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Poker School

PLAY POKER

Getting Started

In the fast paced world of online poker there are some simple basics that you should know before you sit down at the table and put some of your hard earned money in play.  In this section, we’ll take you step by step and show you how to play poker from the ground up.

Texas holdem is the most popular form of poker and the game that’s most widely played today both online at Americas Cardroom and at brick and mortar casinos.  We’re going to begin by teaching you Texas Holdem and cover other games in later sections.

Texas Holdem Rules

Texas Holdem can be played between 2 and 9 players on ACR.  Gameplay begins when the two players to the left post what are called blinds.  The blinds are forced bets that each player at the table must post.  The dealer button moves clockwise after each hand is over, giving everybody an opportunity to are the dealer and everyone having a turn posting the blinds when they are in either of the two spots directly to the left of the dealer. 

For example, in a 2/4 No Limit Texas holdem game in the diagram below, player Suizer2011 has the dealer button, player Chipfliper is posting the small blind of $2, and Kammy888 is posting the big blind of $4.

The blinds are designed to ensure that there is some play in each hand.  These small forced bets keep the game moving and ensure that there is always some action at the table.  The blinds are pre-determined in size before the game starts and do not increase or decrease throughout.  The big blind is almost always the smallest bet possible, whereas the small blind is half of the big blind.

After the blinds are posted each player is then dealt two cards face down which are commonly referred to as ‘hole cards’ or ‘pocket cards’.  Once everyone has their cards, the action begins to the player on the direct left of the big blind.

At this point, the player has three options to choose from.  The player can either call the big blind bet, raise, or fold.  Each player has these three options each time that it is there turn to act.

Once the betting round is completed, three cards are then dealt face up in the center of the table.  These three cards are commonly referred to as ‘the flop’.  These three cards are community cards, meaning all the players at the table use these cards with their hole cards to try and make the best possible poker hand. 

Another round of betting takes place starting now with the player who is on the direct left of the dealer button.  This player can then choose to check, bet, or fold.  A ‘check’ means that the player chooses not to put any money in the pot but remains in the hand.  A player may not check if another player bets, he is forced to act on the bet by either calling, raising, or folding.

Once everyone has acted, the dealer then deals ‘the turn’.  This is the fourth community card that is dealt face up next to the flop.  After the turn is dealt, players then begin another betting round beginning again with the player to the direct left of the dealer.

Finally, after the betting round is completed, the dealer then places the fifth street card known as the river.  All cards for the hand have now been dealt and players can use a combination of their hole cards and the community cards to make their best possible 5 card poker hand.  There is a final round of betting after which players then reveal their hands and the pot is rewarded to the player with the strongest hand at showdown.

 Texas holdem Hands from Best to Worst:

Here are the hand rankings from best to worst in Texas holdem:

The Royal Flush:  A royal flush is five consecutive cards from 10 to Ace from the same suit:

10cJcQcKcAc

This is the strongest hand possible in Texas holdem.  The odds of making a royal flush is approximately 1 in 649,739 so when you get one, you’ll surely remember it.  Some players, even professionals, can play their whole lives and never receive a royal flush.

Straight Flush:  The second best possible hand is known as the straight flush, this is five consecutive cards of the same suit.

3d4d5d6d7d

Unlike the royal flush, these cards do not necessarily have to be from the 10 to the Ace.

Four of a Kind:

A player must hold four cards of the same rank in order to make a four of a kind.

6h6c6d6s

Full House:

Also known as a ‘tight’, a player must hold a set of three of one rank combined with another pair.

AdAsAcJcJd

A flush:

Five cards in any order but must be of the same suit.

9hQh5h3h8h

Straight:

Five cards of different suits in consecutive order.

7s8d9c10dJh

Three of a kind:

Three cards of the same rank:

AdAhAs8h7h

Two Pair:

The hand consists of two pairs and a fifth unrelated card known as ‘the kicker’.  The kicker only comes into play when both players hold the same two pair.  The winner of hand is then decided by who has the higher kicker.

8d8h9d9h10x

One Pair:

Two cards of the same rank with three unrelated cards:

AcAs9s8d7s

High Card:

When five cards don’t make any of the above hand the winner is then decided by who holds the highest card. In the example below, the player holds ‘Jack High’ as the Jack is the highest card in his hand.

