Table games are a particular sight at online casinos, and the Poker tables, in particular, are always flooded. What is a Poker? Poker is a card game widespread around the world whose history can be traced back to the Persian game of As-Nas, or the French game of Poque.
It became more popular in the mid to late 19th century, when various variants of Poker came about, most especially the seven-card stud. Its popularity grew more through the 1970s to the early 2000s (the Poker Boom). It saw the number of Poker players grow rapidly, especially community card games (Texas Hold’em and Omaha) players.
Now, the game has become one of the most played games worldwide and is a mainstay of every casino site that offers table games, both land-based and online. Playing the game of Poker might not seem to require many extreme strategies and complexities at first sight, but it does!
As such, understanding the rules and gameplay of Poker has proved difficult for lots of new players looking to learn the game. Some have already learnt the game but can seem to make any progress since they just keep losing. This Article will be breaking down the royal game of Poker to its simplest bit for easy nitpicking for new players to learn how to play Poker.
Already experienced players should also stick around as various strategies and approaches will be discussed to take your Poker game to the next level!
Getting Started with Poker
Basic Rules and Game Mechanics, Betting Options
If you want to know how to play Poker, you need to understand its basic rules. Poker, like most other card games, uses a 52-card deck. 13 cards each (Ace, King, Queen, Joker, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2) from four suits (Spade, Club, Heart and Diamond).
The number of players involved in a Poker game may determine what Poker variant will be played since there is a fixed total number of cards (52). While two decks of cards may be in use, only one can be in use per round.
The other pack is shuffled down to speed up the gameplay since there won’t be a need to wait to pack the cards up and shuffle again. This is common in land casinos.
During a game of Poker, the player to the right of the dealer cuts the deck before cards are dealt to players. Also, cards are dealt clockwise. This affects Poker strategies, as will be discussed later on.
Betting in Poker
While the Poker variant you’re playing will determine the number of betting rounds that will occur, some basic options are common among all Poker variants that you need to know on how to play Poker for beginners. These are call, check, raise and fold. But before the cards are even dealt, an ante or blind (or both!) is required to be put into the put to start the betting round. Betting may now go on after this.
- Call: You call in Poker to match the biggest bet already placed by placing the same number of chips into the put.
- Check: After a round of betting. Players may check if they do not place any bets. You can only check if nobody places a bet before you.
- Raise: This involves placing a higher number of chips into the pot. Usually, any amount higher than the call bet.
- Fold: Also called “drop”, the player decides not to put any chip into the pot and discards their hand. They are effectively out of that game round. Whatever wager they’ve placed into the pot is lost.
Types of Poker Games and Their Differences
We have numerous variations of Poker, and some are not even officially listed because people develop new Poker rules while playing in-house. The popular variants can be divided into three types of Poker games:
- Draw Poker
- Under this category of Poker, players are dealt a complete hand. They can then replace these cards (usually with a price) to improve the strength of the cards in their hand. Examples of draw Poker are Lowball, Draw Jacks or Better, Draw High and Five Card Draw. There are usually two rounds of betting involved. One after the cards are dealt and before new cards are drawn from the deck, and another after the draw. This is then followed by a showdown. Five Card Draw is the simplest Poker variant and does not involve any complexity. For Draw High, the betting limit in the second round is twice that of the first. Draw Jacks or Better is essentially the same as Draw High, except that a pair of jacks or better is needed to open the pot. In Lowball Draw Poker, the lowest hand is the winning hand. It also has variants like the Deuce-to-seven Lowball and the Ace to Five Lowball.
- Stud Poker
- Stud Poker variants are one of the oldest Poker variants. They involve dealing with some of the players’ cards face up, and others face down. It could be a five-card stud or a seven-card stud. Examples include Mississippi Stud, Seven-Card Stud, Seven-Card Stud High Low, and Razz. In Seven Card Stud, all players must compulsorily place an ante into the pot, after which three cards are dealt to each player – two faces down, called the hole cards and one card up, the door card. The first round of betting may take place after this. Another card called the fourth street is dealt face up. The second round of betting takes place. The fifth street card is dealt face up, then the sixth street card face up and then the River, which is the seventh and last card, is dealt face down. A round of betting takes place after each card is dealt.
