Playing poker at home or at a friend’s house is completely different than playing in a casino or in a tournament. The World Tournament does not permit smoking, since it has become unpopular in society today.
Casino poker rooms for small tournament and game play allows smoking and after a few hours in a stuffy room the cloud of stale smoke begins to burn your eyes and choke your airways. In these rooms, the rules for a game may be using either Robert’s Rules of Poker or the World Series of Poker rules or some combination of either or both. Before you take a seat, ask the dealer what the rules are. He most likely won’t say “Robert’s” or “World Series” but he’ll tell you if it is no-limit, wild cards, or other important information that you need to know to play. Be prepared to play for 12 to 18 hours straight, since most of the games last at least that long.
Whether playing in a tournament or a casino room, there is nothing quite like the sounds and smells of an intense game of poker. It only takes a few hours of sitting at the table before you start to notice your neighbour’s fragrance – good or bad (usually bad) – and begin to be annoyed by the blathering of the somebody at the table behind you. Combine foul odors with fatigue and hunger and you’re likely to have a testy attitude toward everyone in the game. These are the reasons that we are going to start with Poker Etiquette – and we may end with the same as a reminder.
- People have all kinds of reasons for playing poker in a gaming facility.
- Some are there for the social environment and love challenging themselves.
- Some take a seat because they are the best player in their home town or among their friends.
- Some take the game very seriously and are there to win money.
- Others are there because the game is just fun to play.
- Some are there to prove that they are great players – to themselves and their buddies at home
- Then, there are the real hard players who believe in their hearts that they should be professionals and have only been denied the privilege of some twist of fate.
- Every poker table is likely to have characters
Regardless of the character you may find at the table, it is imperative that you apply the rules of etiquette, because it is the dealer’s choice to allow you to continue to sit in the game or have you removed for breach of etiquette. And, you never know which way the dealer is going to lean.
The Always Dos:
- Know when it’s your turn to play. Spend the time when the play is going around the table to think about what you want to do when it comes back to you and try to play, without causing a long delay for others.
- Push the chips that you are betting toward the pot. Avoid tossing them into the center like something seen in a movie, because chips have a tendency to splash and roll off the table. This also prevents other players from suspecting that you are not playing the correct amount of chips.
- If everyone at the table has folded and you decide to show your own cards, turn them face up on the table for everyone to see. Showing just a player next to you or one that asked to see them out of curiosity makes it appear that you are cheating and working as a team.
- Keep your hand IN your hand until you have folded or won. Some players concentrate so hard on their own hands that they glance around the table to see how many people are still in and base their bet and their hands on that. Others may not realize that you are still playing and play out of turn.
- Pay attention to blinds and antes and don’t make people remind you that it’s your turn.
- Keep your chips on the table at all times. If you remove your chips, you cannot play them during the game.
- Choose a seat that is open and make that your lucky seat. Switching seats is not going to teach you to play better against the other competitors.
- Profanity is not acceptable at the table. You might accidentally get excited and let loose with an unacceptable word of joy, but train yourself to avoid any of the degrading words such as that famous “F – bomb”.
- If you wish to smoke at the table, ask the rest of the table if it is acceptable with them and be sure to ask the people on each side of you if they have asthma, heart problems or breathing problems. If they do, excuse yourself from the table and smoke outside. You really don’t want to kill someone because of your own habit.
- If you have a cough, even if it is not from a cold or disease, cough ONLY into your shoulder not into your hands. Any germs that you may spew into your hands will be transferred to the entire deck of cards and potentially get others sick.
- Always tip the dealer when you win a pot – even though he had nothing to do with you winning. It’s a “thank you” for keeping the game moving and honest and maintaining order and peace at the table. **There is one exception: a game that the dealer has already told you is “no flop, no rake, no tip”
The Never Dos:
- Do not verbally intimidate or abuse another player – at your table or in the room you are playing.
- Do not criticize any other player’s play or method of playing – not even “he takes so long” or other comments.
- Do not turn your hand face up while the play is on-going – there may be players that can count cards and showing your hand may give them one card that they needed to know was in the deck or out of the deck. (In many casinos in the U.S., there is a penalty for showing your hand.)
- Do not react to the cards as play continues. Even if on the flop you would have had a great hand, had you not folded, don’t admit that you are such a poor player that you folded too early. Other players will see this as a weakness and bluff you out of other good hands!
- Do not talk about any hand – yours or others – during a game, when you’re not in it. (This includes asking questions as well as comments by spectators or guests at the table, that are not playing!)
- Do not give advice – asked for or not – to a player at the table. Keep your mouth closed during the game. If you are there to teach another player, you need to take them outside the room with notes that you make in silence and discuss the play.
- Don’t fiddle with your chips or cards during the play, even if you have folded. This includes the dealer’s button that is now in front of you. That is not a toy. It’s there for the purpose of the dealer and belongs to him and only the dealer is to put his fingers on it.
