The Most Important Concept in Texas Holdem Poker

Pot Odds

All the cards are out. There’s £100 in the pot, your opponent bets £50 and with your hand, you’ll win half the time. Do you call?

Yes, the pot is now £150, that’s your reward. It’s £50 for you to call, that’s the risk. The Reward is 3 times the risk. The call is 33% of the pot. That’s the percentage of showdowns you have to win to break even. It’s simple to see that if you won 50% of the time, it would be a profitable call. I’d call every time.

In this example, all the cards are out so you don’t have to worry that your opponent is on a draw. In these situations pot odds combined with your own hand strength will give you an idea of whether to call or fold.

We can use pot odds when there are still cards to go as well. Suppose you have a nut flush draw on the flop and position. The pot is $30. First position leads out with a bet of $20. Two players call after him. The pot is now $90, its $20 for you to call. The call is 22% of the pot. You have a 17% chance of hitting your flush on the turn. Pot Odds say fold.

Just to be clear, pot odds influence every stage of poker. Here’s a preflop example of how to totally misplay a hand;

-You are big blind

-You have pocket aces

-You have $100

-The blinds are $1/2

-First position raises to $10

-3 callers

-The pot is 43

-8 more for you to call

-You raise 10

-It’s $10 for 1st position to call into a $61

-16% of the pot

The odds get better for every player. This effect is called the umbrella effect, when one players call makes the pot odds better for the next player and so on, calls by early position players encourage late position callers. You could call it the domino effect.

-They all call

-The pot is now $103

-Flop comes 4 7 9

-You bet strongly at the flop

-That means all in for $82

-You get called and beaten with a set

How to play it:

Raise at least $35. This would have given the first player 40% pot odds to call. However he would have been well behind to my Aces (at best 10.8% to hit a set on the flop) and since I am guaranteed to lead out strongly, this would have been a losing decision for him.

In this situation, when considering how strongly to re-raise, it is important to consider the size of the total pot in relation to the players stack sizes at the table. If you have aces and get a short stacked player to call into a pot roughly the same size as his stack and then check to him, he may push all in as a bluff, so you would be willing to let him see the flop to be able to stack him.

So remember to always relate the size of the bet or re-raise to the size of the pot!! Happy poker.

Texas Hold Em Poker Hands Explained

The different Texas Hold Em Poker hands are exactly the same as normal poker hands. If you don’t know these don’t worry because I am going to explain them all. There are ten different hands that you can have. In order from worst to best, they are: low, 1 pair, 2 pair, 3 of a kind, straight, flush, full house, 4 of a kind, straight flush and royal flush. I will explain each of these in detail. The person with the highest hand wins.

When people talk about cards in text they will type the number of the card, and also a letter denoting the suit. H=hearts, D=diamonds, S=spades, C=clubs. Jack is J, Queen is Q, King is K and Ace is A. So for example a nine of clubs is 9C and a queen of hearts is QH. Some people put a hyphen ‘-‘ in between, some not. For multiple cards in a hand some people will just use a space i.e. 7D 8D 9D 10D JD or some people will use a hyphen i.e. 7D-8D-9D-10D-JD. Sometimes people wont put anything and this is usually hard to read. It takes a little getting used to but you should be able to decode most peoples explanations with little effort.

Now for all of the Texas Hold Em Poker Hands:

Low: This hand is very bad. A low hand is essentially nothing. You have no good hands. An example would be 7D-5S-4C-3C-2H. Its nothing. Although for the most part this hand is very bad, if two people have a low hand the person with the single highest card wins.

1 Pair: This is the first hand you will usually make. A pair is having a single pair of a type of card. The number must match and obviously the suit won’t be able to. An example would be 2H-6H-10C-JC-JS. So in this example the player has a pair of jacks. When two more more players have a pair the person with the highest pair will win.

2 Pair: This is a fairly good hand you can usually get quite easily. 2 pair is just like have a pair two times. An example would be AC-7H-7D-QC-QH. So in this example the player has a pair of 7’s and a pair of Queen’s. When two players both have 2 pair the player with the single highest pair out of all of them wins. It doesn’t matter if his second pair is lower then the other players.

3 of a kind: This is a good hand that you can make quite easily if you start with a pair in the hole. This hand is simply having three cards all of the same, like JH-5S-8C-8S-8D. This player has three 8’s so has 3 of a kind. If multiple players have 3 of a kind the player with the highest wins.

