How Long Does it Take to Learn Poker? A Beginner’s Guide


Every time I meet people who want to learn to play poker, the first question they ask me is usually about how much time it takes to learn the game. This question is by no means an odd or wrong question to ask. Time is of the essence, and while some people want to learn the game for fun’s sake, others are attracted by the promise of big wins and can’t wait to start making tons of cash playing poker.

You can learn the rules of poker in an hour. Learning poker good enough to make money will take some effort, though, but with the right approach, it is possible for everyone. Whichever side you’re on, you’ll find the information below significantly useful.

How long does it take to learn poker? For some players, it may take between 2 to 6 months. With others, it could take a year or longer. The pace at which each player gets to learn is dependent on several factors. Players with coaches are going to learn faster, then comes individual characteristics like player’s work ethic, whether they are slow or quick learners.

There isn’t a set time for all players to learn the game, but with a coach and a willingness to learn fast, a new player should learn to play poker within 3 months.

Graph of 2 million hands from the first few years of my poker career. All thanks go to one website, that turned me from loosing into a winning player.

If you don’t have the extra money to invest in private coaching then your best free alternative is to take the same steps as I did, to become a winning poker player. I joined this website. It is completely free and you even receive free $50 to start playing for real money. After this small shameless affiliate link plug, let’s go back to the article 🙂

Learning to play poker is not a walk in the park; learning to be a good player is another matter entirely. New players will have to learn about the basics of the game, the rules, the hands, the strategies, and other relevant information.

The Basics of Poker

Before I go any further, let’s take a look at the essential information all new poker players should be equipped with before moving to the more technical parts. The basics are easy to learn, and any serious player should get the hang of it without much hassle. The first thing anyone needs to know about poker is that it is a game played most often between two to ten players. The objective of the game is to capture the pot and win a hand. The pot holds the money from the placed bets by the players on the table.

The first action on the table is to choose a dealer amongst the players. A dealer gets to deal the cards and act last during a hand (apart from the preflop). To select a dealer, a player can either volunteer, or the card is dealt to everyone on the table with the player who gets the highest value card emerging as the dealer. The dealer receives the ”dealer button,” which is placed in front of him/her. The position of the dealer is rotated around the table from player to player at the end of each hand.

Note that in casinos and online poker, there is a designated dealer who deals cards. In that case, the player with the dealer button is a ”nominal dealer”, which is kind of an honorary title. it is also known as the button. The nominal dealer still gets to act last in hand, and the button will be passed around as well. After the dealer button has been placed, the player sitting on the left of the dealer button is expected to place a bet in the pot. This bet is called the small blind.

The player sitting next to the small blind is expected to place a second bet, and this bet is called the big blind. The first player on the left of the dealer gets dealt the first card, and it goes clockwise until the player with the dealer button gets his/her card. The cards are dealt face down and one at a time in a clockwise direction until everyone on the table has two cards. These cards are called the hole cards, and they usher in the first betting round, which is preflop.

The Betting Rounds

There are four betting rounds in total. They are the preflop, flop, the turn, and the river. A fifth-round may be required when two players are left after the river. The fifth betting round is called the showdown.

The Preflop

The preflop is the first betting round that comes immediately after the hole cards have been dealt. The players are required to pick up their cards, look at them, and make a decision on their next line of action. The player sitting on the left of the big blind is required to act first, and the option to act goes around the table in a clockwise direction.

Each player can either call, fold, or raise the blinds. In the case of the player who acts the big blind, there are several actions he/she can take, and it all depends on the actions of the other players on the table. The big blind can:

  • Check: This is possible when everyone on the table called the blinds. Checking means the big blind doesn’t have to place another bet to stay in the round.
  • Call/Raise: This is possible when a player has raised the blinds. In this case, the big blind has to match the raised bet or re-raise the bet to stay in the betting round.
  • Fold: The big blind folds when he/she cannot match a raised bet by another player.

The preflop ends when everyone on the table has had a chance to act. The players who folded are out of the hand while everyone who called the bets progress to the next round.

The Flop

In the flop round, the dealer deals the community cards face up at the center of the table. The community cards are three in number, and every player on the table is allowed to use them to improve their hand. The action in the flop is similar to the preflop, albeit with slight differences. The first player to act on the flop is the player sitting on the left of the dealer button. This player can either check or place a bet.

