Changes or additions to this section of the FAQ should be submitted to: mjmaurer @ yahoo.com.
Page last modified: 1999-05-12
Poker is a card game in which players bet into a communal pot during the course of a hand, and in which the player holding the best hand at the end of the betting wins the pot. During a given betting round, each remaining player in turn may take one of four actions:
Poker is usually played with a standard 4-suit 52-card deck, but a joker or other wild cards may be added. The ace normally plays high, but can sometimes play low, as explained below. At the showdown, those players still remaining compare their hands according to the following rankings:
Several variations are possible when playing for low. Some games permit the ace to play low and ignore straights and flushes, making 5432A the best possible low, even if it makes a straight flush. Other games just reverse the order used for high hands, making 75432 of mixed suits the best possible low. Still others count straights and flushes against you but let the ace play low, making 6432A best. Note that in most games in which the ace plays low, a pair of aces is lower than a pair of deuces, just as an ace is lower than a deuce.
When a joker is in play, it usually can only be used as an ace or to complete a straight or flush. It cannot be used as a true wild card, for example, as a queen to make QQ43X play as three queens. When playing for low, the joker becomes the lowest rank not already held, so 864AX is played as 8642A, with the joker used as a deuce.
Although true wild cards are rarely seen in a casino, they are a popular way to add excitement to a home game. Wild cards introduce an additional hand, five of a kind, which normally ranks above a straight flush. They can also cause confusion when two players hold the same hand composed of different wild card combinations. The standard rules of poker do not distinguish between such hands, but some players prefer to rank hands using fewer wild cards above less "natural" versions of the same hand.
Another explanation of poker is at http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/org/gc00/reviews/pokerrules.
Poker variants differ in the amount of skill they admit. Some, like 7-card
stud high/low with declare (no qualifier), provide skilled players many
opportunities to gain an edge. Others are a virtual crap shoot. In general, the
crazier games are designed to discourage folding and minimize the influence of
skill on the outcome. They accomplish this through a betting structure that
requires a large investment before the value of one's hand is known. The level
playing field that results is ideal for many informal social groups.
Play begins by dealing two cards face down to each player; these are known as "hole cards" or "pocket cards". This is followed by a round of betting. Most hold'em games get the betting started with one or two "blind bets" to the left of the dealer. These are forced bets which must be made before seeing one's cards. Play proceeds clockwise from the blinds, with each player free to fold, call the blind bet, or raise. Usually the blinds are "live", meaning that they may raise themselves when the action gets back around to them.
Now three cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table; this is called the "flop". A round of betting ensues, with action starting on the first blind, immediately to the dealers left. Another card is dealt face up (the "turn"), followed by another round of betting, again beginning to the dealer's left. Then the final card (the "river") is dealt followed by the final round of betting. In a structured-limit game, the bets on the turn and river are usually double the size of those before and on the flop.
The game is usually played for high only, and each player makes the best five-card combination to compete for the pot. Players usually use both their hole cards to make their best hand, but this is not required. A player may even choose to "play the board" and use no hole cards at all. Identical five-card hands split the pot; the sixth and seventh cards are not used to break ties.
Board Hole Cards Best High Hand ===== ========== ============== As Kc Qc 8d 2d Ac 2c Jd Th Jd Th makes ace-hi straight. As Kc Qc Jh Td Ac 2c Jd 8h Ac Jd makes ace-hi straight. As Kc Qc Jh Td 3c 2c Jd 8h Jd 8h makes pair of jacks. No straight is possible using two hole cards. As Ks 8h 9d 2s Qs 4h 4d 4s Qs 4s makes AKQ42 "nut" flush. As Ks 8s 9s 2s Qs 4h 4d Qd Qs Qd makes pair of queens. No flush is possible using two hole cards. As Ts 8s 8h 4d Td Tc Ad 9c Td Tc makes TTT88 full house. As Ts 8s 8h 4d Td 8c Ad 9c Ad 8c makes 888AA full house. As Ac 8s 8h 4d Ah 2h 3h 5h Ah 5h makes trip aces AAA85. No full house is possible using two hole cards. As Ac 8s 8h 4d Ah 2h 3h 4h Ah 4h makes full house AAA44.Omaha is often played high/low, meaning that the highest and lowest hands split the pot. The low hand usually must "qualify" by being at least an 8-low (the largest card must be 8 or lower). One can use a different two cards to compete for the high and low portions of the pot, and the game is played "cards speak" rather than "declare". Aces are either low or high, and straights and flushes don't count for low. Since everybody must use two hole cards to make a hand, the board must have three cards 8 or lower for a low to even be possible. Players often tie for low, and the low half of the pot is divided equally among them. Some more examples:
Board Hole Cards Best Low Hand ===== ========== ============= As Kc Qc 8d 2d 8c Jc Jd Th Jd Th makes the low hand JT82A, which does not qualify as 8-or-better. 3d 5h 8d Tc Ts Ac 2c Jd Th Ac 2c makes the "nut low" 8532A. 3d 5h 8d Tc Ts Ac 3c 4d Th Ac 4d makes 8543A. 3d 5h 8d Ad Ts Ac 3c 5d 8h Any two make T853A, not qualifying. Ac 2c 3d 4h 5s Ad 2d Th Td Ad 2d makes "nut low" 5432A. Ac 2c 3d 4h 5s 4d 5d Th Td 4d 5d makes "nut low" 5432A. 5h 7h 8d Ac 2c Ad 2d Th Td Ad 2d makes 8752A, but the nut low is 5432A with a 3 and 4. On the flop we had the best possible low, but the turn and river "counterfeited" us.As in all split-pot games, the real goal of playing any hand is to win both halves of the pot, or "scoop". Thus, hands that have a chance to win both ways are far superior to those that can only win one way.
Any cardroom with more than a few tables will have a sign-up desk or board for the various games being played. Usually someone will be standing here to take your name if a seat is not immediately available. This person can explain what games are offered, the betting limits, special house rules and so on. This is the moment of your first decision: which game and for what stakes?
