Poker Tournaments

A poker tournament or competition is an event where the players all contend for a cash prize. As in Late Night Poker and the World Series of Poker, both of which are tournaments, each player pays an initial buy-in and receives a fixed number of tournament chips. The competitors play until all but one are eliminated and the remaining player is the winner of the event. It is usual for the last three finishers in a tournament to receive a prize from the prize pool. The division of prizes in small tournaments is usually something like 60 per cent to the winner, 30 per cent to the second and 10 per cent to the third. In bigger tournaments, the first ten players might receive a prize, perhaps split 45 per cent to the winner, 20 per cent for second, 10 per cent for third, 5 per cent for fourth and so on until all of the prize money has been allocated.

Tournaments are of two types: those that allow re-buys and those that do not. The latter are called ‘freeze-out tournaments’. Late Night Poker is an example of a freeze-out event and once a player has lost all his chips he is out of the tournament. Those tournaments which permit re-buys allow a player who has lost all of his chips to re-join the tournament by paying additional, money into the prize pool. It is usual for re-buys to be limited to the first time period of the tournament (usually the first 1-2 hours).

After the re-buy period has ended, the tournament then becomes a freeze-out and the size of the blinds (and hence the stakes) increase with time to speed the tournament’s end. If the blinds did not increase in this way, tournaments would last for days instead of the usual four to five hours. Often, the blinds increase
regularly every 20 or 30 minutes in a small tournament but it can be slower in bigger events. Typical increases and intervals are:


Time Interval   Small Blind    Big Blind

0-120 mins     50                100

60 mins         100               200

60 mins         200               400

60 mins         400               800

60 mins         600               1200

60 mins         800               1600

60 mins         1000              2000

60 mins         2000              4000

60 mins         3000              6000


As the tournament progresses, tables are aggregated and seats removed as players are eliminated. This will eventually produce a final table of ten contestants who battle it out for the prize pool.



Sometimes a tournament is too expensive for some players to enter. The entry fee might be £6000 and beyond the pocket of most players. In these cases, it is normal for satellite tournaments to be held with the winner gaining entry to the tournament proper. In this way, it is not unknown for players to invest as little as £50 and end up with a prize of £20,000.



Glossary of Poker Terms

Ace-High: A hand having an ace but no pair.

Aces Up: Two pair, the highest pair being aces.

Action: The act of putting chips in the pot. gambling of any sort.

Action Player: A player who gives a lot of action, also called a ‘loose’ player.

Active Player: Any player still in the hand, competing for the pot.

Act out of Turn: A player attempting to bet or raise prior to his turn to, act.

Advertise: To bluff and then show the hand to other players in the hope that theywill call sometime later when you have a legitimate hand.

All-in: All your money or chips in the pot.

Ante: An agreed nominal bet required from each player before the start of a hand.

Babies: Small cards – a 2, 3, 4 or 5.

Back Door: To back door a flush or straight is when the last two cards make aplayer’s hand, even though this was not the original hand the playerwas drawing to.

Bad Beat: When a strong hand is outdrawn by a weaker hand, considered to be held by a player who got lucky.

Bankroll: A player’s total stake money.

Best Hand: The one that takes the pot.

Bet: To intentionally put chips into the pot.

Bet Blind: To wager without looking at one’s hole cards.

Bet Half the Pot: To bet half the amount of the pot. Half the pot is the maximum allowable bet in some UK home games.

Bet in the Dark: To bet before seeing the next or any cards.
Bet Into: To make a bet looking at what seems to be a superior hand.

Bet the Pot: To bet the amount of the pot. Pot limit is the usual maximum allowable bet in UK casino games.

Big Blind: The small forced bet made by the player in second left position to thedealer button. It is made before any cards are dealt and is a live bet.Thus the player on the big blind can raise when the action gets back tohim.

Big Slick: Ace-king as the first two cards.

Blank: A card that does not look like it has improved anyone’s hand.

Blind: A forced bet made by the two players to the dealer’s left [or to theleft of the dealer button!. It is ma,de before any cards are dealt andis a live bet.

Bluff: To bet or raise with a poor hand in the hope that other players will pass and you will win the pot.

Board: All five cards, in community card games, turned face up in the centre of the table. 

Boxed Card: A card facing the other way to the remaining cards in the deck.

Bullet: Another name for an ace.

Burn: To take a card from the top of the deck before dealing out the cards !it is an attempt to prevent cheating!. This card is removed from play.

Button: A disk used to indicate the player who would nominally be dealing if there were no house dealer.

Buy the Button: A bet or raise which makes players behind you fold, making you the last to act in succeeding betting rounds.

Buy the Pot: To bluff, (usually a big bet at a small pot).

Call: To match the previous bet.

Calling Station: A pejorative term for a player who perpetually calls and cannot be bluffed. 

Cards Speak: When the cards are laid face up on the table the correct reading of the hand will win the pot. That is, the highest hand will win the pot irrespective of what the player declares the hand to be, For instance, a player may not see that he has hit a flush and may declare something else, but it is the flush which will count.

Case Card: The last card of a particular rank when the other three are already out.

Cash In: Take your chips and leave the game.

Check: To refrain from betting, This is often indicated by a player tappingthe table. The player may still call or raise if another player bets.

Check Raise: To check and, if another player bets, to raise when the action gets back to you.

Chemmy Shuffle: Scrambling the cards face down on the table. 

Cinch Hand:     A hand that will win easily.  

Clinic: A poker game where there are a lot of post-mortems about the hands that are played.

Closed Poker: Games such as draw poker where there are no community cards and all of the cards are dealt face down.

