Poker Practice and Terms – Part2

Lending Money This is the next worst thing to borrowing money. By all means make up your own mind about it, but remember the odds are poor for getting paid back. Even when you do get the money back it can lead to undesired results. I once loaned someone £50 and sure enough I got it back, but a few days later I was asked for a loan of it again. It was repaid again, but asked for again, and so it went on until eventually I did not know who owned the £50 – me or the person who had borrowed it and seemed to have it more often than I did. In fact, eventually the person was asking me for the loan of his £50. So a good rule is:
Don’t lend money, it is an even quicker way to lose friends than borrowing money!

Mistakes The winner in the long term is the player who makes least mistakes. So when luck is against you, stay calm and play your normal game. If you lose your cool you will start to play badly and make more mistakes.

Novices You should never bluff a novice – they don’t know the true strength of their own hand and are too likely to call.

Over the Top No, it is not being totally outrageous – in poker parlance it means re-raising an original raise. In particular, it usually refers to re-raising someone you think is bluffing. So if you think someone is ‘on the steal’ (bluffing), and you and this opponent have both got lots of chips, why not try going over the top. Beware though – it is best done against only one opponent, if there is a third party that person may have a legitimate hand.

Power Play Power play is a term used to describe playing hands in an aggressive way. There are different styles of aggression and different times when it is appropriate to be aggressive. Some players like to play aggressively with hands like A-A, K-K and A-K – that is, raise and re-raise by the amount of the pot or more if it is no-limit play. Other players will raise to reduce the field at a loose table before the flop, as the value of one’s hand goes down the more callers there are, but they will take the risk and not re-raise hoping that they will get a caller after the flop. This second tactic is more risky. In most cases, it is probably best to use power play and re-raise. Some players don’t like to be pushed around and will always come ‘over the top’ and re-raise with these hands. An aggressive style of play is most generally considered to be the winning way. But it is not the only way so don’t be a slave to dogma and try to develop your own style.

Rocks A rock is the type of player who only enters a pot with the very highest grade of hand. You can easily spot rocks because they tend to sit a long time without playing a hand. An average player might play one in three hands, whereas a rock will play one in ten. Be very wary if this type of player enters the pot with you and be even more wary if the rock says something like ‘let’s gamble’. What the rock means is for you to gamble because be assured in this case that the rock will have a premium hand. By the way, a ‘rock garden’ is where there is a whole table of rocks. My best advice here is if you see a rock garden, make a run for the door!

Selection of Hands It’s the cards you don’t play that make you a winner – you must know when to throw them away.

Slow Playing This is where you bet a small amount with a strong hand in order to get more players into the pot and to deceive them as to the strength of your hand. It is often a bad strategy unless you have a blockbuster of a hand. Therefore, always make your opponent ‘fold’ or ‘pay to play’, never give a free card. It is often said that you can slow play a nut flush but not a nut straight.

Tight Play This means playing conservatively and only getting involved with strong hands. It is generally the right strategy, but a better piece of advice is to play tight at a loose table and loose at a tight table. A loose player plays too many hands, perhaps as many as eight in every ten. The advantage of playing tight at a loose table is fairly obvious, it means you can exploit the other players weaker than average holdings. But what about playing loose in a tight game? Well in a tight game there is more opportunity to bluff and play with a bit of creativity and flair.

Weak Players There is a well-known saying in poker circles, ‘If you look round the table and have not spotted a mug within twenty minutes, then it has to be you.’



Poker Practice and Terms – Part1

Before you think about sitting down at a poker table there are several fundamental things that you should keep in mind. If you forget them you will be at a disadvantage before you start. For the sake of helping you to remember let’s call these tips the guide to poker practice.

Alcohol Alcohol does not help you play better; it only makes you enjoy losing (that is until you wake up in the morning). So, your first guiding principle should be: Don’t drink and play.

Bankroll Poker players call the money they use to play poker with their ‘bankroll’. There is a saying in poker circles’ don’t play with scared money’ – that is, don’t play with money you cannot afford to lose. If you do you are liable to play’scared’ and not give of your best. Believe me on this one, it is very difficult to call a bet when you know that if you lose you won’t eat next week. This leads us to guiding principle number two: Play poker, particularly cash poker, only with money you can afford to lose.