Choosing a game is fairly easy; you already know which game is most familiar to you. You may be surprised to find that your favorite home games are not spread in public cardrooms. Most will offer one or more of Texas Hold'em, Seven-Card Stud, and Omaha Hold'em (usually hi/lo split, 8-or-better for low). Sometimes you will find California Lowball (5-card draw for low), Seven-Card Stud hi/lo, or Hold'em variations like Pineapple. You will rarely find High Draw (5-card draw for hi), and will never find home game pot-builders like Anaconda, Follow-the-Queen, 7-27 or Guts. Except for the joker in draw poker, cardrooms never use wild cards.
Choosing a betting limit is a bit harder. It is best to start playing at a limit so small that the money is not important to you. After all, with all the excitement of your first time playing poker there is no need to be worried about losing the nest egg to a table full of sharks. Betting limits are typically expressed as $1-$5 or $3-$6, and may be "spread-limit" or "structured-limit". A spread-limit means one can bet or raise any amount between the two numbers (although a raise must be at least as much as a previous bet or raise). For example, in $1-$5 spread-limit, if one person bets $2 the next person is free to call the $2 or raise $2, $3, $4, or $5, but cannot raise just $1. On the next round, everything is reset and the first bettor may bet anything from $1 to $5. In structured-limit like $3-$6 (usually recognizable by a factor of two between betting limits), all betting and raising on early rounds is in units of $3, and on later rounds is in units of $6. One only has a choice of *whether* to bet or raise; the amount is fixed by the limit. One usually doesn't have a choice between spread and structured betting at a given limit. Keep in mind that it is quite easy to win or lose 20 "big bets" (the large number in the limit) in an hour of play. Also, since your mind will be occupied with the mechanics of the game while the regular players consider strategy, you are more likely to lose than win. In other words: choose a low limit.
If the game you want is full, your name will go on a list and the person running the list will call you when a seat opens up. Depending on the cardroom, you may have trouble hearing your name called and they may be quick to pass you over, so be alert. Once a seat is available, the list person will vaguely direct you toward it, or toward a floorman who will show you where to sit.
Now is the time for you to take out your money and for the other players to look you over. A good choice for this "buy-in" is ten to twenty big bets, but you must buy-in for at least the posted table minimum, usually about five big bets. Most public poker games are played "table-stakes", which means that you can't reach into your pocket for more money during the play of a hand. It also means that you can't be forced out of a pot because of insufficient funds. If you run out of money during a hand you are still in the pot (the dealer will say you are "all-in"), but further betting is "on the side" for an additional pot you cannot win. Between hands, you are free to buy as many chips as you want, but are not allowed to take any chips off the table unless you are leaving. This final rule gives opponents a chance to win back what they have lost to you. If you bust out, you may buy back in for at least the table minimum or leave.
Once you have told the dealer how much money you are playing, the dealer may sell you chips right away or call over a chip runner to do so. You may want to tell the dealer that you are a first-time player. This is a signal to the dealer to give a little explanation when it is your turn to act, and to the other players to extend you a bit of courtesy when you slow down the game. Everyone will figure it out in a few minutes anyway, so don't be bashful. You may even ask to sit out a few hands just to see how it all works.
There are three ways that pots are seeded with money at the beginning of the hand. The most familiar to the home player is the "ante", where each player tosses a small amount into the pot for the right to be dealt a hand. The second way, often used in conjunction with an ante, is the "forced bring-in". For example, in seven-card stud, after everyone antes and is dealt the first three cards, the player with the lowest upcard may be forced to bet to get things started. The third way, often used in games without upcards like Hold'em or Omaha, is a "forced blind bet". This is similar to the bring-in, but is always made by the person immediately after the player with the "button". The "button" is a plastic disk that moves around the table and indicates which player is acting as dealer for the hand (of course, the house dealer does the actual dealing of cards, but does not play). A second or even third blind may follow the first, usually of increasing size. Whichever seed method is used, note that this initial pot, small as it is, is the only reason to play at all.
If the game has blinds, the dealer may now ask you if you want to "post". This means, "do you want to pay extra to see a hand now, in bad position, and then pay the blinds, or are you willing to sit and watch for a few minutes?" Answer "no, I'll wait" and watch the game until the dealer tells you it's time to begin, usually after the blinds pass you.
Finally, it is your turn to get cards and play. Your first impression will probably be how fast the game seems to move. If you are playing stud, several upcards may be "mucked" (folded into the discards) before you even see them; if you are playing hold'em, it may be your turn to act before you have looked at your cards. After a few hands you should settle into the rhythm and be able to keep up. If you ever get confused, just ask the dealer what is going on.
When playing, consider the following elements of poker etiquette:
Most cardrooms give every player at the table the right to see all cards that called to a showdown, even if they are mucked as losers. (This helps prevent cheating by team-play.) If you are extremely curious about a certain hand, ask the dealer to show it to you. It is considered impolite to constantly ask to see losing cards. It is even more impolite if you hold the winning cards, and in most cardrooms you will forfeit the pot if the "losing" cards turn out to be better than yours.
As a beginner, you may want to show your hand all the time, since you may have overlooked a winning hand. What you gain from one such pot will far outweigh any loss due to revealing how you played a particular losing hand. "Cards speak" at the showdown, meaning that you need not declare the value of your hand. The dealer will look at your cards and decide if you have a winner.
As a final word of caution, it is best to hold on to your winning cards until the dealer pushes you the pot. If the dealer takes your cards and incorrectly "mucks" them, many cardrooms rule that you have no further right to the pot, even if everyone saw your winning cards. A dishonest player might try to steal the pot from you with a despicable trick. When you bet and all others fold, he may conceal his hand in the hope that you will toss your cards into the muck, whereupon he will call and win the pot.
More information on cardroom play and etiquette can be found in George
Percy's "Seven-Card Stud: The Waiting Game" and Lee Jones' "Winning Low-Limit Holdem".
Beginning players may also want to watch for special cardroom promotions to draw
new players; many offer free lessons followed by a very low-stakes game with
other novices. Since everyone is a beginner, much of the tension is relieved.