Coffee Housing: Talking in an attempt tomislead another player about the strength of a hand. For instance, aplayer holding A-A as their first two cards might say ‘Let’s gamblehere,’ implying a much weaker holding. Coffee housing is considered badetiquette in the UK but not in the USA. This is also called ‘speechplay".

Cold Call: To call a raised pot without having any prior investment in the pot.

Cold Deck: A deck that has been rigged by cheats. It will be cooler in temperaturethan the deck used in previous hands, as it has been concealed in thecheat’s pocket and brought out when the ‘mark’ is to be cheated. Thedeck will be fixed to give the mark a good hand but the cheat will geta slightly better winning hand.

Collusion: Any act, including betting or raising, by two or more players in partnership in an attempt to cheat other players.

Colt 45: Reputedly the only thing that beats a royal flush.

Community Cards: The cards dealt face up in the centre of the table that are shared by all active players.

Connectors: Consecutive cards which could help make a straight, e.g. 6-7 or 10-J.

Counterfeit: When a card on the board duplicates one inyour hand. For instance, you hold 10-J and the board is K-Q-3, but if aJ comes on fourth street it counterfeits the one in your hand, makingyour hand worse as a result. Counterfeiting is common in high-lowgames.

Cripple the Deck: To have all of the cards that make up a good handwith a particular board. If you hold A-K, and the flop is A-A¬K, youwill have the deck crippled in that no one else can have a playablehand. If you bet you will not be called.

Dead Card: A card no longer in play.

Dead Hand: A hand no longer in play, perhaps due to some deviation from the rules.
Dead Man’s Hand: Two black aces and two black 8s have become known asthe dead man’s hand because Wild Bill Hickock is reputed to have heldthe hand when he was shot in the back during a saloon poker hand inDeadwood, South Dakota.

Deal: To distribute the cards to each player.

Dealer: The player who is distributing the cards.

Dealer’s Advantage: The dealer is last to act which is a big advantage. Dealer’s Choice: A g~me in which each dealer, in turn, chooses the type of poker to be played.

Dealer’s Choice: A game in which each dealer, in turn, chooses the type of poker to be played. 

Deck: The standard pack of 52 playing cards.

Deuce: The 2 of any suit (also called a ‘duck’).

Dog: Americanism for the worst or underdog hand. Big dog is used for a big disadvantage and little dog for a small disadvantage.

Dog It: To play a hand which is good, slowly, in order not to chase the other players away. Similar to ‘slow play’. 

Door Card: The first card dealt face up in five- or seven-card stud.

Double Belly Buster: A hand with two inside straight draws. An examplemight be a flop containing 10-8-6, when you have 7-4, a 9 or a 5 willmake the hand into a straight. The odds of getting the straight from adouble belly buster are the same as for an open-ended straight draw.

Down and Dirty: This expression is sometimes used while the final cardat seven-card stud poker is being dealt. Its meaning is obscure.

Down Cards: The concealed cards. In Hold ‘Em, the first two cards

Down the River: All the way to the last card at seven stud, another name for seven-card stud. 

Drawing Dead: Drawing to a hand that cannot possibly win. An example is drawing to a 4-flush when a full house is already out.

Drawing Hand: A potentially strong hand requiring a particular card/s from the draw to make it.

Draw Poker: A form of poker in which each player receives five

Driving Seat: A player holding the best hand and making the betting.

Drowning: Losing heavily.

Duck: The two of any suit [also called a ‘deuce’).

Expectation: The average amount you make in a specific event or period. Thus, if you have won £7500 in the last 34 tournaments, your expectation per tournament is £7500/34 which is £220. Conversely, if you have lost £1500 in the last 34 tournaments, your expectation per tournament is £1500/34 or -£44.

False Cut: A cut which is not properly done.

Family Pot: A pot in which all or most of the players at the table are still involved at a particular point in the progress of a hand.
Fast Game: A game with a good pace of action and frequent heavy raises.

Fast Player: A heavy bettor; a frequent raiser.

Feeler Bet: A minimum bet made to test the strength of the other players’ hands.

Fifth Street: The fifth and final community card on the board. In stud poker, it is the fifth card dealt to each player.

Fill Up: To draw cards and make your hand.

First Position: The player on the immediate left of the dealer. In Hold ‘Em this player is first to act throughout the game.

Fish: This is a derogatory term used [mainly in the US) to describe a weak or losing player.

Flop: The first three community cards, which are turned face up together before the start of the second round of betting.

Flush: Five cards of the same suit.

Flush Draw: Having four cards of the same suit and hoping to draw a fifth to make a flush.

Fold: To lay down one’s hand.

Fold Out of Turn: To fold prematurely.

Fourth Street: The fourth and final community card on the board. In stud poker, it is the fourth card dealt to each player.

Free Card: When all players check, the next card is seen without any money entering the pot. This card is a free card.

Free Roll: In Hold ‘Em or other flop games where two players have the same hand, but one also has the chance of improving to a better hand. For instance, both may have A-K-Q-J-10 except one player has a flush draw and the other does not.

Freeze Out: A game or tournament in which all players start with the same amount and play until one player has won all the chips.

Friend: A card that assists or improves the hand.

Friendly Game: No such thing!

Full House: Any three cards of the same rank, plus any pair of a different rank.

Full Table: At Hold ‘Em, a table of 11 or 12 players.

Gambler: A player that bucks the odds.

Gap: The missing inside card that would make a straight.

Gut Shot: A card that will make a straight. An inside straight draw.

Hand: A player’s best five cards.

