Poker Tips and Tactics
All You Need To Know To Get Started!
Check out this story for new players starting out in the league!
Learning how to play a game of Texas Hold'em can seem much more difficult than it really is. The game itself is logical and simple, requiring just a few minutes to learn. But to truly become a master, as the familiar saying goes, takes a lifetime.
Before we get into describing the rules and game-play, here's a quick glossary of terms you'll encounter and need to get a handle on.
- Blinds: Short for "blind bets," these are the forced bets made before the cards are dealt.
- Burn Card: The card dealt facedown before any community card is dealt.
- Button: Nickname for the player acting as the dealer in current hand.
- Check: Similar to a call, but no money is bet. If there is no raise preflop, the big blind may check.
- Flop: The first three community cards dealt.
- Preflop: Anything that occurs before the flop is dealt is preflop.
- River: The final (5th) community card dealt; also known as Fifth Street.
- Showdown: When players reveal their hands to discover the pot's winner.
- Turn: The fourth community card dealt; also known as Fourth Street.
Texas Hold'em is a community card poker game, with game play focused as much on the betting as on the cards being played.
In an 888PL tournament the goal is simple: Get chips! And be the last man or woman standing.
You win a pot by having the best hand, or by having all other players fold before the showdown.
Putting Out the Blinds
There are two blinds in Hold'em - a small blind and a big blind. The player directly to the left of the dealer puts out the small blind.
Once you have a dealer, time to put out the blinds; the big blind (double that of the small blind) is placed by the player to the left of the small blind.
Once you have the blinds out, you're now ready to deal the first hand.
Game-Play and Betting Rounds
The person dealing the cards deals to the left of the player with the dealer button first, rotating around the table in a clockwise manner, giving each player one card at a time until each player has two cards. These are known as your hole cards.
A hand of Hold'em consists of a minimum of one and a maximum of four betting rounds. A hand ends when all players but one have folded, or the fourth and final betting round completes with multiple players still in the hand - whichever comes first.
At that point, players enter into the showdown (to be explained in the next section).
When all players receive their hole cards, you are now in the preflop betting round.
Each player must look at their cards and decide what action they would like to take. In Hold'em, only one player can act at a time.
The preflop betting round starts with the player to the left of the big blind. This player has three options:
- Fold: They pay nothing to the pot and throw away their hand, waiting for the next deal to play again.
- Call: They match the amount of the big blind.
- Raise: They raise the bet by doubling the amount of the big blind. A player may raise more depending on the betting style being played.
Once a player has made their action, the player to the left of them gets their turn to act. Each player is given the same options: fold, call the bet of the player to their right (if the previous player raised, that is the amount you must call) or raise.
A raise is always the amount of one bet in addition to the amount of the previous bet.
A betting round ends when two conditions are met:
1. All players have had a chance to act.
2. All players who haven't folded have bet the same amount of money for the round.
Once the preflop betting round ends, the flop is dealt. This is done by dealing the top card in the deck face down on the table (it becomes the burn card), followed by three cards face up.
Once this has been dealt, the first post-flop betting round begins.
The rules of a post-flop betting round are the same as a preflop, with two small exceptions: The first player to act is the next player with a hand to the left of the dealer, and the first player to act can check or bet; as there has been no bet made, calling is free.
A minimum bet on the flop is the amount of the big blind.
Once the betting round on the flop completes, the dealer deals one card facedown followed by a single card face up, also known as the "burn and turn." Once the turn has been dealt, the third betting round starts.
The third betting round is identical to the flop betting round.
Assuming more than one player is left, having not folded on one of the previous streets, the river is now dealt. Dealing the river is identical as dealing the turn, with one card being dealt facedown, followed by a single card face up.
This is the final street, and no more cards will be dealt in this hand. The betting round is identical to the betting round on the turn.
Once the river betting round has been completed, the players now enter into the showdown. At this point, the best hand wins the pot. Here are the rules you need to know about a Hold'em showdown:
- The player who bet on the river is the default first player to reveal their hand. If any other players choose to show their hand first, that is OK.
- If no betting happened on the river (all players checked), the player closest to the left of the dealer must open their hand first, continuing clockwise around the table.
- If a player is holding a losing hand, it is their option to reveal their cards or simply muck their hand and concede the pot.
In Hold'em you must make the best hand possible using any combination of your two cards and the five community cards on the table.