David Sklansky, "The Theory of Poker" (formerly titled "Winning Poker"), Two Plus Two Publishing, 1992, $29.95. ISBN 1-880685-00-0.Beginners will benefit from this pamphlet which concentrates on Texas Hold'em and Seven Card Stud:
Mason Malmuth and Lynne Loomis, "Fundamentals of Poker", Two Plus Two Publishing, 1992, $3.95. ISBN 1-880685-11-6.This classic in the field is an advanced but slightly out-of-date work covering a wide range of games, including an excellent section on no-limit Hold'em:
Doyle Brunson et al., "Super/System: A Course in Poker Power", B & G Publishing, 1978/1989, $50. ISBN 0-931444-01-4.The most recommended book for medium-limit Hold'em is
David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth, "Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players", Two Plus Two Publishing, 1988/1993, $29.95. ISBN 1-880685-01-9.This recent work by a fellow rec.gambler has received several favorable reviews from low-limit Hold-em players:
Lee Jones, "Winning Low-Limit Holdem", ConJelCo, 1994, $19.95. ISBN 1-886070-04-0.Beginning Seven Card Stud players must read this small spiral-bound gem:
George Percy, "7 Card Stud: The Waiting Game", GBC Press, 1979, $9. ISBN 0-89650-903-6.More experienced stud players may benefit from
David Sklansky, Mason Malmuth and Ray Zee, "Seven Card Stud for Advanced Players", Two Plus Two Publishing, 1992, $29.95. ISBN 1-880685-02-7.Finally, in a different vein is the following book about reading your opponents and preventing them from reading you:
Mike Caro, "The Body Language of Poker" (formerly titled "Mike Caro's Book of Tells"), Gambling Times Inc., 1984/1994, $18.95. ISBN 0-89746-100-2.Many of these books are available to rec.gamblers with an Internet discount from ConJelCo. See Dan Kimberg's Poker Book Review Archive at http://cortex.med.upenn.edu/~kimberg/reviews.html for some unsolicited reviews that have appeared on the net.
The Card Player 3140 S. Polaris #8 Las Vegas, NV 89102 (702) 871-1720 (702) 871-2674 FAX http://www.cardplayer.comA newcomer is Poker magazine. Poker solicits article submissions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscriptions are available from
Circulation Services PO Box 4005 Beaverton, OR 97076-9908 (800)752-6353
Plays ring games or one-table tournaments. Computer players try to adjust to your style. They use a randomized algorithm to mix up their play. You start with $100 and progress to tougher tables and tournaments as your bankroll grows.
A demo version that only plays 7-card stud is available. It has most of the features of the real version and is quite playable as is. The demo program is available on the ConJelCo FTP server (ftp.conjelco.com).
Computer players are driven by large tables describing each decision point. These tables can be modified by the user to create new players. Play against the computer or let the computer players play each other in a fast mode. Check resulting statistics for the various strategies.
Demo versions of Texas Holdem, 7-card stud, and Omaha-8 are available. The demos are limited in that only 50 rounds can be played and the cards are always the same. You can get the demos via FTP from the ConJelCo server (ftp.conjelco.com).
This is more of a fun simulation of playing in the World Series at Binions. Play ring games or other casino games to get enough money to enter a satellite. Win the satellite to get into the no-limit finals. Poker opponent play is pretty good, but not exactly World Champion level.
No demo. Sometimes can be found in retail computer software stores. Simplified versions with only one game for a cheaper price (Masque Lite series) can also sometimes be found.
Electronic Arts PowerPoker
For Macintosh. This program has received mixed reviews from the r.g.p community. Some people love it and others hate it. You'll have to decide for yourself.
Netpoker is a suite of programs for multi-player hold'em over the internet. It is UNIX-specific at the moment, but ports to other platforms are encouraged. The C source code is available free of charge under the GNU Public License at ftp://ftp.cco.caltech.edu/pub/johns/netpoker/netpoker.tar.gz. If you are not on a UNIX system, it is possible to play netpoker via telnet; see the Netpoker home page at http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~johns/netpoker for details.
The game uses the Internet Relay Chat, or IRC, to arrange communications amongst the players and with the dealer. IRC is normally a sort of global cocktail party, with several thousand people from around the globe engaged in small pockets of conversation on various "channels". Within each channel, anything one person types appears on the screens of all the other people tuned in to the channel (although one person can also "whisper" privately to another). The poker channels are unusual in that an automaton is always present to supervise a poker game. However, the chat aspect of the channel is preserved, so that the poker games can become quite social.
In order to play IRC poker, you must have an IRC client and access to the Internet. The client is a program running on your local machine that connects you to the IRC network. If you are on a Unix machine, try typing 'irc' to see if a client is already installed. If not, or if you are on a Macintosh, PC or VMS system, you will have to obtain a client by FTP. (See below for details about Gpkr, an excellent Windows interface to IRC Poker. If you can run Gpkr, you don't need a regular IRC client.) One archive site for IRC clients is ftp://cs-ftp.bu.edu/pub/irc/clients. The Unix client is named ircII. This archive also contains a primer on using IRC. The official IRC FAQ is available at ftp://ftp.undernet.org/irc/docs, or from ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/alt.irc. An excellent Windows client is mIRC, available at http://gator.naples.net/~nfn03824/mirc/main.html.
Once you have a client up and running, you need to connect to the special, isolated IRC poker server. In order to speed up the games, the poker server is not a part of the standard IRC network. The different clients have various ways to specify the IRC server you want to use; on Unix you can say
irc nickname irc.poker.net or irc nickname 184.108.40.206where 'nickname' is the name by which you will be known to other IRC users. After a moment, this command should connect you to the IRC poker server and print a welcome message. (From this point on the instructions are Unix-specific, but many of the commands will work on the other clients as well).
At this point you can find out what channels are open by typing
which prints the topic of each channel, or you can see a more detailed view with
which lists all of the people on each channel. As of May 1994, typical channels included #holdem, #omaha, and #nolimit. To join a particular channel (for instance, #holdem), type
The action of the poker game and the ongoing conversations should now appear on your screen. The play of the game is governed by sending special messages to the dealer automaton; for example, the message
indicates that you wish to fold. All poker commands are prefixed with the letter 'p'. The command
gives a list of all possible commands. The most important are
p join password % join the game (pick any password) % this starts your bankroll at $1000 p quit % quit the game p fold % fold when the action gets to you p check % check (do not bet or fold) p call % call a bet p raise % raise the betOn the non-structured channels like #nolimit, some of these commands may take an argument, such as
p raise 50
When you join the channel you will notice the conspicuous absence of these 'p' commands despite the ongoing play. This is because most players send their messages privately to the dealer only, using a command like
/msg hbot p raise
where 'hbot' is the nickname of the dealer. (This is especially useful to hide your password when you join.)