Head to Head: Two players heads-up in a game of poker.

Heads-Up: A game between just two players, often the remaining two players of a tournament.

High Roller: A heavy bettor. One who plays for high stakes.

Hold ‘Em: A form of poker in which players use five community cards incombination with their two hole cards to form the best five-card hand.Also called Texas Hold’Em.

Hole Cards: The concealed cards. In Hold ‘Em, the first two cards that are dealt to each player face down. Also called the ‘down cards’.

Hot Seat: The seat that has or had a run of winning hands.

Ignorant End: The low end of a straight. For instance, if the flop in Hold ‘Em is 9-8-7 the ignorant end straight would be the 6-5.

Inside Straight: Four cards requiring one in the middle to fill a straight.

Insurance: A side bet [usually when a large pot is involvedl made between two players, but can also involve others.

Kibitzer: A spectator, usually unappreciated by the players.

Kicker: The second highest card in a hand. If the holding is A¬9, the 9 is the kicker.

Kicker Trouble: When the second card is low, say a 7 or below, the player will have difficulty winning the pot if another player also holds the highest card because his kicker is liable to be bigger.

Lay Down: To fold one’s hand. Often refers to folding a reasonably good hand.

Live Blind: When the player is allowed to raise even if no one else raises first.

Live Card: A card which has not yet been exposed.

Live One: Refers to a player who plays more hands than the game structure justifies.

Lock: The winning hand; a hand that is unbeatable.

Locked up: To hold a winning or unbeatable hand and have the pot as good as won.This phrase is also used to describe a player who has won a lot ofchips and is very unlikely to lose them again. The player is said tohave the chips locked up.

Main Pot: When a player puts all of his chips in the pot [goes all¬inJ. that player is only eligible to win the pot consisting of the bets he was able to match. This is called the main pot. Additional bets are placed in a ‘side pot" and are contested among the remaining players. The names main and side pots remain irrespective of which contains the most chips.

Maniac: An American expression meaning a very aggressive player who plays lotsof hands and raises often. This type of player seems to bet and raisewith very weak hands.

Mechanic: A card cheat.

Miscall:  An error made when announcing one’s hand. [See also Cards Speak].

Monkey: £500.

Move-In: To move all your chips into the pot in a no-limit game.

Muck: To discard or throwaway a hand. Also refers to all dead cards in the discard heap.

No-Limit Poker: A game in which players can bet up to the amount they have in front of them on any given betting round, irrespective of the amount of chips in the pot. Also called ‘table stakes’.

Nut Flush: The best available flush.

Nuts: The best possible hand at any point in the game; a cinch hand.

Offsuit: Term used to describe the first two cards if they are of different suits.

Omaha: A flop game similar to Hold ‘Em, but where each player is dealt four cards instead of two. In Omaha, a hand must be made using exactly two pocket cards, plus three from the table.

One Way Action: When only one player is in against you.

On Tilt: Becoming emotionally upset and hence playing badly.

Open-ended Straight Draw: Four consecutive cards requiring one at either end to make a straight.

Open Poker: Games where some of the cards are dealt face up.

Out: A card remaining in the deck that improves your hand.

Outdraw: To beat an opponent by drawing a card or cards to improve a lesser hand into a winner.

Out of Turn: Not in proper sequence.

Overpair: A pair higher than any card on the board. If a player holds K-K and the flop comes Q-1 0-3, that player has an overpair.

Pair: Two cards of the same rank.

Pass: Fold.

Pat Hand: A hand which is complete, usually refers to games such as draw poker.

Play Over: An American term and concept meaning to temporarily play in the seat ofan absent player. A transparent box is placed over the chips of theabsent player.

Pony: £25.

Position: Your seat in relation to the dealer, and thus your place in the betting order.

Pot: The money or chips in the centre of the table.

Pot Limit: A game in which the maximum bet is the total in the pot at the time of betting. The limit used in most UK casino games.

Pot Odds: The amount of money in the pot divided by the amount of money it will cost you to continue in the hand. If there is £300 in the pot and it costs you £120 to call the bet you are getting pot odds of 300/120 or 5/2.

Protect Your Hand (1): To place a chip or chips on your cards to prevent them from being accidentally discarded by the dealer.

Protect Your Hand (2): A bet to protect the money you have already put in a pot. Also called ‘defending your hand’ e.g. protecting/defending the Big Blind means to put an extra small bet into the pot no matter how bad your hand is.

Put a Player On: To guess or otherwise determine an opponent’s hand and play accordingly.

Quads: Four of a kind.

Rag: A card which is small and appears to help no one.

Rag Off: To get a final card that doesn’t help you.

Ragged Flop: Flop cards that are seemingly of no use to any player’s hand.

Rags: Worthless cards. Blanks.

Rail:  The sideline around a poker table or playing area.

Railbird:     A non-playing spectator or kibitzer. The term is often used pejoratively to describe an ex-player who has lost and is now out of the game.

Rainbow Flop: A flop with three different suits.

Raise: To call and increase the previous bet.

Rake: In the USA and in some European countries, the casino/house makes a charge by taking a fixed percentage from each pot. In the UK, charges are made by the hour for the seat.

Random Card: A card selected from a group of unknown cards not yet in play which have an equal chance of being chosen.

Random Card Concept: The substitution of a random card for a player’s proper card which he may be unable to receive for any reason, leaves the player with the same mathematical chances of winning the pot before the irregularity occurred. It is therefore assumed that the player has not been materially injured.

