The Texas Hold’em illusion

Texas hold’ em is an illusion. It appears to be a simple game, but you have to understand all the variables and how to make the correct play.

The most important, but probably most difficult aspect of hold’ em, is to know what the best possible hand – known as “the nuts” – is, and whether any of your opponents could be holding it. For instance if the five community cards are Q(D), 9(S), 7(H), 4(C), 2(H) there is no chance any player can be holding a straight flush or full house. The best possible hand would be three Queens.

By assessing the number of players in the game, and their betting patterns, you’ll get a hint about the best hand. The more players and the more raises in a game, the better the chance that one of the players has “the nuts”. It’s important that you are able to recognize when you have the best possible hand. If you have the nuts and don’t know it, you can lose out on a very profitable opportunity. But believing you have the nuts, and you really don’t, can be much more costly to you.

For example, if the community cards are and you have an Ace-Ten, you’re almost certainly a winner.
You should get as much money into the pot and milk it for all it’s worth. But if the Four of clubs is a Four of hearts, you could lose to a flush. In Texas hold’em, the betting position is more crucial than
with any other poker game. That’s because the game is a fixed-position game, rather than one where the lead-off bet has the high hand. Since the players only see the community cards, it’s not possible to discern who has the high hand in hold’em, so the betting proceeds from the player to the left of the button. Since it is always beneficial to act last in any poker game, you should be more selective of the hands you play when you bet from an early position, rather than when you are in a position near the end of the hand.

You might want to consider seeing the flop. If you pair up one of those cards, you’re in a much stronger position, I particularly if the paired card is the highest of the flop. Beware of suited cards. While they are valuable, having two in your hand is just that; it’s only two towards a flush. It I might end up costing you significant bets chasing that fourth or fifth suited card. High cards are better than low cards. If you have two downcards like throw them away. Even if you pair one or the other, there’s very little chance no one else will come through with a higher pair.

Texas Hold’em – Starting Hands

As mentioned elsewhere, starting hands are not as crucial as in seven-card stud. But that’s not to say they are not important. The following are five categories, ranked in order of importance, that are considered good starting hands and will give you an excellent chance to win the hold’em pot.

High Pairs: when you have a pair of Tens or higher, you’re in a good position. With a high pair, you have a chance to improve your hand, but even if you don’t match any cards on the board, you can steal the hand because your opponents will have no idea why you’re betting so strongly late in the hand.
A hand like is strong, particularly if not one of the five community cards is higher than a Queen. But if you match the Queen, you’re in the driver’s seat.

Small Pairs: as in most poker games, the difference between winning and losing is often the difference
between small and large pairs. A hand like will rarely win unless you’re able to improve it in some way.
The odds against improving a pair to three of a kind in hold’ em is 8-1 against. These hands should be classified as drawing hands, and must be played carefully.

Two High Cards: while two high cards are a playable hand, it is not very valuable. A hand like an Ace-King should always be played, but a hand such as should, in most cases, be folded, particularly if someone raises. If the two cards are suited, you definitely hould play it, just don’t overrate the suited cards.

Suited Connectors: two cards that could lead to straights are called connectors, but two uited cards
could also lead to a flush. Consider, for example. the following hands are only mediocre hands, but they have possibilities. If there is a gap between the cards, as in Seven of Spades, line of Spades, the hand is worth even less. Fold it unless you’re the blind and don’t have to match any raises.

High-low Suited: if you have a high card along with a low card, and they’re both suited, you have a basis for seeing the flop, as long as there aren’t any serious raises . A hand like wouldn’t be very valuable if it wasn’t for the suited aspect of the cards. But it is more valuable than a lower high card, a Queen of Diamonds, for instance. Play the Ace whenever it doesn’t cost you much, particularly if you’re the blind and don’t have to match a raise.

All other hands should be folded. The chance of making something out of two totally unrelated cards isn’t worth matching the blind and possibly meeting a raise. By carefully studying every situation, you will realise that only by getting the best chance to win with a favourable starting hand is it worth playing.

