A Glossary of Poker Terms
(1) Opportunity to act. If a player appears not to realize it’s his turn, the dealer will say “Your action, sir.”
(2) Bets and raises. “If a third heart hits the board and there’s a lot of action, you have to assume that somebody has made the flush.”
A small portion of a bet contributed by each player to seed the pot at the beginning of a poker hand. Most hold’em games do not have an ante; they use “blinds” to get initial money into the pot.
To run out of chips while betting or calling. In table stakes games, a player may not go into his pocket for more money during a hand. If he runs out, a side pot is created in which he has no interest. However, he can still win the pot for which he had the chips. Example: “Poor Bob – he made quads against the big full house, but he was all-in on the second bet.”
Catching both the turn and river card to make a drawing hand. For instance, suppose you have As- 7s. The flop comes Ad-6c-4s. You bet and are called. The turn is the Ts, which everybody checks, and then the river is the Js. You’ve made a “backdoor” nut flush. See also “runner.”
- Bad Beat
To have a hand that is a large underdog beat a heavily favored hand. It is generally used to imply that the winner of the pot had no business being in the pot at all, and it was the wildest of luck that he managed to catch the one card in the deck that would win the pot. We won’t give any examples, you will hear plenty of them during your poker career.
A board card that doesn’t seem to affect the standings in the hand. If the flop is As-Jd-Ts, then a turn card of 2h would be considered a blank. On the other hand, the 2s would not be.
A forced bet (or partial bet) put in by one or more players before any cards are dealt. Typically, blinds are put in by players immediately to the left of the button. See also “Live blind.”
All the community cards in a hold’em game – the flop, turn, and river cards together. Example: “There wasn’t a single heart on the board.”
- Bottom Pair
A pair with the lowest card on the flop. If you have As-6s, and the flop comes Kd-Th-6c, you have flopped bottom pair.
To discard the top card from the deck, face down. This is done between each betting round before putting out the next community card(s). It is security against any player recognizing or glimpsing the next card to be used on the board.
(1) As in “buy the pot.” To bluff, hoping to “buy” the pot without being called.(2) As in “buy the button.” To bet or raise, hoping to make players between you and the button fold, thus allowing you to act last on subsequent betting rounds.
- Calling Station
A weak-passive player who calls a lot, but doesn’t raise or fold much. This is the kind of player you like to have in your game.
To put in the last raise permitted on a betting round. This is typically the third or fourth raise. Dealers in California are fond of saying “Capitola” or “Cappuccino”.
The last card of a certain rank in the deck. Example: “The flop came J-8-3; I’ve got pocket jacks, he’s got pocket 8’s, and then the case eight falls on the river and he beats my full house.”
- Center Pot
The first pot created during a poker hand. This is as opposed to one or more “side” pots that are created if one or more players goes all-in. Also “main pot.”
A bet of zero that does not forfeit interest in the pot as long as no bets have been placed before the checker.
- Check And Raise
To check and then raise when a player behind you bets. Occasionally you will hear people say this is not fair or ethical poker. Almost all casinos permit check-raising, and it is an important poker tactic. It is particularly useful in low-limit hold’em where you need extra strength to narrow the field when you have the best hand. Also refered to as Weed Layingor Laying In The Weeds.
- Cold Call
To call more than one bet in a single action. For instance, suppose the first player to act after the big blind raises. Now any player acting after him must call two bets “cold.” This is different from calling a single bet and then calling a subsequent raise.
- Come Hand
A drawing hand (probably from the craps term).
- Complete Hand
A hand that is defined by all five cards – a straight, flush, full house, four of a kind, or straight flush.
A hold’em starting hand in which the two cards are one apart in rank. Examples: KQs, 76.
To make your hand less valuable because of board cards that duplicate it. Example: you have 87 and the flop comes 9-T-J, so you have a straight. Now an 8 comes on the turn. This has counterfeited your hand and made it almost worthless.
To beat a hand – typically a big hand. You hear this most often used to apply to pocket aces: “Third time tonight I’ve had pocket aces cracked.”
As in to cripple the deck. Meaning that you have most or all of the cards that somebody would want to have with the current board. If you have pocket kings, and the other two kings flop, you have crippled the deck.
To toss aside a card which you do not want to use. Used with Draw , and variations of Stud Poker.
Shortened form of “Underdog”.
- Dominated Hand
A hand that will almost always lose to a better hand that people usually play. For instance, K3 is “dominated” by KQ. With the exception of strange flops (e.g. 3-3-x, K-3-x), it will always lose to KQ.
