A guide to Texas Hold’em – Part2

Hold ‘Em allows a player to use both his hole cards and three from the board, or only one hole card and four from the board, or indeed he can choose not to use any of his hole cards and instead play the five board cards as his hand. This latter case is known as ‘playing the board’. Thus, if the board cards were AC, KD, QD, JH, 10S all the players left in contention would have the highest possible straight (called the top straight) and hence would split the pot between them. Note that in this case there is no flush possible because there would have to be three cards of the same suit on the board. Similarly, for there to be a full house or four of a kind there would have to be at least one pair on the board.

Here is an example:
              Hole Cards        Flop              4th Street    5th Street

Hand1     AH, KD             

Hand2     AC, QC              AS, 9D, 7S     QD             9S

Hand3     7H, 7C

Hand4     JS, 10S

On the flop, hand 3 is ahead with three 7s (called ‘trip 7s’). Hand 1 is second best with two aces and a king as the next highest card (the king in this instance is called the ‘kicker’). Hand 2 is third best also with two aces but only with a queen kicker. Although hand 4 is last at this stage the player is not without hope as fourth street, turn, could bring a spade card giving a flush or an 8 making a straight. Notice that two of the players are using the same board card (the AS) as part of their hand which is allowable.

On fourth street, there is minimal change in the order. Hand 3 is still ahead, but now hand 2 is second with two pair and hand 1 is third with one pair. Hand 4 is still last, but now any spade, 8 or king will improve this hand to make it the winner.

On fifth street, all five board cards have now been dealt. Each player can use a combination of the board cards and his own hole cards to make the best five-card combination or hand. In this case, hand4 has indeed improved to a flush (five spades), but hand3 has also improved to a full house and wins the pot.

Another example is:

               Hole Cards       Flop              4th Street     5th Street

Hand        AC, KC            KS, 9C, 7C      AD              3C

On fourth street, the player can use the AC and KC from his hand along with the AD and KS from the board to make two pair but on fifth street he can use the two clubs in his hand and the three dubs on the board to make a flush. Therefore, at various points in the play of the hand, the player used different combinations of cards to make the best five-card poker hand.
Remember that poker is a five-card game, so if the board was 10-10-10-10-3, all players would have four 10’s, but the winner of the pot would be the player with the highest hole card. The best possible hand is known as ‘the nuts’, so if the board was KH, 6S, 3D, 4H, 10H the player holding two hearts, including an ace of hearts would have the nuts and win the pot. But if the 3D were instead a 6D, this player would no longer have the nuts, since now a full house or four of a kind is possible. Of course, the player might still win the pot with his ace-high flush, but he would not have the nuts.


Previous article



A guide to Texas Hold’em – Part1

Texas Hold ‘Em (usually just called Hold ‘Em) is the one most commonly played in casino card rooms. Hold ‘Em can be played with only two players or, theoretically, with as many as twenty-two players (this exhausts the number of cards in the deck). In practice, however, it is rarely played with more than ten players due to the size of the table, with six to ten players considered the optimum range.
The first betting round is structured slightly differently from draw or stud. There is usually no ante put in by every player. Instead, the two players on the dealer’s left each put in small initial bets called ‘blinds’. These bets are called blind bets (blinds for short) because they are made at a stage before the players receive their cards. As the deal passes round the table a different two players put in (or post) the blinds. Thus over time every player will post the same number of blinds.
In the majority of casino games there is a house dealer, and to ensure that every player has a chance of sitting in what would nominally be the dealer’s position a small disk or’button’is moved around the table. The house dealer always deals the first card to the player on the left of the dealer button. The player with the dealer button is last to act on every round of betting for that hand, with the exception of the first one where the blinds are ‘live’, meaning that the players who posted the blinds have the option to raise.
The game starts with each player receiving two cards face down. After they have looked at their own cards, there is a round of betting. As the first two players on the dealer’s left have put in bets, it is the third player on the dealer’s left who is first to act and because a bet (blind) has already been made he cannot check. He must call the blind, raise or fold. If the action proceeds all the way around to the players who posted the blinds, without being raised, then these players have the option to raise themselves. If they do not wish to do so, they simply say’no raise’ or tap the table.
Once the first betting round is over, the dealer discards (or ‘burns’) the top card of the deck. It is dealt face down on to the table, this card is called a ‘burn card’ and it is not used in the play of the hand. This is to ensure that cheating is made difficult or impossible to achieve. If the top card was not burnt then players might be tempted to mark particular cards and try and spot them on top of the deck. If the cards are marked, a player who is able to read the backs will know what the top card is and this information could be very advantageous. For instance, if a player had 6-6 in hand and knew that the first card dealt would be a 6, then that player could bet and raise with impunity.
After the first betting round, three cards are turned face up in the middle of the table. This is called’the flop’. After a further round of betting, a fourth card, called the’ turn’ or ‘fourth street’ is turned. Another round of betting is followed by a final face-up card (called the ‘river’ or’fifth street’). The five cards in the centre of the table are collectively known as the ‘board’, After the last round of betting the players reveal their hole cards.