Because poker players are inherently lazy, most users of ircII have a special set of IRC macros that saves them the effort of typing all those characters each time they have to act. These poker macros are available from ftp://ftp.csua.berkeley.edu/pub/rec.gambling/poker/ircrc.poker. The file contains instructions for using it on a Unix machine. Although mIRC doesn't understand these macros, it does let you set up customized menus and aliases yourself.
The most popular Windows interface to IRC poker is Greg Reynolds' Gpkr, available for free at http://www.anet-stl.com/~gregr. Gpkr is reguarly maintained and sure to be up to date with the latest IRC poker changes.
In addition, curses and X-windows based front ends have been written for the poker games. The curses version uses simple terminal graphics to draw pictures of your cards and those of the other players, helping you to visualize the action. When other players fold their cards are mucked, and the board and pot are shown in the middle. This front end can be used in conjunction with the IRC macros mentioned above. Both curses and X-windows versions of the program are available on the web in source code form for Unix machines at http://www.jcsw.com/poker.html. [Note: as of 5/12/1999 this site was not responding.]
Disclaimer: I'm a poker novice, not an expert.
Suppose a player just calls preflop in early position and the flop comes Q 7 2 offsuit and he suddenly goes berserk by reraising, you have to think about what hands are likely. The hands that make sense to reraise like that are AQ, KQ, Q7, 72, Q2, 77, and 22. QQ would probably be slow-played here instead. Now join that set with the possible hands before the flop. We can just look at these hands and see which are reasonable to just call preflop in early position. AQ and KQ are often raised in early position, but at least sometimes they just call, so they are still consistent. Q7, 72, and Q2 are not reasonable calls from early position. 77 and 22 are reasonable calls, though tight players would probably dump the 22. So that leaves AQ, KQ, 77, and 22 as his possible hands, which has narrowed down the field quite a bit. Be aware also of how other players may interpret your betting.
Hand 3 cards 5 cards 7 cards ==== ======= ======= ======= Straight Flush 48 40 41,584 Four of a Kind 0 624 224,848 Full House 0 3,744 3,473,184 Flush 1,096 5,108 4,047,644 Straight 720 10,200 6,180,020 Three of a Kind 52 54,912 6,461,620 Two Pair 0 123,552 31,433,400 One Pair 3,744 1,098,240 58,627,800 High Card 16,440 1,302,540 23,294,460 ================================================================= TOTALS 22,100 2,598,960 133,784,560Notes:
1. The standard rankings are incorrect for 3-card hands, since it is easier to get a flush than a straight, and easier to get a straight than three of a kind. See question P15.
2. For 7-card hands, the numbers reflect the best possible 5-card hand out of the 7 cards. For instance, a hand that contains both a straight and three of a kind is counted as a straight.
3. For 7-card hands, only five cards need be in sequence to make a straight, or of the same suit to make a flush. In a 3-card hand a sequence of three is considered a straight, and three of the same suit a flush. These rules reflect standard poker practice.
4. In a 7-card hand, it is easier for one's *best* 5 cards to have one or two pair than no pair. (Good bar bet opportunity!) However, if we changed the ranking to value no pairs above two pairs, all of the one pair hands and most of the two pair hands would be able to qualify for "no pair" by choosing a different set of five cards.
5. Within each type of hand (e.g., among all flushes) the hands are ranked
according to an arbitrary scheme, unrelated to probability. See question P14.
A similar situation occurs for two pair hands. There are twelve times as many
ways to make two pair with aces being the high pair ("aces up") as there are to
do it with threes as the high pair ("threes up"). While the aces can go with
another other rank of pair, the threes must go with twos, or we would reverse
the order and call them, for instance, "eights up". Note that it is fruitless to
alter the relative rankings to try to account for this imbalance, since as soon
as we do the cards will be reinterpreted to make the best hand under the new
system. For example, if we decide to make "threes up" the best possible two pair
hand, now all the hands like "eights and threes" will be interpreted as "threes
and eights", and the population of "threes up" hands will soar twelve-fold. The
median two pair hand turns out to be a tie between JJ552 and JJ44A.
The following is a break down of all three card poker hands. They can be used for certain three card games, such as Guts or 3-card-6. They can also be used to analyze starting hands for games like 7-Card Stud.
Hand Type Kinds Each Total Cuml Rating --------- ----- ---- ----- ---- ------ straight flush 12 4 48 48 0.9978 trips 13 4 52 100 0.9955 straight 12 60 720 820 0.9629 flush ** 274 4 1096 1916 0.9133 pair *** 156 24 3744 5660 0.7439 Ace high 64 60 3840 9500 0.5701 King high 54 60 3240 12740 0.4235 Queen high 44 60 2640 15380 0.3041 Jack high 35 60 2100 17480 0.2090 Ten high 27 60 1620 19100 0.1357 Nine high 20 60 1200 20300 0.0814 Eight high 14 60 840 21140 0.0434 Seven high 9 60 540 21680 0.0190 Six high 5 60 300 21980 0.0054 Five high 2 60 120 22100 0.0000 ** More on Flushes ------------------ High Card Kinds Percent Total Cuml Rating --------- ----- ------- ----- ---- ------ Ace high 64 23.4 256 1076 0.9513 King high 54 19.7 216 1292 0.9415 Queen high 44 16.1 176 1468 0.9336 Jack high 35 12.8 140 1608 0.9272 Ten high 27 9.9 108 1716 0.9224 Nine high 20 7.3 80 1796 0.9187 Eight high 14 5.1 56 1852 0.9162 Seven high 9 3.3 36 1888 0.9146 Six high 5 1.8 20 1908 0.9137 Five high 2 0.7 8 1916 0.9133 *** More on Pairs ----------------- Hand Type Kinds Each Total Cuml Rating --------- ----- ---- ----- ---- ------ AAx 12 24 288 2204 0.9003 KKx 12 24 288 2492 0.8872 QQx 12 24 288 2780 0.8742 JJx 12 24 288 3068 0.8612 TTx 12 24 288 3356 0.8481 99x 12 24 288 3644 0.8351 88x 12 24 288 3932 0.8221 77x 12 24 288 4220 0.8090 66x 12 24 288 4508 0.7960 55x 12 24 288 4796 0.7830 44x 12 24 288 5084 0.7700 33x 12 24 288 5372 0.7569 22x 12 24 288 5660 0.7439In the preceding tables, "Kinds" refers to the number of card combinations in each class, while "Each" is the number of non-distinct hands of each Kind. The product of these two numbers gives the total number of hands in that class. "Cuml" is the cumulative total of all hands, and "Rating" is a percentile ranking of the lowest hand in the class.
