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TEXAS HOLD 'EM

- EXCELLENCE -

Learn to Play Poker to Win


Online and At The Table

Freely Distributable Edition


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Contents
1 Preface..............................................................................7

2 Introduction.....................................................................11

3 Texas Hold 'em Game Play..................................................15


The Betting Limits.......................................................................15
The Blinds..................................................................................16
The Deal....................................................................................17
The First Betting Round................................................................17
The Flop.....................................................................................20
The Second Betting Round............................................................20
The Turn.....................................................................................21
The Third Betting Round...............................................................21
The River....................................................................................21
The Fourth Betting Round.............................................................22
The Showdown............................................................................22
The Next Hand............................................................................22
Other Points................................................................................23

4 Poker Hands.....................................................................25
Royal Flush.................................................................................26
Straight Flush.............................................................................26
Four of a Kind.............................................................................27
Full House..................................................................................27
Flush.........................................................................................28
Straight......................................................................................28
Three of a Kind...........................................................................29
Two Pair.....................................................................................29
Pair............................................................................................30
High Card...................................................................................31
Increasing Your Skills...................................................................31

5 Basic Strategy..................................................................35
Tight or Loose?...........................................................................35
What's in Your Pocket?.................................................................36
Position......................................................................................42
Before the Flop............................................................................44
After the Flop..............................................................................45
The Turn.....................................................................................47
the River....................................................................................48

6 A Typical Game.................................................................49
Let's Play....................................................................................49
The Blinds..................................................................................49
Dealing the Pocket Cards..............................................................50
First Betting Round......................................................................51
The Flop.....................................................................................53
Second Betting Round..................................................................54
The Turn.....................................................................................54
Third Betting Round.....................................................................55
The River....................................................................................56
The Fourth Betting Round.............................................................56
The Showdown............................................................................57
The Next Hand............................................................................57

7 Betting............................................................................59
Betting Points of Interest..............................................................59

8 Single Table Tournaments...................................................65


Basic Overview............................................................................65
Online Game Levels.....................................................................66
Game Types................................................................................67
Sit & Go Strategy........................................................................67

9 Types of Hold 'em Games...................................................73


Limit Games...............................................................................73
Spread-Limit Games....................................................................75
No-Limit Games..........................................................................75
Pot-limit Games...........................................................................76
Sit & Go's (Single Table Tournaments)............................................77
Multi-Table Tournaments...............................................................77

10 Tells..............................................................................81
Tells & The Human Auto-Pilot........................................................81
Common Tells.............................................................................84
The Next Step.............................................................................90

11 Going Forward................................................................95
Poker at Home............................................................................95
Online Poker...............................................................................96
Bluffing....................................................................................101
Hold 'em Odds...........................................................................101

12 Hold 'em Terminology.....................................................105


6 |
1 Preface

Playing poker is one of my most valuable past-times.


There's nothing better after a long hard working week, than
to get together with friends, or sit down at my computer and
unwind by playing a few hands of Hold 'em.
I learned how to play almost two years ago now and have
never regretted spending the time to learn. No matter
where I go, the common knowledge of how to play one of
the most popular poker games on the planet, means that I
can always find a group of individuals motivated by similar
interest and knowledge that allows the competitive social
interaction of playing poker. That was, until recently.
About eight months ago, my partner and I moved to a
different part of the country and away from our friends and
colleagues that we had built a relationship with for the past
five or so years. We both started working at different
locations and for different companies, as well as getting to
know the local people. I could not believe what I was to find
out. Out of the eighty or so people that both me and my
partner regularly had contact with in and around this small
town, nobody – and I mean nobody – knew how to play
Texas Hold 'em poker!
I did not know what to say or what to think. Nobody
played poker? We were invited around our new friends
houses for dinner, for a barbeque, to watch a movie or just
to have a few drinks, with some of their other friends who
were unknown to us. Even they did not play poker, or even
knew how to play. I was now on a mission.
The first thing that I needed to do was to play poker. I
had not played for a month or so when I first moved and
8 | P REFACE

needed to find some stimulation. Not having what seemed


to be the luxury of playing with people face to face, I needed
to find another alternative. This alternative was online
poker.
I had played poker online before, but certainly not as
much as up until now and boy, what have I been missing!
Playing online is a real buzz and one which has now become
one of my favourite ways to play. Not only are there some
fantastic poker rooms out there, the offers are way beyond
anything that you would find around a table. If I were to
buy $300 of chips to play an offline game, I would get $300
of chips, yet online with my first account credit of $300, the
casino matched my purchase with another free $300, giving
me $600 in my account! Fantastic.
The wide range of games to choose from online, from
low-limit games that you could literally play with pocket
change, to the more tense and exciting no-limit games, suits
every person and every budget. One thing that I really do
find exciting, is the regular competitions and tournaments
that are offered together with the chance of winning a place
in a televised poker event, with a exceptionally high prize
fund.
I learnt a lot about playing online and it was one of the
best decisions of my life and saved me from not being able
to play poker for a couple of years without travelling a
couple of hundred miles back to my old home town.
So after I had found some of the best poker places
online, my other challenge beckoned. I needed to get my
new circle of friends interested in and experienced in playing
Texas Hold 'em poker. I though long and hard about how I
would be able to do this, from holding poker nights where I
would teach everyone how to play poker. Teaching fifty or
so people how to play poker would be torture, waste a lot of
my valuable time and would be a long process with five or so
players at a time, once every week or so.
A few of my friends that I mentioned this too went out to
look at buying books on learning poker. They found that
these books were either too complicated or too basic and
looking at the ones that they purchased myself, I would
P REFACE |9

agree. They were either concentrated around advanced


strategy which made total beginners wanting to give up even
before they had started, or so basic that half of the more
common aspects of Texas Hold 'em were missing. I then
had a light-bulb moment.
It was at that moment that this book was born. I decided
that spending a few weeks writing a book on poker that
shared enough information about how to play, would be the
perfect solution to everybody's problems. Not only would
my friends and colleagues be able to learn how to play and
play good all at the same time, I would not have to persist
week on week, to teach them poker. And here it is.
This book was originally written for my friends in order to
teach them the basics and some more advanced aspects of
Texas Hold 'em. By keeping the content to the point, I
would be certain that the information provided would not
overwhelm them and would provide them with enough
interest in order for them to learn fast. The feedback that
they provided was outstanding which allowed me to adjust
some of the content to make it more understandable in
places where other books fail to break it down simply. The
good thing was that after only 2 weeks, I had my regular
poker nights back and because of my online play, my skills
had improved beyond all expectation.
One of my work colleagues after reading my book,
suggested that I publish it. I though long and hard about
this and decided that this would be a good thing to do, but
at this time the content of the book, I felt, needed a little
more work and a lot more content in order to be a complete
guide. So, as we speak, I am preparing the content that is
required in order to produce a publication quality book that I
intend to release during the first part of 2010.
In the meantime, I had a thought. There must be other
people out there who, like my friends, wanted to learn how
to play Texas Hold 'em, but didn't know where to start and
after getting my friends to talk to their friends and their
friends friends, that I came aware that there were indeed
people out there who wished that they could play poker.
It is for those of you who wish to learn and play Texas
10 | P REFACE

Hold 'em, that I dedicate this eBook version of Texas Hold


'em Excellence to. Please take it as a gift of knowledge that
would be passed on from one generation to the next.
Over the next few weeks, you will learn how to play
poker, enhance your skills and start on your own personal
road to poker fame, whether it be organising your own
regular poker nights and getting together with friends,
becoming the star of an online poker tournament or the next
World Poker Champion.
I can guarantee that after you learn how to play Texas
Hold 'em, your social status changes and your social circle
expands (if you move to a town that knows how to play).
Please ensure that you give a copy of this ebook to your
friends, family and colleagues, so that they can share in the
knowledge and excitement of playing Texas Hold 'em and in
turn, organise their own tournaments.
Finally, I would encourage you to give feedback to this
ebook, how it has helped you and what you think could be
added or refined. I am really excited at how this form of
poker has taken the world by storm and request that you
give yourself the knowledge and the chance to share in that
excitement. I have also decided to start a website as an
additional challenge, in order to keep you updated in not
only the poker world, but other casino games that get me
and others excited. It is in it's extreme infancy having only
been born to initially support this book, but during the first
quarter of 2010, I intend to expand the site to become a hub
of useful information that will be of relevance and benefit to
you. Please ensure that you join me there.
I really do hope that you enjoy reading this ebook and
learning to play Texas Hold 'em.

Website: www.casinogamehub.com
Book Feedback: holdembook@casinogamehub.com
2 Introduction

P
oker has been around for centuries and in 2010, is
increasingly, the most popular card game played
around the world. Of the many varieties of Poker,
Texas Hold 'em is widely becoming the game of choice for
those serious at winning the high stakes that the no-limit
form of this game provides.
Texas Hold 'em, known to those familiar with the game
simply as Hold 'em, is played almost everywhere and its
popularity is on the increase. Whether you are getting
together with your friends at home, playing at your local
casino or even playing online, the main structure of the
game is almost identical. The main difference lies in the
betting limits. At home it is likely that you may play for
small amounts of money and play a low-limit game. At the
casino the betting limits may be higher, although quite a few
casinos now play low-limit games for beginners. When you
start to get serious at Hold 'em you may find yourself
playing the no-limit games where, as the term suggests, the
only limit on how much you can bet is limited only by the
number of chips that you have available. No-limit games
are typically high stake games and played at tournaments.
They can however, be played anywhere and the amount that
can be won in a single game can run into literally tens and
hundreds of thousands.
There are two main parts of learning Texas Hold 'em.
The first part is learning the game, how it is played, how the
betting works and what hands win over others. This is the
nuts and bolts of the game and can be referred to as the
game mechanics. It is obvious that before you can start
12 | I NTRODUCTION

winning at Hold 'em, you need to know how to play, so this


is the place to begin.
The second part of learning the game are the strategies.
Strategies can be thought of as learning a skill and
perfecting that skill over time and becoming an expert. Like
all skills, your poker skills need to be honed by playing and
learning in the process. There are many strategies that are
used in Hold 'em, some of which can get extremely
mathematical. This book covers the basic strategies that
you need to consider in order to play Hold 'em effectively to
win. Once you have learnt these basic strategies and honed
them to perfection, you can then move on to learn more of
the advanced strategies that will have you becoming a Texas
Hold 'em expert in no time at all.
Like any form of gambling, there is an element of luck in
playing Hold 'em. Unless you are able to see what cards are
in the pack and the order of those cards, there is no way
that you can predict which cards will be drawn in each game.
Unlike other forms of gambling, such as slot machines,
roulette or craps (where a pair of dice are rolled in order to
win), it is possible to increase your chances of winning by
using good consistent strategy. It is more likely that
somebody with a good strategy will win over time, than
somebody without one. In Texas Hold 'em, you are dealt
two cards at the start of each hand and depending on your
strategy and the odds that each hand holds, it is possible to
increase your chances of winning.
Texas Hold 'em is only loosely a game of cards. It has
been said many times that it is more a game of people. The
way that people behave and think have a very large part to
play in a game of Hold 'em. It is however, possible to win a
hand just by making your opponent think that you have a
much better hand than they have, even though you may not
have a hand at all and they have the best hand in the house.
By paying attention to your opponents and learning how
they play, you can use this to further increase your chances
of winning each hand that you play. Again, this comes down
to strategy but is focused more on how you play, rather than
the cards that you play.
I NTRODUCTION | 13

It is this variety of the game together with the large


payouts that you can experience with the no-limit games,
that makes Hold 'em an exceptionally exciting game to play.
Not only do you come to perfect your game, but you get to
learn the psychology of human behaviour and use it against
your opponents.
There are quite a few books on the market on how to
play Texas Hold 'em and each of these books have their
place. This book focuses on getting you playing the game
quickly and learning your strategy fast, while keeping things
simple and to the point. A lot of terminology can be found in
the poker arena, much like any other interest. Instead of
giving you a list of all poker terms at the start of the book
and swamping you with unnecessary information, this book
introduces you to the Hold 'em terminology as you come
across it and as you need to know it. There is also a list of
Poker Terminology at the back of the book where some
common terms related to Texas Hold 'em can be found in
one place. By doing it in this way, you get to learn it as you
go and do not need to keep flipping back and forth through
the book in order to find the meaning of the terms that are
being used.
Similarly, examples are given in an easy to understand
manner to integrate your learning.
Finally, this book focuses on Texas Hold 'em and although
some portions of the game can be similar to other forms of
poker, no other form of poker is compared or referenced.
You will learn how to play Texas Hold 'em and Texas Hold
'em only.
By learning these techniques you will be able to play
Texas Hold 'em like a professional in the shortest possible
time. Whether you intend to play just at home, or whether
you are intending to play professionally online or in a casino,
you will have a good grounding in the way the game is
played that will increase your odds of winning.
Amaze your friends and family at how good you can play
and leave them wondering how you win all of their hard-
earned cash, seemingly with ease, each time you play.
Get ready to join the world of Texas Hold 'em poker. You
14 | I NTRODUCTION

could be just around the corner to becoming the next world


poker champion. Let's get started!
3 Texas Hold 'em Game Play

B
efore we get into the inner workings of Texas Hold
'em it is important that you are familiar with the
sequence of a typical game. This is the structure of
the game and once you have a basic understanding of the
game play sequence, each element can then be examined
more closely in turn, to complete your knowledge of the
game.
This discussion will assume that the game is being played
with an independent dealer and a minimum of 3 players and
that they are playing a limit game of $2-$4.
The game is always played in a clockwise direction
around the table and the first player is always to the
immediate left of the dealer.

THE BETTING LIMITS


In a limit game, minimum and maximum betting limits are
stated before the game commences. You need to ensure
that you are aware of the betting limits for the game you are
about to play.
Betting limits specify the lower betting limit and the
higher betting limit that are to be used in the game. In our
game the lower betting limit is $2 and the higher limit is $4.
In Hold 'em this is shown as $2-$4 or $2/$4.
Betting limits for a game could be $1-$2, $4-$8 or even
$100-$200 and $1000-$2000. Stakes can get quite high
and this is why it is important to check the game which you
are intending to play.
There are other betting limits that are also used in Hold
16 | T EXAS H OLD ' EM G AME P LAY

'em and these will be covered later in the book when we


look closer at the betting structure. For our example here,
we are playing a $2-$4 game, so our lower betting limit is
set to $2 and the higher limit is set to $4.

THE BLINDS
To get the game started it is necessary to put some money
into The Pot. With an empty pot there is no money to win
and therefore no incentive for the players to play their hand.
To get things going a set amount of money is put into the
pot by the first two players to the dealers left (the first two
players to the left of the Dealer Button). This money is
referred to as the Blinds. The name is taken from the way
that each player must put this money into the pot – blind.
This means that the players are required to place the blinds
into the pot prior to any cards being dealt.
It is a requirement of Hold 'em that these blinds are paid
for each hand played and if you are active in the game, they
cannot be avoided.

