Poker is not a hard game to learn how to play. It is, however, a difficult game to master.
In poker, for the most part, there are only a few rules to the game, so playing ‘perfect strategy’ in terms of what hands to go for and whether or not to stay in on a pot really isn’t the hard part. Getting good at poker means learning how to use the intricacies of the game to your favor, like reading your opponents, using your bluffing skills and knowing when to cut your losses or feed the pot.
Poker Game Rules
This might seem like common sense, but it’s surprising how many people sit down at a real money table and aren’t even sure what a hand is worth. It’s also surprising how many people have no idea how to play a particular type of poker, yet happily lose money at it without knowing the rules in full. If you need help with hands and/or game rules; read up first:
Learn the Odds of Making Your Hand
Make sure you know not only what hand beats what, but how likely a hand is to come up at any given time. It’s one thing to know that two pair isn’t as good as a Flush – but it’s just as important to know what the chances are that your opponent actually has that Flush dealt. This will help you read a bluff.
You should be able to determine the likelihood that you will improve your hand (before it’s completely dealt) and the chances of your opponent having a hand that beats it. If you don’t, how do you know when to stay in the round and when to fold?
Learn to Calculate Pot Odds
Every time you’re required to feed the pot you should be asking yourself – what’s the pot value versus how much money I have to put in? It’s simple risk management – if you have a 1 in 10 chance of taking a pot, but a 1 in 20 chance of having the winning hand on the table – fold!
Over the long run, you’ll win more money if you stay in on games where the chance of taking the pot outweighs the risks.
Don’t stay in every hand!
It goes along with assessing the amount in the pot, but starts earlier than there. If you’re dealt a hand full of crap – fold! Provided you’re not bluffing, why put in any more money than you have to when the odds are against you. The reason most people stay in on a bad deal? ‘Because it’s boring to fold and wait for the next hand.’ That’s not something you’ll hear a professional player say, ever.
The exception to this is the occasional bluff. It’s still not wise to stay in without a decent hand if someone else has initiated the raising and appears to have a hand. However, if you never put any money on the table without having 4 of a kind first, people will eventually figure it out. When that happens, the pots will be small on your winning hands because people will know to fold.
Find people that aren’t as good as you!
It’s simple, there are people at different skill levels for every game – why play against the pros? If you can find a table full of people that you can beat – play there! Poker’s about winning money, not trying to match your skills for the biggest challenge.
Bluffing in Poker
Bluffing is the act of raising the pot in a round of poker in the hopes of making other players fold, without actually having a good hand to back up the bets and/or raise(s).
For example, playing with a group of friends you’re dealt a pair of two’s – but there’s no-one else raising on the table, so you raise the maximum amount and fake a quick smirk as if impressed with your hand. The 2 people left on the table decide to cut their losses rather than feed the pot and fold. You win with a lowly pair and rake in the pot. That’s bluffing.
Why Should Someone Bluff?
Assuming proper poker strategy is played, bluffing is actually the one factor that turns poker into a true game of skill. It serves two main purposes:
It allows you to win hands even when you’re not dealt a ‘winning’ hand.
It allows you to win bigger pots when you are dealt a winning hand.
Lets explain. As in the example above, you can see how it’s possible to win a pot even when you’re dealt squat – there are times when the players around you don’t have much of a hand either and would rather fold and cut their losses than for the win. Of course, you don’t have to have an awful hand to bluff – you’re just assuming that you don’t have the best hand at the table (if you think you have the best hand, you’re not bluffing now are you? :).
You’ll need to bluff occasionally to get bigger pots out of the table. It’s simple actually if you only raise when you’ve got a good hand – it doesn’t take long for other players to notice and act accordingly. Sure, your good hands will still win the pot, but if everyone folds on your first raise you won’t be winning much – so players need to believe you’re at least capable of bluffing.
But that’s the beauty of bluffing – you can do it so many ways. You can act like someone that doesn’t bluff and then turn into one that does, and watch people fold on your worst hands. You can intentionally bluff too much then watch everyone feed the pot not knowing you have four aces in your hand.
No single bluffing technique will work at any given time, it depends on who you’re playing with and whether they’ve caught on! Try to mix up your strategy before people get wise to you.
Don’t be too predictable. In some cases, you’ll want to appear predictable to get players doing what you want, but if you don’t change your habits from time to time you’ll start losing fast.