Borrowing Money This is related to the point on bankroll. If you lose all of your playing cash don’t borrow from other players. Remember that there will always be another game tomorrow and you don’t have to reach into your pocket for more money, or worse still borrow from friends. If you do start on this route you will soon run out of friends. It is not often I get a chance to quote Shakespeare, but this one is from Hamlet: ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. This above all to thine own self be true.’

Control It is important to have the discipline to be able to get up from the poker table if things are going badly and just go home a loser. If you are playing in poker tournaments do so with the intention of limiting the number of re-buys you have and exercise control. Thus, the fourth guiding principle is to have control of your emotions. Not many players are good at controlling their self¬destructive urges – if you can, you will immediately have an edge over your rivals at the poker table.

Cheating Deceit is an integral part of playing poker. In many ways it’s what makes the game interesting, but it can spill over into cheating. Games run in European and US casinos are well managed and as a result cheating is rare at the poker table, but it does happen. Therefore, be wary, especially in home games. One form of cheating which is very difficult for the casinos to spot and hence to control is collusion between two or more players. This is where players are playing out of the same bankroll and may be communicating with each other via signals. So be vigilant.

Do’s and Don’ts Do bet weak hands at high-stakes poker if you think there is a good chance you will not be called, but don’t call with the same strength of hand. By betting in the first place your opponent indicates he has a strong hand. Another similar rule of thumb is don’t call a bet unless you would call a raise.

Guard Your Hand I mention this one in the section on rules. Occasionally, a dealer will think a hand has been passed, because the player has seemed to push it away. These hands will be scooped up and put in with the other discards and the cards cannot be retrieved. It is each player’s responsibility to guard his own cards. This can be done by being alert and/or putting a chip on top of live hands. Take care though that this behaviour does not produce any tells.

Home Games You can leave casino games whenever you feel like it – you are under no obligation to play on, even if you are a big winner. Remember if it had been the other way round and you had lost all of your money you would have had to leave. However, some home games have rules (often not overtly stated) requiring winners to play on for a specified time. Usually, a winner will declare that he is going home in an hour’s time or whatever. This is no bad thing in home games as most do not have a lot of players and games can break up if a few winners leave. In any case, if someone comes into a home game, plays a few hands, wins a big pot and then leaves ten minutes later, believe me that person will not be popular. Do it two weeks in a row and you will never be invited back.


Part 2

The Flop in Poker

Your Hand                 Flop

KC, KH                      QD, 6H, 3S

Any time you have an overpair to the flop it is usually favourable. You should get plenty of action from anyone holding a queen with a good kicker. The only real danger on this flop is trips. If somebody raises you, it’s a judgement call on your part which of the two they have – queen with good kicker or trips.


Your Hand                 Flop

8D, 8H                      KH, 8S, 3S

This is an excellent flop. Only three kings beat you at this stage. If somebody has three kings, there’s really nothing you can do except lose your money. Only world champions are capable of throwing away middle set in Texas Hold ‘Em. If someone bets, raise. If you bet and are raised, you might as well put all your money in and hope they put theirs in. If they’ve got a flush draw, you’re about a 3 to 1 favourite to win. Good luck.


Your Hand                 Flop

AS, KS                       AH, 8D, 3S

Any flop to ace-king containing either an ace or a king is generally favourable. If you bet in this example, many players with A-Q or A-J (or even A-10 or A-9) will raise, giving you an ideal opportunity to get all your money in with only a slim chance of being outdrawn. The main danger here is somebody playing an A-3 suited or an A-8 suited. Since a lot of players will play any ace, you’ll often run into two pair. Remember also that whenever an ace flops, there’s always a chance of a straight on the next card. (This is because the ace plays at the high and low end of a straight. If you don’t believe me, put out a flop containing an ace and any two random cards. You can always find a card that will complete a straight). So, in general, play your hand strongly to discourage people drawing against you.


Your Hand                  Flop

KS, QS                       QD, 9S, 5S

Here you have top pair with a good kicker and a king-high flush draw. Although you don’t have the best possible kicker, or the best draw, because you have both covered you can never be drawing dead. In other words, if somebody is playing against you with the ace-flush draw, you don’t want a spade to fall, but your queens are winning. On the other hand, if someone has ace-queen or trips, you are behind, but you have a lot of cards that can win the pot for you.
This two-way hand illustrates a general principle. If you are considering committing all your chips (in a tournament or cash game) try to pick a spot where, if you are behind, you still have a fair chance to win. A good example for not committing all of your chips would be the following:


Your Hand                   Flop

AS, AC                        9D, 8D, 7D

If an opponent bets into you here, what should you do? If it were for my whole stack, I would pass. It’s true you may be ahead. He may have only the bare ace of diamonds, or a hand like 10-9, giving him a pair and straight draw. In these cases, you still have a good chance to win. However, if he has a flush or a jack -10 for a straight, you are almost dead. In a situation where you are either slightly ahead or way behind, pass. It doesn’t matter that you’ve got pocket aces which are the very best starting hand you can get, just pass them – it’s allowed.


