Flop, Turn, River - Playing Poker The Right Way
With online poker having remained popular for the better part of two decades, it is now more important than ever for those new to the game to learn the basics before hitting the virtual felt.
Because while many are drawn to the large sums of money that are available to be won on online poker platforms such as Americas Cardroom or Paddy Poker, the reality is that without taking the time to understand both the structure and philosophy behind some key components of the game, the likelihood of hitting a massive score is, for all intents and purposes, not much larger than going on a lucky streak playing blackjack at your local casino.
So rather than rushing into the game head-first, make sure to take the time to read this blog in its entirety, and work to integrate poker rules and popular poker terms into your strategy ahead of sitting at the table.
Before even buying in for your first poker game, it is worth the time to review poker positions and their popular poker terminology. Poker positions are defined by where you sit at the table in relation to the dealer button – essentially acting as walls that define your boundaries.
The poker positions are listed below from smallest bet, highest position to largest bet, lowest position:
- Small Blind (SB) – The player immediately to the left of the dealer button. This position places a required bet equal to half of a standard bet size before any cards are dealt.
- Big Blind (BB) – The player immediately next to SB also has an obligation to post a full standard bet size prior to receiving their cards – this is also known as “posting the blind.”
- Button (BTN) – The player with position one to the right of the small and big blinds.
- Cutoff (CO) – The player with position one to the right of the BTN.
- Hijack (HJ) – The player with position one to the right of the CO.
- Middle Position (MP1 & MP2) – The two players with position to the right of the HJ.
- Early Position (EP) – The player with position one to the right of MP1.
- Under The Gun (UTG) – The player with position directly to the left of the BB. This player acts first in preflop action.
Poker Hand Strength Hierarchy
It is equally important to study poker hand strengths, so to know which hands are worthy of chasing, and which should be given up.
Poker hand strength rankings are listed below in descending order, from strongest hand to weakest hand:
Now that we have a basic understanding of the setup of a poker game, let’s turn our attention to the structure that every hand of poker must follow.
In poker, the term “preflop” refers to poker actions that take place immediately prior to cards being dealt. In poker, the two players immediately to the left of the dealer must post a bet, with the SB posting half a big blind (the minimum amount required to enter a hand), and the BB posting the full blind amount.
In No Limit Holdem, two cards are then dealt to each player at the table – these are known as the player’s “hole cards” and are the only two cards not shared by everyone. Once everyone has received their hole cards, the first round of poker betting takes place, starting with the player in the UTG position and moving clockwise from there. At their turn, each player must decide between three options: call, raise, or fold. Let’s take a look at what each entails.
Call: to match either the minimum poker bet required to stay in the hand (the Big Blind), or – in the case that someone has already raised the pot – to match whatever the largest bet that’s already been bet.
Raise: to make a poker bet that is at least twice as large as the Big Blind, which all players must match (or raise again) in order to remain in the pot.
Fold: to throw away your poker cards (also known as “to muck”) and forfeit any chance of participating in or winning the hand.
Following the conclusion of the preflop betting action, the first three community cards – known as “the flop” are placed face-up on the poker table. These three cards are shared by all poker players still in play at the table as they attempt to make the best 5-card hand from the combination of the community cards and their own two hole cards.
It’s important to note that in No Limit Hold’em, players are actually not required to use their own hole cards to make the best hand. Meaning that if by the time the remainder of the community board has been flipped over, a player’s best poker hand is made up of all the community cards. They are allowed to use that as their hand, something that is known as “playing the board.” In contrast, in the poker variation Pot Limit Omaha, players must play two (and only two) of their four hole cards in combination with exactly three of the cards from the board.
Once the flop has been dealt, another round of betting commences, starting with the first remaining player to the left of the dealer button and continuing in a clockwise order. Once again, each player has the option to call, raise (or bet if no bets have yet been made), or fold. Additionally, players can “check,” or pass on their option without action, but only so long as no flop bets have yet been made.
Following the conclusion of poker actions on the flop, another community card is set out on the table, this one known as “the turn.” Once again, another round of poker betting takes place. The poker turn order begins with the first player who has not yet folded to the left of the dealer button and proceeding in a clockwise direction. The same rules of betting that applied on the flop continue on both the turn and river, with the round continuing until either everyone has checked, called the largest bet made in that round, or have committed all their chips to the pot – which is known as being “all in.”
Finally, once poker betting action on the turn has been completed, a fifth and final community card is dealt face-up on the table. This card is known as “the river,” and just like with the flop and turn, yet another round of betting takes place, starting with the player immediately to the left of the dealer button and continuing clockwise.
Once poker action has ended on all five “streets,” the players remaining in the hand compare their cards with the player holding the highest valued hand (as described in the hand-strength section above) winning the chips in the pot.
With that in mind, let's recap some common poker basics in our poker FAQ:
What is a flop?
The flop poker definition is the first three cards dealt to players at a poker table. These three cards are shared by all players at the table as they attempt to make their best 5-card hand.
What position is called under the gun?
The player seated to the left of the Big Blind is called “under the gun,” though typically referred to as just “UTG.” Under the gun poker players are first to act preflop.
Is net income the same as net profit?
No. Net profit refers to all money collected, while net income refers to the remaining funds after expenses (aka losses) are factored in. Net profit is sometimes referred to as gross profit.
How to calculate preflop odds?
To calculate poker odds (also known as pot odds), follow this simple three-step process:
- Calculate what the pot size would be after your call.
- Divide the size of the call by the size of the final pot.
- Multiply that number by 100 to get a final percentage.
When studying pot odds, you can make use of a poker flop calculator such as the one from Cardplayer.com.
What is an ante in poker?
A poker ante is a forced bet placed in the pot by every player at the table ahead of the cards being dealt. The purpose of the ante is both to force the action (for example in the event of a tournament where it must be completed by a certain time) as well as to incentivize players to get in the action.
What is the pot in poker?
The pot is the amount of chips in play at any given time during a poker game. A player wins the pot by having the highest-valued hand after the final round of betting.
When can you check in poker?
In poker, a player is always allowed to check (sometimes called “check their action”) if no bets have yet been placed in that round. Checking passes the option of betting to the next player, allowing the checker to see what their opponents will elect to do ahead of making a decision, as well as control the size of the pot.
Who bets first in poker after flop?
The first opportunity to bet after the poker flop goes to the player sitting directly to the left of the dealer or Button – starting with the SB if they remain in the hand and proceeding in a clockwise motion.
What are the 5 cards in poker called?
In poker, the 5 community cards are called flop turn river.
How to play river poker?
The key to profitable poker river play is to have set yourself up on earlier streets by understanding basic poker rules, selecting good starting cards, only pursuing hands when the odds are in your favor, and remaining aware of your opponents’ tendencies that you can take advantage of.
Where is the best place to play online poker?
Two key things to look out for when selecting an online poker platform are how long they’ve been in business and what type of bonuses they have to offer. Fortunately, Americas Cardroom is at the top of the pack when it comes to both factors. Founded more than 20 years ago, ACR is one of the premiere poker platforms to service both American and international players. Additionally, their 100% first deposit bonus provides new players with an edge before they even sit at the table, making it one of the safest and most attractive online poker sites in the industry.