Table of Contents
are the basic rules of poker? What are the hand rankings?
- P2 What
are some fun home poker games?
- P3 How
is Texas Hold'em played?
- P4 How
is Omaha Hold'em played?
- P5 What
should I expect the first time I play poker in a casino or card
room? What etiquette should I follow?
- P6 What
are some good books about poker?
- P7 What
are some good magazines about poker?
- P8 What
computer poker programs are best for my PC or Mac?
- P9 What
is IRC poker and how can I play?
What skills are important for Texas Hold'em?
What is a good preflop strategy for Texas Hold'em?
What is a good third street strategy for Seven Card Stud?
Why are poker hands ranked the way they are?
Why are ace-hi flushes ranked highest, when it's much harder to
get a seven-hi flush? And similarly for two pairs?
What is the correct ranking for 3-card poker hands?
What are my chances of sucking out on my opponent in Hold'em?
What does pot-limit mean? What is half-pot-limit?
What is a kill pot? What is a game with a kill? What is a half
kill? What is a straddle bet?
What is a poker tournament? How does one work? What is a chip
race? What is a satellite?
How does tournament strategy differ from that of regular games?
What is the World Series of Poker? What is the Tournament of Champions?
What the hell is Rumple Mintz?
What is a burn card and why is it dealt?
What happens if there aren't enough cards in the deck to deal
the final card in 7-card stud?
What is the difference between a shill and a proposition player?
What skills are needed to be one?
What cards are in the Dead Man's Hand?
What are the Las Vegas poker room phone numbers?
What poker games are spread in certain Las Vegas casinos?
What do all these poker terms mean?
When can I meet and play poker with fellow r.g.pers? What are
BARGE, FARGO, etc?
Where can I play online poker against real people for real money?
Is it legal? Is it safe?
How do you play no-limit seven-card stud? What is Mississippi
Can one overcome the rake at low limit poker games?
- Q:P1 What are the basic rules of poker? What
are the hand rankings?
- A:P1 [Michael Maurer]
Most variants of poker satisfy the following definition, but in
a home game of course you are free to modify the rules as you see
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:
- check, a bet of zero that does not forfeit interest
in the pot
- bet or raise, a nonzero bet greater than preceding
bets that all successive players must match or exceed or else
forfeit all interest in the pot
- call, a nonzero bet equal to a preceding bet that maintains
a player's interest in the pot
- fold, a surrender of interest in the pot in response
to another players's bet, accompanied by the loss of one's cards
and previous bets
Betting usually proceeds in a circle until each player has either
called all bets or folded. Different poker games have various numbers
of betting rounds interspersed with the receipt or replacement of
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
- Straight flush, five cards of the same suit in sequence,
such as 76543 of hearts. Ranked by the top card, so that AKQJT
is the best straight flush, also called a royal flush. The ace
can play low to make 5432A, the lowest straight flush.
- Four of a kind, four cards of the same rank accompanied
by a "kicker", like 44442. Ranked by the quads, so that 44442
- Full house, three cards of one rank accompanied by two
of another, such as 777JJ. Ranked by the trips, so that 44422
- Flush, five cards of the same suit, such as AJ942 of
hearts. Ranked by the top card, and then by the next card, so
that AJ942 beats AJ876. Suits are not used to break ties.
- Straight, five cards in sequence, such as 76543. The
ace plays either high or low, making AKQJT and 5432A. "Around
the corner" straights like 32AKQ are usually not allowed.
- Three of a kind, three cards of the same rank and two
kickers of different ranks, such as KKK84. Ranked by the trips,
so that KKK84 beats QQQAK, but QQQAK beats QQQA7.
- Two pair, two cards of one rank, two cards of another
rank and a kicker of a third rank, such as KK449. Ranked by the
top pair, then the bottom pair and finally the kicker, so that
KK449 beats any of QQJJA, KK22Q, and KK445.
- One pair, two cards of one rank accompanied by three
kickers of different ranks, such as AAK53. Ranked by the pair,
followed by each kicker in turn, so that AAK53 beats AAK52.
- High card, any hand that does not qualify as one of
the better hands above, such as KJ542 of mixed suits. Ranked by
the top card, then the second card and so on, as for flushes.
Suits are not used to break ties.
Suits are not used to break ties, nor are cards beyond the fifth;
only the best five cards in each hand are used in the comparison.
In the case of a tie, the pot is split equally among the winning
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.
Caro and Cooke's comprehensive poker rulebook, suitable for use in cardrooms
or at home, is at http://www.planetpoker.com/cookbook/b_index.htm.
- Q:P2 What are some fun home poker games?
- A:P2 [Michael Maurer]
There are enough crazy home game poker variants to fill a book. Good
sources of games ranging from plain to insane are http://gamereport.com/poker and http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/org/gc00/reviews/poker.html
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.
- Q:P3 How is Texas Hold'em played?
- A:P3 [Michael Maurer]
Texas Hold'em is a "community card" game, meaning that some cards
are dealt face-up in the middle of the table and shared by all the
players. Each player has two down cards that are theirs alone, and
combines them with the five community cards to make the best possible
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.
- Q:P4 How is Omaha Hold'em played?
- A:P4 [Michael Maurer]
The rules of Omaha are very similar to those of Texas Hold'em.
There are only two differences:
- Each player receives four hole cards, instead of two.
- One must use *exactly* three community cards and two hole cards
to make one's hand.
The second difference is confusing for most beginners. These examples
show how it works.
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.
- Q:P5 What should I expect the first time I
play poker in a casino or card room? What etiquette should I follow?
- A:P5 [Michael Maurer]
Many people are intimidated on their first visit to a public cardroom.
Knowing what to expect and some simple rules of etiquette will help
the first-time visitor relax and have a good time.
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
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
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:
Acting in Turn
Although you may see others fold or call out of turn, don't do
it yourself. It is considered rude because it gives an unfair advantage
to the players before you who have yet to act. This is especially
important at the showdown when only three players are left. If players
after you are acting out of turn while you decide what to do, say
"Time!" to make it clear that you have not yet acted.
You may find it awkward at first to peek at your own cards without
exposing them to others. Note that the other players have no formal
obligation to alert you to your clumsiness, although some will.
Watch how the other players manage it and emulate them. Leave your
cards in sight at all times; holding them in your lap or passing
them to your kibitzing friend is grounds for killing your hand.
Finally, if you intentionally show your cards to another player
during the hand, both your hands may be declared dead. Your neighbor
might want to see *you* declared dead :) if this happens!
In a game with "pocket cards" like Hold'em or Omaha, it is your
responsibility to "protect your own cards". This confusing phrase
really means "put a chip on your cards". If your cards are just
sitting out in the open, you are subject to two possible disasters.