Your Hand                   Flop

6S, 5S                         JH, 5D, 5C

Here you’ve flopped the bottom two pair. This is probably winning, but you must play your hand on the flop. If there’s a bet, that player probably has a jack or an overpair. You’re winning, so get your money in. The worst thing that can happen to your hand is for another jack to fall on fourth street. If that happens, your two pair are worthless (actually you’ve got three pair) and, if there’s a bet, you must pass. In addition, any connecting card to the jack (8 through queen) is dangerous as is an ace. So raise and hope your opponent passes. If your opponent does call and one of these cards falls on fourth street, be careful – your opponent may have made two pair.


Your Hand                    Flop

AS, 10S                        10D, 10H, 3C

This is a big flop to your hand. You have trips with the best kicker and it is very unlikely that a player will have stayed with a 10-3. Hopefully, you’ll get action from somebody with K -10, J -10 etc. Few players will lay down the other 10 in these circumstances and you have little chance of being outdrawn. Your only real worry is somebody with pocket threes who has turned what is described as the ‘underfull’ (full house to the lowest card on the flop). If that happens there is not much you can do about it, so it’s back to the drawing board.

Poker – Big Pairs

Aces, kings and queens before the flop, although great to have, can sometimes present problems in terms of playing them optimally. Queens in particular are another classic Hold ‘Em trap hand which many inexperienced players tend to overplay. If another player raises before the flop, it is OK to call with two queens, but re-raising is asking for trouble in a pot-limit or no-limit game. If the raiser has aces or kings, you are a big underdog and if he has ace-king, a likely hand for him, you are only a slight favourite. In a tournament, if you were down to a short stack (i.e. had very little money or chips left) or your opponent had a short stack re-raising wouldn’t be wrong but I don’t encourage it. Everything I have said about queens applies with even more emphasis to a pair of jacks. Those players who are desperate to get all their money in before the flop with a pair of jacks are putting their bankroll in serious jeopardy.
Kings are safer, but can still be a tricky hand to play. A raise from another player normally merits a re-raise to shut out the rest of the field but what if he then raises again? Unless he is a maniac, he probably has aces, or maybe ace-king. If you are playing a tournament, especially a freeze-out tournament, it is questionable play to commit all your money early on before the flop with two kings against an all-in raiser.
My own experience of holding two kings has been mixed. Four times in two years in tournaments and cash games, I re-raised with two kings and was immediately re-raised. None of my opponents were particularly tricky players. In each case, I was about 90 per cent sure I was up against pocket aces. But two kings is a tough hand to throwaway. All four times, I called, against my better judgement, and each time my opponents had aces. Of course, maybe I’m just unlucky. You sit there all night never being dealt two cards that hang together. Finally, after four hours, two kings come along. You raise, he re-raises. You put all your money in and, sure enough, you end up looking at two aces.
So it is an option to pass or fold two kings, just don’t tell anybody you’re doing it! Just throw them in quietly without making a fuss. If you show your hand to your opponent, you are telling him that you are giving credit for aces, which he might not have had. Also, the other players at the table might think you are playing too cautiously or conservatively (to use poker vernacular, ‘too tightly’) and start bluffing you out of pots.
What about aces? It is wonderful to be dealt A-A as your two hole cards, but do you put all your money in or not? Remember that, in a tournament, staying in is the most important thing, so I’d be more inclined to play A-A aggressively. For example, if one player raises and another calls, I would almost always re-raise, but against only one player, I’d be more tempted to just call, which is a deceptive play and will lead your opponent to think you have a lesser hand. Aces usually want only one player to play against. If you’re against three or four, there is every chance one of these players will hit something on the flop to beat you.
Some of the best players I’ve seen are players who have just called with aces behind a raiser. They are hoping the raiser gets a little help on the flop. Say he might have a king-queen. If a king or a queen comes on the flop, the raiser will probably bet. The player can now raise with the A-A and hopefully win a big pot. If the player had re-raised immediately before the flop, the original raiser (if he’s a half-decent player) would probably have thrown his hand away.
The drawback here, of course, is that the original raiser might get too much help on the flop and hit the front. If the flop came king-queen-three, in the above example, probably only a world-class player would be able to get away from A-A without serious damage.
But really the main ‘purpose’ of having two aces in Texas Hold ‘Em is to have them beaten, so that you can have a ‘good’ hard luck story (called a’bad beat story’) to tell your fellow players at the bar!