Jh10d8s3d2s

Starting Hands: Begin With the Top 10

One of the key mistakes that players make when beginning to play Texas holdem is that they play too many hands.  Becoming a winner at Texas Holdem takes time and discipline.  One of the best ways to get off to a good start is to only play a select amount of hands to begin with, and open up your starting requirements as you get a bit more comfortable with the flow of the game. 

When sitting at a table you may often hear ‘tight is right’.  A tight player is someone who plays very select hands and always seems to have strong holdings.  There are many ways to play Texas holdem, and they depend on varying factors such as game selection, game flow, and your hand reading abilities.  As a beginner, it’s highly suggested that you start off playing tight, as this will curb your swings and help you become stronger at all aspects of the game while you learn to play premium hands.

When beginning, you may want to start off playing only the top 10 starting hands and we’ll open it up from there.  Here are the top 10 poker hands which you should learn to feel comfortable with before including other hands in your range.

Pairs from 77s to Aces and AceKing  and Ace Queen Suited:

AcAs  KsKdQhQhJdJh10h10c9d9h8s8d7d7c

AsKsAdQd

These are what’s known as premium hands and are very strong holdings to begin each hand with.  You’ll find that these hands come up rarely, so you’ll be doing a heck of a lot of folding in the beginning.  You may find boredom set in as waiting for these hands and watching everyone else play can be tedious.  Still, if you stick to these hands to begin with and learn to play them well, it’ll make your transition into the game much easier as you’ll find that you won’t experience a huge downswing that other beginners usually do.

How to Play the Top 10 Hands:

Poker is a game of aggression.  You’ll find your results are best when you are controlling the action and having other players needing to respond and make decisions based on the pressure that you exert on them through raising and betting.

Pre-flop Action:

The good thing about starting with a very solid range of cards is that when entering a pot, you usually will hold the best hand.  In order to maximize the value of your hands you should generally raise before the flop when holding any of the top 10 hands.

The standard opening raise is usually 3x the amount of the big blind.  For example, if you are sitting in a 1/2 Texas holdem game, it’s fairly standard that you make your opening bet $6, which is 3 times the big blind of $2. 

Raising pre-flop accomplishes two key things.  It gets more players into the pot, and it eliminates the number of players you’ll be facing.  As you’re only playing the top range of hands, you want to get paid.  Raising forces players to put more money in the pot with weaker hands.

Generally, the rule of thumb is the more opponents you’ll be facing in a hand;the more your hand strength weakens.  When holding a big pair in your hand you generally want to have no more than two opponents, or ideally one opponent so that your hand has a bigger chance to be shown down as the winner. 

Players will be more reluctant to enter a pot if their forced to put in more money with weaker holdings.  If they do come in to try and beat your hand, you should force them to put in as much money as possible, you want to maximize your cash potential for every hand.

Now be sure to watch how the other players at your table are behaving pre-flop.  Pay attention to whom at the table is tight and who is loose, who is raising and who is calling.  This will give you a better indicator as to how you should act when forming your decisions.

For instance, if you see a player who is calling often and raising seldom, pay attention to how much money he is willing to call in the beginning.  You can then adjust your raise size and maximize your potential by having him put in too much.

On the flip side, pay attention to who at the table is playing tight like you are.  If you see a player folding often, play this player more carefully should he be involved in a pot.  Chances are he too has strong holdings, so be wary when a tight player gets involved in a hand.

Re-raising pre-flop-Re-raising can be a very useful tool in Texas Holdem.  Should someone raise in front of you are holding a premium hand, you should try re-raising him.  This generally helps out in that it defines the strength of their hand, and eliminates other players from getting involved.  Many times, re-raising pre-flop will win you the pot right there, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it also can tell you certain things about the strength of your opponent’s hand.

If your opponent has a very strong hand such as KKs or AAs, he’s liable to re-raise you back.  At this point, you can get off of a lesser pair such as 99s relatively much cheaper than you would if you just called.  You can make a fold before the flop and not get yourself into trouble.

Flop Play

You’ll learn to read hands and make better decisions the more you play.  With practice, you’ll get a feel for the game and playing your hands on the flop will become easier with time.  When beginning, there are several things you can watch for when playing the flop that will help you make better decisions and maximize your profits.

The first thing you should look for when analyzing a flop is seeing how well the cards fit your hand.  For instance you hold 7c7d  and the flop comes:

5c6d8c

This would be considered a pretty good flop for your hand.  Not only is there only one over card to your pair, but you’ve also flopped additional ‘outs’ to the hand.  An ‘out’ is a card which you can get on further streets that turn your hand into a winner.  As any 4x  or any 9x  can give you a straight, you would go ahead and bet on the flop as you have a strong enough holding to withstand a raise from your opponent. 

