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Most online casinos insult you with popups and spam, and they give you the hard sell even if you just want to try their free-play games.  Fortunately there's Bovada, which is the opposite.  That's the primary reason they're the only online casino I accept advertising from.

  • No registration required.  Most casinos let you play for free with fake money, but there's a catch: They make you register an account first.   That's not just a hassle: after you register you can expect them to badger you by email trying to get you to deposit real money.  But Bovada lets you play right away without forcing you to register an account.  Just close any registration boxes that appear, and then you can play without registering.  Here, try it.
  • Plays right in your browser.  If you'd rather not download the casino software to your hard disk, you don't have to.  The games play right in your web browser.  Nice.
  • Works on Macs.  The play-in-browser games are MacOS compatible!  Before Bovada, Mac users were pretty much out of luck for gambling online, even for free-play.  Not any more.

Bovada's not perfect, but there's no better site serving most of the U.S.

Visit Bovada

Gambling problem?

  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.

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Gambling problem?

  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.

Poker Hand Rankings

How to figure which hand wins in poker

Name of Hand Example
Royal Flush 10♦ J♦ Q♦ K♦ A♦
Straight Flush 7♦ 8♦ 9♦ 10♦ J♦
Four of a Kind 3♦ 3♠ J♦ 3♣ 3♥
Full House 9♣ 9♥ 4♣ 4♥ 4♦
Flush 9♣ Q♣ 10♣ 4♣ 6♣
Straight 6♣ 7♥ 8♣ 9♦ 10♠
Three of a Kind 5♣ 5♥ 5♠ 9♦ 8♠
Two Pair 4♣ 4♥ 7♣ 7♦ Q♠
Pair 9♣ 9♥ 5♣ 4♦ 3♠

In each of the examples below we'll compare just two hands at a time to keep things simple. But in real poker there are often three or more players left standing at the end of the round who compare hands to see who won.

The cards can be in any order. It doesn't matter what order the cards are dealt. A pair of nines dealt as (9 3 8 5 9) is just as good as a pair dealt as (9 9 3 8 5).

 

1. Card Ranks. Two is the lowest card, Ace is the highest. The face cards from lowest to highest are Jack, Queen, and King, which we abbreviate J, Q, K. When each hand has the same high card, you look at the next-high card. If both hands have the same top two cards then you look at the third card, etc.

Queen beats Jack        

       
K9 beats K7        

       


2. Pair. A pair is two cards of the same rank. If multiple players have pairs, the high pair wins. If two players each have the same pair (e.g., 5,5 and 5,5), then you look at the highest card in each hand, as we saw above with Card Ranks.
Pair beats a single card,
even if the pair is ranked lower.
       

       
High pair wins        

       


3. Two Pair. If one pair is good, two pair is better.
Two pairs are better than one        

       
This is a tie.        
Both hands are equal.        


4. Three of a Kind.
Three of a Kind beats two pair.        

       


5. Straight. Consecutive cards. An Ace can count as either the lowest card (A-2-3-4-5) or the highest card (10-J-Q-K-A). If both hands have straights, the higher straight wins. Remember that the order of the cards doesn't matter. We showed them in order below just to make it easier to see.
Straight beats three of a kind. When comparing multiple straights, the highest straight wins.        

       


5. Flush. All cards of the same suit. If both hands are flushes then you look at card ranks, as usual.
Flush beats a straight        

       


6. Full House. A three of a kind plus a pair. When multiple players have full houses, the highest rank wins.
Full House beats a flush.        

       


7. Four of a Kind. Just what it says. With competing four of a kinds, the highest one wins.
Four of a Kind beats a full house.        

       


8. Straight Flush. Hand is both a straight and a flush..Very rare. Ranks break ties, yada yada yada.
Straight Flush beats four of a kind.        

       


9. Royal Flush. A straight flush composed of the very highest cards. Extremely rare. If you got this on a video poker machine you'd win the jackpot, usually 4000 coins.
Royal House beats everything on the planet.        


More Poker Resources

That's the basics. Here are some more resources to continue your study.

Texas Holdem crash course.  Our own guide to learning Texas Holdem.

Charles Bloom's Beginner's Guide. Mr. Bloom has an excellent introduction to Texas Holdem which picks up where this guide left off.

PokerTips.org. A plethora of articles for beginning, intermediate, and advanced players. Good stuff.

Bovada Poker. The best way to learn is to play.  At Bovada you can play for free so you don't have to risk your own money while you're still getting the hang of it. When you're ready to graduate to real money play, they have cheap $0.10/$0.20 limit games that just about anyone can afford.  And the software works on both Mac & Windows.

Poker Listings. All the online poker rooms analyzed, reviewed, and compared. Highly recommended.

The Wizard's tips. There is no more respected authority on gambling strategy than the Wizard of Odds. Check out the Wizard's excellent advice for beginning players.

Strategy for 6-person Holdem. Beat6Max.com offers a wealth of strategies for playing six-person Holdem games. They sorely need a good editor, but hey, it's extensive, and it's free.

See also how to play:


Practice gambling with play money

Before you throw down your hard-earned cash in a casino, PRACTICE FIRST!  Learn the games with play money where it doesn't cost you anything if you lose.  Seriously.

You can play Bovada's games (below) right away without registering for an account.  Most every other online casino makes you give up your email address just to play the fake-money games — ugh.  That's the mean reason Bovada is the only online casino that gets advertising space on my site.  I hope other casinos will eventually start treating their visitors like human beings rather than walking wallets, but until they do, there's Bovada.  One click and you're in.

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