Learn NL Holdem Poker

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Learning how to play Texas Holdem – The basics

The game can be played in either tournament or cash table format. The main difference between the two is in a tournament you will buy in for a set cash amount and receive a one off amount of chips to use. You then play until you either have all the chips and win the tournament or get knocked out when you lose all your chips.

In a cash game you can buy in with any amount within set table limits. You’ll receive cash chips to play with and can ‘cash out’ at any point. You can also reload up to the maximum table limit after each hand but not during it.

Dealing of a hand and the betting.

The small blind and big blind will be placed in the pot by the two players to the left of the dealer. He will then shuffle the cards, cut the pack in a random fashion and deal a hole card in order to each player starting with the player on his left, finishing with himself. He does this twice so everyone has two hole cards.

Players look at their hole cards and then, starting with the player after the big blind, decide in turn whether to fold, call or raise in the first round of betting. This goes around in turn to the last person to act, which in this round, is the big blind position.

The dealer then deals a burn card into the muck from the top of the pack and deals out The Flop. Another round of betting then takes place started this time by the next player still in the hand directly after the dealer. When that round of betting is finished another burn card is dealt into the muck before dealing The Turn. Another round of betting takes place and then after mucking one last burn card, The River is dealt.

The final round of betting takes place and then the Pot is awarded to the last player left in the hand with hole cards or if there is a showdown with multiple players, the player with the best 5 card hand using hole and community cards takes the pot. The dealer button then moves to the next seat in line and the dealing process is repeated again in the next hand.

As the tournament progresses in time the forced ‘blind’ values go up every time level putting pressure on players chip stacks and in turn forces them to play hands and double up or get knocked out. This is all part of the game and you must learn a strategy to keep a decent chip stack if possible throughout the game to avoid coming under pressure or getting knocked out.

Any mistakes or disputes during this process are to be refered to the Floorman who is the person appointed to manage the tournament and the person that makes all final decisions and rulings as necessary.

The most common form of poker especially played in tournaments is No Limit poker but there are two other versions mostly only played in cash format.

Limit Hold’em – Bets and raises are fixed – can only bet the determined Limit
Pot Limit Hold’em – Bets cannot exceed the amount of money in the pot
No Limit Hold’em – Any player can bet any amount at any point in the hand.

Standard five-card Poker hands

These are ranked in order of strength, from the strongest Poker hand which is a Royal Flush down to the weakest hand which is a High card and ranked as follows.

Royal Flush – which is a series of cards, all of the same suit ranking Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten. This is the toughest poker hand to get.
Straight Flush – a five card sequence where all the cards are of the same suit. For instance, 5,6,7,8,9 of diamonds is a Straight Flush.
Four-of-a-Kind – Four cards of the same rank using all 4 suits. Aces being the highest ranking.
Full House – is a hand comprised of both a three-of-a-kind (three cards with the same rank) and a pair (two cards with the same rank). An example would be k-K-K-6-6. If two full house come out the hand containing the higher three-of-a-kind wins, ie (5-5-5-2-2 beats 3-3-3-A-A)
Flush – consists of 5 cards of the same suit. If 2 flushes are out, the hand with the highest card wins. Should the highest card be the same rank, the next highest cards are compared.
Straight – five cards in sequence, of mixed suits. Where the highest straight is 10 to the Ace and the lowest is a to the 5
Three-of-a-Kind is three cards of the same rank with any other 2 cards that are used if required by measure of the highest remaing card.
Two Pair – A hand that contains two cards of one rank and two cards of another rank and another random card. The highest 2 pair is decided by the “high” pair, followed by the higher of the “low” pairs, and finally by the last card.
One Pair – A hand that contains one set of cards with the same rank. Highest pair wins. If both pairs are the same, the highest of the remaining card wins. Followed by next highest card and so on.
High Card – the weakest of poker hands. The highest ranking card wins the pot and the next highest card is used if required.