THE SMALL BLIND

The first player to the dealers immediate left (to the left of
the Button) has to pay the Small Blind. This amount is
equal to exactly half of the minimum betting limit in limit
games.
In our game, we are playing a limit game of $2-$4. This
means that the minimum amount that can be bet is $2. So,
in this instance, the Small Blind is set to half of this amount
and is therefore $1.

THE BIG BLIND

The second player to the dealers left (the player to the


immediate left of the Small Blind) has to pay the Big Blind.
This amount is set to exactly the minimum bet amount in
limit games, so in our game it is $2.
T EXAS H OLD ' EM G AME P LAY | 17

THE DEAL
Now that the blinds have been paid, the players are dealt
their cards.
The dealer places the round Dealer Button on the table in
front of the person immediately to his left. This button
indicates that this player is, in effect, acting as the dealer,
although they are not dealing any cards. The Professional
dealer always deals the cards and the Button is used for the
sequence of game play. The person with the Dealer Button
could in fact be classed as a Virtual Dealer as they do not
actually deal any cards but the game is played as if they
had. All will become clear soon.
The dealer then shuffles the pack of cards and burns the
top card. Burning is the term that is used to describe the
discarding of the top card from the deck and is done in case
this card has been accidentally seen by any of the players.
Burnt cards are placed face-down in a separate pile to the
side of the dealer. The dealer then proceeds to deal one
card to each player in a clockwise direction, starting with the
player immediately to the left of the Dealer Button. When
each player has been dealt one card, the dealer then deals a
second card to each player, again in a clockwise direction
and again starting with the player immediately to the left of
the Dealer Button.
Each player now has two cards each, known as Hole
Cards or Pocket Cards and this is the maximum number of
cards that each player will ever hold in the game.

THE FIRST BETTING ROUND


Game play starts with the player immediately to the left of
the Big Blind. This player is also the third player to the left
of the effective dealer (the third player to the left of the
Button).
18 | T EXAS H OLD ' EM G AME P LAY

WHERE THE GAME STARTS

The third player is where the hand really starts, as the first
two players have placed their blinds and have in effect
already acted.
The player looks at their hand to determine whether they
think that they hold a good hand or not and has three
options open to them; call, raise or fold.

CALL
If the player decides that they have a hand worth betting on,
they can Bet. In our game, the amount that is to be bet is
$2 as this is the betting amount for this betting round.

RAISE
If the player deems that they hold an excellent hand they
may wish to raise. In our game, if the player wishes to
raise, they can only raise by the minimum bet amount of $2,
making the total bet $4 ($2 bet plus $2 raise).

FOLD
If the player decides that their hand is no good and that
they do not wish to play it, they can Fold. Also known as a
Pass, the player clearly states that they are folding and
pushes their cards back towards the dealer, keeping them
face down.
These discarded cards are placed face down onto the
Burn pile.

REMAINING PLAYERS

The rest of the players then proceed to bet in turn, in a


clockwise direction. In this instance the options open to
them are to call, raise or fold.
The last to bet are the players that placed the Blinds.

CALL
When a player Calls they are requesting to see the first of
the community cards. In this instance, they must place an
amount of money in the pot that is equal to the amount that
T EXAS H OLD ' EM G AME P LAY | 19

has been bet by the player before them.


If the bet is set to $2, then the player that calls must
place $2 in the pot for the privilege.

RAISE
When a player raises, they are basically saying that they
have a good hand and they want to raise the bet. In order
to raise, they must place the amount of the previous bet and
then raise by the minimum bet amount.
In our fixed limit $2-$4 game, the bet currently stands at
$2. If the player wishes to raise, he must raise by the
minimum bet amount of $2. This brings the current bet
amount to $4. For the next player to call, they must bet $4.
There is usually only a certain number of times that a
raise can be played in each betting round. Typically this is
set to a maximum of three raises per round.

FOLD
If the player determines that they do not hold a very good
hand, then they can Fold or Pass. They announce they they
are folding and push their cards, face down, back towards
the dealer.
These discarded cards are placed face down onto the
Burn pile.

COMPLETING THE FIRST BETTING ROUND

The betting round continues until such time as all of the


players bets have been equalised. This means that each
player has increased their bet to the highest bet currently on
the table by Calling.
If a player does not wish to equalise their bet, the only
other option available to them is to fold. In this case, they
clearly state that they are folding and return their cards
face-down, to the dealer who places them on the burn pile.
There is one remaining option open to the player who
paid the Big Blind - If all of the other players have called and
not raised and the bets are equalised, then the option to
check is available to this player. In this case no money is
payable and the player states that they are Checking. This
20 | T EXAS H OLD ' EM G AME P LAY

option is discussed further in the Second Betting Round


below.

THE FLOP
Once the players have equalised their bets on the first
betting round, the dealer then burns the top card from the
remaining deck of cards and deals three cards face-down on
to the table. The cards are then turned over so that they
are face-up and are spread out side-by-side to reveal the
first three of the five Community Cards. This is known as
The Flop.
The players ascertain if they can improve upon their hand
by utilising the three community cards with their Pocket
Cards (or Hole Cards). They will also need to decide
whether their hand can be improved upon with the
remaining community cards.
The community cards are also known as The Board.

THE SECOND BETTING ROUND


The next betting round begins and this time the person to
the dealers immediate left (left of the Dealer Button), starts
the betting round.
Similar to the first betting round, the player has the
options of betting, raising or folding. They also have the
added option of checking.
When a player checks they do not have to put any money
in the pot at all at this stage and play continues to the next
player (to the left). They are in effect stating that they still
wish to have interest in the pot, but they do not wish to
place a bet at this time. They also tend to knock on the
table to indicate that they are checking. Checking is
generally used when the player is not sure whether or not
they hold a good hand and wishes to see what the other
players are going to do first. Once a player has placed a bet
(put some money in the pot), no other player can check in
the same betting round and therefore checking is no longer
an option for anybody else.
T EXAS H OLD ' EM G AME P LAY | 21

The betting continues in a clockwise direction until the


bets have been equalised. Remember that once a player
has placed a bet on their hand any subsequent player looses
the ability to check and is forced either to call, raise or fold.
The bets in this betting round adhere to the minimum
game bet. In our example $2-$4 game, this is $2. This also
means that any raise can only be raised by $2.

THE TURN
All the bets from the second betting round have now been
equalised and any player whose hand doesn't meet up to
their requirements have folded.
The dealer once again burns the top card from the deck
and turns the next card face up next to the other three
previously dealt community cards. This is known as Fourth
Street, or more commonly The Turn.
Once again, the players still in the game attempt to make
their best hand from the four community cards available on
the Board and their Hole cards that they were originally
dealt.

THE THIRD BETTING ROUND


The third betting round now takes place to exactly the same
format as the previous two betting rounds. The only
difference this time is that from this round on, each bet and
raise must match the maximum betting limit of the game.
In our game here we are using limits of $2-$4, so bets
start at $4 and each raise can only be raised by $4.
Once all bets have been equalised, the final community
card is dealt.

THE RIVER
The dealer once again burns the top card off of the
remaining deck and deals the next card face-up next to the
previous four community cards. This is known as Fifth
Street, or the River and is the final card to be dealt.
22 | T EXAS H OLD ' EM G AME P LAY

The players now have seven cards to make the best hand
possible in an attempt to beat their opponent. Out of these
seven cards, a maximum of five cards can only be used in a
hand.

THE FOURTH BETTING ROUND


The fourth and final betting round now commences in the
same order as the previous betting rounds and once all bets
have been equalised, the final stage takes place.

THE SHOWDOWN
As the name suggests, this is where the remaining players
show their hands to determine which player holds the best
hand and ultimately wins the Pot.
Typically, the last person to place their chips into the pot
is the first to show their hand. If this hand beats the other
players, then they can choose not to reveal their own hands
and can just return their cards face down to the dealer. In
this case they normally state that the other hand has them
beat by saying “Beats Me”.

THE NEXT HAND


Prior to dealing the next hand, the dealer collects all of the
cards together from the players and together with the burn
pile into the remaining deck and thoroughly shuffles them.
The Dealer Button is moved one player to the left. This
player now becomes the effective (or virtual) dealer. The
Small Blind is paid by the person to the immediate left of the
Button and if they are still in the game this would be the
person who paid the Big Blind in the previous hand.
The Big Blind is paid by the second player to the left of
the Button.
Dealing now starts in a clockwise direction and the player
to the immediate left of the Button receives the first card.
Normal play then resumes as previously explained.
T EXAS H OLD ' EM G AME P LAY | 23

This explanation describes the basic structure and flow of a


typical Texas Hold 'em game. We shall visit this example
again shortly using visual examples of how the hands are
played, but before we do this it is necessary to learn the
different poker hands that are available to us. For now
though, just try to understand the Flow of the game and
become familiar with the betting rounds and the terminology
used. If it all seems a little confusing at this stage, keep
with it, it will become much clearer in the forthcoming
chapters.
You have been exposed to a lot of new terminology that
is used in Texas Hold 'em in this chapter. Understanding this
terminology should allow you to recognise the various game
flow elements if you were to watch a poker game at this
stage.
But why stop here? Let's now move on and examine the
different poker hands that are available in Texas Hold 'em.

OTHER POINTS
There are a few additional points to be aware of with regard
to game play.

WINNING BY DEFAULT

If during any of the betting rounds all players fold apart from
one, then that player who remains in the game wins the pot
by default. They do not need to show their cards and can
just return them to the dealer face down.
This means that it is possible to win the pot even before
any community cards have been dealt in the Flop, just by
the way you are betting and this opens the doors to bluffing.

SPLIT POT

If on the Showdown the remaining players hold hands of the


same value, meaning that they are both winners, then the
pot is split equally between them.
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4 Poker Hands

T
here are ten different hand rankings that you will
need to learn in order to play Hold 'em. They are
quite straight-forward and once you become familiar
with them, will be well on your way to becoming a top
player.
Out of the seven cards that are available to you during
each hand played, only five cards can be used to make the
best hand that you can.
In Texas Hold 'em there is no Suit Hierarchy. This means
that a diamond is the same level as a club and a spade is
the same level as a heart. What matters is the value or
rank of the card. So a Queen beats a Jack and a King beats
a Queen, regardless of what suit it is.
As far as Ace's are concerned, they can be interpreted as
a high rank or a low rank depending on how they are used in
your hand. For example, they can be treated as a one in a
A-2-3-4-5 hand, or higher than a king as in 10-J-Q-K-A.
The hands shown below are in Rank order, with the
highest ranking hand first.
26 | P OKER H ANDS

ROYAL FLUSH

IJKLM
The Royal Flush is the highest ranking poker hand that is
available. If you hold this hand then you will be odds on
favourite for winning the Pot.
The hand is similar to a straight flush where the cards are
all the same suit (clubs, spades, hearts or diamonds), but it
includes all the court cards and runs in sequence from 9
through to King.
There are only four possibilities for a Royal Flush as there
are only four suits in a pack of cards. This means that the
probability of seeing this hand is a massive 30,939 to 1.

STRAIGHT FLUSH

efghi
A Straight Flush is the 2nd highest poker hand. The
strength of the hand is determined by the highest card in
the hand. Just as in the Royal Flush, the cards that make up
a Straight Flush must be all of the same suit.
This hand can be beaten by another straight flush if
another player holds a hand where their highest card is of a
higher value than the highest card that you hold in your
hand. For example, let's assume that you hold the hand
shown here, 5-6-7-8-9. The 9 would be the highest card in
your hand and could said to be a nine-high straight flush. If
your opponent holds a 6-7-8-9-10, they would hold a Ten-
P OKER H ANDS | 27

high straight flush which will beat you, as their 10 is a


higher card than your 9.
Remember, in Texas Hold 'em there is no suit hierarchy.

FOUR OF A KIND
The 3rd highest hand in poker is Four of a Kind, also known
as Quads. As the name suggests, you need to hold a hand
where four of the cards are of the same rank.

GlLYy
In the example above you hold four Queens in your hand. If
your opponent also held Quads but they had four 10's or
four Jack's, then you would beat them. If however, they
held four King's you would lose the hand.

FULL HOUSE
The 4th highest ranking hand is the Full House. This hand is
made up of a Pair and a Three of a Kind. As you would
expect, a Three of a Kind is where there are three cards in
the hand which have the same value and a Pair is where
there are two cards of the same value.

gGwWj
If your opponent also holds a Full House, then it is the
highest ranking three of a kind that holds the most clout.
Here, your hand shows that you hold 7-7-10-10-10. If
your opponent held 6-6-J-J-J then their hand would beat
28 | P OKER H ANDS

yours. However, if they held Q-Q-8-8-8, then your hand


would beat theirs.

FLUSH
Being the 5th highest ranking hand in poker, the Flush
consists of all five cards in your hand being of the same suit
but do not run in sequence.

cgikm
The hand ranking itself is determined by the highest card in
the hand. If your opponent also holds a Flush and the
highest card in their hand ranks the same as yours, then the
next highest card in the hand would determine the winner,
and so on.
An example of your hand, shown above, is 3-7-9-J-K. If
your opponent held 2-8-9-J-K, then they would win the hand
as their 8 is higher than your 7. The King is the highest
ranking card, followed by the Jack and 9, in both hands
therefore it is the next highest ranking card that determines
the winner.

STRAIGHT
The Straight is the 6th highest ranking hand and consists of
five cards of sequential value but not of the same suit.
When making a straight from your hand, the Ace can be
considered high (10-J-Q-K-A) or low (A-2-3-4-5).
P OKER H ANDS | 29

AbPqE
The winning hand is determined by the highest card in the
straight. Therefore a 7-8-9-10-J (a Jack-high Straight) beats
6-7-8-9-10 (a Ten-high Straight).

THREE OF A KIND
Also known as a Set or Trips, the Three of a Kind is the 7th
highest ranking hand in poker.
As the hand suggests, you need three cards of the same
value in order to make this hand.

CtkKx
As you would suspect, the strength of the hand is
determined by the rank of the three matching cards.
Here you hold 3-7-J-J-J which would beat 2-5-9-9-9, but
would be beaten by 2-5-Q-Q-Q.

TWO PAIR
Ranking 8th in the top ten poker hands and third from the
bottom is Two Pair. This is where your hand consists of two
pairs of cards where each pair is of equal rank.
30 | P OKER H ANDS

lsSmz
The fifth card, although not counted as part of the hand, is
referred to as the Kicker and is used to determine the
winning hand if your opponent also holds two pair which
match yours.
The highest ranking pair determines who wins the hand,
so a 4-5-5-Q-Q would be beaten by your hand shown here
of Q-6-6-K-K.
The Queen would be the Kicker. If your opponent held 4-
6-6-K-K, where their Two Pair matches yours, then you
would win the hand as their 4 Kicker is lower than your
Queen.