First, the dealer may scoop them up in a blink because to leave
one's cards unprotected is a signal that you are folding. Second,
another player's cards may happen to touch yours as they fold, disqualifying
your hand and your interest in the pot. Along the same lines, when
you turn your cards face up at the showdown, be careful not to lose
control of your cards. If one of them falls off the table or lands
face-down among the discards your hand will be dead, even if that
card is not used to make your hand.
In some fast-paced games, a moment of inaction when it is your
turn to act may be interpreted as a check. Usually, a verbal declaration
or rapping one's hand on the table is required, but many players
are impatient and will assume your pause is a check. If you need
more than a second to decide what to do, call "Time!" to stop the
action. While you decide, don't tap your fingers nervously; that
is a clear check signal and will be considered binding.
A "string bet" is a bet that initially looks like a call, but then
turns out to be a raise. Once your hand has put some chips out,
you may not go back to your stack to get more chips and increase
the size of your bet, unless you verbally declared the size of your
bet at the beginning. If you always declare "call" or "raise" as
you bet, you will be immune to this problem. Note that a verbal
declaration in turn is binding, so a verbal string bet is possible
and also prohibited. That means you cannot say "I call your $5,
and raise you another $5!" Once you have said you call, that's it.
The rest of the sentence is irrelevant. You can't raise.
Splashing the Pot
In some home games, it is customary to throw chips directly into
the pot. In a public cardroom, this is cause for dirty looks, a
reprimand from the dealer, and possibly stopping the game to count
down the pot. When you bet, place your chips directly in front of
you. The dealer will make sure that you have the right number and
sweep them into the pot.
One Chip Rule
In some cardrooms, the chip denominations and game stakes are incommensurate.
For example, a $3-$6 game might use $1 and $5 chips, instead of
the more sensible $3 chip. The one-chip rule says that using a large-denomination
chip is just a call, even though the chip may be big enough to cover
a raise. If you don't have exact change, it is best to verbally
state your action when throwing that large chip into the pot. For
example, suppose you are playing in a $1-$5 spread-limit game, the
bet is $2 to you, and you have only $5 chips. Silently tossing a
$5 chip out means you call the $2 bet. If you want to raise to $4
or $5, you must say so *before* your chip hits the felt. Whatever
your action, the dealer will make any required change at the end
of the betting round. Don't make change for yourself out of the
In a game like Hold'em, it is possible to know that you hold "the
nuts" and cannot be beaten. If this happens when all the cards are
out and you get in a raising war with someone, don't stop! Raise
until one of you runs out of chips. If there is the possibility
of a tie, the rest of the table may clamor for you to call, since
you "obviously" both have the same hand. Ignore the rabble. You'll
be surprised how many of your opponents turn out to be bona fide
Hands end in one of three ways: one person bets and everyone else
folds, one person bets on the final round and at least one person
calls, or everybody checks on the final round. If everybody folds
to a bet, the bettor need not show the winning cards and will usually
toss them to the dealer face down. If somebody calls on the end,
the person who bet or raised most recently is *supposed* to immediately
show, or "open", their cards. They may delay doing so in a rude
attempt to induce another player to show their hand in impatience,
and then muck their own hand if it is not a winner. Don't do this
yourself. Show your hand immediately if you get called. If you have
called a bet, wait for the bettor to show, then show your own hand
if it's better. If the final round is checked down, in most cardrooms
everyone is supposed to open their hands immediately. Sometimes
everyone will wait for someone else to show first, resulting in
a time-wasting deadlock. Break the chain and show your cards.
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
Raking in the Pot
As you win your first pot, the excitement within you will drive
you beyond the realm of rational behavior, and you will immediately
lunge to scoop up the precious chips with both arms. Despite the
fact that no other player had done this while you watched, despite
the fact that you read here not to do it, you WILL do it. Since
every dealer has a witty admonition prepared for this moment, maybe
it's all for the best. But next time, let the dealer push it to
Touching Cards or Chips
Don't. Only touch your own cards and chips. Other players' chips
and cards, discards, board cards, the pot and everything else are
off-limits. Only the dealer touches the cards and pot.
Dealers make their living from tips. It is customary for the winner
of each pot to tip the dealer 50 cents to a dollar, depending on
locale and the stakes. Sometimes you will see players tip several
dollars for a big pot or an extremely unlikely suckout. Sometimes
you will see players stiff the dealer if the pot was tiny or split
between two players. This is a personal issue, but imitating the
other players is a good start.
Occasionally the dealer or a player may make a mistake, such as
miscalling the winning hand at the showdown. If you are the victim
of such a mistake, call it out immediately and do not let the game
proceed. If your opponent is the victim, let your conscience be
your guide; many see no ethical dilemma in remaining silent. If
you are not involved in the pot, you must judge the texture of the
game to determine whether to speak up. In general, the higher the
stakes, the more likely you should keep your mouth shut.
Taking a Break
You are free to get up to stretch your legs, visit the restroom
and so on. Ask the dealer how long you may be away from your seat;
20 or 30 minutes is typical. It is customary to leave your chips
sitting on the table; part of the dealer's job is to keep them safe.
If you miss your blind(s) while away, you may have to make them
up when you return, or you may be asked to sit out a few more hands
until they reach you again. If several players are gone from a table,
they may all be called back to keep the game going; those who don't
return in time forfeit their seats.
If you are in the happy situation of having too many chips, you
may request a "color change" (except in Atlantic City). You can
fill up a rack or two with your excess chips and will receive a
few large denomination chips in return. These large chips are still
in play, but at least you aren't inconvenienced by a mountain of
chips in front of you. Remember the one chip rule when betting with
Leave whenever you feel like it. You never have an obligation to
stay at the table, even if you've won a fortune. You should definitely
leave if you are tired, losing more than you expect, or have other
reasons to believe you are not playing your best game. Depending
on the cardroom, you can redeem your chips for cash with a chip-runner
or floorman or at the cashier's cage.
Last but not least is the matter of the house take. Somebody has
to maintain the tastefully opulent furnishings and pay the electric
bill. The money taken by the house is called the "drop", since it
is dropped down a slot in the table at the end of each hand. The
house will choose one of three ways to charge you to play.
- Time Charge
- A simple "time charge" is common in higher limit games and at
some small games: seats are rented by the half hour, at rates
ranging from $4 to $10 or so, depending on the stakes. This method
charges all players equally.
- Other cardrooms will "rake" a percentage of the final pot, up
to some maximum, before awarding it to the winning player. The
usual rake is either 5% or 10%, capped at $3 or $4. If the pot
is raked, the dealer will remove chips from the pot as it grows,
setting them aside until the hand is over and they are dropped
into a slot in the table. This method favors the tight player
who enters few pots but wins a large fraction of them.