Straight: Here we deviate from the standard number matching. A straight is any five consecutively numbered cards. It doesn’t matter what suit just the numbers must be consecutive. For example 7D-8H-9S-10C-JH. If more then one player has a straight the player with the highest overall card at the end of the straight wins. An Ace can be used as either a low ace, like 12345, or a high ace, like 10JQKA. It cannot be used in the middle. QKA23 is not a valid hand and would be considered a low hand.

Flush: A flush is simply any five cards with the same suit. It doesn’t matter the number of the cards they just all have to be the same suit. An example would be AS-2S-6S-JS-9S. See how they are all spades? That is a flush. If two or more players both have a flush the person with the highest overall card will win. So having just one Ace, King or Queen in your flush tends to pay off.

Full House: A full house is a 3 of a kind plus a pair. An example is KD-KH-3S-3C-3D. See the 3 of a kind of three’s and the pair of king’s. This hand is very good but harder to get. The more important numbered card is the one in the 3 of a kind. If there is a showdown the player with the higher number in their 3 of a kind will win.

4 of a kind: As the name suggests, this hand is having 4 of the same kind of card. Like QC-QD-QH-QS-10C. Four queens makes 4 of a kind. Like with all the other hands, if two players have a four of a kind the player with the highest numbered card in their 4 of a kind will win.

Straight Flush: This hand is extremely hard to get and is a combination of the straight and the flush. So the numbers of the cards must be consecutive and all the suits must be the same. James Bond wins with a straight flush in Casino Royal. An example is 4S-5S-6S-7S-8S. Consecutive numbers plus all spades. If more then one player has a straight flush the player with the highest numbered card on the end of their’s will win.

Royal Flush: This is just a straight flush but at the top end. Its essentially the highest straight flush you can get. Its the ultimate: 10H-JH-QH-KH-AH. Nothing beats this hand. This is the best hand you can get.

Still with me?

So I have explained all of the different Texas Hold Em Poker hands that you can get. I put them in order from worst to best. Of course, each better one beats any one under it. So a 3 of a kind beats a pair automatically, and a flush beats that easily. Take the time to read through them again to remember them better. Its worth memorizing these so you immediately know who has won a poker hand, without having to refer to anything. Always remember, when two people have the same hand the winner is the person with the highest overall card making that hand.

Objectives of Poker and How to Play Texas Holdem

Poker is probably the most popular of all card games in existence, thanks in part to an exciting format, huge sums of money that is regularly on offer, and the swings and roundabouts that come with a game with an element of luck. Even with an element of luck, playing winning poker takes a good amount of skill and some time to master. This guide will take you through some of the basics poker rules and also more generally, how to play poker.

First of all, let’s consider what the objectives of poker are in a game of poker. The objective of most is to win money. To do that, players would need to eithermake it to showdown with the best 5 card hand OR force everyone else out of the hand, thus winning the pot. Most games are played against the same standard ranking of hands however, there are a few variants that use slight variations to this standard. For this article we will focus on Texas Hold’em mainly as it’s the most popular game and a good place to start out as a new player.

Texas Hold’em

Texas Hold’em is the party favourite and carries the most traffic, both live and online. It is the game that is featured in most major poker tournaments or televised cash games.

It’s known as a community card game for the reason that there are shared cards that are used by all players, when trying to make their best 5 card hand. In short, each player will get two private cards, dealt face down, better known as hole cards. These cards are only seen by the player they are dealt to. Throughout the game there will be a number of betting rounds and 5 community or shared cards that will be dealt. These cards are dealt face up. Players will try to make the best 5 card hand using any combination of the 7 available cards to them (2 private cards and 5 shared cards). This same principle applies across all poker games.

Something that makes the game really unique is that a player doesn’t have to have the best hand to win. Imagine you’ve got ten people and gave them one card each and told them to race up a hill. The person who got up there would be first, automatically winning. If there was a tie, the two players would hold up the card they were given and the highest card would win. Poker is similar in principle. The player who stays in the hand all the way and has the best hand would take down the pot. If there is only one person who makes it up the hill or who stays in the hand, they would be the winner, regardless of the card or hand they held. So if only one made it to the top of the hill, he would win, no matter his hand.