Note that "Rating" is only an estimate of the probability of beating a random
hand. To compute the exact probability, a given hand must be compared to the (49
choose 3) combinations of the remaining cards in the deck.
Below that is a chart listing the number of outs given a particular drawing hand, and what hands those outs will give if made.
Chances of making a hand on the turn/river/both turn turn river river t/r t/r Outs (%) (X:1) (%) (X:1) (%) (X:1) ------------------------------------------------------ 20 42.6 1.35 43.5 1.30 67.5 0.48 19 40.4 1.47 41.3 1.42 65.0 0.54 18 38.3 1.61 39.1 1.56 62.4 0.60 17 36.2 1.77 37.0 1.71 59.8 0.67 16 34.0 1.94 34.8 1.88 57.0 0.76 15 31.9 2.13 32.6 2.07 54.1 0.85 14 29.8 2.36 30.4 2.28 51.2 0.96 13 27.7 2.62 28.3 2.54 48.1 1.08 12 25.5 2.92 26.1 2.83 45.0 1.22 11 23.4 3.27 23.9 3.18 41.7 1.40 10 21.3 3.70 21.7 3.60 38.4 1.61 9 19.1 4.22 19.6 4.11 35.0 1.86 8 17.0 4.88 17.4 4.75 31.5 2.18 7 14.9 5.71 15.2 5.57 27.8 2.59 6 12.8 6.83 13.0 6.67 24.1 3.14 5 10.6 8.40 10.9 8.20 20.4 3.91 4 8.5 10.75 8.7 10.50 16.5 5.07 3 6.4 14.67 6.5 14.33 12.5 7.01 2 4.3 22.50 4.3 22.00 08.4 10.88 1 2.1 46.00 2.2 45.00 04.3 22.50 Number of Outs Given a Particular Hand to Improve Outs Given In attempt to make ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 15 Open Straight Flush Draw Straight, Flush, Straight Flush 12 Inside Straight Flush Draw Straight, Flush, Straight Flush 9 Flush Draw Flush 8 Open Straight Draw Straight 4 Gut Shot Straight Straight 4 2 Pair Full House 2 1 Pair Three of a kind 1 Three of a Kind Four of a kind
In pot limit, as in all poker, you may fold, or call the previous bet -- which may be a forced blind, if there is no previous voluntary bet -- or you may raise. A raise, as in all poker, must be at least as large as the previous bet or raise. In pot limit, however, your raise may be no larger than the size of the pot after your call. If you are the opening bettor on a round for which no blinds are made, your bet can be no more than the size of the pot.
Say that the pot contains p units before a previous bettor bets (or blinds) b units. You wish to raise the maximum. What is the total amount that you should bet?
The size of the pot when it is your turn to act is p+b. Your action includes a call, making the pot p+2b, and thus the amount of your raise will be p+2b and your total bet will be p+3b. Therefore:
If you wish to raise the previous bettor (or big blind) the maximum amount, your total bet will be three times the previous bet plus the size of the pot before the previous bet was made. If you are the first to act on the first round, the size of the pot before the previous bet is the total of the small blind(s), and the previous bet is the big blind.
Sometimes the minimum betting unit is larger than the size of one or more blinds. E.g., it may be that only $5 chips play for betting, but one or more blinds are smaller than $5. In this case, the maximum initial bring-in is rounded to the betting unit.
Some people state the general rule that the maximum initial bring-in is "four times the big blind." This is correct only if the total of the small blinds, after rounding if appropriate, is equal to the big blind, and this is not always the case. E.g., in a tournament when the blinds are $100 and $200, the maximum bring-in is $700, not $800. The correct rule is "three times the big blind plus the total of the small blinds, rounded as appropriate."
size of pot before 3 x previous bet previous bet previous bet + size of pot before previous bet = next bet 1 - 1 1 1 4 2 4 14 6 14 48 20 48 164 68 164 560 232 560 1912So, if the initial pot size were $100, the seventh maniacal raiser would be making a total bet of $191,200. The action can escalate quickly.
To kill the pot in Hold'em or other flop games, the kill must be announced (either verbally or by placing the amount of the kill in the pot) before any cards are dealt. Draw lowball games frequently allow players to kill the after seeing two cards - and some places even allow a kill in lowball after the 3rd card is dealt. No-limit draw lowball also frequently allows the player with the big blind to place a blind which is larger than the normal amount, but still smaller than the to-go amount, and the new to-go amount is twice the big blind.
Example: In a 1-2-2, 5-to-go Hold'em game, the player on the button (who also has the $1 blind) decides to kill it for $5, rebuying his right to act last before the flop. The blinds now look like 5-2-2, and the game is now 10-to-go. After the player to the right of the button acts, the two $2 blinds act, then the killer acts.
Example: In a draw-lowball game, 1-1-2 blinds, 4-to-go, the player with the big blind puts out $3 before cards are dealt and it is now 6-to-go. After two cards are dealt, the player to the right of the button kills the pot for $10, and it is now 20-to-go. The player after the blinds is first to act. After the player in front of the killer acts, the button and other blinds must act, and then the killer acts.
Limit lowball games also frequently allow a player to kill the pot from any position. In this case, the killer makes a blind of the current limit, and the limit is doubled for that hand. As in no-limit games, the player who kills the pot acts last after the blinds before the draw, and action resumes to the normal order after the draw.
