Poker is one of the few casino games that are easy to learn yet difficult to master. Yes, anyone can learn the game’s rules but to actually be successful and win it, one must study and strategize. If you are relatively new to poker, here is our quick guide to playing poker that will jumpstart your career.
First, the basics. A poker table can have between six and nine players up against one another. A heads up game is played between two contenders. This usually happens in tournaments or regular poker table that is about to end and only has the last two players up against each other. This can also be done when a poker table only has two players.
Texas Hold’em Poker is one of the more common types of poker. In this game, the dealer hands out two cards at the start of each hand or round. Players must be careful not to show this cards to their opponents lest they want to give out their cards even if the player is to fold, they should not show their cards to prevent the other players from reading the cards on the table and on the deck. These two initial cards are called the hold cards or pocket cards. This cards will be used later on to make a poker hand along with the other cards the dealer will lay on the table.
In poker, betting is crucial so it is important that you know the blinds, also known as the forced bets. This means the money you have to bet whether you fold or call. It is mandatory and is placed on the pot. There are two blinds in a poker game: Small Blinds and the Big Blinds. Big blinds, as the name suggests, is the bigger amount – always double of the small blinds. The player sitting to the left of the dealer will start as the small blind and the player sitting to the left of the small blind will bet the big blind. The player adjacent to the big blind is the first player to decide should they want to call or fold.
In most cases, the blinds remain constant throughout. If you want to go for a higher blind, choosing a different table may be your only option. In friendly poker games, you and your friends can decide to increase the blinds every two or three hands or when every player has had their turn. In tournaments, the blinds also increase depending on the host. Usually, blinds start small at 25/50 then they would increase to 50/100 every 30 minutes or so.
In poker, the order of action is always to the left. As soon as the blinds are placed, the player to the left of the big blind is the first one to decide if they want to join the hand. The players usually have three choices that they can choose from:
FOLD – A player can choose to fold if they do not want to join in the hand and gives up their cards
CALL – The player chooses to join in the hand and matches the big blind bet.
RAISE – The player raises the bet. This means that the player calls on the big blind bet and choose to increase the bet. Raising at the initial betting is often a strong sign of a strong hand. For example, blinds set at 50/100, the minimum amount to raise is 200, or double of the big blind.
In cases that someone raises the bet, each player, including those that have placed the blinds and those who have previously called will have to wait their turn to inform the table whether they want to call or fold. Once all the bets are in place, the dealer will then have to deal a total of five cards, face-up, to finish the hand.
As soon as the initial bets are placed, the dealer will have to pull out the first three cards, also called the “flop.” Once the flop is laid down, the players will have to start another round of betting, starting from the small blind. Players can choose to “check.” This means the player chooses not to bet and look at the next card. If all of the players checks, the next card is then dealt. However, if one player chooses to bet, players will have to wait their turn to signify their intent – fold, call, or raise.
The fourth card to be dealt is the “turn.” Once this card is exposed, another round of betting is initiated, giving players to raise their bets or to fold should anyone places a bet. The fifth and final card laid out is the “river.” This card signals the last round of betting for a particular hand. In this round, the players will have to reveal their hole cards to see which of the players have the winning hand. The players will combine their hole cards with any three of the five cards on the table. The player with the best hand wins the pot.
Poker tournaments are poker games played by a number of players from 10 up to a thousand. These players sit on different tables until they reach the final table and go heads up against a player. There are various types of poker tournaments that players can choose from. This includes:
Freezeout – This type of tournament does not allow players to re-buy. A re-buy is the chance for the player to buy another set of chips once the starting stack is lost by the player. Not all tournaments allow a player to re-buy, particularly the freezeout tournaments. Generally, some tournaments only allow re-buy in the first hour of a tournament. Players who would want to re-buy should also consider the blinds. If the blinds are increasing, it might not be best to re-buy as this would not give them enough chips to really strategize their game.
Some tournaments allow players to purchase a new stack whilst they are playing or before their current stack runs out. It is called an “add-on.” The player does not have to be out of the game before they can buy an add-on. This is most often available before the re-buy hour ends.
Multi-Buy – Players can buy multiple stacks of chips.
Freeroll – These types of tournaments allow players to enter free but still offer them cash prizes or tournament tickets.
Guaranteed Tournaments (GTD) – These tournaments provide players a guaranteed prize pool instead of a collective prize pool that depends on the number of participants. For instance, a $3,000 GTD tournament with a $15 buy-in has less than 200 players, the prize pool remains $3,000. But if the number of players is more than 200, the GTD prize pool will also increase.
Satellites – These tournaments are often considered qualification tournaments. The winner’s prize is a ticket to a bigger tournament either for an online and live cash poker tournament.
Bounty – This tournament pays players for eliminating another player.
This type of tournament involves simple poker where players, usually five of them, can sit and play at the table. Players must pay the buy-in or entry fee of the tournament. Once a table has enough players, the game starts. There is no fixed starting time, as they start as soon as enough players.
Of course, playing poker comes with the understanding that you all can understand one another when you are at the table. There are some terminologies that avid players make when they converse with other players. Some of the manuals and books that you can read to better improve your poker knowledge would most likely use these terminologies, so to make it easier for you, we will break down some of the common terms.
A shark refers to someone who is quite knowledgeable in poker. They are often the go-to gurus of newbie poker players. They recognise patterns in play, can read their opponents, and the ones that make money out of newbie poker players. Can they sense fear? We don’t really know but they are just so good that they can devour you in seconds.
In poker, you don’t want to be a fish lost in the sea full of sharks. Fish refers to newbie poker players. They are often smelled and devoured by hungry sharks because their inexperience is quite evident in their manner of playing.
This refers to the betting activity that occurs even before the dealer deals the flop. Players with strong hole cards often intimidate their opponents by raising the pre-flop. This is a good way of determining who among your opponents have strong hole cards as well.
This is the card that the dealer excludes from the deck after each round of betting. This is often the top card. Eliminating it from the deck prevents cheating.
The act of making your opponent think you have a strong card. This is often done to scare opponents and eventually winning the pot.
Every player gets the chance to become the “dealer.” When a particular player is referred to as on the button, it simply means that the player is the last to act on a betting round.
The pot is divided into the last two players or more if they all have the same hand.
An expression used for players with the best hand. They are often unbeatable and gives the player great control in betting.
This term is often used for players who have invested much into a pot that it is a disgrace to fold.
Poker, as mentioned, is a difficult game to master. It takes years of practice and a whole lot of luck to be good at it. Whether you are a noob or a pro at the table, there are some unwritten rules you must observe. This includes:
Don’t be too talkative. Talking whilst in the middle of the game may cause you to give out important information about your cards and your opponents might use it against you. Sometimes a mere comment on a particular hand will give away too much information about you – your style of playing or poker experience.
Never lose your focus. Most noobs make the mistake of losing their focus. There might be some instances that players might frustrate you, i.e. folding too often that might cause you to lose your focus. Ignore your opponent’s strategy and divert your focus on your card and strategy.
Be firm. Showing your opponents that you have firm decisions can often throw them off.
Remain positive. Always exude a positive vibe whilst playing. Be friendly but not too chatty.
Stay calm. Bad hand? Don’t get too frustrated and show your emotions. In playing poker, one thing you have to master is controlling your emotions. A simple frown or eyebrow movement can give away your hand.
Stick to the basics. Common mistakes newbie poker players make is thinking that they are always better, applying too many complex strategies when always the best ones are the basics.
In Malaysia, some of the poker players practice their game and knowledge by playing in online casinos that offer poker games. How about you? Do you have any preferred online casinos?