To discard a certain amount of cards in excange for an equal amount of cards you’ve discarded. The cards you receive must be from the deck, not from other players or other discarded cards.
- Draw Dead
Try to make a hand that, even if made, will not win the pot. If you’re drawing to make a flush, and your opponent already has a full house, you are “drawing dead”. Of course, this is a bad condition to be in.
Your “rightful” share of a pot. If the pot contains $80, and you have a 50% chance of winning it, you have $40 equity in the pot. This term is somewhat fanciful since you will either win $80 or $0, but it gives you an idea of how much you can “expect” to win.
(1) A term referring to the amount of you expect to gain on average if you make a certain play. For instance, suppose you put $10 into a $50 pot to draw at a hand that you will make 25% of the time, and it will win every time you make it. Three out of four times, you do not make your draw, and lose $10 each time for a total of $30. The fourth time, you will make your draw, winning $50. Your total gain over those four average hands is $50-$30 = $20, an average of $5 per hand. Thus calling the $10 has a positive expectation of $5.(2) The amount you expect to make at the poker table in a specific time period. Perhaps in 100 hours play, you have won $527. Then your expectation is $5.27/hr. Of course, you won’t make that exact amount each hour (and some hours you will lose), but it’s one measure of your anticipated earnings.
- Family Pot
A pot in which all (or almost all) of the players call before the flop.
As in “play fast.” To play a hand aggressively, betting and raising as much as possible. Example: “When you flop a set but there’s a flush draw possible, you have to play it fast.”
The first three community cards, put out face up, all together.
To realize that your cards equal up to absolutley nothing. To realize that if you bet, as associated with your hand, would be a completley imbicilic thing to do. In other words to lay your cards down, and not play in that hand.
A hand which may not be played for one reason or another. A player with a foul hand may not make any claim on any portion of the pot. Example: “He ended up with three cards after the flop, so the dealer declared his hand foul.”
- Free Card
A turn or river card on which you don’t have to call a bet because of play earlier in the hand (or a reputation which you have with your opponents). For instance, if you are on the button and raise when you flop a flush draw, your opponents may check to you on the turn. If you make your flush on the turn, you can bet. However, if you don’t get it on the turn, you can check as well – seeing the river card for “free.”
- Free Roll
For one player to have a shot at winning an entire pot when he is currently tied with another player. For instance, suppose you have Ac-Qc and your opponent has Ad-Qh. The flop is Qs-5c-Tc. You are tied with your opponent right now, but are free rolling on him, because you can win the whole pot and he can’t. If no club comes, you split the pot with him – if it does come, you win the whole thing.
- Gutshot Straight
An straight filled “inside”. If you have 9s-8s, the flop comes 7c-5h-2d, and the turn is the 6c, you’ve made your gutshot straight.
- Heads Up
A pot that is being contested by only two players – “It was heads up by the turn.”
- High Low Poker
The one with the highest hand, and the one with the lowest hand split the pot.
As in “the flop hit me.” It means the flop contained cards that help your hand. If you have AK, and the flop comes K-7-2, it hit you.
- Hole Card
The first card recieved by a player, which is dealt face down.
The establishment running the game.
- Implied Odds
Pot odds that do not exist at the moment, but may be included in your calculations because of bets you expect to win if you hit your hand. For instance, you might call with a flush draw on the turn even though the pot isn’t offering you quite 4:1 odds (your chance of making the flush) because you’re sure you can win a bet from your opponent on the river if you make your flush.
A special bonus paid to the loser of a hand if he gets a very good hand beaten. In hold’em, the “loser” must typically get aces full or better beaten. In some of the large southern California card clubs, the jackpots have gotten over $50,000. Of course, the jackpot is funded with money removed from the game as part of the rake.
An unpaired card used to determine the better of two near-equivalent hands. For instance, suppose you have AK and your opponent has AQ. If the flop has an ace in it, you both have a pair of aces, but you have a king kicker. Kickers can be vitally important in hold’em.
- Live Blind
A forced bet put in by one or more players before any cards are dealt. The “live” means those players still have the option of raising when the action gets back around to them. Blind
A player who does a lot of hyper-aggressive raising, betting, and bluffing. A true maniac is not a good player, but is simply doing a lot of gambling. However, a player who occasionally acts like a maniac and confuses his opponents is quite dangerous.
The pile of folded and burned cards in front of the dealer. Example: “His hand hit the muck so the dealer ruled it folded even though the guy wanted to get his cards back.” Also used as a verb – “He didn’t have any outs so he mucked his hand.”
A version of poker in which a player may bet any amount of chips (up to the number in front of him) whenever it is his turn to act. It is a very different game than limit poker. The best treatise on no-limit poker is in Doyle Brunson’s Super/System.