- Community Card Poker
- This category of Poker includes the most popularly played Poker variant, Texas Hold’em. It is usually taught how to play Poker for dummies. Another popular variation is Omaha. In community card Poker games, some cards are dealt to the players face down, and some cards are dealt face up in the centre of the table, called the community cards, from which the players can make their winning hand. In Texas Hold’em Poker, two cards are dealt to the players face down. They are called pocket or hole cards. A first round of betting takes place after this. Three community cards called flops are then opened, after which a second round of betting takes place. The dealer opens the fourth community card called The Turn, after which the players remaining on the table bet. The last card is then opened, called the River. A final round of betting takes place after this. A showdown occurs if more than one player is remaining on the table. Players make their strongest hand from any five cards from their two pocket cards and the five community cards.
Importance of Choosing the Right Game and Stakes
Choosing the wrong game to play may end up having disastrous consequences. Some Poker tables have special rules that you may not know about, and some Poker variants have very complex rules that are not easy to grasp.
You should also choose games that come with small blinds and antes. Games with bigger blinds will quickly eat into your bankroll and may pressure you to make wrong decisions. Besides, you’re likely to meet much more experienced players on such tables.
Essential Poker Skills
Getting good at Poker doesn’t involve the most complex calculations. It’s just an aggregate of understanding how Poker works, which are the Poker rules combined with some basic skills.
Understanding the Value of Hands and Hand Rankings
One Poker rules simple is knowing the value of the cards in your hand, which can be evaluated if you know the hand rankings. Most Poker variants end with a showdown that involves revealing your strongest combination of five cards. These are the possible combinations of five cards from strongest to weakest.
- Five of a Kind: This is the strongest possible combination which can only be achieved in Poker variants that makes use of Wilds. Given that we only have four suits, having four cards of the same value is impossible, so the wild makes up for it. The wilds are usually the joker card in most variants. An example of a five-of-a-kind combo is four deuces (2’s) and a wild card or three fours and two wild cards.
- Royal Flush: You are said to have a royal flush when your hand is A, K, Q, J, 10. It is the highest possible combination without the use of Wilds, and the odds of this happening is at 1 in about 650,000!
- Straight Flush: This is a combo of five cards in the same sequence and the same suit. An example is 10, 9, 8, 7, and 6 of the spade suit.
- Four of a Kind: As you may already guess from the name, a hand with four cards of the same value, irrespective of the suit, is four of a kind. An example is having four treys (3’s) or four six’s. The last card is irrelevant.
- Full House: You are said to have a full house if you have three cards of the same value and your remaining two cards are also the same. An example is three six and two deuces.
- Flush: This is a combination of five cards in the same suit that are not in sequence. 9, 6, 5, 3, and Ace of the diamond suit is an example of a flush.
- Straight: You are said to have a straight if you have five cards that aren’t of the same card in sequence.
- Three of a Kind: This hand combination consists of three cards of the same value, the other two cards shouldn’t be of different values. Three queens, an 8 and a six is an example.
- Two Pairs: As the name already suggests, it involves two different pairs of cards of the same rank. The fifth card shouldn’t be the same as the pairs. An example is two threes, two sevens and a king.
- One Pair: This combo has just one pair of cards of the same rank with the remaining three different cards. You are said to have one pair if your strongest combo is 9, 8, 8, 3, and Ace.
- High Card: Also called a pig hand or nothing, this is when your five cards do not have any possible combo. Instead, your highest card is picked. A five-card nothing combo with an Ace is higher than that with a nine.
Importance of Position and Timing in Poker
Another basic skill to incorporate that isn’t in the rules of Poker is choosing the right spot on the table and reading your long it takes your opponents to make their moves, and this may give an insight into what kind of card they may have.
