Poker

Poker is a game with glamour. It promises a get-rich-quick scheme for the talented. It’s also associated with debt and gambling addiction. After all, poker is a zero-sum game; the winnings come from the pockets of the losers.

This post will assume you’re already familiar with poker, since I can’t bothered to go into detail on things. There’s lots of different types of poker, but I’ll stick to Texas Hold ’em in this post, since it’s the most popular. Texas Hold ’em is where each player gets just two cards, and there are five community cards.

 

Texas Hold ’em Poker rules

Poker is a game where you bet on your hand winning each round. Everyone’s bet is the same amount – so if you raise your bet by $20, everyone else has to do the same.

You can leave the round by ‘folding’. Then you won’t be able to win that round but you also won’t have to keep up with the betting anymore.

On a round you’ll gradually see what your hand is worth, as cards are turned over. So you may get be holding on tight for a great hand, only to not to get the cards you wanted.

Most of the cards are communal – they’re shared with all the other players. This means you can guess what other players’ hands are, and they’ll be doing the same too. Indeed, to be a good poker player you’ll have to watch carefully when players call or raise. If a player raises it usually means they have a good hand, or are expecting one. Unless you think your hand can beat theirs you should usually fold.

Here’s the stages in a Texas Hold ’em poker game:

  • Each player is given two cards that only they can look at.
  • First round of betting
  • Three community cards are shown (the flop)
  • Second round of betting
  • One more community card is shown (the river)
  • Third round of betting
  • One final community card is shown (the turn)
  • Fourth round of betting

The designated dealer changes person each game. They get a ‘dealer button’, looks like a chip but with a D on it. It’s bad being the dealer because you have to start the game by posting a big blind, i.e. betting a set sum of money, e.g. $50. The player to the left of the dealer also has to post a small blind, which is half of the small blind.

Play goes round clockwise. All players must bet at least the ante, or fold. In the first round, the ante is equal to the big blind. In subsequent rounds, the ante starts at $0. A player can raise the ante by betting more. If you bet the same as the ante, without raising, this is called checking.



Poker tactics

Poker is essentially 2 things:

  • betting a reasonable amount that you have the best hand
  • knocking out your opponents by bluffing

As you go through the rounds, you’ll get a better idea of what your hand is going to be worth at the end of the game. You may start off with an Ace and a King, but find your hopes don’t come to fruition as the community cards are played out.

 

Terminology

(Betting) round – Betting goes around the table until there are no more raises
? – A single ‘game’ consisting of multiple rounds of betting and someone winning the pot.
Round – When all the players have all been the dealer once.

 

Resources

On this page is a table showing how much certain starting hands win, on average. It shows that two aces are by far the best hole cards to have. Indeed, most pairs are a good starting hand. Having an ace is good too.

Starting hands that you can expect to win on are:
Pairs above and including 55
Straights above and including Ace any, K7, Q9, J9, T9
Non-straights above and including A10, K10, QJ

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