The best possible hand given the board. If the board is Ks-Jd-Ts-4s-2h, then As-Xs is the nuts. You will occasionally hear the term applied to the best possible hand of a certain category, even though it isn’t the overall nuts. For the above example, somebody with Ah-Qc in the above hand might say they had the “nut straight”.
A hold’em starting hand in which the two cards are of different suits.
A hold’em starting hand in which the two cards are two apart in rank. Examples: J9s, 64.
A card that will make your hand win. Normally heard in the plural. Example: “Any spade will make my flush, so I have nine outs.
To beat. Example: “Susie outran my set when her flush card hit on the river.”
To call a bet after one or more others players have already call
A card higher than any card on the board. For instance, if you have AQ and the flop comes J-7-3, you don’t have a pair, but you have two overcards.
A pocket pair higher than any card on the flop. If you have QQ and the flop comes J-8-3, you have an overpair.
- Pay Off
To call a bet where the bettor is representing a hand that you can’t beat, but the pot is sufficiently large to justify a call anyway. Example: “He played it exactly like he made the flush, but I had top set so I paid him off.”
- Play the Board
To show down a hand in hold’em when your cards don’t make a hand any better than is shown on the board. For instance, if you have 22, and the board is 4-4-9-9-A (no flush possible), then you must “play the board” – the best possible hand you can make doesn’t use any of your cards. Note that if you play the board, the best you can do is to split the pot with all remaining players.
Your unique cards that only you can see. For instance, “He had pocket sixes” (a pair of sixes), or “I had ace-king in the pocket.”
To put in a blind bet, generally required when you first sit down in a cardroom game. You may also be required to post a blind if you change seats at the table in a way that moves you away from the blinds
- Pot Limit
A version of poker in which a player may bet up to the amount of money in the pot whenever it is his turn to act. Like no-limit, this is a very different game from limit poker.
- Pot Odds
The amount of money in the pot compared to the amount you must put in the pot to continue playing. For example, suppose there is $60 in the pot. Somebody bets $6, so the pot now contains $66. It costs you $6 to call, so your pot odds are 11:1. If your chance of having the best hand is at least one out of twelve, you should call. Pot odds also apply to draws. For instance, suppose you have a draw to the nut flush with one card left to come. In this case, you are about a 4:1 underdog to make your flush. If it costs you $8 to call the bet, then there must be about $32 in the pot (including the most recent bet) to make your call correct.
The pot odds you are getting for a draw or call. Example: “The pot was laying me a high enough price, so I stayed in with my gutshot straight draw.”
(1) To keep your hand or a chip on your cards. This prevents them from being fouled by a discarded hand, or accidentally mucked by the dealer.(2) To invest more money in a pot so blind money that you’ve already put in isn’t “wasted.” Example: “He’ll always protect his blinds, no matter how bad his cards are.”
Four of a kind.
A flop (or board) that doesn’t appear to help anybody very much. A flop that came down Jd-6h-2c would look ragged.
A flop that contains three different suits, thus no flush can be made on the turn. Can also mean a complete five card board that has no more than two of any suit, thus no flush is possible.
An amount of money taken out of every pot by the dealer – this is the cardroom’s income. Time
The numerical value of a card (as opposed to its suit). Example: “jack,” “seven.”
To play as if you hold a certain hand. For instance, if you raised before the flop, and then raised again when the flop came ace high, you would be representing at least an ace with a good kicker.
- Ring Game
A regular poker game as opposed to a tournament. Also referred to as a “live” game since actual money is in play instead of tournament chips.
The fifth and final community card, put out face up, by itself. Also known as “fifth street”. Metaphors involving the river are some of poker’s most treasured cliches – e.g. “He drowned in the river.”
A player who plays very tight, not very creatively. He raises only with the best hands. A real rock is fairly predictable – if he raises you on the end, you can throw away just about anything but the nuts.
Typically said “runner-runner” to describe a hand which was made only by catching the correct cards on both the turn and the river – “He made a runner-runner flush to beat my trips.” See also “Backdoor.”
- Scare Card
A card which may well turn the best hand into trash. If you have Tc-8c and the flop comes Qd- Jd-9s, you almost assuredly have the best hand. However, a turn card of Td would be very scary because it would almost guarantee that you are now beaten.
- Second Pair
A pair with the second highest card on the flop. If you have As-Ts, and the flop comes Kd-Th-6c, you have flopped second pair.
As in “sell a hand”. In a spread limit game, this means to bet less than the maximum when you have a very strong hand, hoping players will call whereas they would not have called a maximum bet.