Part 2

Analysis of Poker Hands – Common situations

Hand 1

This hand is an example of a common situation which often occurs in tournament play. A small pair is up against two overcards which is effectively even money on both hands. The hand is between Marty Wilson and Somkhuan Harwood. Based in Wolverhampton, he says he got his nickname ‘Mad Marty’ because of the way he is – one day he is cash rich and the next day he’s got nothing. Somkhuan has been playing for seven years but considers that she is still learning with every game she plays. Her advice to beginners is to get a good teacher. She feels that she has been lucky in this respect, learning a lot from her husband Malcolm, Somkhuan’s ambition in poker is to beat her husband head-to-head in a decent competition (she thinks he would ‘go bananas’) .

Marty hasA-K and, as he is short of chips, goes all-in for £500.

Somkhuan calls with 3-3.

The board comes 10-10-10-6-4.

Somkhuan wins with a full house. For all practical purposes it was even money on both players for the hand, but Somkhuan’s hand held up and Mad Marty has to count himself unlucky.


Hand 2

This is an example of where a player fills a hand by the ‘backdoor’. The hand is between Debbie Berlin and Malcolm Harwood.

Here the flop brings JH, 7H, 6H.

Debbie bets £500 with AH, 10S . This is a semi-bluff as Debbie has a four-flush and one over card. If another player has a jack (making two jacks) or better they are slight favourites over Debbie’s hand.

This turns out to be the case as Malcolm holds 7-7 making trip sevens. Malcolm only calls. Note that this is not another example of slow playing a hand, for although Malcolm is taking the risk of letting Debbie complete her draw, he has to fear that she has made a flush already.

The other players in this pot all pass.

Fourth street brings a 8D, which does not help Malcolm but means that Debbie is now drawing for both a flush and a straight.

Both players check, probably each fearful of what the other holds.

Fifth street brings a 9D, making a straight for Debbie. This straight was completed by the backdoor, as it was made using both of the last two cards and Debbie was originally drawing to the flush.

Debbie bets £1000 and Malcolm wisely passes his trips.

Analysis of Poker Hands – Luck

Hand 1
This is from the semi-final of the second series and illustrates the fact that, despite excellent play, luck can often be a factor. This is a hand between Jonas Slovenia and Ross Boatman. Jonas is the host of a Slovenian chat show and Ross Boatman is a London-based actor well known for his role in London’s Burning. Ross is following in the footsteps of some other (perhaps more famous) actors like the late Telly ‘Kojak’ Savalas and Gabe Kaplan by being an extremely accomplished poker player. The hand developed as follows:

Jonas held AD, KD and raised the bet to £300.

Ross re-raised all-in with AS, KS.

Jonas called.

The board came QS, 7S, 8S, 9H, 3S.

Jonas went out having played the hand (of identical value to Ross’s) perfectly well but having suffered bad luck.

The theme of luck cannot be emphasised too much as it is a factor in all poker games. Over the long term, each individual player gets as much good luck as bad. Hence skill comes into play in that good players will minimise their losses during a run of bad luck but maximise their gains during a good run (or a ‘rush’ as some players would call it).