Rank: The value of a card. Each card has a suit and a rank. The 10C and 10D are two cards of the same rank

Rat Hole: To pocket part of one’s table stakes secretly. It is considered unethical to take money off the playing surface.

Read: To try and determine, using logical deduction, your opponent’s cards or betting strategy.

Re-buy: An additional entry fee in tournament play. When a player loses all hischips, a re-buy is allowed in some types of competitions for a fixedperiod of time, usually the first 1 – 2 hours.

Represent: To bet in a way that suggests you are holding a strong hand. For example, if the flop comes A-J-3 and you hold 9-9 and have bet before the flop, you might also bet on the flop hoping that the other players will think you have an ace (you are representing an ace).

Re-raise: To raise a raise.

Ring Game: A game with nine to eleven players, the optimum size at Hold ‘Em poker.

River: The last community card on the board, also called fifth street.

Rock: A very conservative and tight player.

Rock Garden: A table populated with rocks.

Roll: A winning streak.

Rolled Up: A term indicating the first three cards at seven stud all of the same rank.

Rounder: A poker player, usually professional, who does the rounds of poker games in the area or country. Playing in Glasgow on Monday, Newcastle on Tuesday, back to Glasgow on Wednesday and then on to Dundee on Thursday is an example of a rounder’s schedule.

Round of Betting: The period during which each active player has the right to check, bet or raise. It ends when the last bet or raise has been called by all players still in the hand.

Royal Flush: The best possible poker hand, consisting of 10-J-Q-K-A, all of the same suit.

Run: A straight; sometimes also refers to a series of hands.

Running Pair: Two cards of the same rank that fall consecutively, usually on fourth and fifth street in Hold ‘Em or Omaha.

Rush: A winning streak.

Satellite: A small-stakes tournament where the winner(s) gains entry into a biggertournament. (A super satellite is where there is a very small entry andthe winner(s) gains entry into a very big tournament.)

Scare Card: A card which could make your hand a loser. For example, if you held Q-Qand the flop is A-6-3, then the ace is a scare card for you.

See: To call.

Sell Your Hand: Make a small bet with a strong hand, hoping to get a call. Usually made when you think a bigger bet would make your opponents pass.

Semi-Bluff: To bet with a hand which isn’t the best hand, but which has a reasonable chance of improving. This term was first coined by Oavid Sklansky.

Set: Usually refers to three of a kind or trips where the pair in a player’shand matches a card on the board. Can also be used in the context offour of a kind, i.e. a set of quads.

Shill: An American term and concept where a casino employee sits in on a gameto keep it going. This is not allowed in the UK and is not known inEurope.

Shiner: A mirror or other reflective object used by cheats in an attempt to seehidden cards as they are dealt. In home or self-dealt games, the playermay wear a ring with a reflective surface.

Showdown: The process of determining who has the best hand after all cards are dealt and all bets are completed.

Shuffle: Mixing of the cards before and between deals.

Side Pot: A separate pot contested by other players when one player is all-in.

Slow Play: To bet less than the strength of the hand would normally deserve inorder to get more players into the pot and to deceive other playersabout the strength of your hand.

Snake Eyes: A pair of aces.

Soft Play Agreement: This is where a player bets less than they normally would or checks good hands when against friends, husbands or wives. It is not prohibited, but is unethical. 

Speech Play: See Coffee Housing.

Speeding Around: Playing loose for one period and then tight for another with no definable pattern.

Splash the Pot: To throw your chips into the pot instead of placing them in front of you. This makes it difficult for the dealer to determine the amount of the bet.

Split: A tie.

Split Pot: A pot in which two or more hands are equal, and the pot is shared.

Stack: The pile of chips in front of a player.

Standard Deck: A deck of cards having four suits with thirteen cards to each suit.

Stay: Call a bet.

Steal: A type of bluff usually made in late position.

Steaming: Playing badly as a result of an upset – see also On Tilt.

Straddle: An additional blind, the largest in the game. Often refers to a blind made voluntarily.

Straight: Five consecutive cards of different suits.

Straight Flush: Five consecutive cards of the same suit.

String Bet: An illegal bet in which a player puts some chips in the pot, then reaches back to his stack for more, without having first stated the full amount of his bet. 

Strip Deck Poker: This is where certain cards are removed from the pack and play takes place without them. For instance, the 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s and 6s can be removed from the deck, making a 32-card deck. In the UK, five-card stud with a 32-card stripped deck was widely played until recently.

Suited: Cards of the same suit.

Super Satellite: A very small-stakes tournament where the winner(s) gains entry into a very big tournament. [See also Satellite.]

Sweeten the Pot: An archaic expression meaning to raise the pot (with a view to making it more attractive to win).

Table Stakes: A game of poker in which a player may use only the money on the table in front of him. This amount can be added to between, but not during, hands. Usually, players are not permitted to take money back off the table unless they are leaving the game.

Tap City: To be broke.

Tap Out: To bet all one’s chips.

Tapped Out: To be broke.

Tell: A player’s nervous mannerism or habitual behaviour which might give clues to his hand.

Texas Hold ‘Em: A form of poker in which players use five community cards in combination with their two hole cards to form the best five-card hand. Also called Hold ‘Em.

Third Pair: Pairing the third highest card on the flop/board. (Sometimes referred to as ‘third button pair’.)

Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same rank, also called ‘trips’.

Tight: A conservative player who only plays strong hands, or playing on fewer hands than the norm.

Tight Game: A game where there is a lot of conservative play, with small numbers of players in most pots,

Tilt: Going ‘on tilt’ means to loose control of one’s emotions and play (uncharacteristically) badly. See also On Tilt.