In another example where you hold the same cards 7c7d  the flop comes:

10hJhQh

This is a pretty lousy flop for your hand.  You have no heart to make a flush and there are three over cards to your pair.  You’re most likely best off to check and fold your hand and wait for a better opportunity to put your money in. 

Generally, when a player bets on the flop he representing that he holds the top pair.  This can vary by opponent but when beginning to play, you can use this as a guide.  For example, you hold 9d9s  and the flop is

As8d7d

Your opponent who just called your pre-flop raise bets into you.  Here, your opponent is telling you, I have an ace.  Now whether or not he does in fact have what he’s telling you, is up to you to determine.  At the lower limits generally, players are generally playing cards rather than running big bluffs, so in this instance it may be wise for you to again fold your pair, and wait for a friendlier flop.

Generally, if you hold top pair or a pair over the three cards on the flop, you should bet.  You usually will have the best hand at this point and want to get the most money in while you have it.  If you get called, try to figure out what your opponent has. 

Ask yourself some questions.  Is there two of one suit on the flop so my opponent could have a flush draw?  Are the cards together for possible straight draws?  Recognizing what cards may hurt you on the turn and river will allow you to think ahead about how to play your hand and save you money in the long run.

Generally, if you’re the pre-flop raiser you should put in a ‘continuation bet’ on the flop if you get a relatively safe board.  Players generally only connect well with a flop about 10% of the time so you can pick up a lot of small pots by being consistently aggressive.

Playing the Turn:

As you’ll be holding premium hands you generally want to maximize your profits with them.  Playing the turn aggressively when you feel it is a safe card and cautiously when recognizing a potential draw may be completed is key to increasing your win rate.

Here is a quick example:

You hold KhKs

The flop is 10c7s2s

You bet the flop and your opponent called:

The turn:

3h

This is an excellent turn card for you.   None of the straight draws or flush draws came in with this card.  This is a good example of when to continue betting and make your opponent pay for his draw to see the last card. 

Now see how thing change if the turn is:

Js

This is probably the worst card for you.  If your opponent has spades or even a potential open ended straight draw, both those hands are completed and your KKs are in trouble.  It’s not necessary that your opponent has these hands but you may be wise to check and reevaluate as oppose to keep betting as it will save you money.  You could also make a smaller bet into him and see how he reacts to it.  If he raises, you can lay it down, if he just calls, you may very well still have the best hand.

As you can see, there are many ways in which you can play a turn card that brings in different results.  Practice and experience will help you make the best decision but it’s wise to know in your head before the cards come which cards are good for you and which cards can be detrimental.

Playing the River

The river is the most dreaded or loved card in poker.  Fortunes can swing in either direction from this final deciding card.  The more you play, the more you’ll see why this card can be your best friend, or your worst enemy.  You’ll often hear players say ‘I got rivered’ when you play at brick and mortar casinos or even as they chat online. 

Playing the river effectively is a key component to your success as a poker player.  Knowing when to make that key fold, raise, or a timely bluff on the river will keep those chips moving your direction. 

Much like playing the turn, be very aware of what draws are out there and what cards you don’t want to see.  Many beginners fall into the trap of forgetting that Texas holdem is a seven card game, not two.  Don’t make the mistake of falling in with your hole cards and ignoring the possibilities that you are beat.

Here’s an example.  You hold AsAh

The Board is:

10dJd3c2s

Okay, not too bad so far.  Both your opponents called big bets on all three streets and you feel like your AAs are one card away from winning a big pot.

The river is Ad

Wow, you have trip aces.  What a great hand!  In this case, not really.  Though the ace gives you trips and improves your hand, it probably did wonders for your opponent’s hands as well.  Not only did the diamond bring in the potential flush, but the high end open ended straight is in as well.  You check and one opponent bets and the other one calls.  It’s time to fold.  Tough throwing away trip aces but the writing is on the wall.  You are beat.

In poker it’s important to remember that a penny saved is a penny earned.  Many sessions you’ll find the difference from winning and losing comes down to whether you make the correct fold.  The big hands will come, and so will the beats, its how you play every situation optimally that makes you come out on top or leave the table empty handed.

Using the same example with a different river changes the outcome of the hand dramatically.