PAIR
Second from last in the poker hand list of fame is the Pair.
This is where you hold two cards in your hand which are of
the same rank.

eGmuU
If your opponent also holds a Pair, then the highest ranking
hand, as you would suspect, is determined by the highest
ranking pair, so an A-A would beat a K-K. In the event that
your opponent holds the same ranking Pair as you hold, then
the winning hand is determined by the next highest ranking
card in your hand, known as a Kicker.
P OKER H ANDS | 31

HIGH CARD
The lowest ranking hand is the High Card hand. This occurs
when you cannot make any other hand. The highest ranking
hand is ultimately determined by the highest card that you
hold in your hand.

bgIxY
It has been known, but it would not be determined very
good strategy to attempt to play this type of hand as it
would be pot-luck as to whether you would succeed at
winning the hand.
In this example, you hold a Queen as your High Card. If
your opponent holds a King or an Ace, then they would beat
your hand.

So there you have it! Learn these hands and become


efficient at quickly recognising them.

INCREASING YOUR SKILLS


Now is the time to get your basic skills up to scratch. There
is nothing worse than feeling pressured whilst trying to
identify a poker hand quickly and nothing more
embarrassing than cards flying all over the place when it's
your turn to shuffle and deal.

LEARN TO IDENTIFY POSSIBLE POKER HANDS

One of the main things that was difficult for me when


learning to play poker, was being able to identify poker
hands and learning which hand beats another. I created a
simple method that was extremely effective at helping me
learn my poker hands fast. Within a couple of hours of using
32 | P OKER H ANDS

this technique, you will be able to identify winning (and


losing) hands, quickly and accurately. As with any skill, the
more you practice, the better you become.

BASIC METHOD
1. Look through the poker hands at the beginning of this
chapter again, in order to familiarise yourself with the
different hands and which hand is higher in the hierarchy.
2. Thoroughly shuffle a deck of cards.
3. From the top of the deck, deal out seven cards from left to
right face up.
4. Take your time in trying to determine which is the best
hand, if any, that you would be able to make out of five of
the cards that lay before you.
5. Gather up the cards and place them in a pile to the side.
6. Repeat the process from step 3 until you have less than
seven cards left in the pack.
7. Over a short period of time, you will find that you can
increase your speed and identify which hands you would be
able to make, as well as recognise both the correct name
for the hand and it's position in the hand hierarchy.

ADVANCED METHOD
Once you have gained familiarity with identifying poker hands
using the Basic Method, you can progress to the more advanced
method.
This method gets you used to making poker hands in
Texas Hold 'em, by first dealing two cards close to you,
representing your hole cards and then dealing out the five
community cards towards the centre of the table. When
arranging the cards like this, you start to get used to the
way the hands look in Texas Hold 'em, where you have the
two hole cards near to you, and the five community cards
separated from them.
The final step in this technique is to deal out all of the
cards face-down, the two pocket cards and the five
community cards. Look at your hole cards to see which
ones you hold and place them back on the table face-down.
Next turn over the first three cards to the left of the
P OKER H ANDS | 33

community cards. These represent the Flop. Only looking


at your pocket cards if you really have to, see if you can
determine some possible hands that you can make with your
two pocket cards and the three community that you have
just turned over on the Board. Carry on simulating a Hold
'em game, by turning over the fourth community card, the
Turn and again seeing if you can improve on your hand.
Finally, turn over the River, the final community card and
see what the best hand is that you can make with all seven
cards.
Remember, only look at your hole cards if you really
cannot remember them, but work towards never having to
glance at the cards in the pocket a second time, as in a real
game it will be identified as a Tell (more about those later).

LEARN TO SHUFFLE

An important basic skill when playing poker is the ability to


shuffle a deck of cards without them ending up all over the
table and on the floor.
Good shuffle technique is worth learning well. It is
simple to do and the more you practice the easier and faster,
you will be able to shuffle, as well as keep all of the cards
together in the deck.
There are a variety of ways to learn to shuffle and the
most common one is the Overhand Shuffle. Steer clear of
flashy shuffles, at least to begin with, and master your
technique until it is faultless.
To find out how to perform the overhand shuffle and
many other varieties, pick up a book on card tricks where it
will explain basic Card Handling technique (You will also be
able to learn some cool magic tricks and be life and soul of
any party!), or do a Web search on Google for “how to
shuffle cards”.
Once you are adept at the Overhand shuffle, you can
then progress to the Hindu Shuffle, Weave Shuffle, Riffle
Shuffle and the Strip Shuffle. The other common shuffles
used in Poker are the Wash and Go and the Strip and Cut.
Demonstrations of these can easily be found on the world-
wide web.
34 | P OKER H ANDS

WATCH POKER ON TV

The last task in this section is to watch the telly! Find


yourself a few poker tournaments to watch on the box, make
some popcorn, crack open a extra large Pepsi and start to
pay attention to the cards that are drawn. At this stage you
do not need to concentrate on who's betting what and which
strategies are being used, all you need to do is look at the
players pocket cards and then get used to making potential
hands when you see the flop, turn and river.
You will generally find that the pocket cards of the players
that haven't folded are displayed on the screen. As the
game progresses, the community cards appear in sequence,
allowing you to quickly work out which hand is more likely to
win.
These games can get fairly fast and you may struggle at
first to keep up. Consistency is the key here and if you keep
with it and persist, you will find that you are reading the
cards like a pro in no time flat.

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5 Basic Strategy

B
efore we can walk through a few hands of a typical
Texas Hold 'em game, we must discuss some very
basic strategy. Seeing as you only get dealt two
cards prior to the first round of betting, it stands to reason
that you need to know how to make the right decision before
parting with your hard-earned money.
Similarly, you will need to consider how you will progress
with your game after you have seen the Flop, as well as the
Turn and the River.
We shall keep to teaching extremely basic decision-
making strategy as it applies to the typical game flow of a
simple no-frills game, that once learned will allow you to
follow along with any basic game of Hold 'em.
Winning strategies are not discussed in this chapter and
will be covered later in the book. For now let's just continue
to concentrate on the structure of Texas Hold 'em poker and
the base information that we need to play.

TIGHT OR LOOSE?
When you are said to be playing a Tight game of poker, you
are playing hands that are highly likely to win. This means
that you will have a set of rules that you keep to with regard
to the cards that you are holding, that will determine
whether or not you continue to play that hand, or whether
you will fold. Playing a tight game can increase your
chances of winning over time and you are less likely to
consider taking chances.
Playing a Loose game is the exact opposite of playing a
36 | B ASIC S TRATEGY

tight one. It means that you are more likely to take chances
that the cards you require will turn up on the Board at some
stage and that you will seriously consider playing hands that
have an outside chance of winning. Although any method of
gambling includes some element of luck, playing a loose
game means that you are relying on luck much more than
strategy.
With a Tight game being at one end of the scale and a
Loose game at the other, the type of game that you decide
to play can vary not only game to game, but also hand to
hand.
Experienced poker players may at times play an
extremely loose hand if they believe that they can bluff their
opponent into believing that they hold a potentially winning
hand, at other times they may play their hand fairly tight if
that is how the game needs to be played.
It all comes down to experience when deciding how you
are going to play each hand. For the purpose of this book
we shall stick to playing a tight game, which is the best
method for those who are just starting out playing poker. As
your experience grows, you will be able to make informed
decisions about how to play your game.

WHAT'S IN YOUR POCKET?


There are numerous things to take into consideration when
determining the strength of your two pocket cards. Where
you are seated at the table, your Position, how other players
have acted towards their own hands and whether or not you
are playing on the Button all have a part to play.
We have to start somewhere and so will leave the more
advanced strategies until a little later on and concentrate on
the very basics of how you can determine whether or not
your pocket cards have the potential to make a quality hand
that is worthy of betting on.
When learning how to play Hold 'em, it is a good bet
(pardon the pun!) to stick to the basic strategy of
determining whether or not the cards that you have in the
hole are playable, or whether you would do better to fold
B ASIC S TRATEGY | 37

(otherwise known as 'mucking your hand').


There are no hard and fast rules and as your experience
grows you will find your own judgement, but for the time
being at least, your pocket cards can be placed into three
different groups depending on their strength; Strong starting
hands, Medium-Strength starting hands and those that may
be considered as Other playable starting hands.

Let's start by looking at some of the Strongest starting


hands that you may come across.

Pocket Cards – Strongest Starting Hands

Pair of High Cards

Aa Mz lL
A high-pair is always a good combination to hold and can
always be converted on the flop into Trips. Ace's (Pocket
Rockets), Kings and Queens are the higher value pairs,
whilst Jack's, 10's and 9's are more commonly classed as
medium-value pairs. Anything below this are of low value.

If you hold a medium value pair and a high-value card


appears in the flop (such as an Ace, King or Queen), keep an
eye on your opponents to see if they raise the bet. If they
do and they didn't raise before the flop, it is likely that they
hold another high card and have made a pair.

Although Jack's and 10's could be included here, but are


more commonly medium pairs rather than high-pairs.

Ace with a High Kicker

AM al nk
This combination is always a good hand to hold and the
38 | B ASIC S TRATEGY

Pocket Cards – Strongest Starting Hands

higher the Kicker the better. If you are holding A-K and
there is another King in the flop, then you will be holding a
top pair with the highest possible kicker, A-K-K. Similarly, if
you draw an Ace in the flop, then you will be holding A-A-K,
which is the top pair with the highest kicker. It almost
seems like a win-win situation.

Holding an A-J or A-10 is still a good hand, but you need to


consider what your opponent may hold as A-Q will beat your
hand.

If the cards are suited and you are holding A♦-K♦ and the
flop pulls a Q♦-J♦-2♠, then you need 10♦ for a Royal Flush
on the turn or the river.

If your 10♦ does not appear, then you always have the
chance of getting an Ace-high Flush with any other diamond.

Face Cards Suited

zy mk YX
If you hold a pair of face cards, the you will probably be
looking to make a high Pair on the flop.

If you hold K-Q and you flop a King, then you will hold a
high Pair with a Queen Kicker. This may not necessary be
as good as a pair of Queens with a King kicker, but it's worth
holding.

When the cards are suited, making a high-card Flush or


Royal Flush is a long shot, but possible. You may more
commonly see as straight appear on the flop, turn and river.

If you are dealt any of the above hands, then there is no


question that the odds of making an even better hand on
the flop are good, although things can change very quickly
in Hold 'em.
Next we will look at some medium-strength hands that
have the potential to become strong as the game unfolds.
B ASIC S TRATEGY | 39

Pocket Cards – Medium-Strength Starting Hands

Face Card with a Ten Suited

JM jl wx
Obviously not as good as a a pair of suited face cards, this
combination can produce a winning hand.

Flopping another face card that matches will give you a


high-card pair with a 10 Kicker if you hold a King or a
Queen. These will be beaten by a similar pair with a higher
kicker.

When suited can be built to a Royal Flush or a Flush, and if


unsuited are not too far apart to bring about a Straight.

Medium-Strength Pairs

Ii uU TG
If you hold a pair of 9's, 8's or 7's, then you may not have
the best hand but it may be able to be improved if you flop a
high-card pair, although it may be likely that your opponent
could hold a higher pair. Flopping a lower pair will make the
hand fairly weak and chances of producing a winning hand
will be slim, but not impossible.

However, holding a medium-strength pair can produce a


much stronger hand if the flop turns them into Trips.

The value of these cards are not so low as to be able to


produce a Jack, Queen, or King-high Straight or a Flush if
suited.
40 | B ASIC S TRATEGY

Pocket Cards – Medium-Strength Starting Hands

High Cards

Ay aX nj
mL zk Mj
yX YJ kW
Having two high-value cards in the hole can certainly be
improved upon to a strong Pair or Trips with a high Kicker,
or a high Straight or Flush if suited.

If you hold Q-10 and flop another Queen, then you will hold
a High Pair with a 10 Kicker. If you flop a 10 instead of a
Queen, then your pair is much weaker and will be beaten by
a stronger pair, even J-J.

Do not be tempted to hold on to your hand if it contains an


Ace or King and the flop doesn't further improve your hand.

Medium Connectors Suited

xw ji WU
IH → down to →
TR
Connectors are cards that are close in value and are capable
of producing a Straight on the flop.
B ASIC S TRATEGY | 41

Pocket Cards – Medium-Strength Starting Hands

Play with these hands carefully and if the flop doesn't


improve things, then don't be afraid to muck your hand
swiftly.

Finally, there are some other hands that you may wish to
consider, but are not very strong hands to start with so you
may want to play with caution or decide that you don't really
want to play this type of hand until your experience level
increases.

Pocket Cards – Other Starting Hands

Low Pairs

Ff rR Qd
cp Bo
Not regarded as a very powerful hand, low card pairs have
the potential to be made into Trips on the flop, making them
stronger than a high-pair.

Let it go if the hand is not improved by the flop.

Ace with a Low Kicker Suited

AF ae nq
NP ab
42 | B ASIC S TRATEGY

Pocket Cards – Other Starting Hands

An Ace with a low card suited has the potential of becoming


an Ace-high Flush, which is the top flush and depending on
the other cards on the board, could be the Nuts.

If you flop two or more cards of the same suit, it may be


possible to complete the flush either on the flop, turn or the
river. This is known as Drawing Hands as you need to Draw
a series of cards in order to improve on your hand.

Low Connectors Suited

FE fd rq
RP
Low hole cards that are suited, have the potential to become
a Flush and can win the pot. However, the odds are not very
strong in seeing another three cards of the same suit
appearing on the board.

Being close together in value, getting a consecutive run of


cards to make a Straight Flush would be more beneficial
than a Flush on its own.

It would be best to fold the hand if it is not improved on the


flop, or if it is suspected that your opponent has a stronger
hand.

POSITION
Your position around the table is an important factor when
playing Hold 'em. The closer to the left of the dealer you
are, the worse the position, whereas the closer to the right
of the dealer, the better.
This is because the action on the betting rounds goes
B ASIC S TRATEGY | 43

from the player to the dealers left, clockwise and ends with
the dealer (unless it's the first round of betting in which case
the betting ends with the Big Blind). The dealer is in the
best position of all and is said to be Playing on the Button
due to the fact that this is where the Dealer button is located
for that hand.
Your position in any particular hand is referred to as
either early, mid- or late position. At a full table of ten
players, for example, the first four players to the dealers left
would be playing in early position, players five to seven in
mid-position, whilst the remaining three players would be
considered to be playing in late position.
Seeing as the dealer is moved one place to the left for
each hand, each player will take their turn in playing in each
of these positions repeatedly during the course of an entire
poker game.

THE BEST PLACE TO BE

The best place to be is to play on the Button, with the


exception of the big blind being the last to act in the first
betting round. When playing in this position, you are last to
act when deciding how to proceed with your hand. All the
other players have made their decisions and have either,
checked, bet, raised or folded. If you suspect that other
players have a weaker hand than you do, but are not quite
sure, you can raise the bet and see what their reactions are.
If their hand is not so strong and they were trying to bluff,
they will possibly decide to fold and not call your raise.