You can use both, one or none of your own cards in making your best hand. Here are some rules about evaluating a winning poker hand:
- The poker hand ranking order can below. There are no exceptions to this ordering: a flush always beats a straight, and three of a kind always beats two pair.
- There are no hands used in Hold'm other than the hands listed in this chart. For example, having three pairs is actually only "two pair," with the highest-valued two pair making your hand.
- Poker hands must be exactly five cards, and only those five cards are used to evaluate the winning hand. For example:
o if the board is 2♥ J♣ Q♣ K♠ A♦
o Player 1 holds T♠ 9♣
o Player 2 holds T♣ 2♣
Both players hold the very same hand (a straight from ten to ace). This means the pot is split between the two players. The remaining cards and the fact Player 1 also has a pair means nothing - only the best five-card hand factors into deciding the winner.
If all remaining players have nothing (no pair or anything stronger), the winning hand is the hand with the highest-valued single card, meaning:
o A♣ 3♥ 4♦ 6♠ 7♠ is a better hand than K♠ Q♠ J♣ 9♣ 8♦
o A♣ J♥ 9♠ 8♦ 6♥ is a better hand than A♥ J♣ 9♦ 8♣ 2♠
Suits are never used to evaluate the strength of a hand.
Once you determine the winning hand, that player receives the pot. The dealer passes the dealer button to his or her left and the two players to the left of the new dealer put out their big and small blinds respectively.
A player must either declare their intent to raise verbally before making any actions, or bring the amount of chips equal to the total amount of their raise into play at the same time. A player is not allowed to place chips, return to their stack and place more chips. This is known as a string bet.
A minimum raise must always be of the same denomination of the raise or bet preceding.
a hand ranking chart in order of strength of hand.
Royal Flush: A straight from a ten to an ace with all five cards of the same suit. In poker all suits are ranked equally.
Straight Flush: Any straight with all five cards of the same suit.
Four of a Kind: Any four cards of the same rank. If two players share the same Four of a Kind, the bigger fifth card (known as the kicker) decides who wins the pot.
Full House: Any three cards of the same rank together with any two cards of the same rank.
Flush: Any five cards of the same suit (not consecutive). The highest card of the five determines the rank of the flush.
Straight: Any five consecutive cards of different suits. Aces can count as either a high or a low card.
Three of a Kind: Any three cards of the same rank.
Two Pair: Any two cards of the same rank together with another two cards of the same rank. One Pair: Any two cards of the same rank. Our example shows the best possible one-pair hand.
High Card: Any hand not in the above-mentioned hands.
WHERE TO GET MORE ASSISTANCE
If you require further assistance then there are plenty of resources you can draw upon. At a venue our Tournament Captain's are more than willing to help improve your poker skills; you can ask them for advice or comments on a ruling.
Here are some tactics that have stood the test of time for poker players all over:
1. Be patient - wait for strong hands; many beginning poker players just play too many hands and can't wait to start throwing chips around. Good starting hands are: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, 99, 88, AK, AQ, AJ, AT. Don't get too confident and start thinking you can play any hand from any position.
2. Hold'em is a game of information and therefore your position in the hand is very important. The more information you have on your opponents acting before you the better you will be able to play your hand. That is why the Dealer and Cut off (One seat to the right of the dealer) are very important positions. You get to see what everyone else at the table is going to do before it is you turn to act.
3. Play your position strong. Whilst I mentioned above that Hold'em is a game of information it is also a game of aggression. Think of your chips in front of you as bullets and ammunition. When you come into a pot you want to come in firing. Always look to raise when deciding to play a hand. If your hand isn't good enough to raise with then perhaps you shouldn't be playing it and folding is the best option.
4. Don't be scared to fold. Folding is not a weakness but often a smart play. If you are facing bets from every player at the table then perhaps top or middle pair isn't the best hand right now. Good Poker Players are not only known for constantly winning but for their discipline to lay down a strong hand when they know they are behind.
5. Always know what the winning hand is at any stage. If the Board reads K,Q,J then the best hand at that stage is A,T for a broadway straight. Always know what the Nuts is!
6. Finally, knowing all of the above and playing a tight solid game will only get you so far. When your chips are getting low and the blinds are getting higher you have to gamble to stay alive. Don't be scared to push your chips ALL IN looking for a double up!