Poker Tips
September 24, 2004 6:24 AM   Subscribe

Second question of the day (visio one just below was first) hope I am not pushing my luck. Have been roped into a poker game tonight. 6 players, 4 strangers, texas holdem, never played for money with more than one person, have no poker face and no basic strategy. Could anyone point me to a page or give me a golden rule or advice or something that I can use to get me through. I will learn the rules myself. Something I can get into my head in about an hour.
posted by kenaman to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total)
Here you go. Just be careful - that's how I lost my fire, dog's bone and fiddle strings!
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:34 AM on September 24, 2004

Response by poster: Smart Dalek thank you again. If I win a bone its yours.
posted by kenaman at 6:39 AM on September 24, 2004

You're either be playing for no money, a small amount of money or real money. The best option for a friendly game is a small amount of money -- you'll put more thought into whether to spend a dime than you have since you were six.

Some things to find out: Is it tournament-style, or can you buy in multiple times? That effects strategy because you need to determine how much do you want to play? If you want to play all night and can only buy in once, your only real choice is to play tight/weak (that is, only bet when you have great cards and get flustered when someone bluffs you). Much better to expect to buy in a few times (since it is your first game) and be a little experimental in your strategy.

If your play is not terrible, then you are likely to break even in the long haul, and in fact the only way for most average players to consistently make money is to play against people who are terrible. Don't be that person. (I'm pretty evenly matched against my competition, and so in the big picture, I basically break even.)

Also, are your blinds going to raise throughout the evening? If so, then being aggressive in the early rounds of betting can be advantageous because you can "steal" the blinds. But if the blinds are always small, it's often a better strategy to slow play -- i.e. you've got great cards but act disinterested and bet low for the first few rounds of betting in order to get your opponents to keep putting money in the pot, which they wouldn't do if they thought you had great cards. This can backfire on you, of course, because it allows people with longshot hands to stick around (like making a flush on the last card that will beat your three-of-a-kind, or whatever). But more often than not, I've found that slow-playing to be profitable.

The other bit of practicality to pick up is what's known as pot odds. Basically, if the ratio of (the bet to be made:what you could win) is less than the ratio of (the cards you need to have what you perceive to be the best hand:the number of unknown cards out there), then you should make the bet. So in addition to knowing what the best hands are, you also have to be able to fairly quickly determine what cards will give you those hands, and how likely they are to come up. (You also have to have an opinion about whether your best possible hand is truly better than your opponents'; making a flush does you know good if they have a full house.)

When you're down to about 25% of your original chips, you should be prepared to put all your chips in the pot when you have a couple of hole cards worth playing. Being short-stacked is agonizing -- you die a slow death. Better to go out boldly ... unless, again, the point is the camaraderie, in which you need to brace yourself to not care about winning.

Finally, the fundamental theorem of poker is this:

Whenever your opponents make the same decision they would have made if they could see your cards, you lose. Whenever your opponents make a different decision than they would have made if they could see your cards, you win. Whenever you make the same decision you would have made if you could see your opponents' cards, you win. Whenever you make a different decison than you would have if you could see your opponents cards, you lose.

Some friends and I have had a regular poker game for a few months and I'm missing my first one tonight. Win something for me.
posted by blueshammer at 6:58 AM on September 24, 2004 [2 favorites]

Here's something that isn't always immediately obvious. Think about the ratio of your required bet to stay in versus the money in the pot. Compare that to your odds of winning the hand. If the pot has 10 bucks and it's two dollars to you, you should stay in if you think you have even a 21% chance of winning. Even though you'll lose 4 out of 5, over the long haul, you should come out ahead this way.
posted by callmejay at 7:03 AM on September 24, 2004

Wow, I don't know if I've posted anything on any forum with some many typos and grammatical bungles. kenaman, hopefully you can read between the malapropisms.
posted by blueshammer at 7:05 AM on September 24, 2004

some many typos

Kill me now.
posted by blueshammer at 7:06 AM on September 24, 2004

The most important point to remember is:

You don't have to play every hand. Let the cards go around the table a few times (you will have to play from the blinds, of course), before you pick a good hand to play. Ease into this, and don't let the other players intimidate you.

Other points, as a beginner you may want to play only the best hands. Count your cards as if they were a blackjack hand, and only play those that add to 20, 21 or 22 (pair of aces). As you feel more comfortable, lower the minimum to 19.

Also, if you are not holding a pair in your hand and the flop does not improve your hand, fold.

Finally, don't try to bluff. Bet a good hand big, and hold back on a lesser hand. Wait until later in the evening to find an opportunity to bluff.
posted by mischief at 7:13 AM on September 24, 2004

Response by poster: Guys this is gold keep it coming.

I will come back to this thread on saturday night and let you know how I got on.
posted by kenaman at 7:26 AM on September 24, 2004

I learned to play Hold'em a year ago - here are a couple of my beginner links:

My biggest advice to a beginner is "don't fold when you're still in for free". If everyone checks around the table to you, don't fold even if your cards are crap - nobody's asking you to pay money. Just say "check" and let it move on. Who knows, you might get a big pair in the next card.

Enjoy! Poker's fantastic fun.
posted by some chick at 7:27 AM on September 24, 2004

This playable starting hands primer gives you a good idea of what a "good hand" is, if you have no idea.

Also, check out these guidelines for playing after the flop.
posted by maniactown at 7:28 AM on September 24, 2004

Don't chase.

What this means is, if you think you can probably get a really good hand on the last card, then more likely than not as a beginner you don't know the odds of you getting that miracle card. So don't go after it. Fold. You'll last longer as a beginner.
posted by Stan Chin at 7:37 AM on September 24, 2004

One more thing.