If the player checks, the action moves to the next player in a clockwise direction. If everyone else has checked as well, the flop betting round ends, and everyone moves to the next round. If anyone places a bet, other players on the table will have to call, raise, or fold the bet. The players who have called the new bet or the raised bet( if any) will move to the next round.

The Turn/The River

The turn and the river betting rounds are similar to the flop. The only difference is that only one card is dealt face up at the center of the table. If there are two or more poker players on the table after the river, they move into the fifth betting round, which is the showdown. If all players but one folds a bet during one of the first four rounds, the player who didn’t fold wins the hand and takes the pot.

The Showdown

In the showdown round, players are required to show their cards. It starts from the player who made the bet that was called in the river, if everyone checked the river, the player on the left of the dealer button is expected to reveal his/her cards first. The card revelation moves in a clockwise direction. Players who hold inferior hands to the cards already shown are expected to ”muck” their cards. The hand and the pot are awarded to the player with the strongest hand. If there is a tie, the players tied are expected to share the pot.

Basic Poker Terms

There are several poker terms that every beginner ought to learn and master quickly. These terms are essential to the game because they explain the actions players can take when it is their turn to act on the table. They are:

Bet

A bet is exactly as the term suggests, a bet. When it is a player’s turn to act, and other players have checked before him/her,  the player has the option to place a bet. The bet is an amount of money that is placed in the pot by a player. A player who has a strong hand may bet to lure other players into calling his bet while it could also be a bluff to deceive other players if he has a weak hand.

Continuation bet (cbet): common expression for someone who raised preflop and makes a bet on the flop. This is known as a continuation bet. If the same player continues betting on turn and river, that is also called a continuation bet.

Delayed continuation bet (delayed cbet): happens in the case when a person who raised preflop doesn’t bet on the flop but then bets on the turn.

Call

Calling a bet is merely matching a previous bet. When a bet has already been made during a hand, other players have the option to call that bet or raise it or fold. A call is a minimum act required to stay in a hand. If a player is unable to call/raise a bet, he/she has to fold. A player could also technically go allin if he doesn’t have enough to call, then of course only the amount of which he went allin with would count towards his pot, if he is to win.

Raise

A raise is betting an amount that is bigger than an existing bet. To raise a bet, a player has to bet at least double the current bet.

Fold

Folding involves forfeiting a game when you decide to not match the current bet. Some players fold when they cannot call or raise an existing bet, others fold when they sense that they are playing against a player with a strong hand. In this case, they don’t want to waste their chips, they fold.

Basic Rules of Poker

Like every other game, there are laid down rules in poker that every player has to abide by while playing the game. Failure to abide by the rules could attract a penalty that could involve sitting out a hand or even an orbit (until the dealer button moves around once to the same position). Let’s go through some of the basic rules that are most important to players in the game. Depending on whether you’re playing cash, tournament, or online poker, some of these rules may vary. If you’re hoping to play tournament poker, you may want to check out the poker TDA rules for a comprehensive list. The following actions are common but could get you in trouble in a game of poker:

  • Exposing Your Hole Cards: Players are not allowed to reveal their hole cards during a hand. This rule mostly applies to tournament poker. Poker software prevents you from making this move in online poker while some cash games allow it. When a player breaks this rule often, his/her hand could be declared dead. When done accidentally, the player may lose the ability to make aggressive actions like raising a bet. Many pro players intentionally expose their hole cards to see their opponent’s reaction. If you want to read more about if you are allowed to show your hole cards, I have written a whole article on it. Check it here.
  • Folding out of Turn: It is common knowledge that players can only act when it is their turn. Hence, no player is allowed to fold their hands or make/announce any action before it is their turn to act. Breaking this rule can result in your hand being folded automatically. New players are most likely to break this rule as they struggle to get the hang of the game.
  • Collusion between Players: This is one of the most significant rules that can be broken in poker. It involves discussing your hand with an opponent when a hand is still ongoing. It could also include discussing your hand with someone else via text or email. Breaking this rule would usually lead to a warning at first, but if it continues, the player(s) could be expelled from the table entirely.
    There have been some cases when players were colluding in online games. Luckily most of them get resolved, and players cheating lose their money in their accounts and are banned forever. That money then gets spread among the other players who were involved in those hands.