Playing Your Poker Hand – The flop


What to Do after the Flop’s Out

1.lf you have nothing, get out.
This simple rule will save you a lot of money over your poker-playing lifetime. But a lot of players violate it. If you have queen-jack of hearts, a good starting hand, and the flop is the king of diamonds, and the 6 and 3 of spades, get out. Throw your hand away and wait for the next hand.

2. If you don’t have much, get out.
This is a harder rule to follow than the previous one but it’ll probably save even more money. For example, you have a 9D, 8D and the flop is QC, 8H, 3D, i.e. all of different suits (called a ‘rainbow flop’). The optimist in this position sees a pair and a back door flush draw. But if someone bets the pot, representing a pair of queens, or better, where are you? You need to hit a 9 or an 8 for an immediate improvement, which still may not win. If a diamond comes, that gives you a four flush, but your opponent, if he’s a quality player, is likely to bet the pot again. Do you want to call a pot-size bet with only one card to come? I suggest not.
After the flop, you have seen five cards out of seven or 70 per cent of your hand. It is usually a weak play to call on the flop, only to pass on fourth street if there’s another bet.
As a general rule, then, inside straight draws, back door flush draws, second or third pair, or even top pair with a weak kicker, are better off in the muck (that is, you are better to pass them). Of course, if you have a strong suspicion your opponent may not have a solid hand or is attempting a bluff, that’s a different matter.
David Sklansky introduced the concept of semi-bluffing into the language of poker and it is now part of the lexicon of table talk. This is a hand that you are betting with which you hope will not be called, but if it is called, still has a chance to win. So, in the hand above, for example, you might bet your pair of 8s as a semi-bluff if your opponent checks to you, showing weakness. You hope he folds, but if he doesn’t you still have a number of ways to win. This is better than a pure bluf( where you have no hand at all. If your opponent calls in the latter case, you know for sure you have lost your chips. Note that a semi-bluf( by definition, can only be made if there are still cards to come, as you are hoping your hand will improve.

3.lf you’ve hit something, and you like it, bet it.
Say you’ve played a small pair and now you’ve hit trips. You should usually bet here. For example, if you’ve played pocket 4s (two 4s in the hole), and the flop comes 10-9-4, I would definitely bet. This applies particularly if two suited cards come on the flop which means somebody might have a flush draw. If you checked this type of hand and the next card is, say, the jack of the same suit, your three 4s don’t look so good any more (the jack could have made your opponent a flush or a straight). It’s always tempting when you flop a big hand, to check and hope somebody else bets, or check and hope somebody catches something on fourth street that gets them involved. But unless you are against a very aggressive player, who nearly always bets if he is checked to, it is usually safer to bet to protect your hand. If you get raised, of course, you have to re-evaluate your hand – it might be second best, but don’t let the fear of being raised stop you from betting.

Playing Your Poker Hand – Position and the flop

Position means how far round the table you are in relation to the dealer. The nearer the dealer you are (on the dealer’s right), the better off you are. The dealer has the best position of all as he gets to act last on each betting round (except the first).

Having to act first is a major disadvantage in Hold ‘Em. Say you have raised with an ace-jack, and have hit nothing on the flop. What do you do if you are first to speak? If you bet out, you take the risk of being raised by those behind you who have made good hands. If you check, those behind may bet forcing you to fold. However, if you had that same ace-jack on the button things are vel)’ different. If you make a strong hand, you are forcing the others to ‘bet into you’ (i.e. bet before your turn to act) and if you flop nothing, and somebody bets, you can then pass, risking nothing.
Generally then, the earlier your position, the better your hand needs to be before you should enter the fray. In a tough game, with many people raising before the flop, expect to’pass’ (i.e. fold) nearly all your hands in the first two seats in a full game. Ace-jack and ace-10 offsuit, for example, are definite non-starters here. As are ace-small suited and small pairs (say 6s and below). If you call with two 6s and somebody raises you, what do you do? If you call him, you are seven to one against to make trips on the flop. Anything else and you’ll have to check (unless you attempt a bluft), thus handing the initiative to your opponent! He does not even need a pair to bet. He has position and this is all that is needed.
If you do call with, say, ace-jack suited or ace-queen, in an early position, and a solid player raises you, I would recommend folding because there are too many uncertainties. If an ace comes, do you bet into him or not? He might have ace-king. Better not to get into this dilemma in the first place. I am not advocating tight or conservative play here, just solid, sensible play, which is something completely different.

