Main Event at the World Series of Poker. Other popular variants include Omaha and Omaha Hi/Lo. All three games are available online at Ignition Casino.

In Texas Hold’em, each player receives two cards, face-down, then a round of betting begins. No-limit means you can bet all the poker chips in front of you if you want. Once that round of betting is over, the dealer will reveal three community cards (the flop), and the players bet again. Then a single turn card is dealt, followed by more betting, and the fifth and final community card (the river) is revealed, with one more chance to bet. Whoever has the best 5-card hand on the river wins the pot, using any of the five community cards and the first two hole cards. Standard poker hand rankings apply.

Know When to Hold’em

In order to encourage betting, each hand starts with two players contributing money to the pot. If the stakes are 25c/50c, that means the small blind will put in 25 cents worth of chips, and the big blind will put in 50 cents. Pre-flop action begins with the player to the left of the big blind; that position is known as under the gun. Whoever’s under the gun has the option of calling (putting in the same amount as the big blind), raising (putting in at least twice that amount), or folding and waiting for the next hand. Then the action proceeds to the next player, moving clockwise around the table. The positions themselves move one seat after every hand to keep things fair and balanced.

In each round of betting post-flop, the small blind is first to act, making it the toughest position in poker – everyone else gets to respond to that player’s decisions, which is highly valuable in a game of incomplete information. There are situations in poker where the players involved in the hand get all their money in before the flop is dealt, or before the turn or river; if this all-in situation occurs, the remaining community cards are revealed, then the winner is declared. You can also win the hand without going to the river, if everyone else folds first.

Omaha is very much like Hold’em, but you start with four cards instead of two, and in Omaha Hi/Lo, the pot is split between the player with the highest-ranking hand and the player with the lowest hand – if there is one. It takes a while to learn the rules and get comfortable with the flow of the game, and figuring out a winning strategy takes even longer, but you can play for pennies or even for free when you’re starting out. If you put the time in and get good enough at poker, those pennies can turn into $1,000 chips.