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Beginner Poker - How To Start
There are several steps to complete before you take your place at the virtual table. Let’s take a closer look at them.
- Find the right website – there is a plethora of online poker gaming websites, but how are you to discern which ones are better than the others? Apart from the more obvious characteristics, such as professional design, excellent graphics, impressive security, a good selection of poker games and generous bonuses, a player should also look out for guides explaining different types of poker. As well as that, there should be detailed instructions about the website itself.
Why is this important? With the right support and guides, you are going to be able to start winning sooner than you had expected. A good website provides encouragement for the players on multiple levels.
- Be disciplined – especially when we discuss money matters. It is said that the amount you are playing with should never exceed 5% of what you earn per month, no matter how many temptations you encounter. It is only too tempting to invest even more when you feel you’re on a winning streak, but online or not, poker is as serious as it is fun. If in doubt about your self-discipline, try separating a special account for this.
- Be realistic – having a positive mindset is great and more than recommendable in this type of leisure activity (or a job, for some), but there will be times when you are going to fail miserably, which is perfectly normal and to be expected. It’s all part of the learning process, and the game, too.
- Find a good spot – despite the fact that you can play online poker almost anywhere and at any hour, proper concentration is needed. Actually, the above mentioned champion himself declared he enjoyed playing on Friday nights when people are less concentrated after a long week and were losing more easily.
Therefore, when playing a game, make sure you are not going to become distracted.
- Play at your level – until you are confident and skilled enough to play with real money, you can practice on some free poker websites. There is no risk there, and you will gain some valuable experience.
Explaining Poker Hands
Normally, the strongest hand wins, though what it is considered strong is not the same in all versions of poker. In some poker games the hand with the lowest cards wins. Here is what you are usually aiming for to get, in the descending order, from the strongest to the weakest hand.
Ace, King, Queen, Jack and 10 - of the same suit. If you have this, the victory might well be yours.
Basically, any five cards in a row, of the same suit. For example, it can be 7, 8, 9, 10, and Jack of diamonds, or even 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Of course, the higher cards win.
Four of a Kind
This is the case when all four cards are of the same value, such as Jack, Jack, Jack, Jack, or 7, 7, 7, 7. This doesn’t happen too often, and it’s a very good hand.
Three of a kind (e.g. 4, 4, 4) and one pair (e.g. 10, 10) make full house.
You need five cards for a flush. They are the same suit, but not in sequence. For instance, 5, 7, 8, 10, and King of hearts make a flush.
These are in sequence, but not in the same suit, so you can have 7 of diamonds, 8 of spades, 9 of clubs, 10 of clubs, and Jack of hearts.
Three of a kind
This is when you have three cards of the same value, such as Queen, Queen, Queen, or 2, 2, 2. Three of a kind is very common, so bear that in mind.
It’s pretty obvious - you have two separate pairs, such as 8, 8 and Jack, Jack.
Two cards of the same value: 5, 5 for example.
In case when you do not have any of the above mentioned combinations, your hand is valued by the highest card in it.
Types of Poker
If you wonder when poker was first played, there are several answers, but neither of them is good enough to say this with complete accuracy. There are some clues that poker originates from a domino-card game in the 10th century, played at the Chinese court. However, others argue it comes from Persia, and its first cousin was Poque, played in France in the 17th century.
Be that as it may, today there are four major categories of poker, and each category has a lot of sub-categories, so it is hard to give the most precise answer. In the meantime, here are the rules for the most popular poker games. It’s essential that you read the first one, since we are going to explain some basic vocabulary in this part, which will be used for describing the rules for other poker games.
As the name says, it originated in Texas, and it dates back to the 1900s. It was played regularly from 1925 on, with its popularity taking off in 1970 and not stopping ever since. Here is how it’s played.
There should be from two (“Heads Up” game) to ten players (nine is considered ideal). In order to decide who the first dealer (“button”) is, each player gets a card face up, and the highest card is the first (the highest is Ace, and then K, Q, J etc.). After each round, aka “hand”, the dealer is changed by rotating to the left (clockwise). The whole game has several phases. The first one is called pre-flop.