The Flop and Beyond

The person who invented Hold ‘Em came up with a fantastic idea in deciding that the first three cards should be dealt at the same time. This means that the flop is the defining moment in the hand. In five or seven-card stud, where cards are dealt one at a time, the value of your hand changes slowly. In Hold ‘Em, a strong hand before the flop can be made almost worthless on the flop, while an innocuous-looking hand before the flop can turn into a monster. Hence the expression often heard around Hold ‘Em tables, ‘any two cards can win’. So, 7-deuce? (Deuce is a term for 2.) No problem, but only if the flop comes 7-7 -deuce. In reality, any two cards can win, but it is much more likely that A-A will win than say 7 -4 and it is on the likelihood or chance of a win that you risk your money.


Part 2

An Introduction to Gambling

Gambling is as old as the human race, and as all encompassing as passion, anger and joy. But in many places around the world, casino gambling brings with it a different feel and experience to other forms of gambling. In the UK, it currently involves small, private, “members only” casinos, free-standing machines in pubs, restaurants, clubs and on ferries, a wide selection of betting shops and extensive Internet gambling when players can bet on anything and everything. There is currently a proposal before Parliament that would expand the scope of casino gambling to make it much more like the Las Vegas experience in the US and other parts of the world.

So what is it that makes gambing so pervasive in human nature? Every choice you make in life is a gamble. When you are finally old enough to make your own choices, you gamble with your future with every decision you make. The choices you make each day in real life are easily translated into the choices you make at the casino.

Luck is, of course, the essential element in casino gambling. Sure, you can mitigate that factor by understanding the odds and the most favourable ways to play the games, but you can’t eliminate it.

Similarly, luck plays an enormous role in your life. You can get a good education and be totally prepared for your career but, if you don’t meet that one key person in your professional life, or you don’t get an unexpected break, you may only be moderately successful.

Unlike gambling, where the decisions on the various games will break even over the long run, you can’t depend upon real life to “even up”. Bad luck can dog an individual his entire life, for reasons unknown to anyone except for a higher being. Don’t expect things to turn around because you are due for a break. You have to make your own breaks.

When you’re gambling and losing, the natural inclination is to try to do something to win. That can often be the worst strategy. By continuing to gamble, you’re risking more of your money, and you have a greater than average chance of losing. Why? Because now you’re playing with “scared money” – that is, money that you never planned to risk, but now believe you must. Because it’s more than you planned to risk, your decisions will often be suspect, you will play more emotionally than rationally and expose yourself to some very harsh results.

The same is true in life. If things aren’t going well for you on a particular project, for instance, you can get angry. Anger never makes it better, it can only make things worse. And when you get angry, emotional, exasperated or you feel that you simply don’t care, you are going to lose … and that also applies to gambling.

It doesn’t matter how much time or money you’ve invested, either. If you’re playing blackjack, and you have to make a difficult decision, don’t think about how much money you’ve lost already. It doesn’t matter, and it certainly won’t affect whether you win or lose that particular hand. If it affects how you play, you’re in bad shape.

Let’s take the stock market as an analogy. Suppose you purchased stock in a particular company for £5,500. Now suppose that company suffered some downturns that no one anticipated, bringing your stock down to £2,750. But another investor is willing to pay you £4,500 for that stock. You don’t want to take that offer because you believe you’ll be losing £1,000. But if you accept his offer, you’d actually be picking up £1,750. It doesn’t matter what you paid for the stock initially; it only matters what it’s worth at the moment you get the offer. Make the decision on that basis, not on past events.