Hand 2
This hand illustrates one of the most famous recent pieces of poker bad luck. In addition, it illustrates the sort of ‘at the table’ analysis that sophisticated players are able to make. It is the final hand in the main event of the World Series of Poker 2000. This tournament takes four days to play and is the ultimate test of a poker player’s stamina and character.
When the tournament got down to the last two players, T J Cloutier was up against Chris (Jesus) Ferguson, not an unknown in Vegas poker circles, but certainly less famous at the time than his opponent. However, to compensate for this, he had 90 per cent of the chips.
Cloutier soon got to work. A master at head-up play, he had Ferguson on the run. Time after time, he would bet or raise and Ferguson would throw his hand away. Soon, Cloutier was nearly level. Then came the key hand. Ferguson made an initial small raise and Cloutier moved all-in. Ferguson thought for five minutes before calling. (That he was allowed such time might surprise some readers. As stated in the chapter on rules, many card rooms in the UK have a rule that ‘thinking time is restricted to two minutes’. But two minutes from when? Most dealers don’t wear watches. The correct rule is two minutes from when another player requests that a player be ‘put on the clock’.) The dealer should have no authority to put a player on the clock. Thus, if Cloutier said nothing (as in this case), Ferguson could have sat there for half an hour if he’d wanted to. However, even five minutes can be a long time sitting at a poker table when nothing is happening.
He called. The hands were turned over. Cloutier had A-Q offsuit, Ferguson A-9 suited.
I must confess the first time I heard this I thought Ferguson had made a poor call but actually it was quite clever. Here’s why.
I suspect that Ferguson realised that he was up against a superior player (this is something a lot of players would be reluctant to admit). So what does he think Cloutier has? Remember, Cloutier had moved all-in, a bet much bigger than the size of the pot, so he’s unlikely to be bluffing.

1.    A Small Pair This would be ideal for Ferguson, as he’d then be about even money to win the tournament. But would Cloutier go all in with, for example, two 4s?
2.    A Medium or Big Pair This is much more likely. It wouldn’t be a disaster, however, because Ferguson could still hit his ace and win (unless he is very unlucky and Cloutier has two aces). He’d be about two to one against if facing any pair but
3.    Ace-High Kicker A-K, A-Q or A-J. This seems to be most likely. Again Ferguson’s not out of it, though, because he could still hit his 9 and win. Here, he’d be about five to two against.
4.    Two High Cards K-Q or K-J. This seems most unlikely.Cloutier would be more inclined to just call with such a hand. Ferguson would be slight favourite here, though.

Ferguson probably took the view that he could take a stand with his A-9 where he was likely to be at worst, five to two against, or he could keep on folding and let Cloutier ‘ante’ him away. On balance, it wasn’t such a bad decision.
What happened? The flop came K -4- 2. Fourth street was another king. So, on the river, Ferguson needed a 4 or a 2 to tie. But a 9 would win him the tournament and the title of world champion. And a 9 is what came. Ferguson was crowned as champion and received the $1,500,000 first prize whilst Cloutier, who was most gracious in defeat offering the winner his warm congratulations, received a mere $896,500. Nevertheless, Cloutier’s bad luck cost him some $600,000 or £400,000!

Baccarat – Matingale system

One of the most famous – and most destructive – Baccarat systems is called the “Martingale”. It would be a perfect system, but is foiled bv the casino’s insistence on a maximum bet which is common to casino en ligne bonus. The object is to win one unit at a time. The Martingale system counts on the finiteness of streaks; that is, a streak always ends. In baccarat, the Martingale player would bet one unit on either the Banker or the Player. If he wins, he takes his one unit profit and leaves one unit as a bet. If he loses, he doubles his bet to two units. If he loses the two-unit bet, he makes a four-unit bet. If he loses the four-unit bet, he makes an eight-unit bet, and so on, until he wins the bet, making his one unit profit, and reduces the bet back to one unit.
The danger of the Martingale system is that you need to have a huge fund and be ready to risk it for a reward of only one unit. In a £5 minimum baccarat game that would generally have a maximum of £2,000, a streak of ten would wipe out the Martingale player to the tune of over £3,000. That’s a lot to risk for a £5 win.

More typically, a baccarat game carries a £10 minimum, and a £2,250 maximum. In that case, it only takes a streak of seven to induce “gambler’s ruin”.