As you may know, cards in Poker are dealt from the left of the dealer. The player immediately left of the dealer kicks off with the small blind, and the next player next to him responds with a big blind. The player that immediately follows is said to be “under the gun”. They do not have much of a chance to see how the remaining players react, as they must call the blind bet or immediately fold.
Players at later positions are said to have an advantage because they can note players’ reactions and guess what kind of hands they may have before deciding to bet or not. If you notice that the players before you have relatively weaker hands and could be bluffing, you may raise the bet or call.
However, if they happen to exhibit signs of having high-ranking cards, you may fold. Players in earlier positions do not have such opportunities. New players just learning how to play Poker for dummies should also avoid positions closer to the dealer since they won’t have enough information to evaluate their opponents’ hands before betting.
Another important factor to note that separates elite players from beginners is how long it takes them to make decisions. Players with good hands generally tend to take longer decisions before raising or calling. While average hands check after taking a long time to decide. Players learning how to play Poker for beginners should learn to take the same time for all decisions.
Reading Opponents and Understanding Their Behavior
Just learning how to play Poker isn’t enough. One of the basic skills that will give you an advantage over other players is psychology. Learning how to read their hands, behaviours, and how they react to various cards they may have. We broadly have two categories of players – aggressive and passive players.
Aggressive players tend to stay in the game and bluff even with weaker hands. While passive players tend to fold if they have a weaker hand and go strong with a strong hand. They can easily be intimidated into folding, especially if they have a mediocre or weak hand.
As such, once you see a passive player raising the bet or calling a high bet, you may want to fold, except if you also have a relatively strong hand.
Timing is also important here. Players that quickly raise the bet post-flop usually have weaker hands. You may also need to watch for physical tells like sighing, sudden quietness, an increase in pulse, concealing a smile and others. Players that glance at their hole cards once the flop is dealt tend to have strong hands.
Tips for Winning at Poker
Bankroll Management and Game Selection
One mistake lots of players make, both new and experienced, is that they just jump into a Poker game without an idea of how much they have, how much they can afford to lose, and how much they will bet during the gaming session. Bankroll management is important not just in Poker but in all games, either table games, slot games or sportsbook betting.
It’s easy to get carried away when betting and then decide to spend more than they afford to lose by trying to recover their losses. Before sitting at a table of Poker, you must first decide how much you are allocating for such a game to avoid overspending and accumulating unnecessary losses.
Once you have allocated an amount to be spent on the Poker gaming session, you may now proceed to choose a Poker table. But maybe not yet, don’t just settle at any Poker table. They are some key factors to consider before settling at a Poker table, especially in land-based casinos. One such factor is the blinds of the casinos.
Players with a small bankroll should avoid going to tables with big blinds as it will quickly eat away at it even if they always fold and don’t hit any big winnings. You should also check how quickly the blinds increase. Some tables increase the blinds every 8-10 rounds.
Let’s say the initial blinds are $1/$2 ($1 for the small blind and $2 for the big blind). They may increase it to $5/$10 after 10 rounds. Again, players with small bankrolls should avoid such tables.
Another reason newer players may want to avoid tables with big blinds and antes is that it is the table that the more experienced will be going to. I’m sure you won’t want to start pitting yourself against very good players as a beginner. When selecting games, you should also choose those with relatively simple Poker rules and avoid complexities.
Importance of Patience and Discipline in Poker
When playing Poker, there isn’t a specific number of rounds that must be played to end the Poker session. As a result, you can take your time and avoid going too aggressively by bluffing even on weaker hands. You would be caught if you bluff too much. Take your time, fold if you have a weak hand and wait till you have a relatively strong hand. It’s not a crime to fold.
When learning how to play Poker, you’ll learn not to dig too fast into your bankroll. Do not call huge bets unnecessarily. I’m sure you don’t want your chips to disappear in a few rounds. This may invariably end up in you tilting. Tilt occurs when a player is on edge mentally. It’s a state of frustration and/or anger which other players will surely take advantage of because your emotions will be written on your face.