The river this time is the 2c

Now that’s better.  You’ve now made two strong pair and it is very unlikely that the card improved your opponent’s hand.  You bet the pot size bet and get a reluctant caller.  Your opponent shows KhJs  as his hole cards for two lesser pair.  Knowing that the card was good for you and taking advantage by betting helped you get the most out of the hand. 

Like all the other streets, it’s important that you ask yourself if the card that comes would likely help or hinder your hand and what effect it has on your opponent’s hand as well. 

As you can see, from there are countless ways to play your holdings.  Through practice you’ll start to recognize patterns in play and instinctively pick up on what the correct move will be each time.

Expanding Your Range

Once you feel comfortable playing the top ten hands more comfortably you can start adding hands to your starting requirements.  In doing this we highly suggest taking it slow!

Try adding the next top hands to your range and keep a close eye on your win/loss rate.  You’ll find the more hands you add, the higher your variance.  So make sure you don’t loosen up too much too fast.  The next set of hands you should add to your playbook is:

6s6h5s5d4h4d3s3d2d2c

AhKcAdQh

This still might seem like a very tight range of hands to be playing, but you’ll notice your swings increase just by adding these seven hands.  These hands all have strength on their own merit and you’ll often win with just one or two pair hands by the river.

These are non-drawing hands and are therefore easier to play as it’s generally your opponents trying to catch up to your hand rather and paying the price for doing so.

Drawing Hands

After you’ve become accustomed to playing the top 15 or 20 hands, you may want to start adding some drawing hands into your repertoire.  Get ready for some swings because the more you draw, the higher your variance at the table will be.

In choosing your drawing hands do so carefully.  The worst feeling in the world is completing your draw only to have someone complete an even bigger draw.  This leads to big losses and frustration which could easily be avoided.  When starting to play, try to be drawing to the nut (best) hand.

Here are some examples of some drawing hands in which you can try adding to your game.  When looking to draw for flushes, try to draw to the Ace.  For example any suited ace is miles ahead of any two suited cards.  Not only can you complete your flush and end up beating a smaller flush that’s forced to pay you off, you can also hit your ace and win with top pair.

So when beginning start adding suited aces as your first types of drawing hands.  A word of caution for these hands, don’t fall in love with your ace.  Here’s an example of how playing a drawing hand incorrectly can get you into trouble.

In a 1/2 no-limit holdem game you call a raise with Ad9d  in a multi-way pot.  The flop comes down:

Ah7c2d

The pre-flop raiser bets into a field of three.  Okay, so you hit your ace, no flush draw to speak of but it’s worth calling one more bet to see if the pre-flop raiser slows down and maybe you can turn a diamond to give you some additional outs.

Another player calls as well and the three of you continue on in the hand to see the turn which is a:

3c

Well, definitely no help there.  The pre-flop raiser bets again and the other player called.  Now what?  Here is where you need to find a fold and many beginners simply can’t release the top pair.  Let’s review the play;the pre-flop raiser began by raising indicating that he had a strong hand.  He followed it up by showing strength by continuation betting into multiple players on the flop.  He then continued to show even more strength by firing a bet again on the turn. 

Not only are you almost 100% beat by the original raiser, another player has called as well who also most likely has an ace.  You most likely only have three 9s to hit and no other ways to win the hand.  If you call the turn and miss you’ll face another bet on the river with only top pair bad kicker.  You called this hand to try and hit a flush and you didn’t, with your opponent’s hand clearly ahead;it’s time to find a fold.

In this situation many beginners just can’t click the fold button.  They need to see that there ace is no good and pay a pretty penny for that information.  Word to the wise;remember what you’re in the hand for in the first place, to complete a draw.

Save your big bets for your premium hands and don’t pay too much for a draw.  It will cost you in the end if you do.

Hands that are often good for drawing also include the suited Broadway cards.  These hands are great in that they are generally connected so they can win in multiple ways, either by completing a straight or a flush, or making higher end pairs.

When you’re comfortable playing your suited aces you can incorporate suited Broadway hands as well.  Broadway hands being all cards ten and up.  Be careful though, much like the suited aces be mindful of your kicker as they are still far behind the premium hands when you make your pairs as opposed to your draws. 

Once you add suited Broadway combinations to your pre-flop card selections you’ve got a fair amount of hands in your repertoire to choose from.