Basic Texas Hold’em Terminology

Dealer – The position that shuflles and deals the hand represented by a ‘Dealer Button’ on the table which moves round in turn at the end of each hand.
Blinds – The 2 forced bets placed in the pot before the deal to force the betting action.
‘Small’ blind – The forced ‘small’ bet placed into the pot by the player after the dealer.
‘Big’ Blind – The forced ‘large’ bet placed by the player after the small blind.
‘Hole’ Cards – The first two cards dealt face down by the dealer to each player.
‘Burn’ Cards – The cards that are dealt face down into the muck by the dealer. One burn card is dealt before dealing the flop, the turn and the river to eliminate any chance of an exposed top card while betting action takes place.
The Muck – The cards dealt but not used in the hand (Burn cards) and the cards thrown away by players not wishing to take any further part in the hand. The muck cards are controlled by the dealer. Once cards are in the muck, they can’t be retrieved.
The Flop – The first three community cards dealt face up at once on the table.
The Turn – The forth community card dealt face up on the table. AKA 4th street.
The River – The last community card dealt face up on the table. AKA 5th street.
Pot – The total chips or cash available to win at any point during the hand.
Bet – The chips or cash put in the pot by a player in a single betting action.
Check – Pass your option to bet if no betting action has taken place in front of you.
Call – Put money equal to another player’s bet in the pot to stay in the hand
Raise – Increase the amount of money other players have to pay to stay in hand.
First to act – The player position which is required to start the betting round action. Preflop its the next position after the big blind, post flop it’s the next position still in the hand after the dealer.
Pot Odds – Mathematically figure out if it is profitable for you to call a bet.
Suited – When cards are of matching suit, ie both spades
Offsuit – When cards are not matched, ie clubs and hearts
Rags – A poor strength starting hand (worst hand is 2 7 off suit)
Outs – The number of cards left in the deck that you are drawing to which makes you a better 5 card hand than your opponents.
Bluffing – Betting or raising with a weak or non made hand making a better hand fold.
Bad Beat – Being outdrawn and losing a hand when favoured to win a pot.
Showdown – When all remaining players in the hand are either ‘all in’ or get to the end of the last betting round, a showdown of hands must take place where the best 5 card hand is awarded the pot.
All in‘ – An announcement or action made by a player when wanting to bet all his chips into the pot. All verbal announcements made by players is binding within the rules of the tournament

Definitions of common Hole Cards and hand nicknames.

Pocket Pair – Two Hole Cards of the same value (6 Hearts & 6 spades)
Bullets or Pocket Rockets – Two Aces as the Hole Cards (best starting hand)
Big Slick – Ace and King as the Hole Cards, (best non paired starting hand)
Connectors – Two Hole Cards in sequence (4 and 5 or 10 and Jack)
Suited Connectors – Two Hole Cards in sequence of the same suit.
A Boat – Full House (6, 6, 6, j, j)
Trips – Three of a Kind (5, 5, 5)The Nutz– The best hand possible.


On a Draw – Phrases and Definitions.

Open Ended Straight Draw – Once the flop is down your hand contains 4 cards in sequence, such as 3, 4, 5, 6 – either a 2 or a 7 on the Turn or River will give you a straight. (8 outs)

Inside Straight Draw– your hand contains one missing card Inside the middle of a straight such as 3, 4, 6, 7, – so a 5 will give you a straight (4 outs)

Flush Draw – You have four of one suit, you need a fifth on the Turn or River for a Flush (9 outs)

Overcards – The Flop does not give you a pair, but your two cards are higher than the three on the board. So you have 6 outs to beat a small 1 pair hand.

Outs – The number of cards which could appear on the Turn or River to make your hand the best – If you have four Hearts and are chasing the flush you have 9 Hearts (outs) left in the deck which will give you a flush.

To be a truly great Texas Hold ‘Em Poker player, you need to be able to read your opponents, ascertaining when they are bluffing and then they really have a solid hand. But learning some basic strategies and general rules will go a long way toward making sure you can at least hold your own in a friendly game.

And remember….

It may seem silly to be reminded of the following fundamental facts, but it’s surprising how often players get swept up in the excitement of the game and forget the basics.

So, always remember these two things:

1. The two cards you hold are the only cards that set you apart from the other players and give you the chance to win.

2. All of the face-up cards are community cards, shared by you and every other player. It’s vital that you focus on what those cards could mean to someone else at least as much as you focus on what they mean to you. In particular, keep your eyes open for your opponents’ straight and flush possibilities.

Evaluating Your Cards

Usually, the first decision you make in a hand of Texas Hold ‘Em Poker happens with your only knowledge being what your two cards are.