- Do not blame the dealer for your hand or credit the dealer for your win!
About Professional Casino Authorized Dealers:
Poker room dealers are recorded on video from above the table and from beneath the table. In addition, there are cameras inside the walls, pointing in every direction of the dealers and players. This video recording is due to the negative name that poker rooms received during the age, when casinos were owned by organized crime. Poker dealers are the singly most scrutinized dealers in the casino and if caught cheating will be banned from every casino nationwide. No player or friend has enough money to pay for their job loss.
Whew! Now we can move on discussing how to play Texas Hold’em.
The rules for the game are completely determined by the dealer. There are two sets of basic rules and we cannot emphasize “basic” strongly enough, because the dealer can and does change part of the rules for his/her table. Then, the next dealer that takes over the table, may change the rules again – even though this is rare. Generally, the dealer that is being relieved will tell the one taking over what rules the table is playing by. The point is, the dealer has the final say about the rules in use and learning rules from a book will only give you a guide anyway.
- By asking the dealer what the rules of the game at his table are, you will have enough information to play.
It is rare that either of these rules is strictly adhered to in any casino or poker room in the U.S. Because each set of rules is fairly detailed, we are not presenting either but we are offering you some of the most common as well as the explaining the process of the game and strategies used. In general, this is the process of play:
- Before the cards are dealt, each player that wishes to be part of the hand puts in antes ( minimum bet) and the players on each side of the dealer’s button (a disc put in front of a player by the dealer) place mandatory bets called blinds. These bets become part of the pot (the pile of chips in the middle of the table).
- The dealer then shuffles a standard deck of 52 cards and deals 2 cards face down to each person who has anted up. These cards are referred to as the hole cards or in some instances, the pocket cards. These cards are not revealed to other players at any point during the play.
- Once each player receives both their hole cards, the player who is seated to the left of the two blinds starts the first round of betting. This is called the preflop round.
- Beginning again with the player to the left of the blinds, each player has an opportunity to call, fold or raise.
- Once the preflop round is completed, you will see the dealer take the top card off the deck and discard it. This is the burn card and is done to prevent anyone from cheating by either counting cards or stacking the deck in order that a player might anticipate how the cards may be distributed.
- The dealer then flops the next three cards in the deck face up in front of him on the table for all players to see. These 3 cards can be used with each, any and all player’s hole cards to create their poker hand. The cards, however, remain on the table with each player viewing the cards and looking at their hole cards to see if they have a hand that they wish to play.
- The player to the immediate left of the dealer now begins another round of betting, including the raising, calling and folding, rounds begin and continue until no one is left to call, fold or raise.
- The dealer burns the next card in the deck, discarding it without showing it to the table and places another card in the communal card pile, making 4 cards that all players who have not folded can use to make up their hand. This is called the turn.
- Players again go through a betting round. This is usually the stage where bets may double.
- Once again, the dealer burns the top card and places a 5th card into the communal pile face up. Players can use any combination of the communal cards and their hole cards to form a 5-card hand of poker. This is called the river.
- The final round of betting begins starting with the first player to the left of the dealer still in the game.
- On completion of the final round of betting, all remaining players must show their hands, starting with the player to left of the last player who called the bet. This is called the showdown.
- The player with the highest hand wins. In case of a tie, players split the pot.
A maximum of 5 cards make up the poker hand even though there are 7 cards that are able to be used to make the hand. It doesn’t matter what order the cards appeared as long as each of the cards are present to form the hand. Hands below are arranged from the highest to the lowest winning hands.
Highest Cards in the deck are 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace while the lowest cards are 2 through 9 in the numerical order in which they appear. In other words, a 4 is higher than a 3. However, in order to make a straight from cards 2, 3, 4, and 5 the Ace then takes the place of the 1.
- Suits of cards are Clubs, Spades, Hearts and Diamonds.
- Royal Flush is composed of the 5 highest cards in the deck all in the same suit.
- Straight Flush is any sequence of cards in the same suit that is in exact numerical order.
- Four of a Kind is any 4 cards of the same value
- Full House is a pair of cards of the same value and any three cards that are of the same value
- Flush consists of all five cards in the same suit regardless of numerical value or order
- Straight is any sequence of cards in numerical order
- Three of a Kind is simply any three cards of the same number
- Two Pair is when you have two cards of one number and two cards of another number
- Pair is when you have two cards of one number
- High Card is the highest card shown of the final players
The first thing to know is that once any player makes a bet, every other player that wishes to stay in the game must at least match that bet. The following are your options, when it is your turn to bet:
- Fold – placing your hole cards face down into the discard pile signaling that you are out of the game at this point
- Bet – make a wager
- Check – means that you are neither betting or folding and passing the turn to the next player
- Call – match the bet by the player just ahead of you
- Raise – match the amount of the wager and increase it by any amount
- Re-raise – means you are matching the raised bet and raising that bet yet again
In addition to knowing the types of bets that you are allowed to make, the following are the most common rules in any game of Texas Hold’em whether in casino or tournament play.