Seven-Card Stud Poker

This is a development of five-card stud and generally produces a livelier game. In seven-card stud, the players start with three cards each, two down and one up. Then there is a betting round. Thereafter a further three cards are dealt face up, with a betting round after each. The seventh and last card is dealt face down, and is followed by the final betting round. Players who stay to the last card will have three down cards and four up cards. Seven-card stud has five betting rounds and as a result the pots can be quite large. Rather than playing this game for pot-limit stakes, it is not a bad idea to change to half-pot limit.

In seven-card stud, players use the best five cards, from the seven they are dealt, to make their hand (remember, all poker hands contain only five cards). This means, for example, that a hand containing six hearts would only use the highest five to make the flush. A six-card flush does not beat a five-card flush. Similarly, there is no such hand as three pair. Thus J-J-10-10-4-4-2 would lose to K-K-6-6-Q-7-3.

I also suggest you read our article(s) on Five-Card Stud Poker for more information.

Five-Card Stud Poker – part2

Sample Five-Card Stud Poker Hand

In this hand, there are four players – A, B, C, D. Player A is the dealer. The stakes in this game are pot limit and each player has anted £1. Once again you are in the privileged position of being able to see all of the players’ hole cards, which would not be possible in a real situation. The players hold the following after two cards.

Player:                A      B      C       D

Down Card:          3      K      A       A

Up Card:             3      J       A       8

Player C has the highest up card so has to bet. He holds two aces which is the highest starting hand. He therefore makes a pot-sized bet of £4. Player D calls with an ace in the hole, player A calls with two 3s and player B calls with two high cards. There is now £20 in
the pot.

The second up card is dealt and the hands are now as follows:

Player:                A      B      C       D

Down Card:          3      K      A       A

Up Card1:            3      J       A       8

Up Card2:            9      J       10     8

Now player B has the highest up cards so decides to bet the pot. Player C has a choice to make. He does not think that player B has another jack in the hole so is confident that he has the best hand. However, he thinks that if he raises, everyone else will fold and he will only win a small pot, so he just calls. Player D also calls with his two 8s; he is hoping to catch another ace giving him two pair. (Notice that it is better for player D to catch an ace than an 8, because, even though three 8s is a better hand than two pair, the three 8s would be in full view of all the other players who would all fold.) Player A decides that his hand is well beaten at this stage and so he folds. It is good tactics in five-card stud to fold if you are’beaten in sight’, that is if the cards you can see the other players holding are better than yours. This leaves three players and there is now £80 in the pot. 


The third up card is dealt and the hands are now as follows: 

Player:                B      C       D

Down Card:          K      A       A

Up Card1:            J      A       8

Up Card2:            J      10     8

Up Card3:            4      4       K

Player B still has the highest up cards but is worried about what the other two players hold, so he checks. Player C is still confident that he has the best hand, but he decides not to bet the full amount of the pot – he only bets £50 – hoping that the other players will call. Player D knows he is beaten by player B and fairly sure he is beaten by player C so, as he did not get the card he wanted, he folds. Player B now thinks that it is a distinct possibility that player C has got two aces in which case he is beaten so he should fold. However, he knows player C very well and has seen him make a bluff in similar situations in the past. He is also fooled by the fact that player C did not bet the full amount of the pot which he takes as a sign that a bluff is possible. Also player B could still catch a king on the last card and maybe win a very big pot, so he calls.


There is now £180 in the pot and the final up card is dealt as follows: 

Player:                B      C

Down Card:          K      A

Up Card1:            J      A

Up Card2:            J      10

Up Card3:            4      4

Up Card4:            Q     5

Player B is still first to act and makes a snap decision. He quickly decides to bet the size of the pot, that is, £180. He considers that player C might think that he had a Q- J as his starting hand, meaning that he now has two pair. Player B makes his bet and instantly regrets his decision because player C looks as if he is about to call. Then player C hesitates. Of course, he does not know that he has the best hand, otherwise the correct decision is to raise. But he knows player B reasonably well (or thinks he does) and considers that he is not the type of player who bluffs very often. He therefore wrongly decides that player B probably holds two pair or conceivably three jacks. After a lot of pondering, player C folds the best hand. Player B, who has got away with a bluff, breathes a sigh of relief and wins the pot. Note that if player B’s last card had been a 2 instead of a queen then he would have been less likely to succeed with the bluff as player C would not then suspect two pair (Le. a 4 and a J or a 2 and a J are not likely starting hands for him to have). By the same token, however, player C is less likely to have tried the bluff if the final card had been a 2.
Five-card stud can be an interesting game but it can become a bit stale if everyone plays very conservatively and only enters the fray with strong starting hands such as an ace or a king as their hole card or a pair as their first two cards.