A powerful concept first discussed by David Sklansky. It is a bet or raise that you hope will not be called, but you have some outs if it is. A semi-bluff may be correct when betting for value is not correct, a pure bluff is not correct, but the combination of the two may be a positive expectation play.
Three of a kind when you have two of the rank in your hand, and there is one on the board.
- Short Stack
A number of chips that is not very many compared to the other players at the table. If you have $10 in front of you, and everybody else at the table has over $100, you are playing on a short stack.
The point at which all players remaining in the hand turn their cards over and determine who has the best hand – i.e. after the fourth round of betting is completed. Of course, if a final bet or raise is not called, there is no showdown.
- Side Pot
A pot created in which a player has no interest because he has run out of chips. Example: Al bets $6, Beth calls the $6, and Carl calls, but he has only $2 left. An $8 side pot is created that either Al or Beth can win, but not Carl. Furthermore, any more bets that Al and Beth make go into that side pot. Carl, however, can still win all the money in the original or “center” pot.
- Slow Play
To play a strong hand weakly so more players will stay in the pot.
- Split Pot
A pot which is shared by two or more players because they have equivalent hands.
- Split Two Pair
A two pair hand in which one of each of your cards’ ranks appears on the board as well. Example: you have T9, the flop is T-9-5, you have a split two pair. This is in comparison to two pair where there is a pair on the board. Example: you have T9, the flop is 9-5-5.
- Spread Limit
A betting structure in which a player may bet any amount in a range on every betting round. A typical spread limit structure is $2-$6, where a player may bet as little as $2 or as much as $6 on every betting round.
optional extra blind bet, typically made by the player one to the left of the big blind, equal to twice the big blind. This is effectively a raise, and forces any player who wants to play to pay two bets. Furthermore, the straddler acts last before the flop, and may “re-raise.”
- String Bet
A bet (more typically a raise) in which a player doesn’t get all the chips required for the raise into the pot in one motion. Unless he verbally declared the raise, he can be forced to withdraw it and just call. This prevents the unethical play of putting out enough chips to call, seeing what effect that had, and then possibly raising.
Used to apply to a certain betting structure in “flop” games such as hold’em. The typical definition of a structured game is a fixed amount for bets and raises before the flop and on the flop, and then twice that amount on the turn and river. Example: a $2-$4 structured hold’em game – bets and raises of $2 before the flop and on the flop; $4 bets and raises on the turn and river.
A hold’em starting hand in which the two cards are the same suit. Example: “I had to play J-3 – it was suited.”
- Table Stakes
A rule in a poker game meaning that a player may not go into his pocket for money during a hand. He may only invest the amount of money in front of him into the current pot. If he runs out of chips during the hand, a side pot is created in which he has no interest. All casino poker is played table stakes. The definition sometimes also includes the rule that a player may not remove chips from the table during a game. While this rule might not be referred to as “table stakes”, it is enforced almost universally in public poker games.
A clue or hint that a player unknowingly gives about the strength of his hand, his next action, etc. May originally be from “telegraph” or the obvious use that he “tells” you what he’s going to do before he does it.
To play wildly or recklessly. A player is said to be “on tilt” if he is not playing his best, playing too many hands, trying wild bluffs, raising with bad hands, etc.
(1) A request by a player to suspend play while he decides what he’s going to do. Simply, “Time please!” If a player doesn’t request time and there is a substantial amount of action behind him, the dealer may rule that the player has folded.
(2) An amount of money collected every half hour by the cardroom. This is another way for the house to make its money (see “rake”).
A small amount of money (typically $.50 or $1.00) given to the dealer by the winner of a pot. Quite often, tokes represent the great majority of a dealer’s income.
- Top Pair
A pair with the highest card on the flop. If you have As-Qs, and the flop comes Qd-Th-6c, you have flopped top pair.
Three of a kind.
The fourth community card. Put out face up, by itself. Also known as “fourth street.”
- Under The Gun
The position of the player who acts first on a betting round. For instance, if you are one to the left of the big blind, you are under the gun before the flop.
A person or hand who is not mathematically favored to win a pot. For instance, if you flop four cards to your flush, you are not quite a 2:1 underdog to make your flush by the river (that is, you will make your flush about one in three times). See also “dog.”
As in “bet for value.” This means that you would actually like your opponents to call your bet (as opposed to a bluff). Generally it’s because you have the best hand. However, it can also be a draw which, given enough callers, has a positive expectation.
A measure of the up and down swings your bankroll goes through. Variance is not necessarily a measure of how well you play. However, the higher your variance, the wider swings you’ll see in your bankroll.