- Button Charge
- A simpler method is to collect a fixed amount at the start of
each hand; one player, usually the one with the dealer button,
pays the entire amount of the drop. Depending on house rules,
this "button charge" of $2-$4 may or may not play as a bet. If
the chips do play as a bet, this method also favors the tighter
players, but not nearly as much as the rake does.
Regardless of the mechanism, a cardroom will try to drop about
$80-$120 per hour at a $3-$6 table. The exact amount is most dependent
on the local cost of doing business: Nevada is low, California and
Atlantic City are high. Since there are 7-10 players at the table,
expect to pay somewhere from $7 to $14 per hour just to sit down.
Add $2-$4 per hour for dealer tips and you see why most low-limit
players are long-run losers.
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.
- Q:P6 What are some good books about poker?
- A:P6 [Michael Maurer, December 1994]
All thinking poker players should have this book on their shelf:
David Sklansky, "The Theory of
Poker" (formerly titled "Winning Poker"), Two Plus Two Publishing,
1992, $30. ISBN 1-880685-00-0.
Beginners will benefit from the following:
Dan Kimberg, "Serious Poker", Dan Kimberg Books,
2000, $13. ISBN: 0-970378-90-4.
Lou Krieger and
Richard Harroch, "Poker
for Dummies", IDG Books Worldwide, 2000, $15. ISBN 0-764552-32-5.
Mason Malmuth and Lynne Loomis, "Fundamentals
of Poker", Two Plus Two Publishing, 1992, $4. 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
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,
$30. ISBN 1-880685-01-9.
These works by fellow rec.gamblers have received favorable reviews:
Lee Jones, "Winning
Low-Limit Holdem", ConJelCo, 1994, $25. ISBN 1-886070-15-6.
Lou Krieger, "Hold'em Excellence", ConJelCo, 2000, $20.
ISBN 1-886070-14-8 .
Beginning Seven Card Stud players must read this small spiral-bound
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, "Mike Caro's Book of Tells - The Body
Language of Poker." Title from Planet Poker, http://www.planetpoker.com/mcu/mc_books.htm.
Many of these books are available to rec.gamblers with an
Internet discount from ConJelCo.
See Dan Kimberg's Poker Reading Page at http://www.kimberg.com/poker/reviews.html
for other publishers and for some unsolicited reviews that have
appeared on the net. Nick Christenson reviews an amazing number
of books at http://www.jetcafe.org/~npc/reviews/gambling/index.html.
- Q:P7 What are some good magazines about poker?
- A:P7 [Michael Maurer]
Card Player is the best established periodical for poker
players. Each issue has several columns specifically about poker
strategy, including regular features by Mike Caro and other household
names. It lists schedules for small daily and weekly tournaments
in the U.S. and Europe and reports large tournament results. Other
sections cover gambling and the law, cardroom management, sports
betting and general gambling news. Because it is financed largely
by casino industry advertisements, it does not print unfavorable
casino news and is not a good place to find a balanced review of
a cardroom. It is available free in most cardrooms and offers subscriptions
at first-class and bulk-mail rates.
The Card Player
3140 S. Polaris #8
Las Vegas, NV 89102
(702) 871-2674 FAX
Another magazine is Poker Digest magazine. Some of the popular
writers formerly at Card Player are now regular contributors. Find
out more from
1455 E. Tropicana Suite #300
Las Vegas, NV 89119
- Q:P8 What computer poker programs are best
for my PC or Mac?
- A:P8 [Hans Ruegg, John Salmom]
There are many poker programs available but the quality of them
ranges from terrible to fairly good. The following are worth considering:
Wilson Software Turbo Series
Seperate games are available for Texas Holdem, 7-card stud, Omaha-8
and Omaha High. There are both ring-game and tournament versions.
Runs under DOS.
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
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).
Masque World Series of Poker Adventure
Plays Texas Holdem, 7-card stud and Omaha. Also plays blackjack
and other casino games. Runs under DOS.
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
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.
Shareware for Macintosh, with nice graphics and GUI. See http://www.ouzts.net/iPoker/.
Hotpoker (formerly Netpoker)
Hotpoker (http://www.hotpoker.com/) is a suite of programs
for multi-player hold'em over the internet. C source for Netpoker
used to be available; I'm not sure about Hotpoker.
If you want to write some of your own poker software, a fast poker
hand evaluator is available at ftp://ftp.csua.berkeley.edu/pub/rec.gambling/poker/poker.tar.gz.
It is in C but uses some Gnu C extensions.
- Q:P9 What is IRC poker and how can I play?
- A:P9 [Michael Maurer, February 1998]
See also http://www.poker.net/irc.html for the
IRC poker is a real-time network poker game that allows people
from around the world to play poker with each other via the Internet.
The stakes are "etherbucks", which is to say imaginary. Each player's
imaginary bankroll is recorded from session to session, and rankings
of both bankroll and earning rate inspire competitiveness. An automatic
program serves as the dealer and controls the action. World Wide
Web users can find out more about the dealer program by looking
Note: don't confuse this IRC poker game with the older 5-card draw
games on regular IRC (http://www.mcgill.ca/services/IRC_Poker/homepage.html)
or undernet IRC (http://www.atlantic.net/~phod).
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. 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. If you get Gpkr you can ignore most of
what follows, since the Gpkr graphical interface takes care of the
details behind the scenes.
On the Macintosh, Larry Weinberg's McPoker is the client
of choice; see http://www.ghosteffects.com/McPoker.html.
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 or other
system, you will have to obtain a client by FTP. 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
An excellent generic 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 126.96.36.199
where '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
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 bet
On 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.
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 11/2/1999 this site was not responding.]
- Q:P10 What skills are important for Texas
- A:P10 [Michael Hall]
(Hold 'em) Poker Skills in Order of Importance
Disclaimer: I'm a poker novice, not an expert.
- 0. Table selection
- 1. Hand selection
- 2. Reading opponents' hands
- 3. Opponent assessment
- 4. Heads up play, bluffing, and semi-bluffing
- 5. Seat selection
- 6. Check-raising
- 7. Getting tells
- 8. Pot odds calculations
The exact order of importance of skills varies by game type. For
example, you cannot read your opponent when your opponent does not
know what he has. The list above is geared towards mid-level games
where some sanity prevails but the game is not at an expert level
0. Table Selection.
By far the most important skill is table selection, so it ranks
better than #1, it's #0. It doesn't matter how well you play if
you are always picking the games with no fish where even an expert
can't beat the rake. Most of your income will come from a few very
bad players. If you play fairly well, you won't lose much to the
better players, nor win much from the slightly inferior players;
it's the fish that count.
1. Hand selection
Now that you've found your table with a live one or two, be patient.