Poker – A pro’s story

Michael quit his regular job several years ago for a new profession. He now plays poker for a living, and does very well, thank you.

Michael didn’t turn into a poker player overnight, It took years of playing poker as a hobby before he took the plunge. And now that he frequents the poker rooms of Las Vegas on a daily basis, he understands that he must play with a discipline he could only imagine when he was playing for recreation. That’s why he follow six simple principles.

Luck is often as important as skill: while professional poker players make their mortgage payment by
utilizing the skill they have learned or otherwise acquired over the years, Michael understands that in
the short term, anybody can get lucky, but, because of his experience, Michael is prepared to recognize that luck and take the greatest advantage of it. He is also realistic and understands that he will have an occasional good hand to a “lucky” player. But just because he sees bad players get lucky, Michael knows it is always important to play his best. That way, luck can find you. You don’t have to go looking for luck, When he does lose those good hands. Michael doesn’t let it get to him, because he understand that he can only win consistently if he maintain a positive attitude. He sees players get discouraged all the time and he knows that he has the advantage at that time because a player with a negative attitude is more likely to play bad hands and make bad decisions.
When he’s playing, Michael sees his opponents stopping the cocktail waitress every time she goes
by to order a beer, mixed drink or some other alcoholic concoction. Michael used to drink in moderation when he played for entertainment, but now that he’s a pro, he sticks with an occasional coffee. He also gets his rest every night (or day, depending upon when he decides to play), because he knows that playing when you’re tired can cloud your reasoning and create mistakes.

Because he depends upon his winnings for his living, Michael is cautious about betting more than he can
afford. But that’s nothing new. Michael knows that players who bet the rent money are nervous and on
edge, a loser waiting to happen. It’s a tired adage, but remains true nonetheless: never bet more than you can afford to lose.

As a professional, Michael knows all the tricks. One he doesn’t like to use, but often can’t avoid, is when a player shows his cards. Sure, it’s inadvertent, but poker players are looking for every edge, and a player who is careless with his cards deserves to lose. Keeping your cards secure is one of the fundamental elements of playing winning poker.

Most of all, Michael quit his regular job because he enjoys playing poker. If you’re not having fun, it
becomes just another job. The same holds true for playing for entertainment. If it becomes a chore,
there’s no reason to continue playing – it is supposed to be fun after all.

Poker Hold’em strategy

Several strategies are called for in specific situations. If you make the hand you’re looking for, bet it to the limit. If you pull a flush on sixth street, for instance, you should not check. Since some of your cards must be exposed, your opponent will suspect a flush, and not bet into your check.

That means you’ll lose a chance to get a double bet by every active player into the pot. If you check and give the active players a chance to get another card, there’s a chance they may draw a hand that might beat your flush, costing you the entire pot. If you’ve got it, bet it.

If your opponent draws a third suited card, or a third card to a straight, check or call. This isn’t a point to play aggressively because if you raise, your opponent will undoubtedly raise as well. It could end up costing you serious money.

Another situation to beware of is when a player pairs an exposed card on the board. This gives him a good chance to have three of a kind. Even if he doesn’t, he may have a quality hand. Unless you can beat him with a better hand, or you’re looking at a particularly good pot, retire.

Once you have decided to bet on fifth street, it rarely makes sense to fold before the river. The only exception to this rule is if you can clearly see that your hand cannot be improved enough on sixth street to beat a threatening hand held by an opponent. If you decide to go through on sixth street, do not fold on the river. If your opponent is bluffing, you have a chance to catch him at it, and you only have to expose a bluff once in a while to make it worth your while to go all the way.

Seven Card Stud Strategy

In seven-card stud, it costs nothing or very little to see your first three cards. It’s important to be able to evaluate the value of those hands to decide whether you want to play them.

