1. First round of betting
The player to the immediate left of the big blind opens the betting, and may check, raise or fold. Betting proceeds in a clockwise manner until it reaches the person who paid the big blind. This player may:
• Check, if nobody has raised.
• Raise, to try to edge players out of the round or to show the strength of their hand.
• Fold, if their hand is too poor for the stakes.
If nobody checks or raises during the first round, the player who placed the big blind wins and no community cards are dealt.
2. Second round of betting – the Flop
After the first round of betting, the dealer places the first three community cards on the table, face-up, which any player may use to build their hand. But before this, the top card from the deck is “burned” – that is, discarded by the dealer. This time, the first player to the left of the dealer starts the betting, and may check or bet (folding isn’t worth it at, as the fourth card can cost nothing). Betting continues clockwise as previously, with attention to any raise limits agreed before the game began.
3. Third round of betting – the Turn
The reason for the name of this round is obvious – it really can “turn” the course of the game, with a the chances of a hoped for hand fading, or heavy betting from a particular player. The latter might be a warning sign; did they get a lucky turn card? Did they get nothing on the flop, then see a good hand with the turn? Did they have a good hand on the flop and were seeking to disguise it? Or did they have a pair from the start, which has now become something much more valuable? Whatever the truth, betting on the turn (after the dealer burns a card) proceeds in the same manner as in previous rounds.
4. Fourth round of betting – the River and Showdown
With the round reaching its conclusion, the dealer burns one more card and deals the river – the fifth community card. Betting is carried out as in previous rounds, after which comes the showdown. At this stage, the last player to raise or bet must be the first to show their cards, unless everyone checked, in which case it is the duty of the player who started betting in the round. The player with the best hand from seven cards (two of their own and five on the board) wins.
But don’t worry – you won’t be in for any marathon sessions or all-nighters when you start your journey into poker. Online games have time limits, and even in real life players don’t take kindly to one of their number dawdling. In short, playing free poker games for fun will not be as time-consuming as you might expect, and certainly not as drawn-out as the tense riverboat games that you might have seen in the movies.