Betting in Poker – Part3

After everyone remaining has exchanged there is another betting round, which proceeds along the same lines as the first, except that the rule is that the player who has opened the betting before the draw always speaks first. At the end of the second betting round, the remaining players show their hands and the person with the best poker hand wins the pot. (This will be the first time in the playing of the hand where players get to see any cards other than their own.) If one player has made a bet that nobody calls, he wins the pot without showing his cards.
In the previous example at the start of the second betting round there is £106 in the pot and the betting might proceed as follows:


Here player C was first to act (because he opened the original betting) and checked, player F bet and player B folded, player C then raised, even though he had already checked (this is called a ‘check-raise’). Some people consider a check-raise to be unethical and some home games prefer not to allow it, but it is allowed in all games held in casinos. Player F then chooses to call player Cs raise although he had the option to raise again. Indeed if both chose to they could have continued raising until one or other ran out of money. Once the last bet or raise made by either player has been called by the other, they then show their hands and the one with the best five-card hand wins the pot, which has now reached £146. This is called the’ showdown’. There are often more than two players involved in a showdown. Note that at any stage if one player makes a bet that the others do not call th~n that player would win the pot without having to show his cards. 

That’s the mechanics of the betting dealt with. In the above example, all of the bets were in units of £10 but the limits you place on the game you play is up to you. You might allow units of say £5 before the draw and £10 after or simply allow any amount between £1 and £10 to be bet at any time (but bear in mind that a raise must always be at least as much as the original bet). Usually in a fixed limit game there is a constraint of one bet and three raises per round to prevent two players constantly re-raising each other and trapping a third in between them. To show how this could arise let’s look once again at our example.

 Player                 B                  C                F

Betting Action:                        Bet £10          call

                        raise              re-raise         call

                        re-raise          re-raise         call

                        re-raise          re-raise         call

                        call                call

Total bet            £70               £70               £70


Put yourself in the position of player F. It is probable that he would have been happy to just call the first £10 bet and have a showdown. But because the other two players are constantly re-raising each other, player F has to continue to meet the extra bets or fold, losing any chance of winning the hand. On this occasion, player F has had to put in £70, but with the restriction on raising described above, the most he can be forced to put in to have a showdown would be £40, i.e. a bet of £10 and three raises of £10 each. Of course, when only two are left they can raise and re-raise as often as they like.

Betting in Poker – Part2

At the end of the first completed betting round then, the action has moved from player A (the player on the dealer’s immediate left) to player B then to player C and so on back to player B. The action ends at player B because he is the last to match all of the previous bets and raises. After the betting round there are three players remaining in contention for the pot. They are players B, C and F and they have each contributed £31, including their antes. Player E contributed £11, but has folded giving him no further claim to the money he has already put in the pot, in the same way players A and D have each lost their £1 ante. Therefore at the end of the betting round there is £106 in the pot.
All of this looks complicated on paper, but in reality it is easy to grasp. But be sure you understand how a betting round works, because the same principle applies to all types of poker game.
It is interesting to note that at this stage in the game in the example above, each player has only seen the cards that were dealt to him and can only guess what the other players have. However, there are clues to what a player’s hand is, and these clues are identified in the bets that the player makes. Several tentative conclusions can be drawn just from the bets alone in this betting round. Firstly player A had a poor hand, so he initially checked and when later he was faced with a bet he folded his cards. Player B initially checked but then called’ a bet and a raise and then subsequently-he called a re-raise, so he must have liked his hand to some extent. Player C made the first bet, called a raise and made a re-raise of his own, so again he must have liked the hand, possibly thinking it to be the best hand at this stage. Player D folded at the first opportunity, so he most probably had ‘a very poor hand. Player E called the initial £10 bet but none of the subsequent raises, so it is possible that he considered his hand to be of moderate value. Player F called the initial £10 bet and then raised £10, so he must have liked his hand, but he only called player Cs final re-raise rather than raising again himself, so he may have had doubts about whether his was the best hand at that stage.
After this first betting round player F, the dealer, then asks the remaining players, starting from the one on his left, how many cards they want to change. By the way, in cases where the dealer h~s folded early in the progress of the hand, he would still continue with the job of dealing and controlling the action. Remember it is the dealer’s job not only to deal the cards, but also to control the action. Each player, when asked, tells the dealer how many cards he wants to exchange. This exchange of cards is called the draw. A player can keep the original five cards, or change up to five (some poker schools allow only a maximum of four to be changed). The dealer exchanges his own cards last and announces how many cards he is changing, e.g. ‘dealer takes three’. He makes this announcement so that the other players know how many cards he is exchanging. It is important that every player knows how many cards each other player has exchanged, because this is another way that one gains information on the strength of an opponent’s hand. An extreme example to illustrate this point is to consider a player who decides to change none of his cards. You could make the reasonable assumption here that the player had a strong hand (you might also think it was possible that the player could have a weak hand and intended to bluff – but this sort of consideration is left for later in the book). By contrast a player who changes all five cards at the draw will undoubtedly have a worthless starting hand. The cards are dealt from .the top of the remaining deck, that is, folded cards are not reincorporated as part of the deck. For this reason, usually draw poker games are limited to seven players to avoid running out of cards. The cards that have been folded are put, by the dealer, into a separate pile beside the pot, and near the centre of the table. These cards are collectively known as the discards or colloquially as ‘the muck’. Thus folded cards are said to have been discarded or mucked.