LATE POSITION

When playing in the late position you have seen most other
players act before you and are able to make a more
educated decision or even play a risky hand. The less
players to act after you the better, however the last player to
act will be the dealer.
44 | B ASIC S TRATEGY

EARLY POSITION

When playing in early position you will be one of the first to


act. It is wise to play only strong hands in this position as
others will be looking to see how you decide to act. Fold
poor hands quickly and don't take any unnecessary risks.

MID-POSITION

Not an overly strong position to be in during the game, but


not the weakest either. When playing in mid-position you
have seen others act before you, but others after you are
still to act.
Playing good quality hands in this position is always the
best idea, but it could be worth taking more of a risk on
slightly weaker hands than you would when playing in early
position, especially if a lot of the players before you have
mucked their hands.

BEFORE THE FLOP


Now that you have some guidelines as to some of the better
starting hands and the importance of your position, your
strategy before the flop is relatively simple; if you determine
that your hand is worth betting on, then bet or call the
previous players bet, if you think it's a great hand then you
may want to raise and if you have taken everything into
consideration and decided that your hand is weak, then you
will more than likely want to fold.
If your playing style for this game is tight (which is
recommended while you are learning), then you will
probably only bet on your hand if you have something like a
high pair or an ace with a high kicker (10, J, Q, K) which
would preferably be suited.
If you have decided that you will play a little on the loose
side, then you may consider playing a lower hand such as a
7-8 as long as they are suited.
You must base your decision on your position and if
playing in early position, you may wish to play a much
tighter hand than if you were in mid to late positions.
B ASIC S TRATEGY | 45

AFTER THE FLOP


This is where the main decision about what to do with your
hand will be made. Either the flop has improved your hand,
it hasn't made a lot of difference or it's made what would be
initially considered a good hand, virtually worthless.
Things can turn around quickly once the first 3
community cards have been dealt and some basic strategy
will help you decide what to do next.
Of course there are more involved strategies that can
help in making even better decisions and these will come
with experience and your interest for the game. At this
stage we will only consider basic strategy that will become
the building blocks to your future success.

WHEN THE FLOP HASN'T HELPED

If after the flop your hand has not been improved at all,
then only one decision can be made, fold your hand. It is
both pointless and a waste of money to bet on a hand where
the odds of it winning are poor.
Your hole cards may have been fairly strong before the
flop, but if this is not improved upon at all then the only
option open to you is to muck your hand.

THE FLOP HELPED A LITTLE

If you held a moderate hand before the flop and the flop
improved upon that hand, then it may be worth considering
betting. This is where position really comes into play and
being in late position will allow you to see what other players
are doing, before the action gets to you.
46 | B ASIC S TRATEGY

ij
hole cards

nkI
the flop

Let's say that your pocket cards were 9♠-10♠. You called
to see the flop as you held a medium hand and they were
also of the same suit. This meant that you had a chance to
make a flush, or even a straight.
The flop produces A♣-J♠-9♦ and gives you a pair of 9's.
The flopped Jack also gives you another card for your flush
and it's in sequence to your hole cards for your anticipated
straight. You may want to bet on this hand as you think that
the flop has been good to you.
But wait. If one of your opponents already holds an Ace,
then the flop will give them A-A-J, the top pair with a highish
kicker. If they have A-K or Pocket Rockets (A-A) in the hole,
then your hand is already beat.
If other players are betting then it's highly likely that they
hold higher cards and the flop has been kinder to them than
it has to you, in which case it may be best to fold. Use your
opponents actions to decide how to proceed.
B ASIC S TRATEGY | 47

THE FLOP IMPROVED YOUR HAND

aZ
hole cards

ngl
the flop

If before the flop, you had A-K in the hole and you flopped
A-7-Q, then you have increased the strength of your hand.
You now hold top pair (A-A) with the highest kicker.
Even if your opponent holds A-Q, you've got them beat at
this stage and they may think their hand is strongest
because they hold the top pair with a higher kicker also. But
your King is higher than their Queen. Unless they get
another Queen on the turn or the river to give them two
pair, you've got a good chance at staying on top.
In this situation, you will definitely want to call or raise
and see the turn.
The thing that you have to keep in mind with cards in the
flop, is that they are community cards and everybody has
the same cards. The only difference is what each player has
in the hole.

THE TURN
Much of your main decision-making strategy has been done
prior to and on the flop. By the time it comes to the river
you need to keep an eye open for a card which may increase
your opponents chances of getting a winning hand, in
particular a flush.
If a matching high-card is dealt that matches one in the
flop that your opponent bet or even raised on, then it's a
48 | B ASIC S TRATEGY

good indicator that he could hold a Triple or even a Full


House.
Keep an eye on how the other players are betting to get
an indicator of what they may hold. The other option of
course is that they are bluffing and are wanting you to
believe that they hold a higher hand than they actually do.
By knowing your opponent and watching how they play
during the game, you will learn to recognise when someone
is playing a bluff.

THE RIVER
Much like the turn, by the time the River card is dealt you
should have your hand. Obviously, your hand could easily
be made stronger if a card that compliments your hand is
dealt and so could your opponents.
Say you are holding K-K and your opponent has Q-Q in
the pocket. You have been holding the best hand since the
flop and after the turn. The river produces another Queen,
so now your opponent is holding trips, Q-Q-Q and has won
the hand.
Winning using this method is known as winning by the
Back-door and many a player has been tormented by their
opponents luck as the card that they desperately needed
shows up. There's nothing that can be done about this and
you just need to chalk it up to experience. There will always
be a time for you when you need a specific card or suited
card and as if by magic, it appears on the turn or the river,
winning you the pot.
6 A Typical Game

Y
ou should now have a basic understanding of Texas
Hold 'em Game Play and are a little more familiar
with the various poker hands, so we can now move
on to an example of the way a typical Texas Hold 'em poker
game might flow.
In this chapter we will expand on what we already know
about the way the game is played and follow our five players
through a hand of poker.

LET'S PLAY
Our five players are seated at the table and ready to play.
We have a professional dealer to deal our cards for us as this
will be the way that it is laid out both at a casino and when
playing online.
We are playing a $20-$40 limit game, which means that
the lower betting limit is $20 and the higher limit is $40.
The person to the immediate left of the professional
dealer is the Dealer. This is who the professional dealer is
dealing on behalf of. The professional dealer places the
Dealer Button in front of this player, so that all players know
who is the active Dealer.

THE BLINDS
The player to the left of the button pays the Small Blind into
the pot by pushing his chips towards the centre of the table.
Being half of the lower betting limit, the small blind at this
stage of the hand is set at $10.
50 | A T YPICAL G AME

It is the player to the left of the small blind that is


responsible in paying the Big Blind. Being an amount
exactly equal to the lower betting limit, this player pushes
their $20 worth of chips towards the centre of the table and
into the pot.
Remember that the Blinds are forced bets and must be
paid. Once each person at the table has been the dealer, all
players would have had their turn in playing the blinds.
The pot currently holds $30.

DEALING THE POCKET CARDS


The professional dealer shuffles the cards and then takes the
top card and places it face down on the table next to them.
This will be the Burn Pile. Nobody is allowed to see these at
any stage during the game.
The first player to be dealt their first pocket card is the
player to the immediate left of the Button. Moving in a
clockwise direction, each player is dealt their first pocket
card. Starting from the same player as before (to the
immediate left of the button) another card is dealt to each
player giving them their two pocket, or hole, cards.
Now that the small blind and the big blind has been paid,
the first round of betting takes place.
Let's have a look at what each of our five players has in
the hole...
A T YPICAL G AME | 51

Player's Hole Cards

uv
player 1 (on the button)

TL
player 2

DM
player 3

Ax
player 4

OG
player 5

Now that all the players have their pocket cards, the
betting rounds can now commence.

FIRST BETTING ROUND


The betting Action for the first round of betting starts with
player 4. Player 1 is playing on the button and player's 2 &
3 have paid the blinds.
Player 4 has been dealt A♦-J♣, a high card with a high
kicker. This is a good hand and it could be that another
player holds A-Q or A-K and wants to see what the flop
brings to his hand. He will be looking for another Jack to
make a pair with a high-kicker, or another Ace to give him
52 | A T YPICAL G AME

top pair with a medium kicker. Playing in early position he is


fairly confident that his hand may stand a good chance and
he raises. There was no previous bet as he was first to act
after the big blind, therefore he has to place the same
amount as the big blind into the pot, plus the raise. The
raise amount is the lower betting limit amount and so he
pushes his $40 ($20 bet plus $20 raise) towards the centre
of the table and states that he is raising by saying “Raise
$20”. The bet amount is now $40.
Player 5's pocket cards of 2♥-7♦ are not up to much so
he announces that he is folding by saying “fold”, and pushes
his cards, face-down towards the dealer. The dealer takes
these cards and places them on the burn pile. At no stage
are these cards shown to anyone, not even the dealer.
The action now moves to Player 1 who is playing on the
button. She has 8♣-9♣ in the pocket. These medium cards
are suited and in sequence, meaning that if the flop
produces more of the same suit then she will have a good
chance of making a flush. Being in sequence also brings the
possibility of a straight. She decides to call and pushes $40
in chips towards the centre of the table saying “call” ($40 is
now the lower bet amount having previously been raised by
Player 4).
Player 2 holds 7♥-Q♦ as their pocket cards and
although the Queen is a high card, the lower 7 is too low for
a kicker if another Queen is dealt on the flop and is too far
away from the Queen to make a straight. The cards are
unsuited so a flush is out of the question. They fold.
Player 3 holds K♦-4♦, a high card with a low kicker. If
they were of a different suit, then player 3 may have indeed
folded similar to Player 2, but seeing as the cards are suited,
he fancies his chances in hitting another King or more of the
same suit on the flop. He calls to see the flop and has to
place a bet equal to the previous bet. He pushes $40 of
chips towards the centre of the table.
All players have placed their bets and all bets are
equalised meaning that each player has put the same
amount of chips in the pot. They can now see the Flop.
At the end of the first betting round the pot total is $150.
A T YPICAL G AME | 53

THE FLOP
The dealer takes the deck and burns the top card, placing it
on the burn pile.
Three cards are dealt face down on top of each other on
the table. The deck is put aside and the three cards turned
face-up and spread out side-by-side. This is The Flop.
The flop is the first of the three community cards to be
seen by the players and it is where hands are either made,
or broken.
Let's take a look at the cards in the flop. together with
the hands of our remaining players...

The Flop & Remaining Player's Hole Cards

aXK
The Flop

uv
player 1 (on the button)

DM
player 3

Ax
player 4

The flop has given the players A ♠-J♥-J♦. Remember that


these cards belong to all players and this needs to be taken
into consideration when betting.
54 | A T YPICAL G AME

SECOND BETTING ROUND


For this and for all subsequent betting rounds, betting starts
with the first player to the immediate left of the button, in
this case Player 3.
Player 3's hand has been improved by the flop giving
them and A-K. Although not brilliant, if the Turn or the
River pulls another Ace or King, then they will have a high
pair with a high kicker. Another diamond also appears in the
flop. They need two more diamonds to make a flush. They
also think that it's possible for another player to hold Ace
with a high card giving them top pair with a high kicker.
Player 3 decides to call and places $20 of chips, the lower
bet amount, into the pot.
Player 4 has had an extremely good flop and now holds
a Full House A-A-J-J-J. Only a higher full house, four-of-a-
kind or a flush can beat him. He is extremely confident that
he has a winning hand and raises, putting $40 into the pot.
Player 1's hand has not been improved at all by the flop
and folds.
At this stage, Player 3 has bet $20 and Player 4 has bet
$40. The bets need to be equalised to see the Turn and so
the action goes around the table a second time. Seeing as
only two players remain, the action goes to Player 3.
Player 3 decides that he has quite a strong hand and
calls, placing $20 into the pot to equalise the bets.
Both players have now placed the same amount into the
pot to see the Turn card.
The pot currently holds $230 by the end of this round.

THE TURN
Once again, the dealer takes the deck and burns the top
card, placing it on to the burn pile.
The next card is taken from the top of the deck and dealt
face up onto the board, to the right of the flop. This is The
Turn and is the fourth community card to be dealt.
Once again, let's see the community cards and our
remaining players hands...
A T YPICAL G AME | 55

The Turn & Remaining Player's Hole Cards

aXKm
The Turn

DM
player 3

Ax
player 4

For this hand the Turn card is K♠.

THIRD BETTING ROUND


The third round of betting now takes place and the players
are now playing Heads-Up (One on One). Of the two players
left in the game, Player 3 is again first to act.
From this betting round onwards, the bet amount now
increases to the higher limit, in this case $40. The raise
amount is also $40.
Player 3 gets what he hoped for in the turn and now
holds his best hand of K-K-A, high pair with a top kicker. He
could do with another Ace or King on the board, which may
come on the River. He decides to raise and puts $80 into
the pot ($40 bet plus $40 raise, seeing as the bet amounts
have now increased).
Player 4 has not improved his hand but still holds a full
house and is confident that he still holds the winning hand,
although Player 3's raise has made him wonder if his
opponent holds K-K which would give them a higher full-
house if the River saw another King. He decides to play safe
and just calls, placing his $80 into the pot.
56 | A T YPICAL G AME

Once again, bets are equalised and the final card can now
be dealt.
The pot amount now stands at $390.

THE RIVER
Just as before, the dealer burns the top card from the
remaining deck. The next card is dealt face up onto the
board to the right of the other community cards. This is The
River.

The River & Remaining Player's Hole Cards

aXKmn
The River

DM
player 3

Ax
player 4

For this hand the River card is A♣.

THE FOURTH BETTING ROUND


The fourth betting round now begins and is the final
round before the Showdown. Players must bet on the
strength of their hands, the strongest of which will take the
pot.
It's Player 3 to bet first. His hand has been much
improved by the River and he now holds two top pair, A-A-K-
K. He will definitely play his hand, but doesn't want to come
across over eager and wants to see how his opponent acts.
A T YPICAL G AME | 57

He checks and knocks on the table and says “check” to


indicate this. He doesn't place any chips in the pot.
Player 4's full house has changed on the turn. Whereas
he previously held A-A-J-J-J he now holds A-A-A-J-J much
improving his hand. He thinks that his opponent has pulled
a good hand with the turn. If he does hold the other ace,
which could be unlikely seeing as the other 3 have already
been dealt, that still wouldn't beat his full house. He calls
and places $40 into the pot.
Player 3 thinks that Player 4 could hold a good hand but
maybe not as good as his top two pair as they haven't
raised. He raises and places $80 into the pot.
Player 4 calls and his $40 equalises the bets.
The winner's pot now stands at $550.