If you're playing with your typical friendly poker game, other people's mistakes are more than enough to make you money, so you don't need to take any risks (like bluffing or being more aggressive than is strictly called for.) Just grin and collect when other people do.
posted by callmejay at 7:47 AM on September 24, 2004

You've got to know when to hold 'em.
posted by goethean at 8:27 AM on September 24, 2004

Response by poster: goethean
That's kenny rodgers right ?
Should that song be my inspiration?
posted by kenaman at 8:54 AM on September 24, 2004

This might be too late, but here's some additional advice as far as figuring how how strong the two hole cards are.

Any time you have a pair, you're a favorite against any two non-paired cards. A small pair againt two big cards is about a 12-10 favorite.

Note, however, that a small pair against a bigger pair is about a 4-1 underdog.

Two hands, both unpaired, are closer than you think. AK is about a 3-2 favorite over something like JT. However, AK is about a 3-1 favorite against AQ - if you share just one card with your opponent, your greater second card becomes much more important. This is less important if both players have tiny kickers - A2 till tie with A4, because a 4 kicker will almost never come into play.

Kicker's are a very good think to learn the first time you play. Tons of money in low limit poker comes when one player has a big A (AK-AJ) vs a small A (A9-A2) and an A comes on the flop. For example, If I have AK on an A 8 4 board, and my opponent has A9, he's basically drawing dead except to the 3 nines left in the deck.

Oh, you're odds of making a set (3 of a kind with two in your hand) are about 8.5-1. This is important. If you have any pair less than QQ, I'd be willing to call up to 10% of my stack trying to hit a set. If you're against AA, and you have 33, and the flop comes T 8 3, AA will have a very hard time folding.

About drawing hands. If you have four to a flush on the flop, your odds of making your hand by the river are about 2-1. Your odds of making it on the turn are about 4-1. Whatever you do, don't chase flushes. Catch them for cheap, and bet them strong as soon as you get them.

A gutshot straight draw is when you need a card somewhere in the middle of a 5 card run - say you have 87, and the flop comes JT6, for example. The odds of hitting your nine by the river are about 10-1. Don't draw to inside straights!

An open-ended straight draw is where you can fill up on both sides - so you have 78, and the flop is 562, or T93, or something. Note how the 562 draw is much better for you, because someone playing QJ is drawing to a better straight than you are.

A very cool draw is a double inside straight draw, sometimes called a double belly buster. Say you have 75, and the flop comes 963. See how any 8 or 4 makes you a straight. This draw is as powerful as an open straight draw, but its worth more because to your opponents it's hard to detect.

The mother of all draws is the open straight/flush draw. Something like 7h6h with a flop of 5h4hKc. Here any 3, 8, or heart gives you a very strong hand. With this flop, even though you only have 7 high, you'd actually be the favorite against AK with two cards to come.

If you don't have a flush draw, you're odds to hitting on an open straight draw are just slightly worse than hitting a flush - if you have a four flush on the flop, there are (hopefully) 9 cards of that suit left to make your hand. With a straight, there are hopefully 8.

The best hand to make draws with is JT. This is because it can make the most possible straights, and all of its straights are the best possible straight.

If you're playing no limit, there's another thing worth keeping in mind, called implied odds. What this means is that you can (and should) take in to account how much you'll think you'll win if you hit your hand, and compute that into the price you are being charged with to hit to draw. Implied odds are the entire reason why small pocket pairs are so deadly in no limit. Every 9 times you get a small pair, you're probably going to be folding on the flop 8 of them. Yet because of their power when they do hit, small pairs are valuable cards.
posted by cohappy at 9:52 AM on September 24, 2004 [2 favorites]

Fun thread. I'm still trying to figure out if showing big-money poker tournaments on TV is a good thing or a bad thing. I enjoy it from time to time.
posted by Witty at 1:16 PM on September 24, 2004

The problem with televised tournaments is they only show the big hands. The mundane limp-in hands and mid-level pots are editted out. Yet, these hands are the meat-and-potatoes of a professional gambler, and knowing how to win small pots consistently is what keeps the pros on the tables through a tournament.

Such shows also give beginners the impression that someone like Gus Hansen plays every single crap hand and that is far from true.
posted by mischief at 1:44 PM on September 24, 2004

wow, good stuff in this thread. Another thing to keep in mind is "Top Pair". A top pair is basically the highest pair someone could have if they didn't have a pair before the flop.

Say you had a Q6 in your hand and the flop came as Q85. You wouls have flopped the "Top Pair" which means that it's likely that other players will have lower pairs than you. This mainly helps when you realize that you did not flop the top pair and the odds turn against you. It's a very basic rule, but one that people forget when they start out. Some players are excited to flop a pair (say if you had an 86 pre flop, which you probably should have folded anyway).
posted by jonah at 4:08 PM on September 24, 2004

Response by poster: It was a case game with the anteupped every 30 minutes. Four players.

Cohappy I missed your advice and lost a big hand where my too hole cards were aces. Beaten by 3 queens when I had 2 pair. Third queen appeared in the river.

Lost €40 in the end. Up €30 at one point. Only bet with good cards or to protect my big blind by seeing the flop. Was not the biggest loser however. One guy lost €70 so I didnt feel too bad.

Big blind was €4 for the last hour. Felt in control thanks to yourselves and really enjoyed it, but felt it was worth more like a loss of €20.

Thanks to all of you for the advice. Will revisit this thread myself whenI play again in 2 weeks.
posted by kenaman at 4:39 PM on September 26, 2004

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