Betting And Etiquette
In most games, you must ‘ante’ something (amount varies by game, our games are typically a nickel), just to get dealt cards. After that players bet into the pot in the middle. At the end of the hand, the highest hand (that hasn’t folded) wins the pot. Basically, when betting gets around to you (betting is typically done in clockwise order), you have one of three choices:
- Check A bet of zero that does not forfeit interest in the pot as long as no bets have been placed before the checker.
- Check And Raise To check and then raise when a player behind you bets. Occasionally you will hear people say this is not fair or ethical poker. Almost all casinos permit check-raising, and it is an important poker tactic. It is particularly useful in low-limit hold’em where you need extra strength to narrow the field when you have the best hand. Also refered to as Weed Laying or Laying In The Weeds.
- Call When you call, you bet enough to match what has been bet since the last time you bet (for instance, if you bet a dime last time, and someone else bet a quarter, you would owe fifteen cents).
- Raise When you raise, you first bet enough to match what has been bet since the last time you bet (as in calling), then you ‘raise’ the bet another amount (up to you, but there is typically a limit.) Continuing the above example, if you had bet a dime, the other person raised you fifteen cents (up to a quarter), you might raise a quarter (up to fifty cents). Since you owed the pot 15 cents for calling and 25 for your raise, you would put 40 cents into the pot.
- Fold When you fold, you drop out of the current hand (losing any possibility of winning the pot), but you don’t have to put any money into the pot.Betting continues until everyone calls or folds after a raise or initial bet.
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.
The Rules of Poker
Poker is a game of chance. However, when you introduce the concept of betting, poker gains quite a bit of skill and psychology. (This isn’t to say that there isn’t skill at poker when nothing is at risk, there just isn’t nearly as much). This is meant as a very basic primer into the rules of poker, for more information, get a book on the game.
The Odds Of Poker Hands
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.
1. 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.
2. 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 Table Of Three Card Poker Hands .
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
Three Card Hands
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.
The Rank Of Hands
Descriptions Of Hands
Five of a Kind
A five of a kind (which is only possible when using wild cards) is the highest possible hand. If more than one hand has five of a kind, the higher card wins (Five Aces beats five kings, which beat five queens, and so on).
A straight flush is the best natural hand. A straight flush is a straight (5 cards in order, such as 5-6-7-8-9) that are all of the same suit. As in a regular straight, you can have an ace either high (A-K-Q-J-T) or low (5-4-3-2-1). However, a straight may not ‘wraparound’. (Such as K-A-2-3-4, which is not a straight). An Ace high straight-flush is called a Royal Flush and is the highest natural hand.Four of a Kind
Four of a kind is simply four cards of the same rank. If there are two or more hands that qualify, the hand with the higher-rank four of a kind wins. If, in some bizarre game with many wild cards, there are two four of a kinds with the same rank, then the one with the high card outside the four of the kind wins. General Rule: When hands tie on the rank of a pair, three of a kind, etc, the cards outside break ties following the High Card rules.Full House
A full house is a three of a kind and a pair, such as K-K-K-5-5. Ties are broken first by the three of a kind, then pair. So K-K-K-2-2 beats Q-Q-Q-A-A, which beats Q-Q-Q-J-J. (Obviously, the three of a kind can only be similiar if wild cards are used.)Flush
A flush is a hand where all of the cards are the same suit, such as J-8-5-3-2, all of spades. When flushes ties, follow the rules for High Card.Straight
A straight is 5 cards in order, such as 4-5-6-7-8. An ace may either be high (A-K-Q-J-T) or low (5-4-3-2-1). However, a straight may not ‘wraparound’. (Such as Q-K-A-2-3, which is not a straight). When straights tie, the highest straight wins. (AKQJT beats KQJT9 down to 5432A). If two straights have the same value (AKQJT vs AKQJT) they split the pot.Three Of A Kind
Three cards of any rank, matched with two cards that are not a pair (otherwise it would be a Full House . Again, highest three of a kind wins. If both are the same rank, then the compare High Cards.Two Pair
This is two distinct pairs of card and a 5th card. The highest pair wins ties. If both hands have the same high pair, the second pair wins. If both hands have the same pairs, the high card wins.
This is any hand which doesn’t qualify as any one of the above hands. If nobody has a pair or better, then the highest card wins. If multiple people tie for the highest card, they look at the second highest, then the third highest etc. High card is also used to break ties when the high hands both have the same type of hand (pair, flush, straight, etc).
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 pot.
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 idiots.
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 cards.
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 you, ok?
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 them.
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.
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.