THE SHOWDOWN
Now that all the bets have been placed it's time for the
players to show their hands. Each player turns their cards
over on the table so that each player can see what their
opponents hold as their pocket cards and determine the
winning hand. This is the Showdown.
The player with the winning hand claims the pot. The
dealer pushes the pot towards the winner who rakes in the
chips.
Player 4 holds the best hand with A♠-A♣-A♦-J♣-J♥
and wins the $550 pot with his Full house, much to the
disbelief of Player 3 who thought he held the best hand of
A♠-A♣-K♦-K♠.

THE NEXT HAND


All the cards from the previous hand are collected and
added to the deck, which is thoroughly shuffled ready for the
next hand.
The Button is moved one player to the left and this player
now becomes the effective dealer. Everything moves one
player to the left. Dealing will start with the player
immediately to the left.
58 | A T YPICAL G AME

The player who paid the Small Blind in the last hand does
not need to pay any blinds this time, while the player who
paid the Big Blind in the last hand this time pays the Small
Blind and the player to their left now pays the Big Blind.

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7 Betting

N
ow that you have got a good idea of how a typical
Texas Hold 'em game unfolds, let's take a closer
look at how betting works and some of the options
available to you during a game.
We will also cover some basic betting strategy that may
benefit you in your game. At times you will be low on chips
and a good betting strategy will have you replenishing your
chip stack, at your opponents cost, in no time.

BETTING POINTS OF INTEREST


As we have seen, there are four betting rounds, or intervals
that are available to us during each hand of Hold 'em. It is
likely that we will not always see all of the betting rounds,
due to the fact that the pot may already be won long before
the showdown.
Let's now look a little closer at some of the things that
you will need to be aware of in the betting rounds.

MAXIMUM NUMBER OF RAISES

So that things do not get out of control and players with


large stacks of chips do not bully players with fewer chips,
there is a maximum limit of raises per betting round. This is
usually set to three and once this limit has been reached the
only options left to the players is to call or to fold.
Once the bets have been equalised, the next community
card(s) can be dealt or the showdown can commence.
60 | B ETTING

SIDE POTS

If a player does not have enough chips to call, it would not


be fair to allow that player to play that hand and win the
contents of the pot, as he would not have put as much in as
the other players.
In this instance a separate pot is created that will hold
the difference. This is called a side pot.
For example: Player A bets $100, Player B calls with
$100, Player C only has $50 and calls. In this instance
Player C's $50 bet is placed in the pot. Another side pot is
then created and the difference between Player C's bet and
the other two players bets, are removed from the main pot
and placed in the side pot. The main pot now contains $150
($50 for each player) and the side pot contains $100 ($50
belonging to Player A and $50 belonging to Player B).
All players can win the main pot, but only Player A and
Player B can win the side-pot. Therefore if Player C wins the
pot, he will receive the contents of the pot and the side pot
will be given back to Player A and Player B. If however,
Player B wins the pot, then he will receive the contents of
the main pot, plus the contents of the side-pot as he has an
interest in both pots.
It may be necessary to create multiple side-pots in a
game, but only players who have put the correct amount of
money in each pot, will be able to claim them. If a player
has not got any of his money in a pot, then he will not have
claim on that pot.

BLIND INCREASES

During the course of a game, you may find that the blinds
are increased every so often. This is meant to speed up the
game. Not all Hold 'em poker games are subject to blind
increases.
In tournaments, the increase in blind payments may
change each hour, online every 15 minutes or so.
Ensure that you check which type of game you are
thinking about playing and when, if any, blind increases are
made, before you join the game.
B ETTING | 61

STRATEGIC BETTING

If everybody was honest and only placed bets according to


their hand, then players would fold when they had a bad
hand, bet when they had a moderate hand and raise when
they had a good hand.
When learning to play Texas Hold 'em this is what you
should do while you are building your experience in the
game.
However, from time to time there may be a need to look
a little closer at betting more strategically, either to
replenish your chips, to improve your chip-stack in order to
play an opponent with a big stack or maybe just to win.
Whatever your reason, there are a few tactics that can be
used to make your game play a bit more flexible and to give
you the advantage that you otherwise may not have had.

GENERAL BETTING STRATEGY

Before we get on to the more deceitful betting options, let's


discuss good general betting strategy. These basic
considerations are extremely beneficial and can put you in a
good position for the game.

STRONG HAND
If you hold an excellent hand in early position, such as A-A,
K-K or A-K suited, then you should consider raising and even
re-raising, before the flop.
This will drive out players that hold draw hands and
generally cause them to fold.

MIDDLE & LATE POSITIONS


If you hold a strong hand and are in the middle or late
positions, then you may look to raise if none of the players
before you have raised..
However, if you are in middle position and somebody
after you raises, then unless they are bluffing it is likely that
their hand beats you and you need to be on your guard.
62 | B ETTING

BLIND-STEALING

Blind-Stealing can be used to increase the number of chips


that you hold. It will almost never make you rich, but may
give you a slight advantage against a player with a larger
stack. This tactic can also be used as a way to end the hand
quickly.
When you are playing on the button and only you and the
players who have paid the small and big blinds remain in the
game, if you were to raise you would be seen to be
attempting to steal the blinds. You are basically trying to
get both of the blinds to fold.
If you were to call rather than raise, it is possible that the
blinds would also just call, in order to attempt to see the flop
as cheaply as possible.
When you raise, you are basically stating that you have a
strong hand (even if you have a poor hand) and that if the
blinds do not, then they should consider folding. This would
mean that you would claim the pot.

STEAL-RAISE

If in a hand, you are the last player to act and all players
before you have checked, if you were to bet then it would be
known as a Steal-Raise. If your intention is to bet in order
to take the pot.
By betting it is possible that the players who checked to
you held a lesser hand and were trying to see the flop for
free. By placing a bet, they now have to match that bet by
calling, raising or folding. Some players may fold,
decreasing the competition and some players may call
increasing the size of the pot.
Be careful when using this tactic. It is possible that one
of the other players that previously checked actually holds a
good quality hand. Therefore, use this tactic when you have
a good drawing hand (such a nut flush draw).

CHECK-RAISE

The Check-Raise tactic is used to increase the size of the pot


and to deceive your opponent into thinking that you do not
B ETTING | 63

hold a strong hand, by checking, therefore forcing him to


bet. You then raise his bet. Seeing as he has already
committed one bet to his hand, it is likely that he will match
the raise by calling.

THE OPENER

This tactic is used by players that tend to bluff frequently.


When playing in early position and the first player to act, the
player immediately raises. This forces each player to pay a
double bet (bet amount plus the raise amount) in order to
stay in the hand.
Unless a player holds a strong hand or is also an
aggressive player, the Opener will see players folding more
often than not.
This tactic is best used with fewer players in the hand.

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64 | B ETTING
8 Single Table Tournaments

S
ingle table tournaments, more commonly referred to
as Sit & Go's, are the next stop on your journey to
Texas Hold 'em poker fame. These tournaments are
played similar to a typical game of poker that you may play
at home with friends and family, with the exception that
there is more than one overall winner. It is though the
obvious place to start as there is a chance of coming away
with more money then you started with and is a great place
to build on your skills.
These tournaments have appeared out of the online
poker community and have a large variety of game levels
available to play.

BASIC OVERVIEW
If you have ever been involved with a poker tournament run
by your local pub, then you have probably been exposed to
the concept of Sit & Go tournaments.
With these types of tournaments there is more than one
winner. These are typically the last three players left at the
table. Each of the remaining players then battles it out for
first, second and third position which dictates their winnings;
usually 50% of the prize fund for first place, 30% for second
and 20% for third.
Sit & Go's will generally start with around ten players and
players are eliminated one by one and cannot be replaced by
another player as they can be in some multi-table games.
It's like playing at the final table in a multi-table poker
tournament and tends to be much shorter than a full-blown
66 | S INGLE T ABLE T OURNAMENTS

poker tournament. If you only have an hour or so to spare,


these are the ideal way to increase your knowledge and
experience, while taking home some winnings in the
process.
These games tend to be convenient and fun and there
doesn't have to be a lot of money at stake. Therefore it's a
great place to learn more about poker and to hone your
newly acquired skills, almost for pocket change.
Practising online is an ideal way to become more
proficient at poker whilst learning to play a higher game,
without your family and friends learning your strategies as
you go. In no time soon you will be raking in their hard-
earned cash on get together poker nights!

ONLINE GAME LEVELS


You can find different game levels in the online poker rooms
varying upwards from $5 games. You need to be able to
'buy in' to the game and will generally need around twenty
times the buy in amount in order to progress to higher level
games.
For instance, if you were playing a low-level $5 game and
after a period of time decided that you would like to play the
$10 game, then you would need a minimum of $200 in order
to play. It's therefore a good strategy to start with the
lowest games and progress your way up through the levels.
Be warned though, as you get to the higher levels you will
be competing with experienced and highly skilled poker
players!
You can expect to see a return of around 20% or so, give
or take, on your investment (if you could call it an
investment) on average regardless of which game you play
and you should expect to rise up to the next level for every
100-150 successful games won.
It is important to remember to play at a level that you
are comfortable with and even more important to enjoy
playing at that level. It's pointless playing at the higher
levels and repeatedly losing and it's certainly not an
enjoyable way to spend your time. The excellent thing
S INGLE T ABLE T OURNAMENTS | 67

about playing Sit & Go's online is that if you have lost a
couple of higher level games and your account looks a little
low, you can drop to the smaller games and recoup your
loses and build up your experience & confidence before
going on once again to the higher levels.
If you have learnt to play a good game of Hold 'em and
you do not get carried away with your emotions too easily,
then you should have no problems playing the lower level
games. These games are cheap to buy in to and the players
that frequent these games are usually either beginners, or
less serious players. Either way their strategy is not usually
very good and if you play a good Sit & Go strategy, then you
will be playing the higher level games in no time at all.

GAME TYPES
There are various types of Sit & Go games available to play
online and they are all different. When starting you just
need to stick with the standard Sit & Go and steer clear of
these other variations, but as you progress you may want to
try some of the other styles.
There are games that have a full compliment of players,
but the blinds are raised at a quicker rate. As a result, the
game tends to be much faster.
Another variation of the Sit & Go is a game with fewer
players. Seeing as there are a smaller number of players to
begin with, it is usual that only the final two players have a
claim to a percentage of the pot, rather than the usual
three. You may like to have a go at this type of game when
you feel that you have more experience and are able to win
the standard Sit & Go's fairly frequently.
You will also see some games that only have two players
that are playing Heads-Up. This is something to have a go
at when you become a Hold 'em expert and have learnt the
different strategies involved in playing this type of game.

SIT & GO STRATEGY


So what is the strategy for playing Sit & Go's? To begin with
68 | S INGLE T ABLE T OURNAMENTS

at the start of the game, it is not your intention to play too


aggressively. Your intention is to hold on to your chip pile,
gradually increase the amount of chips you hold, while
playing a strategy that will keep you in the game and see
you playing in the final three.
Sit & Go strategy can get fairly complex but we shall keep
it simple. As your experience grows, you will see how other
players seem to play these games and can enhance your
strategy accordingly.

STAGE 1 – PLAY TIGHT

At the start of the game the blinds are low and there are a
high number of players in the game. At this point you need
to play an extremely tight game for two core reasons; a) So
that you do not waste chips playing looser hands
unnecessarily (remember, you are aiming to be playing in
the final three) and b) So that you get a reputation at the
table of being a tight player which will help you later on in
the game.

TIGHT STRATEGY
If you are holding any pair from 2-2 upwards to J-J in the
hole, then play the hand. Similarly, also play A-K and A-Q
also.
If your pocket cards show any top pair, A-A, K-K or Q-Q
then you would be best to play a bit more on the aggressive
side and re-raise.
If you have anything else other than these hands do not
be tempted to play them. Fold them immediately.

EVEN TIGHTER STRATEGY


It may be that you wish to play an even tighter game during
this stage of game play and another strategy is only to play
the big hands.
If you hold A-A, K-K, Q-Q or A-K then you will play the
hand, otherwise you will fold.
If you've got A-K, then you will be looking to play
aggressively and look to re-raise any player that raises
before the flop. If on the flop you don't hit a pair, then it
S INGLE T ABLE T OURNAMENTS | 69

may be better to fold.


Like all rules however, there are exceptions and there is
one here that is determined by the amount of chips that you
have in your stack. If you hold a pocket pair (2-2 to J-J)
and the cost for you to call is less than around a 1/15th of
your total chips, then call. For example, if you have 800
chips, then you will only call if you can do so for around 50
or so chips.
You are looking to make either a Set or an Over Pair on
the flop and if you make a set, then you would be in a good
position to go All-in if the opportunity allows. If you get an
over pair, then be a bit more cautious before deciding
whether or not going all-in would be wise.

STAGE 2 – FIGHT FOR THE PRIZE FUND

During the game the blinds will continually raise and players
will get less and less as they are played off the table. This
also means that there are more chips for each remaining
player. You are now playing for one of the top three
positions. There is no prize for any position lower than that,
so you need to start playing a bit looser.
This stage will start when the amount that needs to be
paid for the blinds is around 1/15th of your chips. When the
Bubble bursts, (the term used for when there are only three
players remaining in the game), then your strategy needs to
change once again, but for this stage of the game you need
a different strategy.
You will be assisted by the fact that you have been
playing a strict tight game up until now, so your opponents
will expect you to keep playing in this way.

SIZE DOES MATTER!


The more chips that you have, the better position you will be
in. You are looking to push players with less chips than you
out of the game by raising and re-raising or even going all-in
in order to push them to fold. If they call, then they must
have a good hand, but if they lose the hand to you, then
they are out and you can claim their chips.
If you are running short of chips though, you will need to
70 | S INGLE T ABLE T OURNAMENTS

look at different strategies to remain in the game, such as


Blind-Stealing, in order to increase your chips. Play strong
hands, such as J-J, Q-Q and K-K or any of these with an Ace.
You are looking to move all-in before the flop rather than
attempt raising.
Going all-in with a small stack is really your only option.
In all of these cases though, make sure that you are playing
good hands and don't take a chance on playing outside
hands. Play a good quality, aggressive game and don't try
to go up against players with more chips that you, unless
you are really sure that you have a big hand.

INCREASE YOUR CHIPS


The closer you get to the final number of players to have a
claim on the prize fund, you may notice that players start to
play really tight, not wanting to be pushed out before
qualifying for part of the money.
You can take advantage of this and look to increase your
chips for the final stage, by frequently stealing blinds. Once
the bubble bursts and your playing for the size of the prize,
you will start in a good position with a big stack of chips.