Structure of the Game

Ok, let’s look at how the game is actually played. When starting a game, it’s normal for each player to be dealt a card. The highest card gets the dealer button or button. The button acts as an indicator as to who is dealt cards first, and also who posts the blinds. The blinds are automatic bets that are made to ensure each pot has some money to play for (or there would be no incentive to play anything but the top hands). The blinds consist of two automatic bets, the small blind, posted by the player to the immediate left of the button, and the big blind, the player two seats to the left of the button. The small blind is usually half of the value of the big blind. Once these bets are posted, all players are dealt 2 cards face down.

Players will now need to decide whether to play the hand or not, starting with the player to the left of the big blind (or 3 left of the dealer button). This would, in large, be down to the two cards the player has been dealt (although there are other factors which I will cover separately). A player has the choice to call, fold or raise. Here are definitions for each action:

Fold– to throw your cards into the muck and take no further part in the hand. By doing so, you lose your stake in the pot.

Call– to match the highest bet made so far. If the highest bet is the big blind, then that must be matched to stay in the hand. If a player raises, all other players will need to ‘call the raise’ or match it, to stay in the hand.

Raise– this would be a bet that would be more than the big blind and a sign of strength (a good hand). If a player was to raise and all other players folded, he will win the pot by default, regardless of the strength of his hand.

So play moves clockwise around the table until all players have either called, raised or folded.

Once all players have completed this initial betting round, the first three community or shared cards are dealt. These are dealt face up on the table. The first 3 cards dealt in Hold’em are known as ‘the flop’. All shared cards that are dealt are known as board cards or referred to as ‘the board’. At this stage, players will be trying to assemble their best 5 card hand from the 2 in their hand and the 3 on the board. Some players might already have made their hand and others might need cards, still to come, to make their hand. Either way, with 2 shared cards still to come, players will have a good indication as to the strength of their holding and their chances of hitting one of the cards they may need.

A second betting round now takes place and again players, moving clockwise, have the choice to fold their cards, call or raise. Once this betting round is complete, a fourth community card is dealt face up, otherwise known as ‘the turn’, ‘the turn card’ or ‘fourth street’. There is then a third betting round with all remaining players and then a fifth and final card (known as ‘fifth street’ or the ‘river card’) is dealt to the board, again face up (all shared cards are dealt face up). There is one final found of betting, conducted in the same manner as the previous rounds, and then the showdown.

During each betting round, it is usual for some players to fold their hand, either as the betting is too much for the strength of hand they have, or they fail to hit their cards needed to make a strong hand. At showdown, any player left in the hand would turn over their hole cards to reveal their hand. The best 5 card poker hand wins the pot (which would be a collection of blinds and all bets).

Key additional Points

– If all players fold, leaving one player in the hand, the hand ends there and the remaining player wins the hand.

– If a player is all in (.i.e. has bet all his available chips, he would only be able to win the same amount that had been wagered from each player in the hand). If players who had more than the all-in player continued to bet, a side pot would be formed.

– If two players have the same hand at showdown, the winner is determined by the best kicker. For instance if player 1 has the hand A-A-2-3-4 and player 2 had A-A-2-3-8, both players would have a pair of aces but player 2 would have the next highest card, the 8 (compared with player 1 who’s next highest is a 4). Ace is the highest kicker possible.

Tips on Texas Holdem Strategy

Texas Holdem is a game of perception. If you have a big hand you want your opponents to think you have nothing so you can get more money out of them and if you have nothing you want them to think you have the best hand possible. Well, your position that you are sitting in at the poker table contributes to your overall perception as well. Sometimes it’s a positive contribution and sometimes it’s a negative contribution. So before you make your next bet in a Texas Holdem poker game, you may want to take a look around the table and recognize all the factors before you bet.

On the Button

Being on the button means that you have the dealer button in front of you. Traditionally this is the most powerful position to be in at the table. The reason this position is so powerful is that the person that is on the button is the last player to act after the flop is shown. You can see how this would be an enviable position because you get to see what everyone else is doing before you decide what you are going to do.