In addition, some limit games are played with a kill or a half kill. In these games, there is some condition which if met, raises the stakes of the game - doubling them in the case of a kill game, or increasing them by 50% in the case of a half kill. In addition to the normal blinds posted for the game, the player who met the kill condition must post a blind equal to the new small bet size. This blind is instead of the small or big blind if the player would have been in position to have one of those. In some clubs the killer gets to act last after the blinds; but in others the killer acts in normal turn order.
In a high only game, the condition is typically that someone wins two pots in a row. In a high-low split game, the condition is usually that someone takes the whole pot, and that the pot is some minimum size.
For example: in a 10-20 Omaha-8 game with a half kill that I've played in, if someone scoops a pot with $100 in it, then they must post a $15 blind and the next hand the game is 15-30.
What is a straddle bet?
In limit Hold'em and other flop games players are frequently allowed to make a bet called a straddle bet, sometimes known as a live blind, live raise, or live-<amount> where <amount> is the amount of the bet. The player who follows the big blind and would normally be under the gun can raise before cards before cards are dealt. Players that act after him must call the raise, fold, or raise the bet themselves. The straddler's raise is live - if no-one else raises, s/he has the option to reraise after the blinds have acted. If straddle bets are allowed, the player behind the straddler can also post a straddle by raising again, and so on until the maximum number of bets is reached.
For example: In a 6-12 game, the blinds are 3 and 6, the player after
the small blind makes it live-12 by raising before the cards are dealt, and the
player after him can make it live-18.
A satellite format popular in the larger tournaments is the "super-satellite". This is a multi-table tournament that awards a number of entries into the main tournament. The buy-in to the super can be as little as 2% of the buy-in to the main tournament, with rebuys usually permitted. Depending on the number of entrants and rebuys, the top N finishers receive an entry into the main tournament. The strategy late in a super-satellite can be unusual because of the flat payout structure.
Tournaments work by eliminating players who lose all their chips. To ensure that a tournament ends within a reasonable time the blinds/antes are increased at regular intervals. Your objective in a tournament should therefore be to accumulate chips whilst minimising the chance of being eliminated.
In your first few tournaments it will probably be sensible to forego all these options, play your best game with your starting chips, and gain as much experience as possible at minimum cost.
As a general rule it is mathematically sound to rebuy at any stage providing that you are not out-classed by the opposition (and the cost is not a major concern). This is true even if all the other players at the table have far more chips than you.
A good 'rule of thumb' for add-ons is to take the option if you currently have less than the average number of chips *and*, by taking the add-on you will then have an above average number of chips. The add-on is less sound if you have a very small stack or a large stack. Of course the cheaper the cost of the add-on chips the more attractive the option is regardless of stack size.
Make sure you know how many prizes there are and whether the tournament is played to a finish or ends at a fixed time. The correct strategy when you get down to the last few players or the last few hands can lead to some plays which would be irrational in any other circumstances.
Also check the blind/ante structure; how it changes and how frequently it changes during the tournament. The blinds typically double at fixed intervals of between 20 and 40 minutes. This information is important: Suppose at some point you have 1800 chips and there are currently blinds of 200 and 400. After you have paid your next blinds you will have 1200 chips left or 3 times the big blind. If however the blinds are likely to double before you next post then, after posting, you will have 600 chips left which is less than the big blind of 800. Clearly the strategy you need to adopt will vary considerably in these two situations, in the first you can be reasonably conservative whilst in the latter you have to win a pot quickly and will need to be aggressive.
If it is a 'freezeout' tournament a lot of players will play tight in the early stages not wanting to be eliminated quickly. Some players will however be aggressive looking to build a big stack quickly with a fall back of a return to the cash games if things don't go to plan. Selective aggression against the tight players can be effecive in this situation.
If rebuys are allowed the play in the early stages will tend to be a lot looser. A lot of the players will be prepared, and even expect, to rebuy and they will play marginal hands aggressively trying to build a big stack early. Players who are not going to rebuy will play a lot more cautiously.
At the start of a tournament the cost of the blinds will be relatively low in respect of the average stack size and will become even lower if rebuys are allowed. This allows you to play much more marginal hands than normal. It is worth risking a small part of your stack (say 5% or less) to see the flop with small pairs, suited connectors and other marginal hands to have the chance to double your stack if you hit big on the flop.
By the same token it can be right to play good hands relatively conservatively preflop. If you hold AK in late position and there are several callers it is often better just to flat call. You know if you raise you will not get the other players to fold. By flat calling you minimise your loss if the flop is not to your liking and you have the benefit of disguise if you hit the flop big.
If you are by nature an aggressive player then use the early stages to try and build a substantial stack. This risks early elimination but when successful it will give you sufficient chips to survive the first few blind increases even if the cards turn against you.
If your natural game is passive or middle of the road then the best strategy is to try for a steady accumulation of chips. Play looser than normal preflop providing that the cost is small in relation to your stack but play slightly tighter than normal post-flop. This generally means not putting in that extra bet or raise when you think, but are not sure, that you are ahead - the saving of a bet when you lose the pot is worth more to you than the extra bet you could potentially win.
Finally in the early stages do not be concerned with eliminating other players. You are too far from the prize list to worry about how many players are left. It is more important to concentrate on keeping your stack in good condition. For example a player raises and everyone else folds. You hold T9s and have a big stack. Your opponent is almost allin so the cost to you even if you lose the pot is small. Even so, fold. Your opponent has almost certainly a better starting hand than yours and even if you win it will not increase your stack by much. Having made a good start you need to be careful not to bleed chips unnecessarily.
As the blinds increase they represent an increasing percentage of the average stack. Winning the blinds therefore becomes more significant and the first player into the pot will normally enter with a raise rather than a flat call.
The converse of this is that it now costs a significant proportion of the average stack to call a raise. Therefore the quality of hand needed to call a raise increases. The result of this is that a lot of hands go raise, all fold and you can go several hands without even seeing a flop.
As players are eliminated the game in the middle/late stages will be played most of the time with less than a full table. This, and the increasing blinds, means that unless a players is winning hands at regular intervals even a big stack can be quickly depleted. To counter this all players, regardless of their normal style, have to play very aggressively.