STAGE 3 – FIGHT FOR POSITION

Once you are in the final three, you can be rest assured that
you are going home with a share of the prize fund. Now you
need to step up a gear and play an aggressive game in order
to play for a bigger slice of the pie.
Your main aim is to look to increase your slice by coming
first, or even second, but be satisfied in the knowledge that
you are already a winner. In effect you can't lose from now
on, you can only gain.
Play aggressive both before and after the flop and look to
move all-in when your chips are getting low (as a guide this
is usually around ten big blind payments). Don't just look to
'Hang on in there' and accept third position. You have
everything to gain, so move forward and become more
forceful.
S INGLE T ABLE T OURNAMENTS | 71

HEAD'S UP
When you are in the final two players and playing Heads Up
then you need to push. Raising and re-raising will help here
and the bigger your stack the better. Look for patterns and
plan your strike to claim the top prize.

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9 Types of Hold 'em Games

T
here is more that one variation of a Texas Hold 'em
game that can be played, each of which has it's own
set of strategies. It is important to choose a game
that you are comfortable with and that suits your level of
experience. It's no good entering a multi-table tournament
with a large prize fund, if you just started playing Hold 'em
for the first time last week.
In this chapter we shall cover some of the differences in
play and strategy that you will come across when watching
or playing these games.

LIMIT GAMES
Most of the information in this book is based on the limit
game of Hold 'em. When you play a limit game, the betting
structure is limited so that players cannot get bullied by
other players that hold large chip stacks.

BETTING STRUCTURE

When looking to play a limit game, you need to choose one


that in is your comfort zone, it's no good going for the
higher limit games if your funds do not allow for it. Instead
start at the lower end and work up, increasing your funds as
you go.
As we have already covered in the Betting section in
Chapter 7, limit games have both lower tier and higher tier
limits specified. Usually, this means that it is only possible
to bet or raise the lower limit amount, before and on the
flop. On and after the turn card, the higher tier is used and
74 | T YPES OF H OLD ' EM G AMES

only that amount can be used to bet, or raise.


For example, if you are playing a $10-20 game, then you
can only bet or raise $10 in the betting rounds, before and
on the flop. After that the higher tier is used and the bet
amount becomes $20 per bet or raise.
The blinds are normally set at half the lower tier for the
small blind and exactly the amount of the lower tier for the
big blind.

BASIC STRATEGY

When playing a limit game it is harder to bluff and bully


other players as the bet amounts are limited. This means
that you can't move all-in with your entire chip stack in an
attempt to push another player off the table.
You need to pay attention to your playing style and limit
games are where you need to play a tight game. This is
because of the fact that frequently, the hand will reach a
showdown and you will need to show your cards. Having a
strong hand throughout the game will see you having a good
chance of winning the pot. Your best hands will be the ones
that are made with high cards in the hole, rather than lower
pairs or connectors that you hope may make a flush or
straight.
Keep it simple and play the long game. Don't be tempted
to play a moderate hand just because you have been waiting
for what seems an eternity, for strong pocket cards.
Patience will be rewarded.
When you do eventually get dealt good strong hole cards,
play a good strong game to win the pot.
Even if you do decide to play a not-so-strong hand once
in a while, seeing as the bets are capped, you won't get
broke too quickly and will have a chance to recoup your loss
by reverting back to tight game play.
Holding connector cards in the hole and playing a drawing
hand can be fairly lucrative if there are a few players in the
pot. Make sure that you have a good set of cards and a
good chance of beating other drawing hands.
Like every game of Hold 'em, use your position to your
advantage and look to play tighter in early position and a bit
T YPES OF H OLD ' EM G AMES | 75

looser when playing late (position that is, not late at night!).
Finally, experiment with your strategy and have fun. You
are not going to lose large amounts in limit games, so you
have some leeway to practice and concentrate on building
your experience.

SPREAD-LIMIT GAMES
Spread Limit or Variable Limit games are when the betting
structure allows players to place bets within a predefined
range. This concept progresses nicely from the limit games.
With a betting structure of $4-$8, players can place bets
anywhere from $4 to $8. Whereas in the limit games this
would be interpreted as the lower and higher betting tiers, in
spread-limit games, there is no higher or lower tier and the
players need only bet within the specified range.
The only caveat is that if a player before you raises, then
if you intend to raise you will need to raise the amount of
the previous raise, or more.
If for example, Player 1 raises $6, then Player 2 would
need to raise a minimum of $6 if they intend to raise.
Another betting structure that you may come across in
the Spread Limit arena (although they could also sit quite
comfortably at home as an extension of the limit games), is
one that looks like this: $1-$4-$10-$10. This means that
you are able to bet from $1 to $4 before and on the flop and
from $1 to $10 on the turn and the river.

NO-LIMIT GAMES
The no-limit games are commonly seen in poker
tournaments such as WSOP (World Series of Poker), the
WPT (World Poker Tour) and televised events and as the
name suggests there are No-limits in how much you can bet,
or raise.
As a player you need to play a more aggressive game
and it is often seen that players win the pot long before
getting anywhere near the showdown.
Limit games are not for the beginner as the stakes are
76 | T YPES OF H OLD ' EM G AMES

exceptionally high. It won't be long though before you get


to this level if you learn the game and improve your tactics.
One of the players playing in the WSOP 2009 event had only
been playing poker for 18 months!

POT-LIMIT GAMES
In a Pot-Limit game, players can bet any amount from the
minimum bet, up to the size of the pot.
Let's say for instance that we are playing a $2-$4 pot-
limit game and we are on the second betting round. There
are three players left in at this stage of the game.
The amount of money in the pot currently stands at $10
from the previous betting round and is known as the
Starting Pot.
Player 1 bets $4 increasing the pot to
$14. Pot-limit Betting
Player 2 states that they want to raise Starting Pot
the pot by stating “Raise Pot”, making $10
the new pot total $36. This is made up
of a starting pot of $10 + Player 1's bet Player 1
of $10 + Player 2's call of $4 + Player 2's bet: $4
pot raise of $18. new pot: $14
This makes a total of $36 in the new
pot. Before the raise amount can be Player 2
determined, the pot amount and both starting pot: $10
players bets are added together. This player 1 bet: $4
amount then becomes the interim pot player 2 call: $4
amount and therefore the raise amount current pot: $18
(see inset for example breakdown). player 2 raise: $18
Player 2's Pot Raise consists of their call new pot: $36
amount plus their raise.
Player 3 decides to call Player 2's pot Player 3
raise of $22, making the new pot amount starting pot: $10
$52. player 1 bet: $4
At this stage, if Player 1 wishes to player 2 pot raise: $36
call, then they will need to make up the player 3 call: $22
difference of $54 in order to equalise new pot: $58
their bet.
T YPES OF H OLD ' EM G AMES | 77

Pot-limit games can get a bit complex and are best


avoided when just starting out. Keeping track of the pot
amount and raise amount can easily become confusing
when a game speeds up.

SIT & GO'S (SINGLE TABLE TOURNAMENTS)


Since this is the first logical place to start when learning to
play Texas Hold 'em, we covered this type of game earlier on
in detail in a previous chapter.
Until you feel that your experience level and skill has
improved significantly, this is the game of choice. Stick with
it, learn and start to incorporate some advanced strategy as
you play, over a period of time, until you are able to
continually win this type of game.

MULTI-TABLE TOURNAMENTS
When entering into a multi-table tournament you are really
going in for the long-haul. These types of tournaments can
taken a lot of hours and sometimes days to get through, but
why?
As the name suggests there are a number of tables that
are playing poker simultaneously. An increase in tables
means an increase of players and a five table tournament
can start with around 50 players.
When a player gets knocked out they are removed from
the game and all the players are then shuffled around and
re-distributed in order to ensure an equal number of players
per table, until there is only one table left – The Final Table.
There are regular breaks so you don't need to sit on the
loo when playing online!

PLAYING A MULTI-TABLE TOURNAMENT

It's possible to buy in to some of these tournaments quite


cheaply, say for example around $38 so once your skills are
improved you may want to look at playing one weekend.
One of the things that excites me with this type of
tournament, is that it is sometimes possible to qualify and
78 | T YPES OF H OLD ' EM G AMES

Win a place on the final table of a World televised poker


tournament, like the World Series of Poker, The Aussie
Millions and the World Poker Tour. Of course it is not
possible to guarantee that this will always be the case, but
certainly there have been online players qualifying for these
tournaments and it is becoming more common. It could be
you - you just never know!

STRATEGY
The main part of your strategy is to play good solid poker,
especially during the early stages of the game. Remember,
that you are in this for the long-haul and your chips need to
last. Play a tight game with strong hands, minimise bluffing
and don't get coaxed into playing all-in.
Having said that, if you do pick up a cracking hand, then
turn up your aggression and play that hand strongly, but
don't overplay it and if it is not playing the way you had
hoped, don't be afraid to let the hand go.
Don't be tempted to raise too much before the flop, if you
have top pocket cards. Doing this may lead to other players
folding leading to a small pot. Play your hand in order to
make the best from it, build up the pot ready to take it all.
Keep a check on your position, as always, and don't play
weak hands in early position. Keep to the basics and play
them solid and it will reward you. Save your more advanced
tactics until the later rounds and the final table.
However, aggression can be used strategically if the
situation demands it, such as when you have a good hand in
early position and you want to push it. Don't be afraid of
raising early on and if the flop improves an already strong
hand, then play it to the end and pick up the pot.
Don't forget that as you progress through the game the
blinds will get bigger, so don't get caught out with a small
chip stack. The bigger you can get your chips to grow the
better your position will be in later rounds.

THE FINAL TABLE


There is not a lot to add at this stage and there shouldn't be
too many changes to your strategy for the final table.
T YPES OF H OLD ' EM G AMES | 79

The same strategies that you used to play Sit & Go's will
be useful here, so use those and you won't go too wrong.
Above all enjoy yourself and don't get worried if you get
kicked out or your game takes a tumble. As long as you
haven't bet your house, kids and dog, it will all build on your
experience for the next tournament.

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80 | T YPES OF H OLD ' EM G AMES
10 Tells

T
he human body is a marvellous and versatile piece of
biological engineering capable of performing the most
accurate and precise delicate movements similar to
that which a watchmaker or jeweller would need to make, to
lifting an outrageous amount of weight like a world class
power lifter.
As you will be aware, our brain controls our bodies and is
not only responsible for controlling each of the 640 or so
skeletal muscles that allow us to move around and perform
our daily activities, but also controls the operation and
function of each and every one of your organs, including
your heart.
The subject of tells is a large and complex subject. It is
impossible to cover body-language as it relates to poker, in-
depth in this book, but to give you a good grounding in what
tells are and how they work, we can give you some
guidelines in what to look for and hopefully exploit to your
advantage.

TELLS & THE HUMAN AUTO-PILOT


If our brains had to perform all of the tasks that run your
body consciously, then it would be a disaster. If you had to
think about when to breath in and breathe out, when to
make your heart beat or make your hair grow as well as
having all the effort in deciding what parts of your body you
would consciously need to move just to sit down, you
wouldn't get anything done.
Instead, all of the stuff that can be done automatically is
82 | T ELLS

performed by our unconscious mind so that we don't even


need to think about them. This allows our bodies to function
like well-oiled machines, while we consciously tend to the
more important things in life, like playing poker!
It's just like putting a plane on auto-pilot, it just flies as if
by magic.

UNCONSCIOUS BEHAVIOUR

So what does this have to do with poker you ask? Well,


quite a lot really. When we experience emotions, our brains
perform a sequence of actions that control the muscles of
our bodies and makes certain parts of our bodies move
accordingly. Although various muscles are targeted all over
our bodies, you will be more familiar with those that are
positioned around the face when watching your opponents
play poker. When your facial muscles are targeted by your
unconscious mind and movement triggered in response to an
emotional event, then this is referred to as an Expression.
Unconscious expressions are one tool that can be used in
poker in order to ascertain whether or not our opponent has
been dealt a good hand, has got rubbish cards or has made
a top hand on the flop.
Our facial expressions can be contradictory to our
conscious actions and if our opponents are adept in
interpreting this behaviour, then they would be aware that
the $4,000 in chips that we have just raised is just a bluff to
get them to fold so that we can claim the pot and that our
hand is actually quite poor.
Unconscious behaviour is not limited to facial
expressions. Our hands, shoulders, torso and feet all have
parts to play and in actual fact every single part of our body
can at any time react automatically to a given situation.
This is where the study of Body Language comes in to play.
It is always best to spot your opponents facial
expressions as soon as something happens that triggers an
emotion, as that split second is when you will catch what's
really going on inside their minds, before they have a chance
to consciously override their automatic reaction.
T ELLS | 83

PUT ON YOUR POKER FACE

Some of the ways that poker players try to prevent others


from seeing their facial expressions (and involuntary body
movements) is to attempt to control these unconscious
movements consciously. Seeing as these movements are
unconscious, then they can be very difficult to control, so
players tend to concentrate on just having one expression to
elude other players to what they are thinking. This is
commonly referred to as their Poker Face.

YOUR OWN BODY BETRAYS YOU

The conscious mind can only hold, on average, 7 bits of


information at any one time and can only realistically
concentrate on one thing at a time, rapidly switching its
attention between them making it appear that they are all
happening at the same time.
This is important to note when playing poker, as if a
player is consciously trying to concentrate on playing poker
as well as consciously keeping their poker face in check,
something will probably give at some point. This will more
than likely be seen in a body movement; the way you
position your hands, they way that you hold your body and
the way you point your feet are all ways that you can betray
yourself.
These unconscious movements and facial expressions in
reaction to emotional stimulus are called Tells in poker. We
can use the tells produced by our opponents to improve our
game.

HIDING TELLS

We have already covered the most basic way that some


poker players attempt to hide facial tells by developing their
Poker Face. Other ways are more obvious, such as wearing
large sunglasses to hide eye movements. Players also wear
baseball caps and hooded jumpers (known as 'hoodies') to
cast deep shadows over their face to hide their expressions
from view.
The other way that players might attempt to hide tells, is
84 | T ELLS

to be consciously aware of a tell and then do the exact


opposite. If this type of action if performed each and every
time then the action of trying to hide a tell, becomes a tell in
its own right.

ESTABLISHING A BASELINE

Before you can continue to identify your opponents tells, you


have to establish what is called a Baseline. A Baseline is
quite simply a visual record of how your opponent reacts
normally to a given situation.
Say for instance, you notice that each time one of your
opponents gets a good card that drastically improves his
hand on the flop, he sits up in his chair and slightly leans
over the table and takes a big breath.
If, later in the game, he moves all-in with a large stack of
chips, but he slumps back in his chair while exhaling, his
body has betrayed him and it is likely that he hasn't got a
very strong hand.
This is why it is important to study your opponents early
on in the game and get to know their behaviour, otherwise
referred to as Reading your opponents.

COMMON TELLS
As you will probably be able to realise, there are an
inexhaustible number of tells that can potentially be used
during the course of a poker game. There are though, some
more common ones that will get you started in identifying
what your opponents are really up to.
As well as tells that can be seen when playing face to
face, there are also tells that can be used to identify what
your opponent is doing when playing online, when you are
unable to actually physically watch your opponents during
the game.