On television or watching higher staked players you’ll often see them get involved with smaller suited connectors.  These hands may look pretty, but way more often than not they get you in trouble.  Remember that you only connect with a flop well about one out of 10 times.  Just think about how much money you’ll be wasting in the long run calling raises with smaller connectors.  Until you’re very advanced at the game we highly suggest sticking to suited aces and suited Broadway when getting involved in a hand.

You should keep in mind that these types of hands are really much more profitable in multi-way pots and you should try to steer clear of them with heads up situations.  Drawing heads up is rarely profitable and you may not be getting the correct odds or even paid off should you pay for your draw and make it. 

Keep an eye on your progress when you add these hands.  If you feel your results are less favorable with the more hands you play then tighten up until you can play each set of hands profitably.  Combining these hands with the previous ones you learned in the beginners section will give you the basis of hands you should be playing aggressively to become a solid tight regular.

The Art of the Bluff: A Beginner’s Guide

Let’s face it, bluffing is fun.  For many of you, seeing an incredible bluff on television or in the movies might be one of the reasons you decided to learn poker.  Bluffing brings the ultimate rush of beating your opponent from outsmarting him.  You put your opponent to the test, and he failed.  It’s one of the fun aspects of poker today.

Unfortunately for many beginners, it gets them into big trouble as they don’t choose their bluffs wisely or they make the mistake of bluffing way too much.   Bluffing is important in poker, but only after you have a good understanding of why you’re doing it.

When you’re bluffing you’re essentially telling a lie to your opponent.  So keep this in mind when you’re doing it that it has to be believable.  After all, people just don’t believe outlandish lies.  For example if you didn’t want to go to a friend’s birthday party you may say you’re not feeling well or had car trouble, that’s believable.  Your mother was abducted by terrorists and you have to fly to the Middle East to rescue her is not quite such a believable story.

So in order to sell your story you when you’re bluffing you have to have the bluff make sense.  Sell a story that is believable rather than just throwing money at a pot because it’s the only way you feel you can win the money. 

Here is an example of a beginner’s mistake in trying to bluff:

A beginner calls a pre-flop raise from a tight regular.  The flop is:

Ks3h2h

The beginner checks and calls the pre-flop raisers bet.

The turn is a 7s .  Again, the beginner checks and the pre-flop raiser put in another bet.

The river is the 8d .  The beginner player puts in all of his chips, twice the amount of the pot.  The tight player ponders for a moment and the calls, revealing AsKd  for top pair.  The beginner shows Ah4h  for a missed flush and straight draw.

Where the beginner went wrong here is that his story was unbelievable.  What lie was he trying to tell?  By calling three streets and then betting it’s pretty clear that he was making a desperate attempt to win when all the draws missed.  If he had two pair or trips he would’ve raised previous to river.  The experienced player knew that the beginner wasn’t representing anything and therefore had an easy call to make.  The bluff just didn’t make sense.

It’s important to note that the beginner also bet twice the size of the pot.  Surely if he had a very strong hand he wouldn’t make it that much for fear that his opponent will fold to a bet that was too high.  This is yet another reason as to why his story didn’t make sense.

You should also be wary of bluffing too much.  Beginning players often fall into this trap and end up broke in a short period of time.  You may get away with the first couple, but smart opponents realize that you can’t always have a winning hand every time. Keep the bluffing down to a minimum, you only need to get caught bluffing once to lose your whole stack in no limit poker.

Here’s an example of a well-timed bluff from an experienced player:

Player 1 raises and is called by the bluffer who we’ll name Player 2.  The flop comes down:

10d9dAs

Player 1 bets the pot and player 2 calls.

The turn is the 3h .  Again player 1 bets the pot and player 2 makes the call.

The river is the 7d .  Player 1 makes a half pot bet and player 2 raises to the size of the pot.  Player 1 thinks for a few moments and reluctantly folds flashing an ace to his opponent.  Player 2 smiles, collects the pot and shows JsQc  for a missed straight.  Now this was a good bluff because player 2 sold a believable story to player 1.  Player 2 called both streets and then raised the river when the diamonds came.  He represented that he completed a draw that was clearly possible.  He didn’t over-bet the pot either, making it look like he wanted to get paid for making his draw rather than wanting to force his opponent to fold.  Player 1 believed his story, thus making it a good bluff bet.

So think of the story that you want to sell before you make the bluff.  Have a plan for making a bet should a certain card come that you believe will scare your opponent.  A well timed bluff can change the tempo of a game and put your opponent on tilt.  Make sure you use it as an occasional weapon in which to throw your opponents off.  Just keep it in check.