During the pre-flop, each player is given two cards face down (they’re called “hole cards”). After hole cards are divided, you can Check, Bet, or Fold. “Check” is when you decline to open the betting. “Bet” is when money is put into the pot for the first time, and that amount is known in advance. If you opt not to bet and leave the game, you ”fold”. “Mucking” is when you fold, but you still don’t let the players see your cards.
Blinds - Texas Hold’em
Before even dealing the cards, the small blind and the big blind have to make their bets. These are forced bets, i.e. they are predetermined. The small blind is seated to the left of the dealer, whereas the big blind is the seat to the left of the small blind. Usually, the big blind pays twice as the small blind.
Pre-flop -Texas Hold’em
The dealer starts dealing from his left (the first pair of cards goes to the small blind). Each player gets two cards face down, one card at a time. The cards are called hole cards or pocket cards.
The player to the left of the big blind begins to look at his/her cards, and the others follow the example and look at their own. This player’s position is called UTG, or “under the gun”, because he/she is under a lot of pressure – this person starts first.
If a player likes the cards, they decide to “call” the big blind’s bet. Alternatively, he/she can fold, or raise the bet.
If a player raises the bet, the rest of the players can either call that bet, or re-raise it. If nobody raises the big blind, then the big blind can “check”, which means he/she doesn’t want to raise any more.
When all the players have spoken, the round ends, and we enter the flop.
The flop -Texas Hold’em
This is how it goes now. First, the dealer puts a card to the side (“burns” it), and it’s not used in the game. Next, he puts three cards face down, and then shows their faces at the same time. Hence the name – flop. These three flopped cards are called community cards, and all players can combine them with their hole cards so as to have the best poker hand.
By the way, there will be two more community cards later.
Now, the betting starts from the little blind, and in every next round of betting. The players state their opinion, like in the pre-flop. However, now they can “check”.
If your cards are bad at this moment, it’s highly recommendable that you quit playing, i.e. fold. After everybody has spoken, it’s time for the “turn”.
The Turn -Texas Hold’em
Turn is the name of the fourth community card. Once again, the dealer burns one card, and then pulls out the fourth community card face up. One more hand of betting begins, just like in the flop round.
The river -Texas Hold’em
The dealer burns a card, and introduces the fifth community card, aka the “river”. This leads to the final round.
The final round -Texas Hold’em
This is the make it or break it point. Each player has to decide whether to check, bet or fold. The last player standing, i.e. the last one who hasn’t folded, wins the game. If you’re the winner, you have two options: to show your cards to the others or to muck them by tossing them away to the pile (burn them). Some players opt for mucking so that the others can’t learn their style of playing.
The showdown -Texas Hold’em
When in the last betting round there are two (or more) players left, the last one who bets has to show his hand. The others can either follow the example so they can win if their hand is stronger, or if they see they’ve been beaten, they can also opt to muck and admit defeat in this way.
A tie -Texas Hold’em
Should this happen, the pot is divided evenly between the winners.
Now that you have mastered the basics of poker, it’s time we introduced another type – the Omaha Poker. Its special appeal comes from the fact players can win big jackpots. It is similar to Texas Hold’em, though there are some differences.
Since you have read the previous section about Texas Hold’em, we won’t dwell too much on explaining the poker vocabulary.
In the basic Omaha poker, the big and the small blind are the same as in Texas Hold’em. The dealer gives each player four hole cards (one card at a time, face down, until everybody has four cards). The betting begins clockwise, starting from the player who is clockwise from the big blind (the position is called “under the gun”). Obviously, the big blind is the last to speak.
Pre-flop - Omaha Poker
After taking a look at their cards, players call, fold or raise the big blind.
The Flop - Omaha Poker
As usual, the dealer burns the first card (face down, of course) and then deals three cards face up. These are available to all the players, and another betting round commences.
The turn - Omaha Poker
After the flop, the turn is given face-up (this is the fourth community card). Another betting round starts, with the player clockwise from the dealer.
The river - Omaha Poker
The river is presented face-up, too. This is the final card. And the final round begins, which may end with a showdown.
Important: bear in mind that in Omaha the people playing have to use only two of their hole cards in combination from three cards from the board.
If there’s a tie, the pot is evenly divided.
Seven Card Stud
There are three sub-categories of this game, and here we’ll talk about the most common one – the high hand variation. Seven Card Stud first caught on during the Civil War. Until the 1970s, it was just as dominant as Texas Hold’em, or even more. There are also 7 Card Stud Hi-Lo and Razz variants. Curiously, in Razz it is the lowest hand that wins the game.