So the general strategy in the middle/late stages is to increasingly loosen the requirements for an opening raise and to tighten up the requirements for calling. Your objective should be to win, on average, the blinds once per round. Each time you win the blinds you can, in effect, survive one further round of hands.... and each round of hands you survive increases your chance of hitting a premium hand and an opportunity to double your stack.
A player who has an average or large stack commands respect when they raise and will often win the blinds unopposed. A player with a small stack will be called much more frequently because they do not have sufficient chips to seriously damage the larger stacks. There is, therefore, a critical stack size and it is worth a player taking extra risks to try and avoid falling below that point. As a rule of thumb this critical size is about 4 big bets in a limit game and about 6 times the big blind in pot and no-limit.
If your stack does fall below the critical level then a change of strategy is required. It is no longer sensible to raise with marginal hands because you expect to be called. So raise if you are lucky enough to hit a premium hand but otherwise limp in to a pot with any reasonable hand. If there is no raise then you can judge the flop and fold if absolutely necessary. If you limp into a pot and it is then raised be prepared to put all your chips in and keep your fingers crossed. If there is a raise in front of you then you should also loosen your calling requirements when you are very short of chips. A hand such as Ax or a low pair offers a reasonable chance of doubling your stack and you can't afford to wait for a better opportunity.
If you have a big stack (e.g. twice the average or more) then you are in a strong position but this can change rapidly. A big stack allows you to play more conservatively and wait that bit longer for better hands before raising however the blinds will soon eat into even a large stack so you have to remain aggressive. Normally it will pay to be selectively aggressive, that is be prepared to mix it with the smaller stacks but keep out of the way of the other large stacks as they can do you serious damage.
Experienced tournament players with large stacks are likely to call a raise by a short stack even if they have only a moderate or poor hand. They are risking losing a few chips for the chance of moving one place closer to the prize money. There may even be several callers with good stacks and poor hands. It will not be unusual for these players to check down the hand once the short stack is all-in to maximise the chance of eliminating the all-in player.
Whilst this is good tournament strategy it is probably best in your first few tournaments to call a raise only with a very good hand and ignore whether the raiser has many or few chips. However if you do get head to head with a player who is almost all-in you should force the other player to commit their last few chips at the first opportunity; certainly if you would call if they bet then you must bet to prevent them checking. It is a cardinal error to let a player off the hook because no matter how few chips a player has left they can bounce back to being chip leader within a few hands if they get the run of the cards!
As the blinds rise a raise or a call starts to take a significant proportion
of the average stack. The effect of this is that most players will continue to
play aggressively on the flop if they have even a small part of it and quite
often they will play aggressively even if the flop misses them completely (ie
bluff). You will have to respond in kind
especially if conceding the pot would leave you with a stack below the critical level. For example you hold AsQd, raise and are called by the big blind. The flop is Jh 8h 2c and the big blind bets. Even though this flop does nothing for you you should call unless you are in a strong chip position. The big blind is as likely to be on a draw or bluffing as he is to have a genuine hand.
At this stage the blinds will be so high that virtually all the players left will have stacks at or below the critical size. In addition you will be playing the game increasingly short-handed which means that you can see fewer and fewer hands before your stack is anted away.
You need at this stage to know exactly how near the prize money you are and how many chips each of your opponents has. If you have an average or large stack the correct strategy is still to be ultra aggressive in raising but conservative in calling. However when you have fewer than average chips it can be right to adopt a tighter strategy! There are two reasons why this may be so:
Suppose there are 5 players left and there are prizes for the first 4 only. If the player under the gun does not have enough chips to cover the big blind next hand then you will be probably correct to fold any non-premium hand and hope that utg doesn't get lucky. In general this extends to playing tight if you can survive longer than one or more of the other players left in the game. This will force them to try and win a pot before you have to - if they lose you are one further notch up the ladder whilst if they win you still have a chance to also win a pot and be back in the same relative position to them.
Providing that you have enough chips to see the next few hands then playing tight also avoids the chance of immediate elimination and gives the other players a chance to eliminate each other or to agree to make a deal, either of which is to your advantage.
In most tournaments the last few players are allowed to agree a deal sharing the prize fund in different proportions to that originally envisioned. A lot of tournaments will end in this way because regardless of how big a lead the chip leader has the blinds are so high that who wins will be more a matter of luck than skill or weight of chips.
There are typically three types of deal:
For new tournament players the important point to bear in mind is that any deal requires the explicit agreement of *all* the remaining players. If you do not like the proposed deal you do not have to accept it simply ask the dealer to carry on. If things continue to go your way you will end up with all the chips and the bulk of the prize money. Remember however that in these final stages luck is more important than skill and a sensible deal leaves everybody happy.
[Several books have been written on the subject of poker tournaments, but
none has received universal praise from rec.gamblers. Jay Sipelstein's reviews
of McEvoy's "Tournament Poker"
and Buntjer's "The
Secret To Winning Big In Tournament Poker" are in the Poker Book Review
Archive at http://cortex.med.upenn.edu/~kimberg/reviews.html.
Q: How do the satellites work? [Jim Albrecht, 1996]
Those satellites are for all events. Actually, they are to win "tournament buy-in chips" worth $500 towards a buy-in to any event. You could for example, win a hold'em satellite and receive 3 chip and $60 in cash. This has a value of $1,560 and may be used as a buy-in for any $1,560 event. The chips can be added up to play in a larger event, or can be sold to you friends at discount. They are usually obtainable for $480. In the "old days", or PC (pre-chip) days, you received a receipt and HAD to play in the specific tournament that matched the satellite you won. Now you have all kinds of options. Just think of them as tournament stock certificates. These chips are without question the best invention of the 90's for tournament poker (I would say this even if it wasn't my idea)...... :)
Q: What about the satellites for the $10,000 event? [Jim Albrecht, 1996]
Supers start on Monday night and run nightly throughout the tournament dates. You win a piece of paper with your name on it (WOW!) This piece of paper (a receipt) allows you to play in the $10,000 event and win up to $1,000,000. Disclaimer: Winning is not guaranteed. This part is up to you.
The first Super you win is non-transferable, non-negotiable, and must be
played by YOU. This will be clearly stamped on your receipt. If you win a second
Super you will be paid in Buy-in chips (twenty $500 chips). You may do as you
please with these. Stake a friend, play in several events yourself or sell to
the highest bidder. Best place for a sale: The line for sign-up on the day of
the event. Early sales (first week of the tournament) can fetch as low as
$9,500. The day of the event you should be able to get $9,900.