Many times a poker player that is on the button will have the opportunity to steal the blinds as well. This happens when there is no action on the table (everyone in front of you has folded) and the only players left in the hand are the player that is on the button and the big and small blinds. In this particular situation, it may be a good idea to test the players in the blind positions by raising on the button. The object of doing this is to have the players in the blind positions fold their hands without seeing the flop. It is good poker strategy to try to steal the blinds whether you are holding a good hand or not. Once again, poker is all about perception.

In the Blinds

If you are in either the big blind position or in the small blind position, you are traditionally called “out of position”. This position is called out of position because it is the weakest position to be in because you are the first to act once the flop is shown. If you are playing a hand while in one of the blind positions just keep in mind that you are the first to act and an experienced poker player will know how to exploit this information.

You can also choose to use the big or small blind positions to your advantage. As mentioned earlier, the blind positions are traditionally the weakest players at the table because they are the first to act once the flop is displayed. Some poker players think differently. Some players think that the first person to act has the first chance to bet and that is a good thing. An aggressive player will take advantage of this opportunity even if they have missed the flop completely.

Hint:

When you are in the blind positions, try to utilize the continuation bet. This is a great tool that experienced poker players use at the right time in order to collect pretty sizable pots. If you are in one of the blinds and a number of people are in the hand but no one has raised the pot, what you would do is raise the pot a significant amount (maybe 3-5 times the big blind) in order to get rid of any of the marginal hands that might still exist. Let’s say you get one or two people that call. Since you are first to act, you would use this to your advantage by placing another significant bet after the flop is displayed. This will immediately get your opponents to think that you have some type of huge hand like two aces or two kings. Usually, if the others hit nothing on the flop they will gracefully lay their hands down. Once again, you can do this with any type of hand because the perception is that your hand is huge.

Texas Hold ‘Em Poker – Can You Beat a Bot?

When I first started to learn the game of chess, I bought a cheap chess playing computer from Radio Shack. I was pretty good at the novice level, but when I moved the setting up a notch or two, I soon realized just how poorly I really played. I never won a game. That was 30 years ago. Computers have come a long way since then.

I mention this because it ties in with an article I recently read about a poker playing Bot. (A poker bot is computer program written to play online poker.) Before I get into that, let me tell you about an experience I had several years ago. A gentleman stopped by my computer store one morning and asked me if I could get him the fastest computer on the market. Then he told me that when an even faster one comes along, he’d buy that one too.

I asked him what he was going to use it for (So I’d know how to set it up.) and he was very hesitant in answering me. Finally, he invited me to his house, saying it would be easier for him to show me than to explain what he was doing.

When I got there, I found two computers setting side by side. One was state-of-the-art, the other was just an average system. After much him-hawing, he finally told me that he was making a ton of money playing Backgammon on the Internet. I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t.

Here’s what he was doing. He was entering high-stakes online Backgammon tournaments that paid big bucks to the winner. He had an edge. He had purchased a world class Backgammon program and was running it on the “fast” computer while he played the tournament on the slower computer. He would duplicate the ‘live’ game, move by move on the “fast” system, and it would analyze the board positions and tell him what move to make next. Because time was at a premium, he needed the fastest computer he could get to do the analysis. I was amazed.

In the last few years, Texas Hold’em, not Backgammon has become the game of choice. It’s estimated that as many as 2 million Texas Hold’em players ante up online each month. The PPA (Poker Players Alliance) has over 1,000,000 registered members in the United States. I’d guess that most of these players figure their odds of winning online are about the same as they would be if they were playing in a physical casino. That may not be the case.

One problem when doing anything on the Internet is that you can never be sure of who or “what” you might be doing it with. That’s true with chat lines, messaging services, and now, even fellow poker players. There are poker bots you can purchase on-line that are specifically programed to play ‘limit’ Texas Hold’em. They analyze the game in real time. They know the ‘percentage of winning’ as the hand unfolds. They don’t get tired and make mistakes, they play using the most powerful poker strategies available including pot-odds, and they need ‘no’ human intervention at all. Some of them can even play up to eight tables at the same time.

Bots are outlawed in almost every online casino. But because they are so hard to detect, my guess is…many of them are playing right now and the other players at the table have no clue as to what they’re up against! Remembering my experience with the chess computer…I doubt I’d stand a chance against a poker bot. Not in the long run. Of course, they don’t win all the time. There’s still a lot of luck involved in any card game. But if I were a betting man, I’m afraid I’d have to bet on the bot.