Toke: An Americanism meaning a gratuity or tip.

Ton: £100.

Trey: A three of any suit.

Triplets: Three of a kind.

Trips: Slang for triplets; three of a kind.

Turn Card: The fourth communal card at Hold ‘Em.

Under the Gun: The first player to act.

Under-Raise: To raise less than the previous bet, which is only allowed if a player is going all-in.

Value Bet: Betting with the hope that an opponent will call with a worse hand.

Vigarish: A charge made by a poker club for the facilities offered.

Wire: To inadvertently let someone know the value of your hand.

Wired Pair: A pair in the first two cards of any poker game.

Strong Hand V Strong Hand – An Analysis of Poker Hands

Hand 1

This hand is from the World Championship Final of the 1989 World Series of Poker, where the last two were Johnny Chan (winner in both 1988 and 1987) and 24-year-old new kid on the block Phil Hellmuth. If Hellmuth were to win, he would be the youngest winner thus far. If Chan won, he would equal Johnny Moss’s record of three wins and be the first to win three times in a row. Now sadly no longer with us, Moss had dominated the tournament in its early years. He won in 1970 (when the players voted on the champion) and again in 1971 and 1974.
Hellmuth had about a two to one lead in chips when the final hand was played. First to speak, he made it $40,000 to go. Chan called and re-raised $130,000. Hellmuth then immediately said he was all-in. Chan now had a tough call. He had about half a million dollars left, as against Hellmuth’s million or so with about $300,000 in the pot. But if Chan called and won, he’d be a solid favourite.

The hands were:
    Chan     Hellmuth
    AS,7S    9-9

This is similar to the decision Chris Ferguson faced against T J Cloutier. He is probably behind, but will be no worse than about 5/2 against to win it. The difference here though is that Hellmuth has an aggressive image, so Chan could easily put him on a hand such as a K-Q, in which case Chan would be favourite. Nevertheless, I think it was a marginal call since Chan had not made such a huge commitment to the pot that he could not pass. But then he’s got umpteen World Series Bracelets, which is umpteen more than me, so who am I to argue? Chan called. With a spade draw and an overcard, he’s about 2/1 against.
The flop was KD, KC, 10H with fourth street the QS. Chan would now be saved if the river was a 10 (two pairs), jack (straight), queen (two pairs) or an ace. But Hellmuth was delighted to see the 6S, and his two nines held up. So, on this occasion, the best hand on the flop won and there were no issues with bad luck as in the 2000 final. Phil Hellmuth became the youngest ever champion and since then has gone from strength to strength. He is now generally considered one of the strongest players in the world.

Hand 2

This hand involved Debbie Berlin, Dave (Devilfish) Ulliot and Ram Vaswani. This hand illustrates several themes and shows what happens when a strong hand comes up against another strong hand.

Ram raised the pot to £700 before the flop with pocket sixes and was called on the button by Devilfish and on the big blind by Debbie.

The hands were as follows:
    Devilfish     Debbie     Ram
    KH,JH         KC,10H    6S,6C

The flop was KD, 6H, 3H.

Debbie has a reasonable hand, hitting kings on the flop and she bet £500. Ram just called (he was slow playing his trips – a great hand), hoping to get some action behind him. Devilfish re-raised to £2500 with two kings and a flush draw with another very strong hand. Debbie folded but Ram re-raised again going all-in and Devilfish called. Devilfish has top pair with a good kicker plus four to the flush, but must suspect he is behind. However, there is now too much in the pot for him to pass and he knows he has lots of outs. The turn and river cards were a running pair of fours 4D followed by 4H), making a flush for Devilfish but a winning full house to Ram.


Hand 3

This is another hand with a similar type of confrontation with a strong hand matched against another strong hand. It is also an example of a semi-bluff that has gone wrong. Bambos and Simon Trumper were the players.

Simon, holding AC, 8C raised on the button and Bambos called with KS, QS.

The flop came AD, 8S, 7S.

Simon bet out with the top two pair. Bambos raised all-in with a king-high flush draw. He cannot beat a pair, so his hope is to win the pot on the flop with this semi-bluff. It’s hard to get someone holding the top two pair in Texas Hold ‘Em to pass, so not surprisingly Simon calls. Fourth street brought the AS, giving Bambos his flush but Simon a full house.


Hand 4

This hand involved Dave Welch who raised before the flop with pocket jacks and Dave (Devilfish) Ulliot. Devilfish called, slow playing his pocket aces.

The flop came AS, 10C, 5H.

Devilfish checked his monster hand (i.e. trip aces). Dave Welch, with two jacks, cannot have liked the flop, but he bet, in an effort to win it right there. He knew that if he got called, he was probably up against an ace, perhaps with a weak kicker, and he would definitely slow down after that. Devilfish called again slow playing his trips. Because there is no likely draw on the flop, Devilfish was quite safe in not raising. Dave’s raise before the flop indicated that he was not likely to have two small cards and hence a draw to a bottom straight.
Devilfish was trying to keep Dave Welch interested. If he had raised then, Dave would have undoubtedly passed. Fourth street was the eight of hearts, no visible improvement. Devilfish checked yet again and Welch wisely checked behind him. Dave Welch was hoping this hand was going to be checked out but he was out of luck. The river was the four of diamonds. The board now looked like this: AS, 10C, 5H, 8H, 4D.
Devilfish then bet enough to set Dave all-in. If he checked again here, he knew that Dave would probably just turn his hand over. So he had to bet. This was a tough call for Dave Welch. There was no likely draw that Devilish could have made, except for the remote possibility of the small straight, so it looked like he had an ace or was bluffing. I wouldn’t have liked to choose. In fact, Dave Welch even said to Devilfish that he had either a very strong hand or was on a complete bluff, which was a good analysis. However, Dave called and Devilfish showed his aces.