For instance, let’s say you get three cards of the same suit. The correct play here would be to begin to bet, and hope that within the next four cards you receive, at least two will be in the hearts suit. But if you look around the table, and see three or more hearts already revealed, it’s best to fold.

Chances are, you’re not going to make that flush. You have to understand how the number of players affects the cards you are holding. For instance if you have a high pair you are better off playing against just a couple of players.

High pairs usually fare better when only a few players are competing, and you’ll have the best chance of winning. But if you have a hand you’ll want plenty of players in the game. When you have a high hand, you’ve got yours and the others have theirs to get. When you have a drawing hand, or one that requires improvement, you will rarely make the hand, so that when you do, you want other players around to build up the pot you will win.

On the other hand, small or middle pairs are the most dangerous. These hands can cost you money because you’re tempted to stay in, in the hope of getting a matching card or being able to “steal” the
pot, winning it with a mediocre hand after everyone else drops out. But while you’re waiting to improve or get lucky, your opponent can easily match a higher pair that will make your pair look puny in comparison. The opposite is true, as well. When you have high cards in your hand, and it appears that the most any opponent can have is a middle or low pair, you are in a good position to improve your hand. With a hand like you’re in a good position to improve your hand by catching either another Ace or Queen.

Given the importance of the decisions made on third and fifth streets, once you’ve decided to pursue a pot, it’s frequently a good idea to see it through. Many hands aren’t made until the last card. But you must be aware of the possible combinations of your opponents’ hands. If you’re chasing that high pair, and an opponent is raising with a hand like you’ve got to assume that he’s either made a straight, or wants you to think he’s made a straight. A high pair won’t be of much help in the first case, and it might cost you a good deal of money to prove the second case.

Poker – Know when to Hold’em

The most famous game in the casino is poker and it gives skilful players the best chance to make money, but you don’t have to wear a stetson and drink whiskey to learn the ropes.

Of all the casino games, poker is the most familiar. There is some dispute as to the roots of the game, but most agree that it is European. Most game historians say that it comes from an eighteenth-century French game, poque, but others say it derived from a German game called pochspiel. Still others look to the opposite side of the world and attribute the name to a Hindu word, pukka. Whatever the derivation, it’s clear that poker became popular in the US in the 1850s. Poker is today a staple in any gambling hall, legal or illegal.

More Americans have played poker than have played golf, tennis and backgammon combined. And whether they play for big stakes, nickels and dimes, or for matchsticks, the players’ enjoyment of poker is the reason it is undoubtedly the most popular card game.

Even when casino gambling was legal only in Nevada, poker could regularly be found in fire halls, social clubs, church basements, and fraternal organisations. It is now played legally in more than half the US, and semi-legally in all the other states and territories.

As you might suspect, casino poker varies a bit from your kitchen table variety, but the basics are essentially the same. What is most different in the casino is the skill levels of the players. You might be the card shark of your neighbourhood, but when you play poker in a casino, there
are many other factors to consider, other than which player has the best hand.

You’ve seen that there are professional blackjack players who can make a living playing a game in which they can reduce or eliminate the house advantage. And you learned that good sports gamblers can handicap a sporting event through knowledge of specific details unknown to the average bettor.

But since poker is a game that has no house advantage, you must be prepared for a large collection of players who are trying to make a living from the game. There are more professional poker players than any other type of gambler.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that all the “professionals” are playing the high-limit games, and if you play games with £1 minimum and £2 maximum bets, you won’t have to worry about the pros. That’s not true. You’ll meet the professional poker players at every level, whether they are on the way up the ladder, or have been knocked down and are looking to get back up.

Should this deter you from playing the most popular game in a casino? The answer is a qualified “No”.Because poker requires skill, it’s not something where you can hope to stumble across enough good luck to win. While there is some debate on how skill is acquired (are good poker players born or made?), you can read enough about the game to understand its nuances and sit down and enjoy a lively session. Just remember that you never stop learning about poker. After appreciating the basics, your education is just beginning. The various plays, the different combinations, but most of all, the variety of players is what often makes this game the most fascinating of all.

