Poker Playing Guide

Guide To Playing Poker From Viva Vegas

Hand Rankings

Royal flush
An Ace high straight-flush is called a Royal Flush and is the highest natural hand

Straight flush
Five cards in suit and sequence, Ace high or low

Four of a kind
Four cards of the same rank and one other

Full house
Three of one rank and two of another

Five cards in suit but not in sequence

Five cards in sequence but not in suit

Three of a kind
Three of the same rank plus two of two different ranks

Two pair

One pair

High card
no combination: as between two such hands the one with the highest card wins


The art of bluffing at poker

Bluffing is one the most famous of all poker concepts. A bluff is a bet or raise when you have an unlikely chance of winning the pot in case you call. E.g.: you have 6 of diamonds 5 of diamonds with a Q of diamonds T of diamonds 8 of hearts A of spades board. A 2 of hearts falls on the river and you bet. This is a bluff, because you have NO CHANCE to win the pot, should someone call.

There is also a notion of a semi-bluff: to bet or raise when you don’t have the best hand, but nevertheless you have chance to improve it to the best one.

In general, bluffing is profitable when your pot odds are better than the odds in case the other players fold. e.g. when you calculate the chance of your opponents folding is more than 20%, a £2 bet is profitable if the pot is more than £8. So, the most important factor in successful bluffing is to calculate the chances that your opponents will fold.

It is recommended that you mind the following points when deciding to bluff or not:

• 1. Number of the opponents:
The more opponents, the less are your chances to bluff successfully. Bluffs against more than three opponents are, as a rule, of no use.

• 2. Type of opponents:
It is easier to use bluffing against experienced players, than maniac or weak ones. That is because strong players can fold hands of medium value, and weak players tend to call even when their hands are weak, so it is hard to get them to fold.

• 3. How large the pot is.
The greater the pot – the harder to bluff. But, on the other hand, success in bluffing with a large pot can be more profitable and enjoyable.

• 4. Table image:
If you are known to bluff often, or were “caught” bluffing recently, it will be hard for you to bluff. Also, if your opponents are rather “tight” players (bet and raise only with strong hands), it is easier to bluff. “Loose” (often bluffing) players, as a rule, won’t give you such a possibility.

• 5. Opponents hands:
If you can tell from the way your opponents bet or raise how strong your opponents’ hands are, you can derive from the calculation their chances to fold as well. Remember, that you may not be the only person bluffing!

• 6. Position:
You can sometimes use your position to identify good bluffing opportunities. e.g. a widely used bluffing opportunity is to bet in last position when everyone has checked. Another bluffing opportunity is to bet out from the blinds when all “rags”, cards lower than a 9, or small pair flops.

• 7. Early or late betting rounds?:
Bluffing is more difficult on the river than on the earlier rounds of betting (though you will have a larger reward in the latter case).

• 8. Type of flop/boards:
Those flops or boards, which create a great possibility for having a strong hand, represent a considerable impediment to bluffs.