This one is interesting because there is no button here. Each hand starts with the dealer giving the first card to the Seat One first, and then continues to the left. Each next street is done in this way.
By the way, the players are dealt a card each and the person with the lowest face up card has to place a forced bet, i.e. the “bring in”. Should two players have the same card, the suit decides. The suit strengths go in this ascending order: clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades.
Ante - Seven Card Stud
Prior to the beginning, all players ante the minimal amount.
Third street - Seven Card Stud
As usual, the dealer burns a card. For starters, each player gets three cards: two are face-down hole cards, and one is a face up hole card. The player with the lowest face up card is called the “bring-in”, and he/she begins the bet. The betting goes clockwise from the player.
Fourth street - Seven Card Stud
Players are now dealt another exposed card called “fourth street”, but now, the person which cards are the highest begins betting.
Fifth street - Seven Card Stud
As you have already guessed, each player is dealt the fifth exposed card – “fifth street”. The player with the highest combination begins the betting round.
Sixth street - Seven Card Stud
This street is the same as the previous.
Seventh street (the river) - Seven Card Stud
If you remember, the river is the final card. However, this one comes face-down, and only the player who got it can see it. The first player to speak is the one with the highest exposed cards. To summarize: there are four cards face up, and three cards face down at this point. Each player thinks of the best 5 card hand. And so, the final betting round begins, till the win, or the Showdown.
These are the basic rules of Seven Card Stud, but they can differ a bit depending on the type you are playing, as mentioned before.
Five Card Stud
This one is said to be the original form of poker from the times of the Wild West. It’s supposed to be very easy to learn.
In the first round, each player gets one card face-down and one card face up. As for the first bet, there are two options. Either the player with the lowest face-up card gives the proper amount, or the person who got the highest card chooses if he wants to bet or check. If two players have the same face-up card, then the one clockwise from the dealer can bet first.
After the second hand, the remaining players get one more card face-up. From that point on the player with the highest hand gets the right to bet first.
The rounds continue in this way until each player has four cards face-up. The moment the fourth face-up card is dealt, it’s time for the final round of betting. As expected, the highest hand wins.
Beginners’ Mistakes to Avoid
In order to succeed, one must first fail a couple of times. It’s a steep learning curve. However, let’s limit the failures by avoiding these typical rookie mistakes.
- Playing too many hands - While it is true that the more you play, the better you get, that does not necessarily imply you should play every single hand till the very end. Not only are you going to lose money, but you won’t be able to learn much from such experience either. You should analyze the players and the cards more and be less impatient about getting to the end. Success in poker isn’t valued by who plays more hands, is it?
- Lose the fear - While it’s not possible to feel positive and optimistic all the time, being too afraid to make a mistake isn’t good either. Too much fear can lead to quitting even though you have a good hand. Also, do not let someone’s confidence and constant raising get to you. Betting aggressively does not mean that person must have a great hand, but actually, it can be quite the opposite. You will never know for sure, and that is perfectly OK.
- Extreme betting - By this we are trying to say that beginners often go into the extremes both ways. They either raise the bet too much, or they raise it too little. Try not to reveal yourself in this way. It’s only too easy.
- Playing out of position - Playing poker isn’t just about the cards of good luck. Your position changes with every hand, and if you’re a good player, you’ll always play in accordance with it. For instance, if you are last in a hand, that gives you great perspective because you will have seen everyone’s decisions before yours. Beginners usually haven’t got the slightest idea about what to do and start playing randomly, without any special plan.
- Too much bluff - If a player is bluffing more than is expected, you know he is a complete beginner. Bluffing is very much popularized in movies, so it seems that only the best and most experienced players have the “courage” to bluff, but the reality is quite the opposite.
- Overvaluing marginal hands - Sometimes, your hand may look great at first sight, but once you take a closer look, it’s not that valuable or it can be easily beaten by the others because that combination is quite common. However, once you gain experience, everything will go smoothly.
By the way, knowing these typical beginners’ mistakes can also help you in playing. Once you know them, you will be able to recognize them and clearly separate an inexperienced player from a good one, despite the fact that you aren’t able to see them in online poker.
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