PreviousPart 3

Betting in Poker – Part1

At the start of the poker session the players cut the cards to decide who will deal first: the person with the lowest value card is the first to deal. The job of dealer in poker is very important, for not only does he shuffle the deck and deal the requisite number of cards to each player, but he is also in charge of the game during the period of the deal. The dealer will ensure that each player acts in his proper turn and puts the right amount of money into the pot. Play starts with the player on the dealer’s immediate left and progresses in a clockwise direction. This means that the dealer enjoys the advantage of being able to bet last. After the first hand has been dealt the role of dealer passes to the player who is sitting on the immediate left of the original dealer and then to each player around the table, again in a clockwise direction, so that all players can enjoy this benefit.

Before the cards are dealt, everyone contributes a small amount to the pot: this is called the ante. This makes sure that there is some money in the pot for the players to fight over at the start of the hand. Once money has entered the pot it can only be taken out again by the winner of that particular hand.

After everyone has anted the dealer shuffles the deck and offers it to the player on his right to cut. Then he deals one card from the top of the deck to each player, starting with the player on his left, dealing clockwise and finishing with himself. He does this five times in all, so that everyone has five cards. It is important that the cards should be cut, because it is one way to reduce the risk of cheating. Sometimes at the start of the session, the players might also cut to determine the seating arrangement, but in most home games people sit where they like at the table. The relative seating positions of players at the table is important for several reasons, some are prosaic but some are tactical.


The Betting

The first player to act in a draw poker game is the one to the immediate left of the dealer. His options are to check (meaning to make no bet at this stage) or open if he likes his cards. To indicate a check, players can say ‘check’ or simply tap the table. When betting it is usual to announce the amount you are betting, so everyone is clear about what you are doing. Then the option passes to the next player. Once somebody has opened the betting however, those behind can no longer check. They must fold (throw their cards away and take no further part in the hand), call (put in a sum to equal the bet to stay in the game) or raise (increase the bet). So when a player is calling a bet, he puts in the same amount of money as has already been bet. If he is raising he must say/raise’ and put in the amount of money required to call the bet plus an additional amount of money for the raise. Except when a player is all-in’ (see below for a definition) the amount of his raise must be at least as much as the amount of the bet. So if the bet is £10, the raise must be at least £10. Thus the player making the raise would have to put £20 into the pot, £10 to call the bet and another £10 to raise. All players must have put in the same amount of money in order to stay in the game. In the following example I have kept all of the bets in units of £10, apart from the antes (£1) for simplicity. This would be called a £10 limit game, because the bets are limited to a maximum of £10.
At the beginning of the betting round there is £6 in the pot (made up of a £1 ante from each player). The dealer was player F, meaning that player A is first to act. To begin with players A and B both check, player C opens for £10, so
now all subsequent players must call this £10, raise or fold. Player D folds and thus takes no further part in this hand. Player E calls by matching the £10 bet. Player F raises £10 and to do this he must first match the £10 bet and then put in a further £10 for the raise, making £20 in all. Note that all players must put an equal amount of money after each betting round to remain in contention for the pot. So as Player F has now put £21 in the pot, players A and B are each required to put in £20 (as they have only put in £1 each at this point) in order to stay in the game. However, player C only needs to put in £10 to call (because he has already put in £10). Player A decides to fold, but player B calls the £20. Player C decides to re-raise a further £10, but of course first he puts in the £10 to call, making £20 he puts in at this time. So now all subsequent players must put in the difference to equal the £31 total contribution that player C has made to the pot. Player E, who would have to put in a further £20, decides this is too expensive and folds, player F calls player C’s re-raise of £10, as does player B.

End of part 1, click for part2