When you look at your cards, be careful not to reveal anything with your reaction — facial or otherwise. Taking a sharp breath, no matter how quietly you do it, can tell a wily opponent all he needs to know to have an advantage over you. Keyword: emotionless.

How do you know if your cards are good?

The beauty of this game is different players perceptions and experience of the game decides on how big their starting hand range is, ie how many different hands they will play with, either calling or raising. A basic strategy when you first start playing is to stick to hands such as AK, AQ and all the pairs and a selection of other suited or connected cards, then as you get more experienced you will spot situations where you can call to play pots with weaker hands and raise to steak blinds with weaker hands.

It depends in part on how many players are in the game, but a general rule is that you should seriously consider folding before the flop if you have two non-pair cards, both less than 10. A more conservative player might fold if just one of the cards is less than 10; a more aggressive player might raise with, for example, an 8 and 9 of the same suit (because those cards give you decent possibilities for a straight or a flush). Also by raising with these types of hands you disguise other stronger holdings when players see your weaker hand at the showdown.

If the big blind (a forced bet designed to ensure that every hand has a pot) is low enough, it may be worthwhile to pay in so that you can see the flop even if you don’t have particularly strong cards in your hand. But don’t abuse this exception to the rule — it can get you into trouble more quickly than you imagine.

A lot of Texas Hold ‘Em strategy is based on the cards in your hand. You must be willing to suffer through a series of poor hands (e.g. 5-8, 2-6, 4-9) without getting impatient. The good hands will come, eventually, and you’ll be in better position to take advantage of them if you don’t waste your chips trying to get something out of nothing.

The Flop

After seeing the flop, don’t be afraid to cut your losses. A common mistake made by novices is to decide, “I’m already in this hand, so I might as well play it out.” Wrong.

With seven players at a table, two pair or better will generally be the winning hand. If you don’t have the high pair after the flop (e.g. if the flop is K-9-5, the high pair would be two Ks), and you’re not in good position for a straight or a flush, you should probably get out of the hand.

However, remember that as the number of players goes down, so does the potential of a strong hand — so if you’re at a table with just two other players, it could pay off to be more aggressive.

If you’re first to bet after the flop, don’t be afraid to check. This can work to your advantage in two ways. First, if your hand is on the weak side, you might be able to see one more card without having to put more into the pot. Second, if your hand is strong, you could convince an opponent or two that it’s weaker than it really is.

Fourth Street and Fifth Street

Also known as The Turn and The River, respectively, the fourth and fifth community cards give you two more chances to make the best 5 card hand, or get out of the pot before you lose even more money, these are the most imporant times to make good decisions on.

At this point, it’s likely there will only be one or two other players still in the pot with you, but be cautious. After The Turn, don’t stay in the pot hoping for a straight or flush, unless you can do so by checking or calling a small bet. Although there will be times when you would have hit the straight or flush, they will be outweighed by the times you wouldn’t.

Basically don’t allow yourself to get sucked in too far with a weak hand, although there is a point where the investment you’ve already made virtually dictates that you are ‘priced in’ to hang in there. It’s useful to measure this in terms of percentage of your chips, the ammount of chips you can win from the remaining players if you do hit the cards you want. For example, if you’ve already committed 50% of your chips to the pot, and have a better than 50/50 chance to win the pot you should continue, but the best advice is to be cautious and not to gamble too much, especially to begin with.

Making bets

When making a bet at any point during a hand you should be thinking what that bet is designed to do. Are you trying to get someone to call or fold, ie is it designed to get value or put in as a bluff, or semi bluff.  Will it put pressure on the other players stack or is the opposition player going to see it as a pay me bet….depending on your stack size, the opponents stack size, the board texture, the sitaution, and the things already mentioned you should decide the amount of your bet and idealy what you would like it to do.

This is some of the basic strategy to play the game however the best way to learn is actually playing and make your own mistakes to learn by. If you would like to practice for free before using real money you can play on fun tables on Sunpoker via the banner below. They also offer beginner only real cash tables as an option for the first period after you open your account. Click on the banner and sign up for an account to get some free practice in and if you do want to play for real money click on the cashier section and fill in your details. Sunpoker is a safe and secure site which ive played on for years….good luck!

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