The thing about bluffing is that you’re often risking a lot to win a little.  If you get called you will often win a big pot whereas if they fold the pots are often small, so choose them wisely.  Many very successful players hardly ever bluff.  There’s a lot of money in waiting for good hands and getting paid off, so make sure you have those basics down before you get too carried away.

Ten Beginner Tips:

Here are ten basic tips that every beginner should try and follow when starting out playing Texas holdem.

  1. Play within your budget-Your just starting out, so start small.  An old adage is that poker is minutes to learn and a lifetime to master, so keep that in mind.  People just don’t sit down and start crushing the games, like anything it takes time and practice.  Start by playing small and make sure that it’s an amount of money that you won’t mind losing.  You can move up with experience and time as your bankroll grows.  Don’t rush it, the higher you play, the better the players.
  2. Remember this is real money-It sounds basic but you’d be surprised how easy it is to get carried away at the virtual felt.  Las Vegas casinos make money chips so it psychologically doesn’t seem like money to the players.  As a result, players often overextend themselves and lose much more than they would if they were handing over cash.  The same goes with online poker.  It’s easy to see your balance as just numbers on a screen instead of cold hard cash.  The thing is...it is cold hard cash.  Remember that the money is real.  You work hard for your money, keep it in perspective.
  3. Never stop learning-Knowledge is power.  This is a game of information.  Players who prepare themselves through instruction and learning will fare much better than players who don’t.  In the internet era, there are thousands of tools at your fingertips to improve your game.  You can find articles, books, training websites, and countless other ways to learn more about the game.  Use them.  After all, those who write this precious information had to learn the hard way.  Why not use their information and you won’t have to go through the same mistakes they did.
  4.   Don’t play drunk-We all like to have a good time, but poker and liquor just don’t mix.  If you’re sitting around a table with a bunch of buddies playing penny poker, then have a beer and a good time.  Just don’t do it online.  Drinking clouds your judgment and impairs your ability to play good poker.  When your drunk, the losing spirals uncontrollably and the winning never seems like enough.  There’s really no upside.  People often say that they play their best poker after a couple beers, maybe so, but after a couple it’s a recipe for disaster.  Save the beers for some good times out with friends on the weekend, your bank account will thank you in the end.
  5.   Control your losses-The higher limits you play, the smaller the edge you’ll have on your opponent’s.   This is because the bigger the limits, the tougher the players.  What separates the big winners from the losers in this game isn’t so much brilliant play, but more discipline.  Sometimes it’s just not your day, so quit.  The internet isn’t going anywhere and tomorrow is another day.  Losing way more than you should’ve one day can lead to bad streaks of losses and cloud your ability to play a good game.  Don’t let it.
  6.   Exercise-You might wonder what exercise has to do with poker but it really does help.  Healthy body=healthy mind.  Spending hours in front of a computer can take its toll on your body and your mind.  Take some time every day to shake the cobwebs off and get some exercise.  It will clear your mind and keep you alert for those long sessions at the virtual felt.
  7.   Game select-You want to be one of the tougher players at each table you sit at.  The more you play, the more you’ll become familiar with who is good and who is an atm.  Use this information wisely.  Only play in games where you feel like you have an edge and there’s someone there you can beat.  No sense being at a table against only tough opponents.  Your there to win, and winning is a lot easier against people who play poorly.
  8.   Switch it up-We all excel at different things so it’s important to find the game that suits your personality.  ACR offers a diverse amount of games and tournaments so try your hat at different things.  For example, Omaha has much bigger swings than Texas holdem because you use 4 cards instead of 2.  Some players like this while others don’t, find out what suits you best before you put your money on the line.
  9.   Keep the bluffing to a minimum-In the beginning just getting a sense of the game is much more important than carrying out wild bluffs against your opponents.  As you get better you can open it up, but too much bluffing when you don’t really know why you are bluffing can halt your progress before you even give yourself a chance to get rolling.
  10.   Have Fun-This is why we play poker after all.  Sure it’s nice to win money but don’t let that be the only reason you’re at the table.  You’re going to have good days and bad days, just roll with it and try to find the enjoyment in every session.  Having a good attitude and a smile on your face goes a long way in winning.  Enjoy the ride;it can be a wild one!

                                                                                                                                            

Position Position Position

Now that you’ve learned the types of hands you should be playing, you’re ready to learn the incredible importance of position.  It can’t be emphasized enough how important it is to use this tool to your advantage while you play.

