Poker only takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master… Newbie to online poker? Don’t fret! This guide aims to answer all the lingering questions any rookie might have, while at the same time learning all the important poker terms and raising your confidence to make you feel part of the global poker community
HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN PLAY POKER AT A TABLE?
Poker is officially played between 6 players or 9 players. ‘Heads up’ is played between two players. This can be played in two situations. One instance would be when a tournament or a regular poker game is reaching the end and will have the last two players standing (or sitting). The other way to play heads up would be to enter a heads-up poker game where only two players are present, playing one-on-one.
TEXAS HOLD’EM POKER
The dealer deals two cards at the start of each hand (round), which are not meant to be shown to the opponents. These are called hole cards or pocket cards and will be used in conjunction with the rest of the cards which the dealer lays out on the table, to make a poker hand. This will be explained further at a later stage.
WHAT ARE THE BLINDS IN POKER?
To get the action going, two forced bets, known as the ‘blinds’ will have to be placed into the ‘pot’ (potential winning amount) in order to have some excitement. Two types of blinds exist, ‘small blinds’ and ‘big blinds’. Big blinds are always double the amount of small blinds. The player sitting left of the dealer places the small blind on the table and the player sitting left of him places the big blind. The player next to him is the first one to decide if he wants to join the betting or not.
In cash games these blinds always stay the same and you need to switch to a different table if you want higher or lower blinds. In tournaments the blinds start as very small bets and increase in time increments (usually 15/20 mins), set by the body hosting the tournament. For instance, from a starting stack of 2,000 chips, blinds usually start at 25/50. When the time is up, blinds will increase to 50/100. Blinds will continue to increase every 15/20 mins until the tournament ends.
THE ORDER OF ACTIONS IN POKER
In poker, action moves to the left. Once the blinds are placed, the person on the left of the big blind will have to decide whether they want to play the hand. Players have 3 options to choose from. They can:
- Fold – This is when the player doesn’t want to participate in the hand and gives up the cards
- Call – This simply involves matching the big blind as a signal of participation in the hand
- Raise – This involves raising the bet at a minimum of double the big blinds and it’s a clear sign of a strong hand. For instance, if the blinds are set at 25/50, a raise has to be at a minimum of 100, doubling the big blind.
When someone raises over the blinds, each player, including the players who placed the blinds, will wait their turn to decide whether they want to call (participate by matching the raised bet). Once the bets are placed, the dealer has to deal a total of 5 cards, facing up, to complete a full round.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE FIRST ROUND OF BETS IN POKER?
Once the initial bets are placed, it’s time for the dealer to deal the first 3 cards, known as ‘the flop’. After the flop, another betting round takes place, starting from the player who placed the small blind, always moving to the left. Players are not obliged to bet, as they also have an option to ‘check’, which simply means they are not placing a bet and would like to see the next card for free. If everyone checks, the next card is dealt. If one player bets, once again, everyone will wait their turn to decide whether they decide to fold, call or raise.
The next card to be dealt is called ‘the turn’. This is the 4th card and another betting round occurs, giving players another chance to decide whether they want to stay in the hand. The last and final card is called the ‘river’. After the last round of betting, the action ends there, where players will have to reveal their hole cards. To make a poker hand, players must combine theirhole cards with any 3 of the 5 cards dealt by the dealer or use the cards dealt by the dealer to make a hand. The player with the best hand wins the pot.
WHAT IS A SIT N GO TOURNAMENT?
A Sit n Go tournament is a simple poker tournament, which here at Unibet, is played between 5 players or can also be played heads-up. Participating players will have to pay the ‘buy-in’, which is simply a term to describe the entry fee of the Sit n Go tournament. Included in the buy-in price, is a miniature fee called ‘rake’. Visit the poker rake article for more information
Sit n Go’s commence as soon as there are enough players at the table. They don’t have a fixed starting time. In a 5 seater Sit n Go, the top 2 places are paid, with the first place netting 66.6% of all winnings.
WHAT IS A POKER TOURNAMENT?