Five-Card Stud Poker – part1

In this game the dealer gives all the players one card face down and one face up. Each player looks at his own face-down card, usually called the’hole card’, but of course does not know the value of any other player’s hole card. Then there is a round of betting after which the players remaining in contention receive a third card face up. Those players folding their hand should do so by turning their face-up card or cards face down. They should be careful not to reveal their hole cards to any other player. This is followed by another betting round and the remaining players receive another card face up (often called an ‘up card’). Another round of betting follows. Finally, those surviving the first three betting rounds will receive a last up card. At this point the remaining players will all have one down card (Le. face down) and four up cards. There is a final round of betting after which each player remaining turns over his hole card and the best hand wins. Of course, if one player bets and all others fold, that player wins the pot without having to show his hole card.
Note that at the beginning of each betting round, the player with the highest up card or cards is the first to act. So, in the first round, if the highest card is, for instance, a king, the person holding the king would be first to bet. (If there is a tie for the high card, the first player on the dealer’s left holding the high card would be first to bet because this is the order of play.) On the first betting round only, the high card must make a bet for at least the minimum agreed stake, as a way of getting the game started. On the second and subsequent rounds of betting, the player showing the best hand would be first to speak. For example:

Player:         A       B      C       D

Up cards:     3        J      A       8

                  9        J      10      8

Player C acts first on the initial betting round and he must bet at least the minimum bet. On the second round, player B has a pair of jacks showing which is the highest hand and therefore he acts first. He may check or bet. The action then proceeds in the normal clockwise direction.
Notice that in five-card stud there are four betting rounds compared with only two in draw poker. This is worth bearing in mind when organising a game as the pots are likely to be much bigger for stud at the same betting limits.

Part 2

Pot-limit and No-limit Poker Games

Most cash games in casinos in the UK are played pot-limit. This means that players can bet up to the amount in the pot. As an example, say five players – A, B, C, D and E – each ante £1, making a total of £5 in the pot. Player A is first on the left of the dealer and opens the betting for £5. Player B calls this £5 and chooses to raise the amount in the pot, which is now £15 (£5 in antes, £5 from player A and the £5 from player B) for a total bet of £20. Player C calls this £20 and raises the amount of the pot again, which is now £50, to make the bet to the next player £70. Player D could then call £70 and raise the pot, which would now be £170 to make the bet a total of £240 to player E. Although this is an extreme example it shows how the amounts in pot limit can increase very quickly. So if you are organising a poker evening at home and don’t want anyone to go broke, it’s best to stay away from pot limit. This also applies to no-limit betting, the method used in Late Night Poker. In no-limit, a player can bet all of the money he has on the table in front of him, at any time, regardless of the pot size.

Going All-in

If at any stage of the hand a player does not have enough money to cover a bet, but nevertheless wants to call, he puts his remaining money in the pot and declares himself to be ‘all-in’. Any further bets go into what is called a ‘side pot’, which the all-in player cannot win. He continues, however, to be in contention for the first pot which is called the’main pot’. It is not uncommon for a side pot to be bigger than the main pot. Let’s have a simple three-player example. There is £100 in the pot and player A bets £20. Player B has only £5 left, so he calls for the £5. Player C also calls but for the original bet of £20. Thus, player B will be in contention for the original £100 in the pot plus his own £5 and £5 from each of the other two players. This makes a main pot of £115 with a side pot of £30. Only players A and C are in contention for the side pot, but all three players are in contention for the main pot. 

A Sample Draw Poker Hand

Let’s look at a sample draw poker hand from start to finish. In this example, you will be in the privileged position of knowing what all of the players have in their hands. Of course, in a real game you will know for sure only what cards you hold and will have to speculate about the holdings of other players. However, as already stated, there are clues which will give you an indication of the strength of an opponent’s hand. Clues already mentioned are the pattern of betting and the number of cards a player exchanges, Other clues can be gleaned from a player’s body language (see the chapter on Reading Your Opponent) or from what you know about the player, i.e. what strength of hands he usually plays etc. So let’s get on with the sample hand. In this game there are four players (A, B, C, D). Their hands before the draw are:


A    K(hearts), 7(diamonds), 5(diamonds), 4(clubs), 3(spades) – This is a worthless hand of very low value

B    2(diamonds), 2(clubs), 2(hearts), K(hearts), 5(spades) – This hand has three 2’s, which is very good starting position.