Bluffing doesn’t usually work when there’s a packed table of people still in on the hand. Don’t expect 5 other players to fold on your pair of 2’s, chances are someone has a good enough hand to stay in.
People are less likely to fold in split pot games like Hi/Lo because they’ve got a better chance of winning half the pot than they would in a ‘winner takes all’ game. This is especially true for Hi/Lo, when many players will qualify for a low hand. Bluff accordingly.
Know when to fold ’em. It’s inevitable that you won’t win every hand that you’ve bluffed on – sometimes your opponents will have strong enough hands to stay in no matter how much you raise. It’s a bad habit to fold every time a player raises your bluff (unless you want people to know every time you’re bluffing). At the same time, it’s bad for your stack of poker chips to follow all your hands through when it’s obvious you’re going to lose.
Bluffing in Online Poker
There’s no denying that there’s more intricacies to bluffing when you’re playing with people face to face, as your gestures, demeanor and what you say can all play a part in your bluffing strategy (or determining other peoples bluffing habits). When playing online poker you don’t get to ‘see’ people, so bluffing is reduced to your actions on bets and raises throughout multiple hands. Still – it plays an essential part of any poker game, so be sure to make it part of your game, online or off.
Poker Hand Rankings
The five highest cards, the 10 through the Ace, all five of the same suit. A royal flush is actually an ace-high straight flush. Which suit it is doesn’t matter in poker. Two people with royal flushes would tie.
Any five cards of the same suit in consecutive numerical order. Our example shows a five-high straight flush.
Four of a Kind
Four cards of the same denomination. Our example shows four jacks with a deuce kicker.
Any three cards of the same denomination, plus any pair of a different denomination. Ties are broken first by the three of a kind, then the pair. Our example shows sevens full of threes.
Any five non-consecutive cards of the same suit. Our example shows a queen-high diamond flush.
Any five consecutive cards of mixed suits. Ace can be high or low. Our example shows a six-to-ten straight.
Three of a Kind
Three cards of the same denomination. Our example displays three of a kind, fours.
Any two cards of the same denomination, plus any other two cards of the same denomination. If both hands have the same high pair, the second pair wins. If both pairs tie, the high card wins. Our example shows two pair, eights and fives.
Any two cards of the same denomination. Our example displays a pair of nines. In a tie, the high card wins.
If no other hand is achieved, the highest card held wins. In our example, the king of hearts is the high card.
How Casino Poker Tournaments Work
Casino Poker Tournaments are a great way to immerse yourself in an intense day of poker. Most tournaments operate by charging a buy-in and a fee generally noted like this: $100+$10 – which means you pay $100 toward the prize pot and $10 to the poker room for hosting the tournament.
Once the players have bought into the game, each player receives the same number of chips and regular poker play commences and goes on until 1 player has won all the chips. That player takes the prize pot.
To make sure the tournament progresses faster blinds increase at predetermined intervals, which range anywhere from 15-60 minutes depending on the structure of the tournament.
Fun Poker Facts
Whether you consider yourself good or bad at poker I’m sure you’ll enjoy these fun facts about poker.
Playing cards were invented in China
A fifth suit was added in 1937 but never caught on because people had to buy all new decks
At least 65,000,000 Americans regularly play poker
Dead mans hand is Ace’s and Eights
Getting dealt 10 , 2 is referred to as Doyle Brunson because he won back to back World Series with the hand.
In the 1800’s, 2,000 to 2,500 riverboat gamblers played poker on American Waterways, By contemporary accounts, no more than four of these poker players were honest all the time. A straight beat a flush at this time.
Las Vegas Casinos are not legally obligated to pay off there gambling debts
Due to French Influence, Spades represent Royalty, Diamonds represent Merchants, Clubs represent the peasants, and hearts represent the clergy.
Edmond Hoyle lived to be 97, but diesd 150 years before Poker was invented.
Playing cards were introduced in Europe in the 1300’s
When Columbus landed in 1492 in North America, his men plucked wide leaves from trees, drew pictures on them and played cards.
Historians generally agree that Bill Hickock was a lousy poker player.
Groucho Marx got his name from carrying his poker money in a “grouch bag”
Former President Richard Nixon won $6,000 playing poker in his first two months in the U.S. Navy during WWll. That’s roughly equal to $42,640 in 2004 dollars. He used that money as well as more poker winnings to finance his run for the U.S. Congress in 1946, for which he won.