FACE-TO-FACE TELLS

Here are some of the more common tells that can be


identified when playing with your friends or in tournaments.
T ELLS | 85

HAND SHAKING/TREMBLING
More commonly seen with beginners and not really
avoidable, the nervousness and excitement of holding a big
hand increases adrenalin and increases heart rate. This
results in hands that tremble while handling chips or cards.
The only way around this automatic response is to get used
to these types of situations. The more you are exposed to
them, the steadier you will become.

CHIP CHECKING
If your opponent quickly glances at their chips on the flop, it
is a sure indication that they have just made a big hand. By
quickly glancing at their chips they are usually seeing
whether they have ample chips to bet.

STARING AT THE BOARD


If you have ever looked at a person when they are trying to
work something out or recall something that has recently
happened or that they are familiar with, they seem to stare
into thin air. This is because they are accessing and
processing information in their brains. Their pupils will also
dilate (get bigger).
If your opponent seems to stare in this way on the flop, it
is a good indication that they have not hit a good hand and
are calculating if they can make any other hands by
visualising the cards in their mind.

INCREASED HEART RATE


When you get really excited your heart rate generally
increases. Similarly, when your opponent makes a good
hand, their heart rate will also increase.
If you are paying very close attention to your opponent,
you may be able to noticed a movement in their chest where
their heart is pounding. A better place to notice this
increase in heart rate, is the large vein on the side of their
neck that will pulsate harder that usual.
This type of technique is borrowed from Neuro-Linguistic
Programming (NLP) and is part of a set of visual techniques
called Sensory Awareness. The more you look for it, the
86 | T ELLS

more noticeable it will become.

SHOWING DISINTEREST
If a player shows a disinterest in the hand that they are
playing, but remains to have an interest in the pot, then it is
highly likely that they have a strong hand and are trying to
detract from it.
In this instance, it is also likely that the head will be
turned more than the body and that their body will remain
square-on to the table, whilst their head will be looking
away.

STARING DOWN YOUR OPPONENT


You are out at the bar with your extremely attractive
girlfriend for the night and notice some guy across the room
giving her the eye. What do you do?
Yep, you've guessed it, you give him a right old stare,
usually until he looks away, right?
This is because we feel vulnerable and are trying to look
hard and be aggressive to frighten them off and this is the
same process as in poker, eye contact is increased. We feel
vulnerable if we are holding a poor hand and we are trying
to intimidate our opponent to get them to fold so that we
can claim the pot.
So if you are being stared down at the table when it's
your go to bet, it can be a sure sign that your opponent is
feeling a bit insecure about their hand and are trying to
scare your off by being aggressive.

OTHER TYPES OF TELL

Aside from the unconscious tells, there are also tells that
players can play consciously. Here are some of the most
common ones.

PLAYING THE OPPOSITE


This is when players play the opposite to how they would
normally play with a given hand, in order to try to lure their
opponents into thinking that they hold a top hand when they
hold a poor hand, or they hold a poor hand when they hold a
T ELLS | 87

strong one.
This is one of the most common ways that players try to
deceive. If they hold a poor hand they may play aggressive,
in order to get their opponents to fold. When they hold a
good hand, they may play as if they are doubtful that they
will win in order to get their opponents to raise, re-raise and
fill up the pot ready for the taking.
Other players will expect you to act in a similar way and
you may be tempted. But if you do exactly the opposite and
play a strong game when you have a strong hand and vice-
versa, then you will probably increase your chances in
winning the pot as your opponent may think that you are
playing strong with a weak hand.

BEING INSULTING OR DISRESPECTFUL


If your opponent starts to be a bit on the disrespectful side
towards you after placing their bet, it is likely that they are
trying to agitate you enough to make you call and fill up the
pot.

BEING NICE
Conversely, if your opponent starts being nice, chatty and
friendly towards you after they have bet, the chances are
that they are bluffing.

ONLINE TELLS

When playing online, it is not possible to look for


unconscious tells or body language, due to the fact that you
are playing over the internet and cannot physically see your
opponents directly.
In this case it is necessary to turn your attention to game
play and the way that they are 'acting' online, that will give
us some insights into what they are thinking.

PLAY SPEED
Every online poker room has a set number of seconds that
each player has to respond before they are declared either
all-in or folded. Although it is sometimes possible that a
player's actions will almost always be slow if they have a
88 | T ELLS

slower internet connection, the general speed of play can be


a good tell.
Typically, a quick bet is a sign of weakness, and a delayed
action is a sign of strength. This is largely because the
player is calculating their strategy with what they perceive to
be a strong hand, which of course takes time.
Watch how much time it takes the other players to take
action and make a mental note of it. If they expose their
cards at the showdown, see if you can determine what they
slow bet with and what they fast bet with.
Take some time to think about your own play and
whether or not you exhibit these tells by your speed of play.
Adjust your strategy accordingly and strive to take a similar
amount of time to act each time the action gets to you, not
giving anything away to your opponents.

AUTO-PLAYS & CHECK BOXES


Online casinos make use of check boxes for options such as
fold, raise any, or call any. When a player uses a check box
their action comes immediately after the player before him,
without delay. This is because they have effectively put their
actions on auto-pilot and this can be used to your
advantage.
When a player has checked raise any it is highly likely
that they have a strong hand.
If your opponent uses the check box to check (pardon
the pun) then you can make an educated guess that their
hand is fairly weak.
When a player uses the check box to call any, then it may
be safe to assume that they have a draw hand that has not
yet been completed and they are definitely not ready to fold.
While these assumptions can never be 100% accurate, if
you pay attention to other players actions, you can over
time begin to draw conclusions and ascertain patterns based
on a players use of check boxes.
The fact that a player feels strongly enough about a hand
to make a decision even before seeing the actions of the
players before him, should be a tell as to the strength of
that players hand.
T ELLS | 89

FOLD/FLOP PERCENTAGES OF YOUR OPPONENTS


Although it is not always possible to mark this percentage
down exactly, you should over the course of several games
get an idea of whether or not a player folds a lot of trash
hands or if they are staying in for almost every pot.
If they seem to fold a lot of cards, then beware as they
will probably be playing tight and only play strong hands.
If they stay in for almost every pot, it is likely that they
are playing weaker hands and can be beat if you play a
strong hand against them.
This strategy can be used equally both online and offline
and helps you to determine the strength of a players overall
game.

CHAT BOX
Online casinos have a Chat Box function that allows you to
chat with your opponents and just like in a physical casino, a
player who has got a lot to say for themselves creates an
obvious tell.
If a chatty player suddenly shuts-up, it is likely that that
are playing a strong hand and needs to concentrate. They
are concentrating on the game.
If your opponents betting starts to become antagonistic,
it may be because they are bluffing and hoping that their
show of over-confidence will end in them bluffing you off the
table.
Watch the chat box for players who are steaming or on
tilt. A whining player or one who uses a lot of abusive
language is probably emotionally unable to play good poker
until he or she calms down. Don't get involved in their
issues and just concentrate on playing good poker and
winning their chips.

WAITING ON THE BIG BLIND


When you 'sit down' at an online Hold 'em table, you will
often have the option of waiting on the big blind to get to
you or you can post a matching big blind and start playing
immediately.
This a good way to tell how patient an online player will
90 | T ELLS

be and if they are not patient enough to wait on the big blind
to get around to them, it could be that they will not be very
patient about waiting on good starting hands. Expect a
player who acts in this way to be a loose player.
The opposite holds true for players who do wait on the
big blind and can be either patient or cheap. Both are pretty
good qualities to have if you are playing poker online.
Cheap players, even when they are not especially skilled will
tend to wait on better hands since they are less likely to
want to throw away their bets.

THE NEXT STEP


After you have become familiar with some of the simpler
tells, you may want to increase your knowledge of body
language and unconscious behaviour.
As you will probably realise by now, this subject is an in-
depth study in it's own right and is not directly linked to
poker, but its methodologies can be used to determine
human behaviour and its possible interpretation during the
game.
Here are some ideas that can increase your knowledge
and you may find interesting, but be warned, these
techniques relate to human behaviour and once learned you
cannot unlearn them. This means that if you learn to tell
when somebody is lying, you will be able to detect when
somebody is lying in every situation in your life, not just
poker. Once you have switched these techniques on, there
is no switching them off again. You have been warned!

STUDY MORE POKER TELLS

Once familiar with the basics, you can learn some advanced
stuff. There are entire books that have been written on tells
specifically for poker and these are well worth studying.
Additionally, keep an eye on your opponent when playing
face-to-face, and learn to recognise certain actions and
behaviours. A persons behaviour is always specific to them
and is triggered by certain things that they react to. Learn
to spot these signs early on in the game and you will be
T ELLS | 91

ahead of the rest.


You must remember to establish a baseline first, in order
to ascertain what is normal behaviour for them and what is a
tell.

NEURO-LINGUISTIC PROGRAMMING (NLP)

Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP, is the study of


language and how it effects human behaviour. It is also the
study of human excellence.
Taking it's ideas from therapists such as Milton
Ericksonnn, Fritz Perls and Virginia Satir, et.al, a library of
methodologies were compiled that allows accurate
interpretation of human behaviour and how it can be
affected by interrupting certain strategical sequences of
action, known as interventions, that can be used to bring
about the required change within a person.
Used in many areas including therapy, life-coaching,
education and business to name a few, NLP and its flexible
structure has proven to be an asset in these areas and
beyond.
Using elements of NLP for poker, there are a couple of
areas which may be of interest to you if you wish to increase
your knowledge, these are Sensory Awareness and Eye
Patterns.

SENSORY AWARENESS
Sensory Awareness trains you to become extremely
sensitive to what happens in our subjects body that you can
see when observing them, when they react to certain
stimuli. By training yourself to see these usually invisible
unconscious reactions, you can ascertain what is going on in
the minds of the person to which you are observing.
For example, if somebody is attracted towards you, it is
likely that their skin colour will darken as their face flushes,
the size of their lips will increase and their pupils will dilate.
Similarly, if somebody holds a good hand in poker, they are
likely to produce a similar reaction.
We have already mentioned in the chapter on Tells, that
an increase in heart rate can be noticed by the increase in
92 | T ELLS

pulsating in the vein that runs up the side of the neck, just
below the ear. Again using this in poker allows you to see
whether your opponent is getting excited and therefore may
hold a good hand.

EYE PATTERNS
The way that our eyes move when we are talking to
somebody is not random. It is a sequence of patterns that
we use unconsciously in order to access information in our
brains.
Depending on the situation and questions that we ask of
another, we can get an idea for what they are thinking by
determining where they are accessing their information
from.
Used in poker, we may be able to determine our
opponents thought processes as they relate to the hands
that they hold.

MENTALISM

Another area that you may want to look at is Mentalism.


The greatest mentalist of today is without doubt Derren
Brown. Just by looking at you, he can tell you where you
come from, what you do and the name of your favourite pet.
This is by using a technique called Cold Reading and is used
across the globe by psychics and the like.
Although it would probably take a lifetime to learn all of
the techniques, one of the most favourite techniques
concentrates on micro-muscle (ideomotor) movements.
Again, using the involuntary unconscious responses of
the human body, we can determine certain factors. For
poker, we are interested in the ability to Lip Read.
Having increased your sensory awareness, you will be
able to look at somebody and ask them to say a word in
their head. After a few repetitions, you may start to notice
the slight, normally imperceptible, micro-movements of the
lips as they attempt to make the shapes normally associated
with saying the word out loud.
Wouldn't it be good if you could ask your opponent what
cards they had and 'they told' you? Well, take a year or so to
T ELLS | 93

learn this technique and you'll be able to!

MICRO-EXPRESSIONS

Recently highlighted in the hit TV series 'Lie to me', Dr. Paul


Ekman's life-long study on human facial expressions has
introduced the idea that the human race uses unconscious
'Globally Recognisable' micro-expressions when trying to
hide or cover-up emotions.
This fascinating area shows that these unconscious
micro-expressions only last for about 1/15 or 1/25 of a
second and are undetectable to the untrained eye. Emotions
such as Fear, Surprise, Contempt, Excitement and Anger to
name just a tiny few, can be recognised and if the person
producing these expressions was recorded on video, it would
be possible to play back, freeze-frame and see that these
super-fast expressions are just the same as ordinary
expressions that last a lot longer at around 1 to 5 seconds
(aka. macro expressions).
This is a massive and fascinating subject that I personally
find exciting.

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94 | T ELLS
11 Going Forward

S
o now that you have learnt to play Texas Hold 'em
both face-to-face with your friends and family and
online, where do you go from here and how do you
go about increasing your knowledge and success in poker?
Let's explore some of the ways in which you can learn to
play a better game, increase your chances of winning and
become a poker expert.

POKER AT HOME
Friday night is finally here and you've had a rubbish week at
work, but the weekend has arrived. You stand up from
behind your desk, wish your work colleagues a 'Good
Weekend' and head home. After a shower and a change of
clothes, you head to the pizza shop to pick up a couple of
large ones with 'the lot' on the top, pick up some beers and
head round to Jimmy's. The last Friday of each month is
poker night and all of your friends will be there. First it's
drinks and a chat over pizza and then the real fun starts.
There's nothing better than getting together with a bunch
of friends and family to play poker at home. The times are
almost gone when the family sits around the table to play
Trivial Pursuit and more and more people are being drawn
into less social interests.
Jimmy has his own poker table and at the end of every
month his friends and family get together to play Poker,
catch up with each other and have a great time.
96 | G OING F ORWARD

RELAXED ENVIRONMENT

The relaxed environment and being in familiar surroundings


takes the pressure off. Being with friends means that if you
get something wrong or mess up, then nobody will mind.
These types of games are good to familiarise yourself
with the game concepts and have fun in the process. The
only problem is that because of this relaxed environment
and the fact that everybody can get away with messing
around a bit, some people may not take it seriously enough
to allow good game play and once the alcohol gets flowing,
there will be no hope.

HOLIDAY PERIODS

Holiday periods such as Easter, Christmas and New Year are


a great way of getting people together to play poker.
In actual fact, the writing of this book was inspired by
wanting to arrange a home poker match between family and
friends, but nobody was familiar with playing poker. By
writing down the basics and handing it out among friends in
ample time, I would ensure that our Christmas get together
would go ahead.
I have even witnessed poker being played after a funeral
where people could get together and share their thoughts,
views and sorrows over a game or two.

ONLINE POKER
One of the best ways, in my opinion, is to play poker online.
The variety of games and the large scale of buy-in amounts
now makes it affordable for everyone. Most of the time it's
cheaper to stay at home and play poker all evening than it is
to go out for the night on the tiles.
For the beginner, playing poker online can be a daunting
concept, but it's an excellent place to cement your
understanding and increase both your skill and knowledge.
It is very straight forward and you don't even have to play,
as you can sit and watch others as they battle it out at the
table. You can even play for free using 'play money' that
G OING F ORWARD | 97

you are given when you sign-up for your poker account.