More than just having the discipline to play good hands and the
stomach for surviving the variance, you should realize that most
of our income in Hold 'em comes from AA and KK, with notable mention
to the other pocket pairs and AK. Your object is to not lose too
much while waiting for these premium hands, and particularly not
to lose too much to these hands when other players get them. At
$10-$20 and below, go ahead and make it 3 bets if you can before
the flop with your AA or KK; you'll be surprised at how little respect
you get with people calling you all the way to the river even though
your betting is screaming "I HAVE POCKET ACES!!!" And respect preflop
raises done by other players, dumping a lot of hands you would normally
play such as AT and KJ or even AJ and KQ, as you don't want to make
top pair versus an overpair. On the flop, don't bet into someone
who has made it three bets unless you can beat the shit out of AA
and KK and *want* to be raised back and then just call and go for
a check-raise on the turn.
2. Reading opponents' hands
Now, think about the range of hands and their probabilities that
your opponents could have. Initially, when the players receive their
first two cards, every possible two card hand is equally probable
(unless you start grouping them like 87 offsuit, pocket aces, etc.,
but you get the idea.) Every action a player takes gives you information
that you can use to adjust these probabilities. It's a Bayesian
inference problem. Unfortunately, actually applying Bayes' rule
exactly is beyond any puny human brain's capability. So, you make
a major approximation and essentially just keep around a set of
possible hands, which you then prune down as action take place.
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.
3. Opponent assessment
As play goes along, give yourself a running commentary of the events,
"she open-raises, he folds, he cold-calls...". You must make a lot
of mental notes based on this, and you must do this even when you're
not in a hand, because in addition to being useful during a hand,
it's useful for later hands. You want to see the frequency with
which a player sees the flop, the frequency with which a player
defends his blinds from raises, and the hands a player open-raises
with, raises with, reraises with, cold-calls with, and just calls
with. This in conjunction with narrowing down the hands above will
often give you a good idea of what's going on even when there is
no showdown. Your goal is to stereotype each player, as well as
to note particular idiosyncrasies of the individuals for use not
only now but in future sessions.
4. Heads up play, semi-bluffing, and bluffing
Especially when heads-up, you should be constantly applying pressure
to the other player to make him fold. You may reraise when you think
you're either beaten badly or your opponent is bluffing. It's a
bit like chess or wargames, with attacks, feints, counterattacks,
and graceful retreats. This is part of the "feel" of poker that's
hard to put into words, but hopefully you get the idea. Bluffing
and semi-bluffing is important to keep yourself unpredictable, and
with since you're keeping track of the ranges of plausible hands,
it's quite likely you'll often know where your opponent stands.
Cold bluffing is usually restricted to the river, where you might
bet into one or two opponents (who might fold) if you have no chance
of winning the pot if there is a showdown. Semi-bluffing is betting
with a hand that is not likely best but has some big outs. Your
opponent may fold immediately, and if not, you may hit your out
and your opponent may seriously misread you. There is an important
balance here; you must have sufficiently tight hand selection criteria
such that when you do bet your opponent is positively terrified
that you may have a big hand like an overpair. Semi-bluffing is
very powerful, because you've been so careful in choosing your starting
hands that even if you aren't there yet you are likely to get there.
5. Seat selection
Generally, you want the loose aggressive players to your right
and the tight passive players to your left. This is so that you
can see a raise coming before calling the first bet. However, if
the game is tight enough that it is being folded around to the blinds
often, then you want some very tight passive players in the two
seats to your right, so that your blinds will not be stolen. This
is a very important skill, and just because you've found a good
table, doesn't mean that every seat at that table would be a winning
seat on average for you.
Because the nature of fixed limit Hold 'em makes calling one bet
often correct for very weak hands, it's difficult to protect your
hand. A major weapon you have to protect your hand is check-raising.
However, you must be conscious of where you think the bettor will
be. Typically, if you had a made but vulnerable hand you would check
in early position if you thought there would be a bet in late position;
you then raise and the players in between face two bets plus a risk
of a reraise by the late position player, making it difficult for
them to call. If you have an invulnerable hand that you want to
make everyone pay you through the nose for, then you would check
in early position if you thought there would be an early position
bet, and then you would raise after everyone trailed in calling
behind. The down side of check-raising is that you risk giving a
free card if no one bets.
7. Getting tells
Be aware of tells. If a player has his hands on his chips and is
leaning forward, all ready to raise if you bet, usually this is
an act intended to get you to just check, as the player in fact
does not what to raise you or maybe even call a bet. Two other incredibly
valuable tells are the "what the heck, I raise" tell (get *out*,
he has a monster!) and the "let me check to see if I have one of
that suit with three on the board" tell (so you know he doesn't
have a flush already.) Remember that if they think they're being
watched, players typically act the opposite of what they have.
8. Pot odds calculations
Be aware of pot odds. You can count the number of "outs" you have
to estimate if calling is a positive expected value play. You may
be surprised that I rank this so low. Although it is a subjective
opinion, particularly when heads up it's much more important outplay
your opponent rather than outdraw him. In loose games, outdrawing
becomes much more important, but then the pots are so big that you
usually have odds for any half way reasonable draw anyway.
- Q:P11 What is a good preflop strategy for
- A:P11 [Abdul Jalib]
Abdul Jalib describes a carefully thought out preflop strategy
- Q:P12What is a good third street strategy
for Seven Card Stud?
- A:P12 [JP Massar]
Two Plus Two Publishing has requested that this section be removed
from the FAQ. Until this issue is resolved, we are complying
with their request.
- Q:P13 Why are poker hands ranked the way
- A:P13 [Michael Maurer, Darse Billings, Roy Hashimoto]
The standard poker hands are ranked based on the probability of
their being dealt pat in 5 cards from a full 52-card deck. The following
table lists the hands in order of increasing frequency, and shows
how many ways each hand can be dealt in 3, 5, and 7 cards.
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 2,598,960 133,784,560
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.
- Q:P14 Why are ace-hi flushes ranked highest,
when it's much harder to get a seven-hi flush? And similarly for
- A:P14 [Michael Maurer, Giancarlo DiPierro]
- [Michael Maurer's original answer:] Only the classes themselves
(flush, straight, etc) are ranked by the probability of getting
them in five cards. Within each class we use an arbitrary system
to rank hands of the same type. For example, our arbitrary system
ranks four aces higher than four deuces, even though the hands
occur with the same frequency. Similarly, flushes are ranked by
the highest card, with the next highest card breaking ties, and
so on down to the fifth card. This has the curious effect of creating
many more ace-hi flushes than any other kind, because any flush
that contains an ace is "ace-hi", regardless of the other cards.
Thus, although 490 of the 1277 flushes in each suit contain a
seven, only four of them are seven-hi flushes: 76542, 76532, 76432,
and 75432. The median flush turns out to be KJT42.
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.