C    Q(spades), J(spades), 9(spades), 7(hearts), 4(spades) – This hand is not worth anythig yet but if he could exchange the 7(hearts) for another spadethen he’d have a flush

D    A(spades), A(clubs), 8(spades), 8(clubs), 4(clubs) – This hand has 2 pairs, aces up, which is a very strong starting position, although it is weakerthen player B at the moment. This hand aces and eights is called "Dead man’s hand".


Player A is dealer, so player B is first to act and opens for £10. Player C has the drawing hand, so calls the bet. Player D has a very strong starting hand and so he raises £10, It is unfortunate for player D that he does not know what player B is holding, otherwise he would not have raised (indeed he might not even have called), Player A, with his very poor hand, folds. Player B, with a very strong starting hand, re-raises. Player C (with his drawing hand) now has a decision to make: should he call the bet hoping to draw the flush and probably win the pot or should he cut his losses and fold? He knows there is a risk that he will be caught between two players who are re-raising each other so he could lose a lot of money which makes him cautious. On the other hand, he is a player who is at the game to gamble and so he decides to take the risk and call the bet (which is now £20 to him, the £10 raise and the £10 re¬raise). He also knows that the one bet and three raises rule applies in this game, so the maximum he would have to put in is £40. Next it is player D who has a decision to make. If he knew for sure that player B had three twos, his correct course would be to fold, but he is not sure. He calculates that player B has a strong hand but it might only be two smaller pairs than he holds. He could re-raise again in this position, but decides that a call is the wisest course.
This leaves three players after the first round of betting, B, C and D. They now have to decide how many cards they should draw. Player B could keep his three twos and draw two cards or keep his three twos and one of the other cards as well and draw only one card, This latter course is what he decides upon, reasoning that by drawing only one card he will make his opponents think that he has only got two pair thus deceiving them about the true strength of his hand. Player C has little choice; he throws the 7(hearts) away hoping to get a spade. Player D has a choice. He could do the obvious thing by keeping his two pair and taking one card – he would be hoping to draw another ace or an eight, giving him a full house. Alternatively, he could ‘stand pat’, that is take no cards, again in the hope of disguising the value of his hand. He would be hoping that the other players would think he had a very strong hand indeed and would fold as a result of him making a bet. However, he has seen that the other two players have each drawn one card, so he in turn draws one card because he does not want the other two players to think he has a very strong hand. He wants one or other to call his bet, if he decides to make one.
The cards drawn by each player are as follows:

Player/Cards kept       Cards drawn

B  2D, 2C, 2H, KH        5D                   – Player B swapped one 5 for another 5, it’s still a strong hand but he now thinks it’s beatable.

C  QS, JS, 9S, 4S         9D                   – Player C has thrown away a 7H but got back a 9D. Hiss hand os now a pair of 9’s, not very strong at all.

D  AS, AC, 8S, 8C         6H                   – Player D has thrown away the 4C but got back a 6H, again it’s no improvement but it’s still a fairly strong hand.


In the final betting round, player B is cautious and checks. Player C could bet here trying to make the other players think that he has a strong hand; possibly they might think he has drawn a flush or a straight. If he did bet here the bet would be described as a’bluff’, that is, he would be betting with a weak hand hoping that the other players would fold allowing him to win the pot. However, player C considers that he would not get away with the bluff and also checks. Player D is encouraged by the fact that the other twoplayers have checked. He counts this as a sign of weakness on their part and thinks it is possible that he has the best hand. However, he knows that both of his opponents are capable of checking a good hand in the hope of ‘trapping’ him and getting him to bet with an inferior holding. Players who use the trapping technique a lot are, not surprisingly, called’trappers’. So player D decides to be cautious and check. The dealer tells all of the players to turn over their cards and player B wins with the best hand of three twos.