BEAT YOUR FRIENDS

Wouldn't you like to be known as the 'Poker Player' of your


family or social circle and the one that always seems to win?
Playing once a month or so round friends is a great way
to catch up, but your newly acquired skills will not improve
very quickly. In order to hone your skills and learn to play
poker like a pro, you will need more practice.
In my world the way to become excellent at any new skill
is three-fold:

1) Learn the basics & learn the rules.

2) Practice your skills by using those skills in a non-


pressured environment until you reach a stage where
you don't have to think too much about what you are
doing and you are familiar with the strategies.

3) Finally, go up against people that are better that you.


You will not improve by going up against people less
skilled or who are at the same level as you are.

As far as the first one goes, this book will give you the
basics. Once you understand these, set yourself up an
account with an online casino or poker room and play some
of the low-level Sit & Go tournaments, with the betting
structure as low as $0.015-$0.020 you can play literally for
pocket-change. There is no reason not too.
As your experience and skill increases, your online
account will get bigger and you can enter the higher-priced
games.
You can then go to your friends next poker night and
clean up!

SOFTWARE

Getting started is easy and straight-forward. In order to


play Texas Hold 'em online, you will first need to download
and install the casino or poker room's software on your
98 | G OING F ORWARD

computer. This software is generally supplied free of charge


and full instructions will be given as to how to install.
Once installed, you can then set up an account and play.
Each casino will have their own procedure that needs to be
followed.

ONLINE BONUSES

A lot of casino's these days offer to match your initial


account deposit up to a certain amount. This can be great
for getting started and if you have say $200 to credit your
account with, then they will match this giving you a total of
$400 to play with.
This is generally only for your first deposit though, so
don't go expecting this for every subsequent deposit you
make.
A whole host of other offers are available for new and
existing players. These are constantly changing, so keep on
the lookout for new offers.

COMPETITIONS

Regular competitions are held online, giving you the chance


to win a prize fund, a holiday or even a place at the final
table in the next world event. Get practising as see if you
can become one of the next world poker champions.

WHERE TO PLAY

There are now what seems like hundreds and thousands of


online poker rooms and casinos and trying to choose a good
one can be daunting when you first start to look at what's
out there.
We have put together a small list of places where you can
get started. It is important that you choose one that suits
you and that you can get along with and the way to find this
out is to download and install each poker room's software
and try it out. You don't need any money to sign-up and
you will be given some “play money” so that you can have a
dabble and see if it's the right software for you.
G OING F ORWARD | 99

When you do decide to start playing with real money, it is


a great idea to take up the offer of some bonuses. A lot of
poker rooms and casinos now offer to double the money that
you deposit on your first deposit, up to a certain value. This
means that if you deposit $200 into your account, the casino
will match this amount bringing your account balance up to
$400 and giving you more money to play with. Seeing as
the bonuses change regularly, none of the offers have been
given here. For the latest offers, check out the information
and links at www.casinogamehub.com.
Check out some the poker rooms and casino's below,
download the software, play and have fun.

FULL TILT POKER


With over 5 years under it's belt, Full Tilt Poker has become
one of the most popular poker rooms on the internet and
boasts to be the only poker room that was conceived,
designed and played, by professional poker players.
With a wide range of tournaments and promotions,
together with tips from the pros, the Full Tilt Poker Academy
and the Full Tilt Poker Blog, you will find everything you
need to play with the Pro's.

Go to Website: Full Tilt Poker

WSOP (WORLD SERIES OF POKER)


Starting in 1970, the World Series of Poker has become one
of the most famous names in poker. Now online it's host of
tournaments and televised events are second to none. It all
began in Las Vegas, but now it's available to you online
24/7.

Go to Website: World Series of Poker

PACIFIC POKER
Part of the 888 group of online gaming solutions, Pacific
Poker offers a wide variety of games that will have you
playing non-stop.
With the ability to create private online tournaments to
100 | G OING F ORWARD

play with your friends, or whether you become a VIP, you


are sure to enjoy playing in this very popular poker room.

Go to Website: Pacific Poker

PKR
Stunning 3D graphics and limitless character configuration
makes this the most advanced poker room on the internet.
Play at different locations, take control of your emotions and
spot your opponents tells using PKR's “Emote Control
Technology”. Play for free in daily Freerolls or maybe enter
yourself in a $100,000 tournament.
Wherever your mood takes you, PKR is definitely worth a
look and will satisfy not only absolute beginners, but even
the most poker-hungry professionals.

Go to Website: PKR

LITTLEWOODS POKER
Not as crowded as some of the other more popular poker
rooms, littlewoods poker offers a surprisingly full
environment to play in while you build up your poker skills.
Hang out at the Poker Lounge where you can brush up on
your skills at the Poker School, watch Poker-related videos,
read the Blog, or learn how to shuffle with poker chips! You
will be pleasantly surprised.

Go to Website: Littlewoods Poker

GOLDEN PALACE
By far one of the longest standing online casino's around,
the Golden Palace offers a wealth of casino and poker
games. Offering some of the highest sign-up bonuses on
the internet today and now with the introduction of their
own poker rooms, it is well worth checking out.

Go to Website: Golden Palace Poker

Note: Golden Palace does not accept players from North America.
G OING F ORWARD | 101

PARTY POKER
Awarded the “Poker Operator of the Year” award by
eGaming, Party Poker is fast becoming on of the most
popular on-line poker rooms around.
With it's many tournaments and challenges there is
always a game going on. Why not become part of the Party
Poker world?

Go to Website: Party Poker

BLUFFING
The art of bluffing could fill a book in itself and it is definitely
an art-form.
Bluffing in poker is a way of acting that makes your
opponent think one thing, when the opposite is usually true.
Bluffing comes into it's own more in no-limit games or
when some players have large chip stacks that you want to
get your hands on, or perhaps you want to try to get them
to fold. It's a risky game to play and it has it's place.
When you hold a poor hand but bet as if you have top
pair, then this is bluffing. Be careful that your bluff is not
called and make sure that your body language does not give
you away.
Learning how to bluff can increase your game and
sometimes get you out of a sticky situation. But use with
caution.

HOLD 'EM ODDS


Every form of gambling (and poker is one of them) have
odds. In horse-racing you may have a 5:1 chance that your
horse will win, for example.
We shall not go into detail in this section as in my
opinion, it is beyond the scope of the beginner. However, a
basic idea should get you started in the right direction to
improving your game.
102 | G OING F ORWARD

USING ODDS

In Texas Hold 'em there are odds for all different


elements of the game; Odds of you getting dealt A-K as
your pocket cards, odds that you will make a flush on the
river and the odds that your opponent has a better hand
than you.
These odds show the probability of you making your
desired hand leaving you with better information as to how
to progress. Of course, this area can get extremely complex
and although knowing the odds for every eventuality does
seem to be a bit overkill. Anyway, that's what poker odd
calculators were invented for.
It doesn't hurt knowing the basics though and it's always
a good idea to know the odds of some more of the lower
starting hands. Let's look at Pot Odds and Outs, two of the
most commonly used calculations in Texas Hold 'em Poker.

OUTS

An out can be defined as the number of cards that are left in


the deck that will make your hand. The percentage
probability is calculated using simple division, although the
number can get a bit on the scary side and I find that
knowing some basic numbers, almost by rote, can be a good
place to start.
For instance, I know off the top of my head that I have a
220:1 chance of being dealt A-A and a little over a 3:1
chance of being dealt any two cards suited.
On the flop, there are 19,600 different combinations to
flop these three cards and a 19,599:1 chance of getting the
exact three cards that you want.

POT ODDS

Calculating the Pot Odds is a bit simpler and involves


dividing the amount in the pot by the amount to you (what
you are thinking of calling or raising).
For instance, if there is $20,000 in the pot and the bet to
you is $11,000, then you have odds of just below 2:1.
G OING F ORWARD | 103

ODDS IN THE GAME

Odds come into play more when you have a drawing hand
and you need to know whether the pot odds are better than
the odds of making your hand.
In order to calculate the odds, you will need to determine
the number of outs you have in making your hand. Say, for
example, you hold A-K and the flop and the turn have
produced 2-5-7-9 and you are sure that your opponent holds
top pair. You have 6 outs in this situation; 3 for the
remaining three Aces and 3 for the remaining three Kings.
There are 6 cards that you can see, which leaves 46
cards unknown to you. Out of these 46 cards, 6 of them
(the outs) will give you a winning hand and the remaining 40
will not.
This gives you 40:6 odds on making your hand. This
breaks down further to around 6.6:1 (40 divided by 6).
104 | G OING F ORWARD
12 Hold 'em Terminology

ALL-IN
The term used when a player bets all of their chips on their hand when
playing no-limit hold 'em.

ANTE
This is an additional forced bet to the blinds that comes into play at the later
stages of a tournament and is payable by all players. It is usually set to a
small percentage (¼ or slightly less) of the small blind.

BLINDS
Forced bets that are paid every hand to ensure that there is money in the pot
to win. In tournaments the blinds rise steadily throughout the game thereby
promoting game play, as large blind amounts lost, can contribute to a large
portion of a players chips. There are two blind payments, the small blind and
the big blind. The small blind is paid by the player to the immediate left of
the dealer and the big blind is paid by the person immediately to the left of
the small blind. The amount to be paid when paying a blind, is determined by
the game limits set by the table stakes.

BLUFF
Playing as if you have a good hand by betting and raising, when in actuality
the player possible has the worst hand at the table. This is done in an
attempt to get other players to fold.

BOARD
Another name for all, or some, of the community cards.

BUBBLE
The name given to the last person in a tournament to be knocked out and not
have a claim on the prize money.

BUTTON
A physical marker that is placed on the table in front of a player to mark them
as the effective dealer. The button moves one position left in a clockwise
direction each hand. The two players positioned to the left of this marker are
responsible for paying the small and big blinds.

BUY-IN
The amount that is required to be paid for a place in a tournament. Normally,
the buy-in amount for each player collectively becomes the prize pool.
106 | H OLD ' EM T ERMINOLOG Y

CALL
The action of matching a previous players bet.

CHECK
The action by which you withhold from placing a bet. This is only possible
when there is no previous bet on the table and is no longer and available
option once a bet has been placed, after which the only remaining options are
call, raise or fold.

COMMUNITY CARDS
The five cards that are dealt face-up on the table and are available to all
players. These cards are made up of the flop, the turn and the river.

FIFTH STREET
Another name used to identify the last community card to be dealt. Also
known as the river.

FLOP
The first three community cards that are available to the players, which are
dealt after completion of the first betting round.

FLUSH
The term given to a poker hand where all five cards are of the same suit.
There are two other types of flush, the straight flush and the royal flush. A
straight flush is where all the cards are of the same suit and run in sequence
and a royal flush is where all the cards are of the same suit, run in sequence
and contain the and ace, the three court cards and a 9 and 10.

FOLD
The action of forfeiting your cards stating that you do not wish to play your
hand or have any claim in the pot. A player would return their cards face-
down to the dealer. Also known as pass or mucking in.

FOURTH STREET
Another name used to identify the fourth community card to be dealt. Also
known as the turn.

FULL HOUSE
A poker hand that consists of three cards of the same value, together with a
pair.

HANDED
Used to refer to the number of players in a game of poker. A ten-handed
game will consist of ten players, whereas a six-handed game consists only of
six players.

HEADS-UP
A term used when there are only two players left in the game, playing one-
on-one.

HOLE CARDS
The two cards that are initially dealt to each player at the start of each hand.
Also known as pocket cards.

KICKER
The card that is responsible for breaking a tie at the showdown. If the
remaining players both hold the same hand, such as J-J, then the player with
H OLD ' EM T ERMINOLOGY | 107

the highest unmatched card becomes the winner. If player1 held J-J-5 and
player2 held J-J-6, then player2 would win as their 6 kicker beats player1's 5.

MUCK
Another term used to describe the action of forfeiting your cards stating that
you do not wish to play your hand or have any claim in the pot. A player
would return their cards face-down to the dealer. Also known as pass or fold.

MULTI-TABLE TOURNAMENT
A tournament where there are too many players to sit around one table and
so are split between several. As players get knocked out of the game, the
remaining players are shuffled around to evenly distribute players at each
table. When enough players are knocked out that the remaining players can
play at one table, this is usually referred to as the final table.

NO-LIMIT
A game of Texas Hold 'em poker where there are no limits to the bet or raise
that can be placed.

ON TILT
When a player reacts emotionally to an event at the poker table and their play
deteriorates due to this.

OUTS
The number of cards that are potentially remaining in the deck that will allow
a player to make a winning poker hand.

PLAYING THE BOARD


Term used when a player makes their hand by using just the five community
cards.

POCKET CARDS
The two cards that are initially dealt to each player at the start of each hand.
Also known as hole cards.

POCKET PAIR
Used when a player receives a matching pair in their two pocket cards dealt
by the dealer.

POCKET ROCKETS
The term used when a player holds two ace's as their pocket cards.

POT
The total number of chips available to all players to win in any given hand.
The pot consists of the blinds, ante's and all bets placed by the players during
the hand.

POT-LIMIT
Refers to a betting structure whereby players are able to bet up to the
amount held in the pot.

RAISE
Increasing the bet by betting more than was bet by the previous player. A
raise has to be at least double of the initial bet.

RE-RAISE
The act of raising a previously raised bet – raising the raise.
108 | H OLD ' EM T ERMINOLOG Y

RIVER
The last community card to be dealt. Also known as fifth street.

ROYAL FLUSH
A flush where all the cards are of the same suit, run in sequence and contain
an ace, the three court cards and a 9 and 10. This is the highest hand in
poker.

SET
A three of a kind that is made up of two of the players hole cards and one of
the community cards.

SHOWDOWN
Takes place after the final betting round. All player show their hand and
determine who holds the best hand and wins the pot.

SIDE POT
When a player goes all-in and there are players left who still have chips, this
is another pot is created for the remaining players. The player who went all-
in does not have any claim on the side pot. There can be more than one side
pot in each hand.

SINGLE-TABLE TOURNAMENT
Otherwise known as a Sit & Go, the single-table tournament is where only one
table is used and typically six to ten players and is similar to playing the final
table in a multi-table tournament.

SIT & GO
Also known as a single-table tournament. See single-table tournaments
above.

STRAIGHT
The 6th highest ranking poker hand where all five cards are in sequence but
not necessarily of the same suit.

SUIT
The four types of symbol shown on a playing card. There are four suits to a
deck of cards; heart, diamonds, clubs and spades.

TRIPS
Trips, or Triplets, are when a player holds three cards of the same value. Also
known as three of a kind.

TURN
The fourth community card to be dealt. Also known as fourth street.

VALUE BET
When a player places a bet when they think that they hold the best hand in
an attempt to take more chips from their opponent.