What causes tilt? It can come as a result of various reasons. It could be a result of making wrong decisions constantly. It could also be animosity against other players on the table or simply bad luck! So, how do you manage it?
Ignore the previous round. It simply means you shouldn’t fault your strategy. As long as you’re applying a strategy correctly, keep using it. It won’t always win, and there’s no problem if it doesn’t. You can also play passively. This will prevent huge losses. Another simple and effective strategy is to take a break. You may leave the Poker table and come back later. No one is holding you down!
Strategies for Making Profitable Decisions
You may follow some basic how to play Poker strategies to increase your probability of winning. One such strategy is using your telling signs to your advantage. Before you can do that, you must first establish what your tells are, things you do in certain situations.
Because other players may have recognized this, you can use it reversely and display them in the wrong scenario to force your opponent to make a wrong decision.
You should also avoid being too aggressive. If you have a strong hand and want to raise the pot, if you raise it too aggressively and you’re a passive player, others will recognize this and fold. This ultimately defeats the purpose of making more money.
Advanced Poker Strategies
Players that have already mastered Poker basics and the act of reading players’ hands and their behaviours can apply some advanced strategies to further improve the probability of them winning the game of Poker.
Bluffing and Semi-Bluffing Technique
The most important advanced Poker strategy is deception. This is simply manipulating your opponents to make a different decision than they would if they knew the cards you have. The deception technique you’ll be using the most is bluffing. There are two types of bluff. A pure bluff or simply called bluffing and a semi-bluff.
A pure bluff is played on a Pig hand. Whenever the hole card and flop are dealt, and you see there is no way of improving your card, you may call a bluff with the intention of having players with good hands fold.
A semi-bluff is a little bit different. For semi-bluffs, you are calling a bluff on the prospect of your hand strength increasing in later rounds while expecting those with good hands to fold early in the round. An example is if you’re dealt 3 spades and 7 diamonds. If the flop cards are Jack hearts, 4 clubs and 6 diamonds, you know you will hit a straight if a five of any suit appears. You may call a semi-bluff on such a prospect.
There are a few factors that may influence the success of your bluff or semi-bluff. To successfully bluff in Poker, you must first know what kind of player you are. If very passive players bluff, there is a higher likelihood of it occurring because everyone expects them to only go big when they have a strong hand.
You shouldn’t also bluff against a player with a big bankroll if yours is low. This is because they can lose more. Especially in no-limit Poker, all they have to do is wait for you to have a strong hand and force you to go all-in (place all your chips into the pot).
Understanding Pot Odds and Implied Odds
Understanding pot odds and implied odds can effectively affect how you see the game of Poker and your probability of winning. The pot odds are simply the ratio of your call bet to that of the pot size. If you’re required to call $15 to stay in a betting round of $150 pot size, then the pot odds are 10 to 1.
If you calculate your card hand and you have a higher chance of winning than that of the pot size, say 5 to 1, you are expected to earn about half of the pot size on average, which is higher than the call bet.
Implied odds are more complicated than pot odds because they are based on what the final size of the pot may be. Players who can properly guesstimate the implied odds will increase their chances of winning.
Importance of Bet Sizing and Timing
We have discussed timing before now, let’s talk a bit about bet size. You may have a good hand and want to raise the bet, but how much should you raise the bet?
In general, you will want to raise the pre-flop bet size if you notice there’s a weak player among the blinds because they will want to call and stay in the game. By doing this, you’re increasing the potential amount you will win.
Bet larger sizes when you have a good card but not too high to avoid other players from flopping early. You want to take as much value from your strong hand, and as such, you should bet around 3× the call value.
Overbet on a nothing hand. Overbetting will naturally cause some players that will want to call to fold early. However, you should also check the community cards before doing this. You should avoid bluffing if the community cards can easily give rise to strong hand combinations.
Poker is a very interesting game that can be played for fun or to earn some money. Reading this article, we expect you to have gained some valuable information for you to use in your next Poker game.