[Giancarlo DiPierro suggests a fresh interpretation:] You've figured
it out. Flushes are not correctly ranked according to their mathematical
probability. The ranking of flushes and no-pair hands by the highest
card (hence the term "high-card" for no-pair hands) that is commonly
used around the world today is an arbitrary system that likely dates
back to when someone first started betting on poker hands.
The correct way to rank these hands according to how hard they
are be dealt becomes clear if you have ever played lowball or any
high-low split game. In those games, low hands are ranked by the
worst card, not the best card. Any 6-high low hand is ranked higher
than any 7-high low hand because a 6-high is dealt three times less
frequently than a 7-high. It doesn't matter if the lowest card in
the 7-high hand is an ace and the lowest card in the 6-high hand
is only a deuce, the 6-high wins.
Applying that principle to flushes and no-pair hands in high poker,
a 9-low hand is dealt about three times less frequently than an
8-low and about seven times less frequently than a 7-low. So the
9-low should ranked higher, even if the 7-low contains an ace and
the 9-low does not. In any situation where unpaired cards are determining
the ranking of a hand, whether it is a flush, no-pair, or the side
cards in hands with trips of equal rank, the worst card -- the lowest
one -- should be used for the ranking.
This concept also applies to two pair hands -- the mathematically
correct way of ranking them would be to use the value of the lower
pair. Kings-under-aces is twice as rare as any queens-under hand,
three times are rare as jacks-under, four times as rare as tens-under,
and twelve times as rare as dueces-under -- the easiest two pair
to make. The next time your queens-under-kings loses to a pair of
aces that turns into aces-and-dueces on the river, you can feel
justified that mathematically, at least, you had the better hand!
- Q:P15 What is the correct ranking for 3-card
- A:P15 [Darse Billings]
The standard ranking of poker hands is based on their frequency
of occurrence in a five card hand. In three card hands the relative
frequency of hands is different, so different in fact that three
of a kind beats a straight, and a straight beats a flush.
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
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 0.7439
In 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.
- Q:P16What are my chances of sucking out on
my opponent in Hold'em?
- A:P16 [Jason Steinhorn]
The following is an extension of the probability table offered
by Sklansky and Malmuth in their Hold'em For Advanced Players. It
lists the probability (%) and odds (X:1) of making any given hand
on the turn, the river, or combined turn and river, given the number
of outs for the hand.
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
Mike Caro has published an extensive set of tables for draw, stud, holdem,
and lowball at http://www.planetpoker.com/mcu/mc_statistictables.htm.
- Q:P17 What does pot-limit mean?
- A:P17 [Steve Brecher]
This is an explanation of bet size limits in pot limit poker.
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."
- 1, 2, and 5 blinds. 3 times 5 = 15; 15 + 1 + 2 = 18. Assuming
that the minimum betting unit is 5, the maximum initial bring-in
would be 18 rounded up to become 20 -- a raise of 15.
- With 1, 2, and 5 blinds, someone brings it in for 10. The maximum
bet of the next to act would be 3 times 10 = 30, plus the total
blinds of 7, rounded up to 40 -- a raise of 30.
- The pot contains, say, 1 unit. Suppose each successive bettor
wishes to raise the maximum; how fast will the bets increase?
size of pot before 3 x previous bet
previous bet previous bet + size of pot before
= next bet
1 - 1
1 1 4
2 4 14
6 14 48
20 48 164
68 164 560
232 560 1912
So, if the initial pot size were $100, the seventh maniacal
raiser would be making a total bet of $191,200. The action can
Q: What is half-pot-limit?
A: [David Zanetti, March 2000]
In half-pot betting the maximum bet is half of whatever is in the
pot. In a head-to-head contest, HP pots and bets double with each
additional bet or raise, so four bets or raises increase the pot
by a factor of 2 x 2 x 2 x 2, or sixteen times. Pot-sized bets triple
the pot, giving 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 or eighty-one times the original pot
after four bets or raises, in a head-to-head contest.
Half-pot is the smallest of the big-bet games, and like its big
brothers pot-limit and no-limit, it provides plenty of scope for
using position and well timed bluffs to win with inferior hands,
and the pot builds quickly when you are betting for value. At the
same time the more moderate bet sizes mean that half-pot games last
much longer than pot-limit or no-limit games with a given amount
of money available. Half-pot games are much easier to keep alive
than pot-limit and no-limit games, and this alone makes them worthy
of consideration as a big-bet option.
Half-pot, like limit-betting, is a game which provides reasonable
odds for a call -- 3/1 in a head to head contest, as opposed to
2/1 in pot-limit -- and as a result there is more action and multi-way
pots than in pot-limit and no-limit. Because half-pot is a big-bet
game, bets and bluffs do not decrease in effect as the hand progresses,
as they do in limit, where a final round bet can be as little as
two or three percent of the pot. In effect, half-pot combines the
best features of pot-limit/no-limit, and limit-betting: it has multi-way
action, favorable pot-odds and reasonable bankroll longevity, like
limit-betting, and it's also an excellent bluffing form in which
pots and bets build quickly, like PL and NL.
Here is a chart comparing half-pot and pot-limit pot sizes and
bets in a 50-100 (cents or dollars, depending on your BR) game of
holdem. In this example the opener raises, and then bets at every
round, and one player (other than either of the blinds) calls at
every round, and then raises and is called at the end. The pot size
at the start of each round includes all bets and calls for the preceding
round, so the pot at the start of the second round in the half-pot
column is 150 (blinds) + 100 + 125 (call and raise) + 225 (call)
Start: call 100, raise 125 call 100, raise 250
Flop: pot 600, bet 300 pot 850, bet 850
Turn: pot 1200, bet 600 pot 2550, bet 2550
River: pot 2400, bet 1200 pot 7650, bet 7650
raise 2400, final pot 9600 raise 22,950, final pot 68,850
The rapid escalation of the bets means that a hand of PL in which
there is serious action at every round of play is something of a
rarity, because players with average bankrolls tap out after three
or four bets. Four rounds of action, even multi-way action, is common
in half-pot play.
Pot-limit is good, but half-pot lasts longer.
While it is perfectly understandable that some players will always
prefer pot-limit to half-pot -- and if bankroll conditions and the
players are right I like it myself -- I believe it is a mistake
to dismiss half-pot as a big-bet game. A half-pot game can survive
for years in a situation where a pot-limit game would quickly break
many of the available players and revert to limit-betting. The situation
in the USA and Canada -- where pot-limit games can be hard to find
-- is a reflection of this tendency of limit games to push out pot-limit.
Players who prefer big-bet poker but who spend most of their time
playing limit because the pot-limit game folded again, (or because
their own bankroll can't handle the big swings) might consider half-pot
betting as an alternative, if not to pot-limit, at least to limit-betting.
- Q:P18 What is a kill pot? What is a game
with a kill? What is a half kill? What is a straddle bet?