Poker Rules

Texas Hold’Em – the most popular version of Poker today. Up to ten players play at a time. Each player gets two down cards followed by five community cards which are dealt face-up in the centre of the table. This is how the game round goes:
• Blinds – First, the two players directly to the left of the dealer must post “blinds”, that is to place a bet before getting cards. This is to ensure that every winning hand wins some money. Since the dealer button moves on every game round, everyone has to post blinds at some point in the game.
The player to the immediate left of the dealer button posts the “small blind,” equal to half of the minimum stake (e.g. £2.50 for a £5/£10 game). The player to the left of the small blind posts the “big blind,” equal to the amount of the minimum stake (e.g. £5 for a £5/£10 game).
• Pocket Cards – After the blinds, first cards are dealt. Every player gets two cards face down. These are called pocket cards.
• Bet round 1 – Betting begins with the player immediately to the left of the big blind and continuing in a clockwise direction around the table. Every player can fold, call or raise. Raising is possible by the lower table stake (£5 in a £5/£10 game) only. Betting is explained in more detail below.
• The Flop Cards – Now three cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table. These cards are called the flop cards. These are “community” cards and can be used by all the players to make up their hand.
• Bet round 2 – Second round of betting follows. This is carried out exactly as the first betting round.
• The Turn Card – After the second round of betting, a fourth “community” card is dealt face up in the middle of the table. This is called the “Turn card”. It is followed by a third round of betting.
• Bet round 3 – This round, again, is carried out just like the first and the second, with one exception: raising is possible only by the higher table stake (£10 in a £5/£10 game).
• The River Card – Finally, a fifth and final “community” card is dealt. It is called the “River card” and is followed by a fourth and final round of betting.
• Bet round 4 – This final betting round is carried out exactly as the third.
• Showdown – After the final betting round, the best five-card hand is determined. Both the pocket cards and the community cards can be used to make up a hand. The player with the best five-card poker hand wins the pot. Players can also split the pot if they have the same hand. In the rare case of the best hand consisting of community cards only, the pot is divided between all the players left in the pot at the showdown. If you see that you are losing, and do not want to show your cards, you can Muck, that is to give up your hand and lose the pot. Otherwise you can Show to compare your hand with others.
• Start again – After a hand is completed and the pot taken by the winner, the dealer button is moved one player to the left, and the next hand begins.
• Betting system – The player left of the big blind starts the betting round, betting order goes around the table clockwise. Everyone is betting according to what they think their hand will lead to.
• Fold – If you don’t like your cards, you can fold. If you have posted a blind, made a bet or raised a bet, you will lose that money. But you will not lose any more. After folding, you are out of the game until the next game round.
• Check/Call – You can stay in the game by checking or calling. If no bet has been made before you, you can check without placing any money in the pot. If a bet has been made, you can call by placing the same amount in the pot.
• Bet/Raise/Re-raise – If you think you hand is good enough, you can make a bet. If another player has already made a bet, you can raise it; amounts are fixed by the table stakes. For example, in a £5/£10 table, bets are £5 in the first two rounds and £10 in the last two. There can be one bet and three raises in each round (bet, raise, re-raise, re-raise). After three raises the betting round is capped and the next card is dealt (or, if it is the final betting round, the best hand is determined).
• All-in – When a player runs out of chips during the course of a hand, he/she does not have to fold. Instead the player can choose to be All-in. When you are all-in, you call all your chips and the pot is divided into the main pot and side pot. All subsequent chips are hereafter added to the side pot. At the showdown if the “All-in” player does not have a winning hand, both the side pot and the main pot go to the winning hand, as usual. At the showdown if the “All-in” player has a winning hand, the main pot goes to the “All-in” player, and the side pot goes to the next best hand. When several players go All-in, multiple side pots are created. The pots are divided according to hand and order in which the players went All-in. If a player not all in at the showdown has the winning hand he wins all side pots and the main pot. If an all in player has the strongest hand he/she wins the pot or pots that were collected until he/she went All-in. Any all in player with a winning hand can only win the pot or pots they are involved in.
A Betting round continues until all players have folded or called the third raise, or until a bet has been called by all players (except the one who placed the bet) with no raise taking place.


Poker Tips

• 1. Play only the best starting hands.
If you are dealt a weak hand, fold quickly. One of the greatest mistakes of beginning players is to play a lot of hands, whereas top players typically play only 20-30% of their starting hands.
• 2. If you can’t beat them, don’t join them.
If you have a weak hand, and assume that the other players have good hands, fold. It’s better to fold and live to play another hand.
• 3. Be selective and aggressive.
Experienced poker players know when not to commit chips to a hand, and when to play to get more money in the pot. Aggressive players can win either by forcing others out of the hand, or by holding the best cards. Passive players can only win by holding the best cards at the showdown.
• 4. Study your opponents.
In online poker games, body language is irrelevant but studying the actions of your opponents can still give you an advantage. It is possible at many online poker rooms to observe a table before joining it, and even during a game one can learn a lot about the playing skills of different players. Watch how opponents bet, how much they bet, when they hesitate, and note in what position they are betting.
• 5. Use position.
In poker games, position is power. Acting after opponents is valuable because you garner clues about their hands while giving out minimal information regarding your own. Also, against one or two opponents, you can often take the pot with a mere bet if they’ve checked to you.
• 6. When losing, gear down.
If the cards are against you, play fewer hands, stay away from marginal hands, make opponents work hard to draw you out, and never play weak hands from a starting position.


Poker Terms

• Poker, like so many other pastimes and professions, has developed its own terminology. This guide includes common poker terms.

• All-in – If you run out of chips during a hand, but don’t wish to fold, you are All-in. This means you have the potential to win a share of the pot up to and including your last contribution to that pot. You cannot share in any bets added beyond that point. These bets form a side-pot.

• Away-from-table – In tournaments, you may not “sit out”. Rather, you may be “away-from-table” which means you are dealt into every hand, posting blinds when it’s your turn, and then folded when there is a raise before the flop, or a bet after the flop. When you are in a tournament and need to leave, time-out, you are automatically marked as “away-from-table”.

• Bad Beat – This term refers to a heavy favourite in a hand who loses to an opponent who was a severe underdog statistically speaking.

• Bet the Pot – This term is used in pot limit games. It means your bet matches the current amount in the pot. If, when your turn to bet, the pot was at £217, and you bet the pot, your bet is £217.