A poker tournament is played between a number of players, ranging from 10 and can go up to the thousands. Players are placed on different tables until the final table is reached. The tournament ends when a player wins all the chips of the tournament. Check out the different types of poker tournaments to pick the one most that is suitable to your needs.
DO DIFFERENT TYPES OF POKER TOURNAMENTS EXIST?
There are a number of different poker tournaments to choose from.
Freezout – No re-buys allowed
- Multi-buy – The ability to purchase multiple stacks instead of having just one
- Freeroll – Tournaments which are free to enter but still offer cash prizes or tournament tickets
- Guaranteed Tournaments (GTD) – A guaranteed prize pool as opposed to a collective prize pool based on the number of participants. For instance, if a €2,000 GTD tournament with a €10 buy-in has less than 200 players, the prize pool will still stay at €2,000. If the number of players exceeds 200, the GTD prize pool will increase.
- Satellites – These are qualification tournaments where the prize will be a ticket to a larger tournament. The prize could be for a ticket for both online and live tournaments.
- Bounty – A tournament that rewards a player for eliminating another.
WHAT IS A ‘RE-BUY’?
A re-buy is an opportunity to purchase another stack of chips once the initial starting stack has been lost. Re-buys are not possible in all tournaments. The tournament info or title would state whether re-buys are possible. For instance, in Freezout tournaments, players only get one stack of chips, but for a player who’s used to re-buys, this will change the dynamics and strategy of the game. It’s important to take into consideration the level of the blinds before purchasing the re-buy as this too is a factor. For instance, if a player is considering a re-buy of 2,000 chips and the blinds have already reached 100/200, the stack would only leave the player with a total of 10 big blinds. Re-buys are usually allowed to be purchased within the first hour of the tournament.
WHAT IS AN ‘ADD-ON’?
An add-on is very similar to a re-buy. The differences are that a player doesn’t need to be eliminated to purchase an add-on and can only be purchased right before the re-buy hour closes.
What is a Cash Game in Online Poker?
The rules of poker don’t change, regardless if it’s a cash game, Sit n Go or a freezout tournament. One of the main advantages of a cash game is the ability to join a game and leave whenever the player pleases. If a player is making profit and wants to leave the table, this is possible in a cash game. Another difference is that blinds do not go up in time increments, as they do in tournaments and Sit n Go’s. They remain unchanged, however the rake is accounted for differently.
COMMON POKER TERMINOLOGY
A very good and experienced poker player who is able to recognise patterns of play, has a great sense of reading players as well as having the ability to capitalize on amateur mistakes.
A ‘fish’ is referred to a newbie poker player who is easily identified at the poker table due to the style of play and lack of experience.
No Limit Poker
No limit is the amount of chips any player is able to bet in a single hand, with the maximum referred to as ‘All In’
This is the betting action which precedes the flop, hence the name. Players with strong pocket cards will try eliminate players from the hand by raising pre-flop to determine other players who also have a strong hand.
After each betting round, the dealer will discard the top card as a preventive measure for cheating.
Bluffing is acting as though the players hand is much stronger that it actually is, throwing off your opponents and stealing the pot.
On the button
Every player will get the chance to be the hypothetical dealer. When a player is in ‘on the button’ it simply means that the player will be the last one to act from each betting round. The importance of positioning in poker is crucial, as strategies and tactics shift in different positions
When two players or more have the same hand, the pot winnings are split evenly between the players involved.
The nuts is an expression used when a player has the best possible hand and can’t be beaten with the combination of cards dealt. This is a great situation to be in as it gives total control and security to the player and gives the ability to bet with confidence.
This occurs when a player has invested a lot of chips into the pot in a particular hand and feels that the investment is too big to fold, even though the hand might not be the strongest.
SHOULD I PLAY EVERY HAND IN POKER?
Oftentimes, amateur players might ask "What poker hands should I play?". It is not advisable nor wise to play every hand. The main reason boils down to statistics and odds. It is impossible to be profitable in every hand based on all the possible outcomes, especially on larger tables. An effective strategy would be to fold between 80-90% of hands and learn from other players, as opposed to learning from costly mistakes.