- A:P18 [Stephen Landrum]
Big bet (no-limit or pot-limit) poker frequently allows a player
to "kill the pot", by posting an amount equal to current to-go amount,
and the amount to-go (to come into the hand, or call preflop) is
now double the kill amount. In no-limit games, players are frequently
allowed to kill for more than the to-go amount, but for no more
than 1/2 of their stack. Some games allow overkills - after someone
has killed the pot, someone else can kill it again, raising the
amount to-go to double the new kill amount. There may be a limit
to the number of kills allowed on a hand, even though the game is
"no-limit". Killing the pot alters the order of action preflop/predraw.
The killers act after the blinds in the order in which they killed
the pot. After the flop or draw, action returns to its normal order.
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
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
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-
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.
- Q:P19 What is a poker tournament? How does
one work? What is a chip race? What is a satellite?
- A:P19 [Michael Maurer]
A poker tournament is an event in which poker players compete for
all or part of a prize pool. Each player pays an entry fee and initial
buy-in for a set number of tournament chips. The chips are non-negotiable,
having no cash value except at the end of the tournament. The contestants
play until all but one or a few are busted; the top finishers divide
up the prize pool according to the tournament rules. The game's
stakes increase with time to hasten the tournament's end.
Within this framework is considerable room for variation. Many
tournaments permit "rebuys", which allow a busted player to reenter
the tournament by immediately posting additional money to the prize
pool. The number of rebuys may be unlimited, limited to one or a
few, or limited to an initial period of the tournament. Rebuys may
also be available to players with short stacks or even to all active
players. Some tournaments allow an "add-on", a one-time opportunity
for all active players to buy a set number of additional chips,
again increasing the prize pool. The add-on may be available at
the end of the rebuy period, at the beginning of the tournament,
or, rarely, at any time during the rebuy period. The exchange rate
for rebuys and add-ons may be better than that for the initial buy-in.
A tournament with no rebuys is called a "freezeout". The betting
structure may be limit only, pot-limit, no-limit, or a mixture,
usually limit in the early rounds and no-limit later. Whatever the
betting structure, the blinds or betting limits increase regularly,
perhaps doubling every twenty minutes in a small tournament, or
more slowly in a large one.
The Chip Race
A confusing aspect of the increasing stakes is the way in which
some tournaments get rid of the small denomination chips. At some
point in the tournament, the dealer may "race off" all the red $5
chips. Each player puts all their red chips in front of them, and
the dealer converts them to as many green $25 chips as possible.
Whatever red chips remain are raced off: each player receives one
card for each chip, and the player receiving the highest card (ace,
king, etc) wins everybody's reds and converts them to greens. Bridge
suits break ties for the high card (spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs).
In other tournaments, the red chips may simply be rounded to green
chips. Although rounding can change the total amount of money in
play, it is better at preserving the players' relative chip positions.
Some tournaments use a new chip race technique that only awards
one chip to the player with the highest card. Then that player is
ineligible to receive more chips. If more chips remain, the player
having the next highest card receives the next chip and becomes
ineligible also, and so on until all chips are distributed.
The tournament usually continues until only one player remains.
The winner may take all the money, or the top finishers may divide
it up according to a set schedule. In most tournaments, tables are
consolidated and seats redrawn when a certain number of players
are eliminated, eventually resulting in a "final table" of contestants.
Sometimes, each table plays until only one player remains, and then
the survivors meet at a final table; this is called a "shootout".
Since the betting stakes are large at the final table and payout
schedules often favor first place, luck plays a major role and many
players prefer cutting a deal to playing the tournament to its conclusion.
A "satellite" is a tournament in which the prize is an entry to
another tournament. Large tournaments like the $10,000 No-limit
Hold'em event in the World Series of Poker generate a lot of satellites.
Typically, the satellite buy-in is around 1/10 the tournament buy-in,
so the top 10% of satellite finishers win a tournament buy-in. Sometimes
a satellite will even have mini-satellites, in which the prize is
an entry to the main satellite. A mini-satellite for the $10,000
event might have a $100 buy-in and award a $1,000 buyin to a satellite
that is awarding a $10,000 buy-in to the main event.
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.
Many small (under $100 buy-in) daily or weekly tournaments are
listed in the back pages of Card Player magazine. Be sure to call
the casino to see if they are having the tournament that day, since
the magazine is sometimes out of date.
- Q:P20 How does tournament strategy differ
from that of regular games?
- A:P20 [Ramsey]
Poker tournaments offer a chance to win a large sum of money for
a small, and known, fee and can be an enjoyable alternative to cash
poker. However the strategy required to be successful in a tournament
can differ significantly from that of the equivalent cash game.
This section is therefore offered as general advice to new, or inexperienced,
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.
Before the Tournament
Before entering a tournament make sure you know the way it is organised;
if it is a 'freezeout' then it will cost you only the initial fee.
If the tournament allows rebuys or add-ons then you need to know
the exact rules and costs of each of your options.
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.
The Early Stages
In the early stages of a tournament keep the following points in
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.
The Middle/Late Stages
In the middle and later stages of a tournament the structure of
the game gradually changes and the strategy necessary changes too:
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
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
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.
The Final Stage
If all goes well you will survive to the point where you are down
to the last few players and almost in the prize money.
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:
- A saver is agreed for all those players still in who subsequently
get eliminated outside the original prize scale. For example if
there are 6 players left and only 4 prizes then the players may
agree that the next 2 players eliminated will receive $100 each
and the prize for the eventual winner will be reduced by $200.
The game then continues.
- The whole of the prize fund is distributed amongst the remaining
players and the game is ended at this point. The amount each player
receives will be related to the number of chips they currently
have but the exact amount will be subject to negotiation.
- Part of the prize fund is distributed amongst the remaining
players and then the game continues; normally on the basis of
the winner takes all of the remaining prize money (and the trophy
If you are going to split the prize money on the basis of chips
held then it is probably easiest to let the experienced players
do the initial negotiating. They will ask if you would be happy
to accept $x and it is then up to you to accept or reject the offer.
If you are one of the chip leaders then you should expect to receive
less than your chips are worth whereas if you have less chips than
average you should insist on receiving more than their face value.
For example with 5 players left if you have 10% of the chips you
might expect 15% of the prize fund; if you have 40% of the chips
you might have to settle for 30-35% of the money.
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
[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://www.kimberg.com/poker/reviews.html
- Q:P21 What is the World Series of Poker?
What is the Tournament of Champions?
- A:P21 [Jim Albrecht, JP Massar]
Q: What is the World Series of Poker?
The World Series of Poker is a yearly series of poker tournaments
hosted by Binion's Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas. The official WSoP
home page is at http://www.conjelco.com/wsop.html.