- All In – If you have reached a point in any hand, where you place all the chips, you have left into the pot, you are required to show your hand at the end of the game, even if you cannot bet any further. When it happens, that a player is all in before the final round of betting, the other players create what is called a side-pot – a collection of all bets made after the All In Player stopped betting. If the All In Player wins the game, he/she is only entitled to the pot that he contributed to when he was still betting.
- Killing a Hand – when a player takes a really unusual and unreasonable amount of time to make a decision, any other player may call for a clock. At that point, the player who is delaying the game, has one minute by clock time to take action. If no action is taken, the player’s hand is killed and he/she is out of the game.
- Dead Hand – this happens when a player gets up from the table even though he/she appears to still be in the game. You must remain seated during the full time that the game is underway, if you wish to continue playing. You must also keep your hole cards above the edge of the table and in view of all other players or you will be automatically considered to have a dead hand.
Betting Strategies in Texas Hold’em
Betting is very much a part of the psychological strategy that can either determine who has a strong hand and who is simply staying in the game, waiting to see if the next flop produces the one missing card that is needed to make a good hand. Once you know which hand beats the next hand, a little practice will help you to feel comfortable. After that, the most difficult part involves learning how and when to bet.
Here are a few methods of betting that will help you discover where you might stand in the game:
There are a few things to consider before placing your bet immediately after you see your hole cards, such as how much money you have left, how aggressive the other players are and how many players are competing for the pot.
For example, if there are 6 players in the game, you have a better chance of having a better hand than most, while if there are 10 players in the game you have a greater chance of holding a losing hand.
If you end up on a table, where one player frequently raises during the preflop round, it is better to play cautiously and avoid the temptation to bluff that player. There are some players that will use this manoeuvre as a strategy to lure other players into re-raising their bets and staying in the game longer than they would ordinarily have. Then, that player reveals a straight flush in the showdown and walks away with a huge pot.
If you have only a small amount of money left to play with, you will want to choose one hand that is really strong such as a high-card pair or two high cards in numerical order before you stay in the game.
These are some of the most common strategies used during the successive rounds, leading to the showdown in the game:
- Check Raise – this is done when you are trying to get an opponent that you may think has a good hand to raise the bet. In that case you just say “check” and the betting round continues to the next player.
- Doubling the bet or doubling up the bet – this is done in order to force other players to commit that they believe they have a winning hand and is very useful when the betting is consistently the minimum raise. This hobbling along in the betting rounds usually indicates that no one has a great hand and can be used to force others to fold.
- Stealing the pot is a bet that is used when you are the last to play and the bet is checked to you (when the player wants to see if you are really willing to make a bet or a raise the bet). By raising, you are telling the other players that you have a strong hand right now without the river card, for example, being shown. Often, players will fold if they have a weak hand allowing you to steal the pot with a crappy hand. However, if you use this technique more than twice in a three or four hour period of play, other players will catch on and ignore your attempt.
Bluffing Strategy and Tips
Bluffing is one of the most difficult but exciting parts of playing poker, when used successfully. The idea is to convince the other players that you have a great hand that is going to beat them, even if they think their hand is pretty good. It must be used sparingly and used under circumstances that will benefit you. Here are some opportunities that a novice player can use to develop their ability to bluff convincingly:
- Folding Up the Tent Players – when you are in a game where there are quite a few players that fold easily, then bluffing them occasionally is one of your best tools. If you bluff – or bet strongly – in the early rounds (the flop or preflop) and this player does not fold, watch out. He probably has a good hand. Otherwise, you can often eliminate that player from the game, which gives you a better chance of winning.
- Here We Go Again Bluff – if you play your hands straight and win a pot without bluffs or trickery, but because you have a strong hand, you create an impression that you know what you are doing. If you win a hand, then the very next hand you are dealt can be played with an attitude of here we go again even if your hand stinks. The other players will believe that you have another good hand and behave accordingly.
How important is “position” in Texas Hold’em?
Position, or where you are sitting in relation to the starting player in the first betting sequence, can tell you a lot about what type of hands that the other players have. If you are the last in line to place the bet, those players ahead of you, that raised, probably have a competitive hand. Those, that did not, will likely fold in the next round.
If a player accidentally shows his/her cards when still in the game, is that considered a dead hand?
No. Actually, the hand is still live and the other players are extremely grateful for the information provided, accidentally or not.
If a player goes all in and you call that player’s bet before the end of the game, does the all in player have to show his cards to the table?
This is one of the more difficult questions to answer, because any player that goes all in has to show his/her cards; but exactly when the player has to show them is not part of the rules. In tournament games, the player often is required to do so when the bet is called. However, it doesn’t happen all the time and in regular play in poker rooms, the player can usually wait until the end of the game. When disputed by either the all in player, or the one that called the bet, the dispute is settled by the dealer or floor person.