WHAT IS SLOWPLAYING IN POKER?
Slowplaying is a cunning and manipulative way of playing a hand. When a player has a very strong hand, they might opt to play the hand very slowly. The player with the strong hand might ‘check’ or just call bets which the opponent makes, making them believe the hand is not as strong as it truly is. This strategy will rope opponents in and can bring in the gold, however, played incorrectly, slowplaying tends to give other players the chance to build a strong hand as well as a lost opportunity to build a big pot.
WHAT IS THE BUBBLE?
The bubble is referred to the player who gets knocked out on the verge of getting paid. For instance, if 30 people are on the money from a tournament of 300 people, the person on the bubble would be the person who would have finished in the 31st place. It is always wise to keep track of positions on the leader board as this might change the strategy into a more passive one, until the person on the bubble is eliminated. This also creates opportunities for players with a high chip counts to take advantage of passive players who are protecting their chips during this vulnerable time.
DO’S AND DONT’S OF POKER
- Be firm and decisive – Indecisiveness shows weakness and projects disbelief in the hand
- Stay positive on the table – Being friendly and responding to other players in a positive way helps maintain a positive image and aids in not creating enemies
- Stay calm – Poker can be nerve wrecking, however it’s of utmost importance to remain level headed and emotions stay under control. Learn how to control your emotions in poker for a better bankroll
- Always remember the basics
- Don’t get too chatty - players who talk too much at the table might be giving away valuable information without being aware of it
- Don’t show others your level of skill - this can be done unintentionally by commenting on a hand or letting others know of your poker experience
- Don’t lose concentration – folding 80% - 90% might get players feeling restless, however losing concentration in poker is an amateur mistake. Instead try diverting your attention to other player’s strategy and tactics to gain insight and competitive advantage.
HOW IMPORTANT IS POSITIONING IN POKER?
Positioning is essential in poker and will change the dynamics of the hand depending on which position you’re in. The strength of the hand will vary according to the position a player is in, even when having the same cards. For instance, having ACE EIGHT when out of position (which simply means being the first to act), will be played completely different than if the player was the last to act. The more players are acting after you, the more vulnerable you will be to losing chips to raises and re-raises.
SPOTTING DANGER IN POKER
It’s always important to stay focused in poker and being aware of potential dangers in paramount to long term poker success. Some danger signs include:
- Raises and re-raises
- Chip stacks – Players with big stacks need to be approached carefully as they might change strategies and play more hands, having more chips to call more hands. On the other hand, smaller stacks won’t be too far from pushing ‘All-in’ which would require a hefty chunk of chips to call
- Over/under betting – In poker, it’s important to be aware how many chips are in the pot for any given hand and base your bets in proportion to the pot total. If there’s 500 chips in the pot, it would be odd if a player had to bet 2,000 chips and that could have been done for a number of reasons. Another danger sign would be from under betting. If a player bet 200 pre-flop, 450 after the flop, 700 on the turn but only 50 on the river, it’s surely a sign of danger or inexperience
Poker is a beautiful game. It’s not simply about the cards; you play the player, read the body language, analyse betting patterns, take risks and make tough decisions. Stay ahead of the game, be sure to read the other poker guides or view the basics of Texas hold ‘em poker video to recap.
How to Determine the Winning Hand in Texas Hold’Em
Another thing to keep in mind is that even with your one-pair hands, where most new players pay attention only to the pair, you need to be aware of the value of your total 5-card hand.
Another most common area of confusion for new online poker players is to determine who has the winning hand when both players have two-pair hands. Imagine that on the board there’s a 10 of clovers, 9 of hearts, 4 of clovers, 4 of diamonds and 5 of spades and one player turns over a 6 of diamonds and a 6 of clovers while another shows a 10 and a 3 of diamonds.
The best five-card hand for the player with the 6 of diamonds and 6 of clovers, is sixes and fours with a 10. Meanwhile the player holding the 10 and 3 of diamonds has tens and fours with a nine or a higher two-pair hand. This can be very tilting for the player with the poker pair.