Q: How do the WSOP 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 WSOP 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. What is the Tournament of Champions? [JP Massar,
The first annual TOC, organized by Mike Sexton and Chuck Humphrey
under the auspices of Tournament of Champions, Inc, was held at
the Orleans Hotel Casino in Las Vegas in July, 1999. To enter the
next TOC, you must win a TOC-recognized tournament sometime in the
preceding year. Thus, the TOC is a 'tournament of tournament
champions'. The 1st TOC was won by David Chiu.
The current format of the TOC is alternating rounds of Limit Texas
Hold 'em, Omaha Hi/Lo, and Seven Card Stud. The final three
tables are played using No Limit Hold 'em. The entry fee for the
year 2000 TOC is $2000.
- Q:P22 What the hell is Rumple Mintz?
- A:P22 [Michael Maurer]
Rumple Mintz is the official rec.gambling spelling of a brand of
100 proof peppermint schnapps called Rumple Minze, imported from
the Scharlachberg Distillery in Germany. Best served shaken over
ice for five seconds, then strained into a short glass. It is the
official drink of rec.gambler poker players everywhere, and is known
to increase poker skill dramatically. Legend has it that one rec.gambler
won $4000 in a 50-100 Hold'em game while under its spell, lived
to tell the tale in a trip report, and assured its eternal fame.
- Q:P23 What is a burn card and why is it dealt?
- A:P23 [Michael Maurer]
A burn card is a card dealt face down at the beginning of a round,
before any other cards are dealt. This card is not used in the play
of the hand. The main reason for this custom is to guard against
marked cards. If the cards are marked, a player who can read the
backs will know what the top card on the deck is. In a flop-game
like Hold'em or Omaha, knowledge of the next board card is extremely
profitable. Knowledge of which card it will *not* be is slightly
useful, but much less so.
- Q:P24 What happens if there aren't enough
cards in the deck to deal the final card in 7-card stud?
- A:P24 [Michael Maurer]
The burn cards will be shuffled into the remaining deck. If there
are still not enough cards, a single community card will be dealt
face-up and used by all the players.
- Q:P25 What is the difference between a shill
and a proposition player? What skills are needed to be one?
- A:P25 [John Murphy]
A shill is paid by the house at an hourly rate, and plays with
house money. A prop is paid by the house and plays with his own
money. Many states require cardrooms to identify house players if
asked, but may not require them to do so otherwise. Shills and props
are directed to games by the house. This means that they may be
constantly shifted to tougher games, as non-house players boot them
out of seats in juicy games. The most important skill for a prop
is to be able to excel in all games, since they may be called to
play any game that the house offers, against players who specialize
in that game. Also, be they must be prepared to sit and wait if
all games are full.
- Q:P26 What is the Dead Man's Hand?
- A:P26 [Stephen Landrum]
Legend holds that Wild Bill Hickok was shot to death during a poker
game in Deadwood, South Dakota, and that the hand he held was two
pair, black aces and black eights. On that most people agree. The
fifth card is not known for certain. In order of credibility, the
following kickers have been suggested:
- Five of Diamonds
- The actual card is supposedly on display in Deadwood, previously
on display at the Stardust in Las Vegas.
- Nine of Diamonds
- Listed below in the glossary, this card was supposedly reported
by first hand accounts, and is used in a recreation in Deadwood.
- Queen of Clubs
- On display at Ripley's Believe it or Not.
- King of Spades
- Appeared in the 1936 movie The Plainsman with Gary Cooper
Q:P27 What are the Las Vegas poker room phone
- A:P27 [Dave Marshall, June 1994]
Here's a list of all the poker rooms in Las Vegas (Santa Fe, Boomtown,
and Henderson poker rooms not included) with addresses and the *direct*
phone number of the poker room. In one or two cases, the poker room
doesn't have a direct line, so the main casino line is used instead.
See bottom for the two 800 numbers I know of.
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?
- A:P28 [Joel Trammell, June 1997 -- note the stale date, any
volunteers for an update?]
Sometime around June 1997, the following casinos were spreading
the poker games listed:
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
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
- Q:P30 When can I meet and play poker with
fellow r.g.pers? What are BARGE, FARGO, etc?
- A:P30 [William Chen, November 1999]
Big Annual Rec.Gambling Excursion
Las Vegas, NV
Beginning of August [August 1-5, 2001]
Chuck Weinstock <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mike Zimmers <email@example.com>
Foxwoods Annual Rec.Gambling Outing
October [mid-October, 2001]
Don Perry <firstname.lastname@example.org>
November [November 2-4, 2001]
Randy "Mitch" Collack <RMITCHCOLL@aol.com>
June [June 7-9, 2001]
Las Vegas, NV
Alan Bostick <email@example.com>
Alan informs me he won't have time to organize it this year!
Extraordinary Southern California Annual Recreational
Gaming Outing and Tournament
Los Angeles, CA
Near Valentine's Day [February 8 - 10, 2001 at the Bicycle Casino]
Lou Krieger <LouKrieger@aol.com>
ATLantic City ARGE
Atlantic City, NJ
Late March [March 16-18, 2001 at the Tropicana]
The Annual Rec.Gambling Entry Tournament
Las Vegas, NV
First held in 1994. Usually occurs during the first week of WSOP
Ken Kubey <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Q:P31 Where can I player online poker against
real people for real money? Is it legal? Is it safe?
- A:P31 [Michael Maurer, November 1999. Contributions from
- Ken Churilla maintains a list of online poker rooms at http://www.gocee.com/poker/pokerplay.htm.
As of November 1999, there were about a half-dozen sites offering
live games against real people for real money. Betting stakes
ranged from $2-$4 to $10-$20, with rakes in the 5% or 10% range
with a maximum of $3 or $4 per hand. The usual procedure
is to establish an account with the cardroom by making a deposit,
usually through a third-party clearing agency, either by check
or credit card.
[Geary:] The idea of online poker has some advantages over the
usual kind. You don't have to drive to a casino. You
can play in your underwear. You can smoke or breathe clean
air, according to your pleasure. You don't have to tip the
dealer; plus, the lower operating costs of online cardrooms may
be passed on to players. You can sing along to your music
without disturbing anyone. You have the ultimate poker face.
You can't be mugged in the parking lot. And finally, online
poker attracts players who have never been inside a real cardroom
and thus may not be that sophisticated in their play.
[Maurer:] Is it legal? As of this writing, the issue is ambiguous
in most U.S. states and at the U.S. federal level. Most of
the cardroom sites are operated from the Caribbean or Central America.
Existing laws tend to target illegal gambling operators rather than
the players, but since the online operators are out of reach there
is political pressure to modify this approach. In the U.S.,
several federal bills have been proposed that regulate or forbid
online wagers. You're on your own until legal systems catch
up with technology.
Is it safe? The jury is also still out on this one. There are a
number of risks. First is the ease of collusion among players.