Reading your opponent in Poker – Part3

A word of caution

The very fact of committing the above observations to print may in itself change the behaviour of players and indeed, for purposes of deception, sophisticated players will often try to mimic the behaviours of less sophisticated players. Sometimes, for instance, a player would make a bet purposely using small denomination chips when holding very strong hands. This is done just on the off-chance that a more sophisticated player will erroneously make the sort of deductions which we gave in Example 1. If no one makes this sort of a deduction – well, you have lost nothing by trying.
On the whole, the above chip-handling behaviours are only applicable to less sophisticated players. However, this is not always the case and sometimes you will see established players making fundamental errors. By revealing these chip-handling behaviours, I have, in a way, ‘broken the magician’s code’ and told you how the card-reading trick is done. However, these are only a small sample of the range of chip-handling behaviours you will observe at the poker table. The challenge, for us all, is to interpret the behaviours and build up a repertoire of new card-reading tricks or analytical techniques.

Card-Handling Behaviours

Again you should be very attentive to how and when your opponents pick up and look at their cards. On the very simplest level, players are so careless sometimes that they pick up their cards in such a way that their neighbours cannot help but see what they are holding. These players are usually so poor that it is easy to determine what they are holding anyway, so I normally tell them to hide their cards. Sometimes, players pick up their cards and look at them as soon as they get them, whilst others pick them up just before it is their turn to act. Just one example will be sufficient to let you know how careful observation and deduction can be used in ‘reading’ or determining what cards a player holds.

Example: Have I got a heart or not?
Often the flop in Hold ‘Em will contain three cards all of the same suit, say KH, 7H, 4H . When this happens one or more players may look at their hands again. The reason for this is that the player may have one card of the suit and has looked for the second time to make sure. It is equally likely that the player has an ace but has forgotten what suit it is. In the case above, if the player has something like AH, 4S then this is a reasonable hand, but if he has AH, KS then this is a more powerful hand. In both cases, if you have a flush already made and bet into the player they will more often than not call you. Some rash players even consider these ‘drawing’ hands to be good enough to bet, raise or re-raise with.
It is possible that a player will have something like AS, KC against the KH, 7H, 4H flop, in which case he should proceed with extreme caution because if this hand is out against a made flush there is practically no chance of the hand improving to win.
By watching what the player does in this sort of circumstance (i.e. the three-flush flop) you can obtain a very good impression of what cards he holds and play your own hand better as a result. So, for instance, if you are the player holding the AS, KC against the KH, 7H, 4H flop, you might well be prepared to proceed with the hand if you see your sole opponent have a second look at his cards. In this case, the chances are high that your opponent has a four-flush and that you are a percentage favourite in the pot (you would have an approximate 65 per cent chance of winning).
Incidentally, it is almost never the case that a player will pick up and look at their cards a second time if they already have the flush made. This is because if a player has two cards of the same suit he will remember what the suit is and even novice players will realise that it is giving the game away to look at their hand. This is why if you do have the flush on the flop and you are playing against sophisticated players it is sometimes deceptive to look at your cards a second time, pretending that you have only got four cards to the flush.


Chip and Card Behaviours

One brief example will illustrate how chip- and card-handling behaviours can combine to give you clues about what a player holds.

Example: I’ve got to protect my hand here!
Many players protect their hands from the danger of the dealer accidentally throwing it into the discards by the simple expedient of placing a chip or coin on top of the two-hole cards. Indeed some players even have special (perhaps’lucky’) chips which they use solely for this purpose. If such a player ‘forgets’ to put the chip on top of his cards it could be because the cards are not worth protecting. In general, when this happens the player is going to pass the cards in any case, so there is not much useful information to be drawn from this sort of observation.
Sometimes novices or poor players who don’t have this habit of putting a chip on top of their cards will suddenly do so.You might even see the player take a whole stack of chips and pile them on top of his cards. When this happens, the player has almost invariably got a very good hand indeed (my money would be on two aces or two kings). Players in this circumstance may subconsciously get a feeling of paranoia that the dealer will rob them of a wonderful money-making opportunity by carelessly throwing their hand into the discards. Indeed there may be a different explanation for different players exhibiting this behaviour, but the important thing to bear in mind is that it does happen and reasonably frequently. If you observe a poor player piling chips onto his cards my advice is to pass unless you have the nuts.
However, as has been stressed at many points in this book, poker is a complex game and many players show feral cunning in the moves they make. So you should not take anything at face value. For instance, relatively sophisticated players who know about this type of card-protection behaviour may well stack chips on top of a worthless hand and then try to bluff you out of the pot.
More likely though is that a sophisticated player (let’s call her Player X) will attempt to set someone up in the hope of winning a big pot. Player X will pick another intelligent player as her quarry and, knowing that this player is observant, will always pile chips on top of her good hands. Player X will make a point of ensuring that the quarry/victim sees the good hand on completion on each occasion. This type of behaviour will be reinforced by constant repetition (perhaps even over a period of a few nights), until Player X considers that her victim has the strongly held belief that ‘Player X always piles chips on her good hands’. Then remarkably, when the two are in a big pot together, Player X will neglect to pile chips on her blockbuster hand and as a result will win a lot of extra chips from her hapless victim. Of course, this sort of trick should only work once against a good player.
This is only one example of how good players can set other players up for a ‘coup de grace’ (or perhaps it could be called a ‘coup de theatre’, because of the dramatic effect). So I would urge you to look out for this type of situation yourself.
Why does Player X pick another intelligent player as the victim? Why not a poor player? The reason is clear. It is because subtle play is lost upon poor players. They either don’t notice or, if they do, it goes right over their heads. It seems like a paradox but you cannot do anything tricky against poor players and you should think carefully before trying to bluff a poor player. We are not saying don’t try to bluff a poor player, just bear in mind that bluffs work best against intelligent players.