Q:P27 What are the Las Vegas poker room phone numbers?
Aladdin Hotel & Casino 3667 S Las Vegas Blvd 736-0329 Binion's Horseshoe Hotel & Casino 128 Fremont Street 366-7397 Circus Circus Hotel-Casino 2880 S Las Vegas Blvd 734-0410 Continental Hotel & Casino 4100 Paradise Road 737-5555 El Cortez Hotel 600 Fremont Street 385-5200 Excalibur Hotel-Casino 3850 S Las Vegas Blvd 597-7625 Flamingo Hilton 3555 S Las Vegas Blvd 733-3485 Fremont Hotel 200 Fremont Street 385-3232 Gold Coast Hotel & Casino 4000 W Flamingo Road 367-7111 Hacienda Hotel & Casino 3950 S Las Vegas Blvd 739-8911 Harrah's Las Vegas 3475 S Las Vegas Blvd 369-5234 Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino 3535 S Las Vegas Blvd 731-3311 Jackie Gaughan's Plaza Hotel & Casino 1 S Main Street 386-2249 Las Vegas Hilton 3000 Paradise Road 732-5995 Luxor Hotel And Casino 3900 S Las Vegas Blvd 262-4210 MGM Grand Hotel 3799 S Las Vegas Blvd 891-7434 The Mirage Hotel And Casino 3400 S Las Vegas Blvd 791-7290 Palace Station Hotel & Casino 2411 W Sahara Avenue 367-2453 Rio Suite Hotel & Casino 3700 W Flamingo Road 252-7777 Riviera Hotel & Casino 2901 S Las Vegas Blvd 794-9255 Sahara Hotel 2535 S Las Vegas Blvd 737-2317 Sam's Town Hotel & Gambling Hall 5111 Boulder Highway 454-8092 Sands Hotel & Casino 3355 S Las Vegas Blvd 733-5000 Hotel San Remo 115 East Tropicana 739-9000 Sheraton Desert Inn 3145 S Las Vegas Blvd 733-4343 Showboat Hotel & Casino 2800 Fremont Street 385-9151 Silver City Casino 3001 S Las Vegas Blvd 732-4152 Stardust Hotel & Casino 3000 S Las Vegas Blvd 732-6513 Treasure Island at The Mirage 3300 S Las Vegas Blvd 894-7291 Tropicana Resort And Casino 3801 S Las Vegas Blvd 739-2312 800 Poker Room Numbers: Binion's : 1-800-93-POKER MGM Grand: 1-800-94-POKER
Q:P28 What poker games are spread in certain Las Vegas casinos?
ALADDIN HOTEL (702)736-0329
7-card stud: $1-4, Hold'em: $1-4.
BINION'S HORSESHOE (702)366-7397, (800) 93-POKER
7- card stud: $1- 5, Hold'em: $1-4-8, $4-8, $10-20, $15-30, Omaha High: $4-8, Omaha Hi-Lo (8 or better) $4-8. 18 tables.
BOULDER STATION (702)432-7777
CIRCUS CIRCUS (702)734-0410
7 card stud: $1-5, Hold'em: $1-2 (Novice Table), $2-6, 2-6-12.
FLAMINGO HILTON (702) 733-3485
7-card stud: $1-4, Hold'em: $1-4-8. 6 tables.
GOLD COAST (702) 367-7111
7-card stud: $1-4, Hold'em: $1-4-8-8, Omaha: $1-4-8-8. 6 tables.
HARRAH'S (702) 369-5234
7-card stud: $1-5, Hold'em: 1-4-8-8. 9-10 Tables. Well run room, $5 comps are for the asking. Lots O' granite except on weekends.
LUXOR (702) 262-4210
MGM GRAND (702) 891-7434, (800) 94-POKER
7-card stud $1-5, $5-10, $10-20, Hold'em $1-4-8-8, Omaha, higher limits weekends.
MIRAGE (702) 791-7290
7-card stud: $1-5 thru $400-800, Hold'em: $3-6 thru $400-800: no limit, pot limit, Omaha: $4-8 thru pot limit: hi-lo split (8 or better): $15-30 thru $400-800: no limit razz $15-30 thru $400-800. 31 tables.
MONTE CARLO (702) 730-7777
7-card stud: $1-4, $4-8, Hold'em: $1-4-8-8. 8 tables.
ORLEANS (702) 365-7111
7-card stud: $1-5, Holdem: $2-4-8, $3-6-12, and sometimes $10-20, Omaha:$4-8
PALACE STATION (702) 367-2453
7-card stud: $1-2, $l-4, Hold'em: $2-4, 1-4-8-8, Hi-Lo Split: $1-3-6-6. 9 tables.
RIO (702) 252-7777
7-card stud: $1-4, Hold'em: $1-4-8-8. 6 tables.
RIVIERA (702) 794-9255
7-card stud: $1-4-8, Hold'em: $1-4-8, hi-lo split: $l-5,3-6.
SAHARA (702) 737-2317
7-card stud: $1-4 ,1-4-8, 2-6, 3-6, 5-10, Hold'em: $1-4-8; hi-lo split: $3-6, 5-10, beginners poker;$1-4. 18 tables.
SAMS TOWN (702) 454-8092
7-card stud: $1-4, Hold'em: $1-4-8, Omaha: $1-3, $2-4, $3-6. 10 tables.
SHOWBOAT (702) 385-9151
7-card stud: $1-4, Hold'em: $1-4-8.
STARDUST (702) 732-6513
7-card stud: $1-5, Hold'em: $3-6.
SUNSET STATION (702) 547-7777
TEXAS STATION (702) 631-1000
THE PLAZA (702) 386-2249
7-card stud: $1-3, Hold'em: $1-3-6, Omaha hi-lo split: $3-6, pan: 50 cents and up, pineapple hold'em hi-lo split: $1-4-8.
TROPICANA (702) 739-2312
7-card stud: $1-4, 1-4-8, 1-5-10, Hold'em: $1-4-8-8.
rec.gambling FAQ index