If you play online poker, you may not have to worry too much about these rules as the computer ensures it prevents you from making them. Yet, it is still essential to know these basic rules in case you ever have to play cash or tournament poker in a casino or a cardroom.

Card Value

Understanding the value of cards is essential to your ability to play a hand. The difficulty in playing poker reduces significantly the moment a player masters the values of the hands. There are a total of five cards in a hand that can be combined in different ways. They are:

  • No Pair: The no pair hand occurs frequently, and it literally means nothing. A player has a no pair hand when neither of the five cards can pair up. Also, none of the five cards are consecutive in rank or of similar suits. When two or more players at the table have no pairs, the hand values for each player are calculated, and the player with the highest card beats everyone.
  • One Pair: In a one-pair hand, three cards of different ranks are joined by one pair. An example is Q, Q, 4, 3, 7. As is with the no pair, this hand is a common combination in poker.
  • Two Pairs: A two pairs hand contains a pair of the same rank and another pair of different rank. The 5th card is of a different rank to the other pairs.
  • Three of a kind: Three of a kind hand consist of 3 cards of the same rank, while the remaining two cards are of different ranks. An example is a hand consisting of three jacks, a four, and a seven.
  • Straight: A hand is straight if you get 5 cards, with not the all 5 in the same suit, but of consecutive rank or in a sequence. An example is 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.
  • Flush: A flush hand presents 5 cards of the same suit but not in consecutive rank. An example of a flush hand is K, 10, 8, 6, 2, all clubs.
  • Full House: A full house is a hand that consists of 3 cards of rank and two cards of a different rank. An example is 8, 8, 8, 4, 4.
  • Four of a Kind: A four of a kind is a high hand that consists of 4 cards of the same rank and another card of a different rank. An example of four of a kind is 3, 3, 3, 3, 6.
  • Straight Flush: When only the standard pack is used, a straight flush is the second-highest possible rank. A straight flush features 5 cards of similar suits and in consecutive rank. An example of a straight flush is J, 10, 9, 8, 7 of hearts.
  • Royal flush:  A royal flush is the highest possible rank in poker. A royal flush features 5 cards of similar suits and in consecutive rank, from highest rank down to ten. An example of a straight flush is A, K, Q, J, T of hearts.
RANK NAME EXAMPLE
0 Royal flush A♥ K♥ Q♥ J♥ T♥
1 Straight flush Q♥ J♥ 10♥ 9♥ 8♥
2 Four of a kind 3♣ 3♠ 3♦ 3♥ J♥
3 Full house  8♣ 8♠ 8♦ 4♣ 4♥
4 Flush K♣ 10♣ 8♣ 6♣ 2♣
5 Straight 5♣ 6♠ 7♠ 8♥ 9♥
6 Three of a kind 10♦ 10♠ 10♣ K♠ 3♥
7 Two pairs J♥ J♣ 3♣ 3♠ 2♥
8 One pair Q♥ Q♠ 4♠ 3♦ 7♠
9 High card/no pair K♥ Q♥ 7♣ 4♦ 3♠

Final Thoughts

There is no set time on how long it could take a new player to learn poker. Also, it is important to note that learning to play poker and mastering the game are two different things. It may take a player within a few months or a year to learn poker, but it takes a lifetime to master the game on several levels.

The more you play, the better you become, and there’s always room for improvement. The best way to learn to play poker quickly is to hire a coach to help work on your strategy, decision making, and teach you how to win regularly. With practicing and good coaching, you can become a decent poker player within a few months.

Maybe you don’t want to invest any money and still want to paly for real money. Or you want to learn the game but don’t have money to invest in expensive coaching. Then you should take exactly the same route as I did. I joined this website. Not only was I taught how to play poker and win at micro stakes for free! They even gave me free $50 to play with. So, in fact, I would never have needed to make a real money deposit in online poker.

Primoz

I have played poker professionally for more than 10 years. I was a winner at every poker format that I played - from tournaments to cash games, both in NL Holdem and PLO. Now my biggest satisfaction is to provide enthusiastic but new poker players with answers to all of their questions.

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