There are many different kinds of poker games. Five-card draw and five-card stud may be popular around the kitchen table, but are now a rarity in the casinos. Forget about the “wild card” games you’ve read about. You won’t see any Deuces wild, one-eyed Jacks, or Jokers added to a poker game in a casino. The two most popular poker games by far in a casino are seven-card stud and Texas hold’em. While there are many other poker permutations that you can find – Omaha hold’em, Omaha Eight-or-better, razz, lowball draw and many more – for purposes of brevity and comprehension, you’ll be wise to concentrate on the two most popular games, which will be covered in this book.

Craps – Do or Don’t

While you take odds on the pass line, you lay odds on the don’t-pass line. It costs more money to win less, however, because, once again the odds are the reverse of the pass line.

Let’s say the point is four. The “right” bettor takes odds of 2-1 since he has six ways of losing, while only three ways of winning. If the single-odds bet is £5, and a four is rolled, the right bettor will win £10. The wrong bettor makes the opposite wager. He must bet £10 to win £5 if the seven appears before the four.

The same is true for the other numbers. For a five or nine, a £5 don’t bet, a player must bet £9 to win £6. For the six or eight, the don’t bettor lays £6 to win £5.

Unlike the pass line, where you place your odds bet behind the pass line, the odds bet is either heeled (offset on top of your original bet) or “bridged” (two chips of equal value with a third, or more chips on top, or bridged across them both). And again, because the house has no advantage on
these odds, they can be removed at any time.

Roulette – Dealer Signature

Dealers are human. They have friends and family, and lives outside of the kasino. Not every dealer pays attention to his or her job 100 per cent of the time. Because dealers may be thinking about other things while spinning the ball around the roulette wheel, the observant player may be able to determine whether that dealer is unconsciously (or consciously) giving the players an advantage.

Some experienced roulette players swear that some dealers spin the ball at exactly the same speed each time. By noting where the wheel is at the exact moment the ball takes off, these players believe they can predict, within a few numbers where the ball is going to land. Since you can continue to bet after the spin begins, they say they are able to cover those numbers and, more often than not, they claim to win. Sceptics discount these theories. Even if that were possible, they say, there are “ball stops” scattered around the wheel, little pieces of ornamentation that deflect the ball, making it difficult. if not impossible, to predict the ball’s path.

Whether it works or not is debatable, but it’s worth a look. Notice the speed of the ball as it leaves the dealer’s hand. Count the number of times the ball circumnavigates the wheel. And, of course, note where it lands in comparison to where it was launched.

If you find a “dealer signature”, it may only last for a short time. It could be at the end of the shift, when the dealer is thinking only about going home, or it could be at the beginning of the shift, when the dealer is thinking about the events of the previous evening. Like a human being, a dealer signature is a very fragile thing.

Placing a bet in Roulette

The American Casino Roulette system is different to the European. America first. It is generally operated by two dealers. One takes all the bets, spins the ball, announces the number, takes all the losers and pays the winners. The second dealer, in America, called a “muck er”, re-stacks the chips and pushes the winning bets out to the first dealer who delivers them to the players. Frequently, however, only one dealer handles all the action at the roulette table.

Once you understand how and where to make your bets, you begin by sitting down at the table and buying chips. Please note that roulette is the only game in the casino that uses different, non-value chips. Although they are called non-value, that doesn’t mean they don’t represent money; they do. In this case, non-value means that they are worthless at any other gaming table.

Check the minimums before sitting down. For example, if you’re playing a £2.50 minimum table, you must place at least £2.50 for every bet you make on the outside. For instance, if you are betting red, odd and the high bet (19-36), you must place £2.50 in chips on each bet. On the inside bets, however, your bets must only total £2.50. Whether you bet five numbers straight up, four numbers straight up and one split, or two corners, two split and one straight up, all your bets must total £2.50 or more. Often, the minimum will be higher.