• Big Blind (limit poker) – In games using a blind to put money in play, the big blind is generally equal to the lower amount of the stakes for that game. In a £5/£10 game, the big blind is £5. The big blind follows the small blind, which is put up by the first player to the left of the dealer.

• Blind – This term refers to the required bets, called the small blind and the big blind used to put money into play. The blinds are mandatory bets and rotate around the table.

• Board – The community cards in Hold’em are collectively known as the board.

• Burn – In physical poker rooms, the top card of the deck is discarded prior to each round of dealing. The intent is to minimize the risk of cheating by knowing the next card.

• Buy-in – The amount of money you sit down in a game with.

• Call – When a player matches the prior bet on the table, that action is termed the call.

• Cap – The last permitted raise in a betting round is called the cap.

• Check – If there is no bet on the table and you do not wish to place a bet, that action is termed a check. You may only check when there are no prior bets.

• Collusion – A form of cheating where two or more players attempt to gain an unfair advantage by sharing information.

• Community Cards – Face up cards on the table that are shared by all players are termed community cards. Texas Hold’em and Omaha always have community cards.

• Dead Blind – In a situation where you have missed your blinds and wish to re-enter the game before your turn to post the big blind. You must post both blinds and the small blind is termed a dead blind, meaning it does not count towards calling a bet.

• Dead Hand – A hand no longer in the game.

• Down Cards – The face-down cards dealt to a player, also termed hole cards.

• Drawing Dead – This describes the situation when a player is trying to draw a card to complete a hand when there is already a hand that will beat it, even if made.

• Drop – To drop your hand when you decide not to go further with your hand; to return your cards to the muck. Same as fold.

• Face Down – Dealt cards that are not visible to other players.

• Face Up – Dealt cards that are visible to all players.

• Flop – In Texas Hold’em, the set of 3 face-up community cards or the first three cards on the board, all dealt at the same time.

• Flush – Any 5 cards in one hand that are all the same suit.

• Fold – Withdraw from further participation in the current hand.

• Forced Bet – A mandatory bet. In certain games, a player is required to bet, having sat-in the game.

• Four of a Kind – A great hand … all 4 of one rank. For example, 4 Tens.

• Freeroll – This term applies to poker tournaments where the entry fee, the stakes, or both the entry fee and stakes are waived. In some non-freeroll tournaments, the house may guarantee a minimum prize pool.

• Full House – A hand in which you have a combination of 3 of a kind, and a pair.

• Hand – A set of cards used by a player during a single round. Another word for a single round of shuffling, dealing, and betting.

• Heads Up – A game where only two players remain in contention for the pot.

• Head to Head – A game where only two players may participate.

• High Card – The card with the highest rank.

• High/Low – A variation of a game where the pot is split between the best hand and the worst hand. The worst hand is comprised of the 5 lowest cards. Most poker rooms consider 5, 4, 3, 2, A (the wheel) as the lowest possible hand, despite it also being a straight.

• Hold’em – Also called Texas Hold’em. One of the most popular poker games. Each player gets 2 down cards and can use 3, 4, or 5 of the community cards.

• Hole Cards – The down cards in a player’s hand.

• Inside Straight – The term applied when a player has 4 of 5 cards needed for a straight with the missing card being inside the sequence rather than at either end, and gets the missing card. For example, a player holding 3, 4, 5, 7 needs a 6 to complete the straight. Getting that 6 is termed “making the inside straight.”

• Jackpot – A bonus opportunity to win under specific circumstances set by the poker room.

• Kicker – The term for the card used to break ties between two of a kind or between Two Pair.

• Live Blind – A blind that counts towards any bet you call or raise.

• Main Pot – The initial pot of money. When one or more players go all-in, a side pot is created for each all-in player.

• Muck – As a noun, this refers to the pile of folded cards and discarded cards. As a verb, at showdown time, the act of returning a losing hand to the dealer facedown.

• Multi-Table Tournament – A tournament where players at more than one table compete, starting with equal numbers of chips, until one player has won all the chips. Prize payouts are a function of the number of entrants, and are posted on the tournaments page. Multi-table tournaments have a posted start time, and require registration in advance.

• No Limit – A variation of the betting rules in which each bet is unlimited up to the number of chips a player has on the table (NL).

• Omaha – A game in which each player receives 4 facedown cards and shares 5 community cards. The winning hand must use exactly 2 down cards and 3 community cards. This game also has a High/Low variant.

• Omaha High/Low – This game allows players to compete for a pot split between the highest and the lowest hands using 2 down cards and 3 community cards. A player may use different sets of cards to make up the best high and the best low hands.

• On the button – This term means you are in the dealer position in Texas Hold’em and Omaha games.

• Pair – This is a hand where the player’s best hand is made up of 2 cards of the same rank.