What is position?  Where your seated at the table in relation to the dealer button can give you can either give you a decided advantage or disadvantage throughout a hand.  The best position at a poker table is to be the dealer.  In the case of online poker, the dealer button will be right in front.  The deal rotates to give everyone an equal opportunity to be in the best position.  Alternatively, the worst position at the table is to the direct left of the blinds, this position is often referred to as ‘under the gun’.

To be ‘in position’ means that you get to act after your opponent.  To be ‘out of position’ means that you have to decide what to do before your opponent.  Think about why this matters.  If you’re on the button you get to see what all your opponents do before you make up your mind on your action.

This can be extremely useful in gaining extra information that your opponents out of position do not have. 

Here’s an example of how you can use position to your advantage.

Your dealt Jd10d  on the button and you call a raise from an under the gun raiser.  The flop comes:

Ad3d2c

Your opponent bets into you and you call hoping to make your flush.  The turn is 7c  and your opponent now checks to you.  Because he checked the hand he showed weakness and as a result you decide to bet.  Your opponent shakes his head and flashes pocket KKs before his cards hits the muck.

Do you see the advantage now?  Because your opponent was out of position he was afraid that you called with an ace and was forced to check his hand.  You gained more information than he had because you were on the button and he was out of position.

There are countless more ways in which you can use position to your advantage.  It is for this reason that you should really only try and play very strong hands out of position and you can loosen up a bit more when you’re in position. 

Many beginners don’t really understand the advantage of position and start off by only concentrating on their cards.  Play around with it a little bit as you begin.  Always try to get yourself involved in pots where you have position.  Position is useless if you don’t know how to use it but that comes with experience.

You will notice though that you’ll find yourself in a lot better spots as you play hands on the button.  You’ll have more options and information than your opponents.  Hands are much easier to play this way as it’s a very hard game to learn.  Why not make it easy on yourself? 

Poker Etiquette

Poker is a fun game and everyone should take the time to learn the etiquette involved as you play.  People become very emotionally invested in the game as the fact that they are playing for real money brings a higher intensity of competition than most other games.

It’s important to be courteous and cordial to other players at the table whether it’s on the virtual felt at ACR or a brick and mortar room.  Nobody likes a sore loser or a bad winner.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind when sitting down at the table.  Remember, your there for a good time and so are most of your opponents, being respectful of each other while you play can go a long way in maintaining a pleasant atmosphere.

  1.  Always be polite-Your mother most likely taught you this lesson growing up, but it’s important to keep this up when at the table.  If someone beats you, it’s customary to compliment them on their hand or their play every once in a while (even though you may be steaming).  Alternatively, if you beat someone, try not to over-celebrate.  You may be jumping up and down inside, but remember that your opponent is probably pretty unhappy, show some restraint.
  2. Don’t flash your cards-Online this is a non-issue, but if you’re playing live don’t reveal your cards while you’re in a hand.  Revealing your hole cards while in a hand is against the rules and bad form.  It effects other player’s decisions and reflects poorly on your respect for the game. 
  3. No swearing-This is common sense but comes up more than you think.  In online rooms such as ACR, any use of vulgar language is strictly prohibited at the table.  Don’t write explicit chat while playing as you will be warned by the dealer and possibly have your account suspended for the use of foul language.  Keep it clean, swearing will not be tolerated.
  4. Don’t criticize.  Time and time again players will often berate a beginning player for making a bad call or getting lucky on them.  This is just bad form.  Not only do you discourage the beginner from continuing his bad play (which is what you want), you also create a bad atmosphere at the table.  Take your bad beats with some dignity and soon enough you’ll get your money back from that bad player by keeping him happy in the game.
  5. Treat the dealer cordially-This is mostly pertinent in a brick and mortar game.  Dealers have a tough job, so always be respectful of them.  It’s not the dealer’s fault if you’re having a bad stretch of luck.  Treat them with respect and throw them an occasional tip for sending you a big pot. 
  6. Don’t discuss a hand while it’s in play-Talking about a hand before it’s over in the chat box is strictly prohibited.  It can influence the play of others and is a violation of the rules.  ACR prides itself in securing a fair and honest game.  Talking about the hand while it’s in progress can be construed as collusion and result in account suspension.
  7. English or Spanish only at ACR-Obviously if you’re playing poker in Pakistan, you won’t need to speak English or Spanish only at the table.  However, ACR caters to mostly English and Spanish speaking players and therefore all table chat must be carried out in these languages.