Previous article


Reading your opponent in Poker – Part2

Example 2: Little piles, little blinds
When the blinds for a tournament have reached, for example, the 600-unit stage, you will often observe a player building his chips into piles of exactly 600 units to make it easier to call the first bet. Then later when the blinds go up to 800 units this player will change the piles into stacks of 800-units value. This tells you something about the player. They are likely to be the type that calls much more often than they should, that is, in poker terminology, to be a’ calling station’. You cannot chase them out of the pot no matter how high your bet. It is best not to try stealing a pot or bluffing this type of player because the percentage chance is very high that you will be called. Conversely, if you have a reasonable hand you can try a bet because they are likely to call with a lesser hand.

Example 3: Don’t hide your chips
Often at the poker table you will hear the cry ‘Don’t hide your chips.’ This refers to the practice that some players have of hiding their high denomination chips behind several piles of smaller denomination chips. The explanation for this is often that the players hiding the chips are, both figuratively and actually, protecting their chips. This type of player tends to be ‘tight’ (that is, plays only very high value hands). So, if this type of player is in a pot with you be very careful. The percentage chance is high that the player will have a good hand.

Example 4: Big jar, small jars
As opposed to the type of player described in Example 1 who like to have small piles of high denomination chips, there are others who like to have big piles of small denomination chips. If the card room supervisor wants to change their small chips ‘up’ for those of bigger denomination, they want to keep the small value chips, ‘because it looks more’. They seem to think that large piles of chips are more intimidating and, to some extent, I agree.
The French psychologist, Piaget, did a series of experiments with young children where he asked them to compare the quantities of liquids in glass jars of various sizes. In one version of the experiment, two of the glass jars were tall and each contained the same fixed quantity of liquid. There were also two smaller glass jars into which Piaget poured the contents of one of the larger jars. Piaget asked the children whether the tall jar, which remained full, contained the same quantity of liquid as the two smaller jars. His findings were that, in the early stages of development, children considered it natural for the quantity of the liquid to vary with the shape and dimensions of the containers into which it was poured. In other words, they did not have a fully developed concept of the conservation of matter or quantity.
Piaget was interested in the developing thought processes of children, so it would be rash to compare the cognitive processing of supposedly sophisticated poker players to that of small children. Still, it is possible that there may be perceptual processes which might make players perceive tall stacks as containing more chips than several smaller stacks.
A tall stack of chips in front of a player does seem to look more daunting than several small stacks, even though the total value might be the same in both cases. This is particularly so if a player has the small stacks one behind the other. There is no real empirical evidence for this observation but it often seems that players tend to be less inclined to bet into an opponent with a tall intimidating stack or stacks of chips in front of him than they would be to bet into anyone who has stacked the chips into several small piles. Although this is tentative advice, I do think there is merit in stacking your chips high.

Example 5: Macho man
I have never observed this behaviour in women players hence the title. Sometimes a man, usually an inexperienced player, will call a bet, or more often a raise, in such a way that there will be a cracking or snapping made by the chips as he bangs them into the pot. This usually happens after he pauses for thought. This behaviour is almost always a sign that he has a medium-strength hand. If it happens before the flop, in a raised Hold ‘Em pot, this behaviour could indicate a fair hand such as KD, QS or AC, 10S or even 7D, 7C. Or, if it happens after a flop of say KS, 6H, 3H, it again would indicate a fair hand, perhaps KC, 9S or KC, 8S. This behaviour seems to me to be a non-verbal statement meaning ‘I have a good hand and I am going to make a stand’ (usually the player is mistaken in thinking he has a good hand). The player is also making a statement along the lines of ‘you are not going to get away with a bluff against me’.
If in the former situation you are the one who raised with a proper raising hand, such as QS, QH, then you have a big advantage because you are better able to put your opponent on a probable hand. If a higher card than your pair comes, you are in a much better position to gauge from his reaction whether it ‘hits’ one of his hole cards or not. Equally, in the latter case, if you hold say AH, KD (when the flop was K-6-3), then you can bet with impunity.
A characteristic of this macho-type of player is often that they do not like to be check-raised. They tend to take it as an insult or perhaps even as an affront to their manhood, and they almost always call if they have a medium-strength hand. In our opinion this is one of the few situations where it is advantageous to check-raise in a pot-limit or no-limit game.


PreviousPart 3

Reading your opponent in Poker – Part1

Poker is a complex and multifaceted game whose central facets are sometimes called the three P’s: patience, position (with regard to your proximity to the dealer) and psychology. In this series of articles I will focus on the last of these P’s which focuses on how to read the behaviour of your opponent: the psychology of poker.

Zia Mahmood, the world-class bridge player, is quoted as saying, ‘One of the reasons I love the game of bridge is that there are no absolutely right answers to anything. Bridge is not a game that can be played mechanically, according to a series of rules. You have to use not only your brain and your memory but your imagination and your creative spark to avoid the traps that lie in even the simplest position’. The same description could just as easily be applied to the game of poker and the ability to analyse the behaviour of your fellow players is one of the subtlest and most difficult aspects of the game to master. In order to improve your game, it is important that you are able to observe closely how players behave and understand what, in percentage terms, these behaviours are likely to mean. Let’s start with a few very simple examples – how players stack and handle their chips.