• Pass – Can be used in place of either check or fold depending on the context.

• Playing the Board – Using all the community cards in Hold’em as your best hand.

• Pocket Cards – The term for the two down cards at the start of the hand.

• Pot – The chips available to be won in any given hand.

• Pot Limit – A variation on betting where each player may bet up to the current amount in the pot (PL).

• Raise – The act of increasing the amount bet by a prior bettor.

• Rake – The amount of money, in chips, taken by the house as the service fee.

• Rank – See Hand Rank

• Re-buy – To get more chips during a game but not during a hand that you are in. This applies to real money and tournament play.

• Reducing – The act of removing chips from a table and returning immediately with fewer chips. Reducing is considered poor etiquette.

• River – The fifth and final community card. This card is also known as Fifth Street.

• Round – This refers to the dealing of a set of cards and associated betting. For example, the dealing of the river and the bets that follow are a round.

• Royal Flush – The best possible high hand. This is a straight flush from 10 through to Ace of the same suit.

• Showdown – After the final bet, when all players show their hands or muck, is known as the showdown.

• Side Pot – This is a pot created when a player goes all-in. The side pot is the pot available to those players not all-in at that point. There can, on occasion, be more than one side pot.

• Single Table Tournament – A poker table at which you may buy-in to a seat. All buy-in money goes to the prize pool. The prize pool is returned to the top finishers per the payout table on the tournaments page. A fee is normally required to play at this table. Players are staked to equal numbers of chips and play until one player has won all the chips. Single table tournaments begin as soon as the table has filled.

• Small Blind – In Hold’em and Omaha, this is the mandatory bet required of the player to the left of the dealer.

• Stakes – See buy-in.

• Straight – A hand in which the player has five cards in rank order. Suit does not matter. For example, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen.

• Straight Flush – A straight all of the same suit.

• Stud – The generic term for poker games where players receive the first card(s) down followed by some up cards where those up cards are exclusively for the use of that player. There may be a further down card as in 7 Card Stud.

• Suit – Any of the four sets (Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, and Spades) in a deck of cards.

• Texas Hold’em – The poker game where each player gets two down cards followed by five community cards face-up.

• Three of a kind – A hand consisting three cards of the same rank.

• Tournament Buy-In – The cost to enter a tournament. All buy-in money is returned to the players via the prize pool.

• Tournament Entry-Fee – A small fee the house charges to enter a tournament.

• Trips – A nickname for three of a kind.

• Turn – The nickname for the fourth community card in Hold’em and Omaha.

• Two Pair – A hand in which the player has two pairs of cards.

• Under-raise – This occurs when a player raises a prior bet but has to go all-in to do so with an amount less than the full raise.

• Up Card – A card dealt face up, so that all players may see it.

• Wheel – A nickname for the best low hand 5, 4, 3, 2, A.


Poker Etiquette

Playing Poker for the first time one learns that there is a certain code of etiquette for the game. The tips listed below are suitable for most poker games.

Dos and Don’ts in live poker games

• 1. Play at reasonable speed –
Every once in a while you are confronted with a situation where you must carefully consider your options, but after pausing to think, you must quickly get back to the game. If you consistently play at a slow speed, you will make the game less enjoyable for others.

• 2. Be polite –
Poker can sometimes be frustrating, but swearing at other players or being critical of their play is counterproductive. Don’t abuse the other players or the dealer.

• 3. Play in turn –
You should not fold your hand or leave your seat until it is your turn to bet.

• 4. Don’t reveal your cards before the showdown –
If you are folding, gently toss your cards to the dealer face down. If you expose them, accidentally or intentionally, this gives important information away, and can affect the outcome of a hand.

• 5. Don’t take chips off the table –
Winning players are tempted to take some of their chips off the table and pocket them, but proper poker etiquette obliges you to leave all of your chips on the table until you leave the game for good.

• 6. If you’re not in the hand, keep quiet –
If you’re not in the hand, you have no business affecting its outcome. Even body language or gestures can be very telling. Observers of poker games should make sure not to disturb the seated players: don’t comment, don’t ask questions and don’t stand so close as to make them uncomfortable.

• 7. Don’t abuse the dealer –
Throwing cards at the dealer or using foul language only brands you as an immature, unsophisticated player.

• 8. Don’t “splash the pot” –
When you make a bet, place your chips neatly in front of you in easily countable stacks within the dealer’s reach and let the dealer pull them into the pot. Tossing chips directly into the middle will not allow the other players to know if you put the correct number of chips in.

• 9. Don’t offer or ask for assistance from other players –
“One player to a hand” is a fundamental poker axiom. Asking for advice is considered bad form, as is offering help.

• 10. Don’t mis-declare your hand –
Don’t lie or joke about your hand.