Depending upon the minimum and your buy in, the dealer will ask you what value you want your chips to be. For a £2.50 game, the minimum value for chips is usually £1. For a £1 minimum game, chips will probably be worth 50 pence. It’s generally your choice, and will be determined by how many bets you want to make on each spin.

If you are unsure of the procedures and the minimum bets at any table, simply ask the dealer, and he’ll be glad to explain the casino’s policy.
These procedures vary in the European game. While American dealers sweep the layout with their hands and arms, European croupiers use a long stick, or “rake”, to sweep in all bets. And, in Europe, roulette games do not use non-value chips. All players use the standard casino chips which can cause great confusion when there are a multitude of bets on the layout. If you’re playing in Europe, keep an eye on your bets and be certain how much you’ve bet. Bets are paid from the outside in. The dealer will pay the bets furthest away from him and work in, until he gets to the inside bets, which get paid last.

Follow the bouncing ball

Europe’s most popular game, roulette, must be played precisely to provide a chance of winning. Despite a hefty house advantage, players can find games that will be more favourable and, by using simple betting systems, can beat the game.

Roulette players are often the most studious of all gamblers. You’ll find them at the oblong roulette table hunched over a pad, carefully distributing their chips in a predetermined pattern only they understand. As the dealer spins the ball around the wheel, they stare at it as if their hopes and dreams can influence where the ball falls. When their bets are swept away, they turn again to the pad that only records where they’ve been, not where they’re going.

The roots of roulette can be traced back to prehistoric China and the French monks. In the 17th century, a French scientist, Blaise Pascal, who invented the first calculator, introduced a primitive version of roulette.

It wasn’t until 1842 that Francois and Louis Blanc invented the single “0” roulette game. Ironically, the French brothers were forced to offer the game in Hamburg, Germany, since gambling was illegal in France at the time. The new game decimated the competition, which was offering an earlier version that featured higher odds. After Louis died, Francois was invited by the Prince of Monaco, Charles, after whom Monte Carlo is named, to bring his game to the principality in southern France. Francois and his son Camille developed Monte Carlo into the world-famous resort we know today.

When roulette came to the US in the early 1800s, the Blancs’ improvements were removed, and a double “00” returned. For a while, in fact, slick American operators added a triple “000”, tripling the house advantage and virtually ensuring that Americans would never warm to the game. The European game is today played in the great gambling palaces of Europe by tuxedoed men and elegant women in flowing gowns. It is especially popular with female players who enjoy the glamour of the game.
Europe’s most popular game neyer really caught on in the US, perhaps because of the changes that the American casinos made to this glamorous game. While no longer having three zeros, with the extra “0”, American roulette carries one of the heaviest casino advantages in the house, thereby discouraging the popularity it enjoys in Europe. With 38 numbers, players haye to overcome a 5.26 per cent house advantage because whenever “0” and “00” are hit, all bets lose. This is over five times worse than playing the most favourable bets on the craps table, or utilizing blackjack basic strategy.

In Europe, roulette uses only 37 numbers – 36 numbers and one “0”. Even-money bets are placed en prison when “0” is hit. This is an option in which the player loses half the bet, or is permitted to let the bet remain in action, with the results to be determined on the next spin. Because the European version utilizes the en prison rule and a single “0”, the house advantage is a comfortable 1.35 per cent. The only American jurisdiction that offers en prison is Atlantic City, but because casinos there use “0” and “00” the house advantage is halved to 2.7 per cent. (En prison, or surrender, means that if the player has bets on the “outside” – odd/even, high/low, black/red, the dozens or the columns bets – he only loses half his bet when “0” or “00” hits.)
Nonetheless, roulette remains an exciting game, mainly because of the variety of bets available. The 38 numbers in the American game are grouped into colours, columns and sections. The layout looks complicated, but is actually rather simple, once a map is provided.