The magnitude of this risk is a matter of ongoing debate, but it
is possible for your opponents to communicate secretly or even be
the same person. Second is the possibility that the cardroom
will not honor a redemption request, that is, will stiff you when
you ask for your money. Third is the possibility that the
technology is not secure, allowing others to compromise the game's
or site's integrity. This could take any number of forms,
from others knowing your cards, knowing what cards will be dealt
next, changing what cards will be dealt next, or even impersonating
you and withdrawing your money. Fourth is the possibility
that an insider at the cardroom will take advantage of existing
security flaws or secretly create new ones to favor their accomplices
during play. Fifth is the chance that a cardroom insider will
compile records of your play and reveal them to your opponents for
strategic or tactical analysis. Sixth is the chance that you
will be found guilty of a crime in some jurisdiction, perhaps not
even your own, simply for playing. For example, if your internet
traffic is routed through Virginia, as much of it is, are your internet
activities subject to Virginia law? Seventh is the chance
that opening an offshore account will bring other aspects of your
life under the scrutiny of authorities, for example, by increasing
the chances of an IRS tax audit.
You might notice that many of these risks exist in real cardrooms.
It is likely that some risks will be greater in the online world
and that some will be lesser. At least one of the online cardrooms
takes the precaution of applying collusion detection algorithms
to the database of hand histories. It may turn out that the
cost of collusion will be lower in the online world. Also,
in time, it is likely that some of the online cardrooms will seek
audited validation of their software and processes by one of the
major accounting firms. But for now, you have to judge for
yourself whether you can accept the risks.
- Q:P32 How do you play no-limit seven-card
stud? What is Mississippi Stud?
A:P32 [David Zanetti, March 2000]
It isn't practical to play classic seven-card stud with no-limit
betting, but here is a game called mississippi seven card stud,
which can. Deal the start cards as for conventional seven-card stud,
two down, one up; then deal each active player two more upcards,
then a fourth upcard, then a fifth upcard. In other words deal the
cards 3-2-1-1 instead of 3-1-1-1-(1).
Mississippi is more suited to half-pot, pot-limit and no-limit
betting than seven-card stud for two reasons: The four round structure
is less crippling financially than five rounds, and the fact that
only two hole cards out of seven are concealed means that hands
as small as trips of the biggest card showing can be the absolute
nuts at the end. Similarly, a straight or flush is the absolute
nuts if none of your opponents have paired their board, and aren't
showing three cards to a possible (bigger) straight or flush. In
seven-card stud (with it's third hole-card) trips, straights and
flushes can never be the nuts at the end because your opponent could
have quads or a full house without showing a pair, or a (bigger)
straight or flush if they have two cards to a straight or flush
Mississippi also plays well as a limit game. It's faster and more
active than seven-card stud because the two card individual flop
not only speeds up the game, it is better value than taking the
cards one at a time, and you get more callers at every round on
average as a result. Mississippi can be dealt with the last card
down for limit betting if you prefer it that way.
If you like mississippi, the layout also works very well with an
extra hole-card, a form called murrumbidgee stud: the deal is the
same as mississippi except everyone gets three hole-cards to start:
only two of the hole cards can be used at the end. Hands like (3s,Kc,Ac)3c,
have a lot of ways to improve: you'll make the flush 20% of the
time by the end, and there are eight cards which give you at least
kings up. (9s,Jc,Qc)10c will make either a straight or a flush over
40% of the time by the end, and if you flop Ko,8c or Kc, 8o, you
have a twenty-three way straight and flush draw. A king or an eight
on the flop, plus one club, gives you a twenty way straight and
flush draw. There is plenty of action in murrumbidgee, making it
an excellent short-handed game: it can be dealt for up to six players
Disclosure: the writer invented mississippi in mid 1998 and murrumbidgee
in early 1999.
- Q:P33 Can one overcome the rake at low limit
A:P33 [Bob Dainauski, August 2000]
In a game with no rake and no toking, there is no question that
in the long run (with the cards breaking even) the better players
will win money at the expense of the weaker players. The question
is: Can strong players win enough from the weak players to more
than cover the expenses in a game with a rake and/or toking?
How much do the rake and tokes cost us? It varies, but we can calculate
some ranges. Let's assume a 10 seat $2/$4 game dealing 40 hands
per hour. Assume a rake of 10% to $4. As a good player, you are
somewhat tighter than your opponents, so let's assume you win an
average of 3.5 pots per hour (4 would be your "fair share"). Your
average rake expense ranges from a probable low of around $1.46
per pot (from TTH sims) to a probable high of around twice that
amount (in line with the observations of experienced players in
certain games). Add in a $1 toke per pot, and your average expense
per hour likely falls somewhere between $8.50 and $14. In terms
of big bets, this is 2.25 to 3.5 big bets per hour. Across other
limits we can calculate expense ranges the same way:
10% rake to $4, $1 toke
Est. Total Hourly
Limit Expense (Big Bets)
10-20 0.76 to 0.88
5-10 1.23 to 1.66
3-6 1.91 to 2.62
2-4 2.25 to 3.50
Some games have lower expenses. For example, some on-line games
feature a rake of 5% to a max of $3 with, obviously, no toking.
The expenses here (From TTH sims) are:
5% rake to $3, $0 toke
Est. Total Hourly
Limit Expense (BB)
10-20 0.45 and up
5-10 0.55 and up
3-6 0.58 and up
2-4 0.53 and up
Now we need to estimate the win rate for a good player in a sufficiently
weak game. Unfortunately this resists a straightforward mathematical
solution. Our best source of information comes from the observations
of top theorists and experienced players. These sources have cited
approximately 1 BB per hour (after expenses) as the approximate
profit a strong player might expect at limits of 15-30 and up. This
corresponds to a pre-expense win rate of about 1.5 BB / hr. (TTH
sim showed a .54 BB expense factor for 15-30). Experienced players
have reported higher win rates in exceptionally weak low limit games.
Players in the softest of games report win rates as high as 3+ BB
per hour after expenses So, a good player in a weak enough game
can achieve a pre-expense win rate of 1.5 BB / hr and up, perhaps
exceeding 4 BB / hour in extremely favorable circumstances.
This indicates that the rake can be overcome in even the lowest
limit games if you are sufficiently strong and your opponents sufficiently
weak. Remember, if you're not one of the better players in a given
game, it wouldn't matter if there were no expenses, you'd still
Any given poker game at a given time comprises many factors: fixed
factors such as the rake, betting structure and rules; variable
factors such as the talent, mood, and motivation (etc.) of you opponents;
and personal factors such as your ability, discipline, and toking
level (etc.). Therefore, the question we should really be asking
is "Can I beat the players at *this* table at a rate sufficient
to overcome the particular expenses of *this* game?" This all points
back to the importance of skill #0, judicious table selection.