All casino games and some home games are played using ‘chips’ instead of money. In these situations the player would exchange his money for the same value of chips. There are a number of reasons for this, of which I will just give you two. Chips are easier to handle and count than money. Players can see at a glance whether an opponent has got a few or a lot of chips in front of them, whereas with a bundle of notes it is often impossible to know how much someone has. There is also a deeper psychological reason, seldom fully articulated, why casinos prefer players to use chips rather than money. When you exchange your money for chips, you have literally and figuratively exchanged something of real value for a playing token, for something that is once removed from money. I have seen people bet considerable sums at roulette and at the poker table using chips and, although it is a moot point, I sometimes wonder whether they would be so keen to make the same bet if they had to use the same fold-up money they used to pay for their groceries. There is a well known saying heard often in casinos and card rooms, that the person who invented casinos made a lot of money, but the person who invented chips made even more money.
Later on, we will examine the importance of ‘stack’ size – the number of chips that a person has stacked in front of him. A big stack will depending on the monetary value or denomination of the chips, generally be more valuable than a short or medium stack. The size of stack you are playing and the size of the stack held by your opponents, are major factors to be considered when making a decision at the poker table.


Chip Handling

Some players divide their chips into separate piles, each pile having chips of the same value, others make one or two very tall piles with the bigger denomination chips at the bottom while others try to build structures resembling the Great Wall of China. Players will also differ in terms of how they put chips into the pot and what denomination of chips they use in different betting situations. Mostly these behaviours do not have any meaning that are discernibly usefull but below are a few examples of chip handling behaviours which I contend either offer an insight into a player’s personality or give an indication of the value of the hand they are holding.

Example 1: Breaking the big note!
You may recall when you were younger, back in the days when to have a £5 note (or a $20 dollar bill for our American readers) was to be wealthy. In those days, if you had a big note, you did not like to ‘break it’ because once broken it tended to be spent much more quickly. The big note was something to be kept and prized. Some players treat their chips in this way. They are always wanting to give change, e.g. give you ten 100-unit chips for your 1000-unit chip and once they get the 1000-unit chip they like to hold on to it. (In contrast there are many players who are delighted to change big chips because a pile of small value chips looks more – see Example 4.) Watch this type of player closely because often, when they have a choice of putting small or large denomination chips into a pot the choice of chips can have a meaning.
They will often put their small denomination chips into the pot when they have a marginal or perhaps a drawing hand. Sub-consciously, they may consider that they are not breaking into their pile of valuable chips, so they can do no real damage and can afford to speculate on this occasion. To continue the analogy with the ‘big note’, in this case they are only spending their small change. When this same player ignores his low denomination chips and puts in large value chips, then beware – there is a very high percentage chance that the player has a strong hand. Their subconscious reasoning may be that ‘I will be getting these chips back anyway when I win the pot therefore I don’t need to put in small value chips. Also by putting in the high value chips the pot will be easier to count and the hand will be speeded up. I will get my reward sooner.’


Part 2

Analysis of Poker Hands


This is an example of a player making a semi-bluff raise with a drawing hand. The hand is between Blackpool-based player Howard Plant and Peter (the Bandit) Evans.

Howard and Peter both call a flop containing KS, JH, 10S.

Peter has A – K and bets £400.

Howard has QS, 4S and raises to £1000 (Howard has a very strong drawing hand, he is drawing to both flush and straight); this is a semi-bluff raise.

Peter re-raises, putting himself all-in, and Howard calls.

Fourth street brings a KC giving Peter three kings and Howard still has his draw.

Fifth street is a 5H meaning that Peter wins and Howard’s draw has been unsuccessful. Howard’s hand was actually a slight favourite on the flop, but this example illustrates the fact that sometimes both players in a heads-up situation can play optimally and eventually the result is a matter of luck.


Judgement Calls

This hand features Howard Plant. His opponent this time is Charalambos Xanthos, otherwise known as Bambos, a restaurant and hotel owner, now based in London. Bambos is very calm and methodical at the poker table; nothing seems to faze him. This is an example of Bambos making a judgement call.

Howard bets £300 with 9-8.

Bambos raises to £900 with A-Q and Howard calls.

The flop comes K-7-6.

The board is completed with no more betting to make K-7-6-J-J.

Neither player has any sort of a hand, but Howard tries a bluff with a bet of £900 (it’s the only way that Howard can win the pot which by this time is worth a lot of money).
Bambos, however, calls with only an ace high to win the pot, Bambos demonstrated excellent card- and player-reading skills.


Slow Playing

This is an example of a player slow playing top trips. The hand is between Hamish Shah and Tom Gibson. Hamish is a stockbroker based in London. Although he’s been playing regularly for ten years, he says he plays mostly as a pastime. Tom is from County Kildare, Ireland, and is a former civil servant who currently lives in Dublin. Tom has given up the civil service and now plays poker for a living.

In this pot, Hamish has A-A and raises the pot to £100, Tom calls with A-J.

The flop brings AC, 10C, 7H and fourth street a 6S.

Tom bets £200 with his ace-good kicker and Hamish calls. Here Hamish is slow playing his monster hand (trip aces), but note he is taking a risk in potentially lettingTom draw for a flush or straight.

Fifth street brings a KS.

Tom checks and Hamish bets £200. Tom calls and Hamish wins the pot.

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.