Be classy-Regardless of how your opponents at the table are acting, show some class.  A player who is polite and in control of his or her emotions commands much more respect than one who is behaving foolishly and throwing tantrums.  Win and lose with grace and be polite to others.  Good behavior is contagious as well, so help create the kind of game atmosphere everyone will be happy to play in.

Tilt: A Poker Player’s Worst Enemy

As a poker player you’re going to be subjected to a new kind of emotion, this is called tilt.  Tilt is a combination of frustration, anger, disbelief, and indignation all wrapped up into one.  It’s hard to put into words exactly how bad it makes you feel, but you’ll run into it sooner or later so it’s best to be prepared and recognize the signs that you’re beginning to let it affect your play.

Poker can be a cruel game.  You can play your best, always put your money in with the best hand, and still come out a loser over a session.  Some days it just seems like you can’t win no matter what you do.  The overall bad beats, and the frustration of losing money leads to the mindset known as ‘tilt’, which can be very detrimental to both your bankroll and your ability to play well.

Here is an example of how a player can come to tilt:

Player 1 raises the pot holding:

AdAh

He gets one caller and the flop comes:

Ac10c2d

Player 1 checks and is surprised when his only opponent moves all in.

Player 1 calls the bet and opens up his AAs.

Player 2 shakes his head and opens up his hand revealing 2h2s

The turn brings the 5c

The river brings the 2c !

Player 2 jumps up from his good fortune and runs around the table screaming in joy.  Player 1 looks in disbelief at his terrible luck and proceeds to rebuy to the full amount determined to get his money back.  He starts playing more hands, chasing his money, continually thinking about how unlucky he is, and before you know it blows out the rest of his account, unable to recover mentally from the terrible bad beat he took.

This is something you’ll see more often than you think.  Bad beats and incredible bad luck happen all the time at a poker table.  It’s how you come to deal with the bad luck that is key.  Poker is a tough game and you make it so much harder if you’re unable to deal with the variance and end up losing your mind and your stack every time you get unlucky.

Here are several tips in order to help you deal with and recognize tilt.  Keep them in mind every time you sit down at the table, it’ll help you keep yourself in check.

  1. Take a breather-If you just took one or a series of bad beats, simply take a breather.  I know it’s tempting to chase the losses and you want the poker gods to right their wrongs right away, but sometimes it just isn’t happening.  Gauge how much money you can lose without letting it affect your play.  And be honest, you’re only hurting yourself if you can’t objectively see you’ve started to play bad.  Take your hand off the mouse or walk away from the table, poker games aren’t going anywhere. 
  2. Analyze your beats-Many beginning players often continually blame bad luck for their poor results.  Sometimes bad luck is unavoidable and this is truly the case, still, review the hands in your head or on the hand re-player.  Great poker players are self-critical and always looking for ways in which they could’ve played their hands better.  Taking the time to review the hands gives you a little break from thinking about how unlucky you are, and time to relax and recuperate.
  3. Watch your hand selection-Be aware of hands you’re entering the pot with when you’ve just taken some bad beats.  The clearest indicator that you’re starting to tilt is that your hand starting requirements have just gone out the window.  If you find yourself playing hands you normally wouldn’t play it’s time to take a break and do something else.
  4. Let it go-What’s done is done.  You took a bad beat, lost a big hand, rehashing it over and over again isn’t going to do anything but reinforce tilt.  Analyze the hand, accept what happened and move on. 
  5. Keep the aggression in check-Tilt often surfaces as aggression.  If you find yourself betting higher than usual with marginal holdings you need to rein it in or find something else to do for the day.  You want your money back and you’re forcing it.  This will likely just end in disaster.  Take it slow, in the long run you’ll recoup your losses, just let it come in due time.

Tilt is one of the most important things to conquer.  Many very talented players are constantly broke because they just can’t keep their emotions out of game.  Some players can win 9 out of 10 days but lose it all back the one day that things aren’t going their way because they just can’t handle the beats. 

In this day and age players are getting tougher and better as there is much more information and learning materials available to them.  As the information age is leveling the playing field, often the only thing that differentiates a winning player from a losing one is tilt control. 

It’s inevitable that you will go on tilt at some point in your career.  Knowing how to recognize the signs and getting it under control faster than your opponents will help keep the win rate steady and your bank account healthy.