Poker in a Nutshell

When hearing the word poker, people associate it with many things. Cards, big money, cool shades, sexy dealers, gamblers, etc. Most of them are true – poker is much more than a card game. One thing that it’s not is gambling. While we do rely on probability and a little bit of luck, we rely on our abilities a lot more. The ultimate goal is to make the most out of your two cards and a stack of chips.

Poker is played all over the world and there are a lot of different game types played in different locations. Whether you are a group of friends playing Texas hold em in Germany, Omaha in Canada or straight-up online poker Mexico, poker is an exciting activity played in all forms all over the world.

The Variations

Poker comes in many different forms, but the most common is Texas Hold ‘em. It’s almost mandatory in every gaming establishment that runs poker tables. Most beginners choose to learn Hold ‘em when starting to play. All the top professionals have also played their first hands in Texas Hold ‘em. The many variants of poker include:

  • Omaha – second most popular next to Texas Hold ‘em. You get four cards instead of two, and still five cards on the board. The major difference here is that you must use at least two of your cards and three on the table.
  • Seven-card stud – a little more complicated than Omaha since you get seven cards total. It involves cards facing down and those who stay revealed. You would have to make a 5-card poker hand from the seven dealt to you.
  • Short Deck – a variation of Hold ‘em where the deck does not contain numbers from 2 – 5. The rules are the same, except certain hands will have different rankings.

Poker Strategies

Poker can be a lucrative endeavour, but the journey there is long. Crunching numbers and calculating odds can be an excruciating process. Good news is, it’s not impossible. With enough practice, anyone could master all the essential techniques. Let’s go over some basic strategies and tactical manoeuvres any poker player should know.

Pot Odds

Betting is the primary mechanic of poker. To win money, you must wager some of your own. But, how do we know how much to bet and when? We use pot odds! The pot here refers to the total chips in the middle that are up for grabs.

It is the ratio between the amount you want to win and the bet you are facing. The bigger the difference, the better your equity. For example, if there is $5 in the pot and your opponent bets $1. This translates to you having to pay $1 to win $6. Those are pretty good odds.

Another case is if the pot has $1 and your opponent decides to bet $4. You now need to pay $4 to win only $5. 5:4 is, in most cases, terrible odds. Depending on your hand, you usually should let this bet go.

When you bet, pay close attention to the pot size. It helps determine the amount to either entice your opponent to call or scare them into folding. When you have the best possible hand, and there’s $10 in the pot, you wouldn’t want to bet something like $50, so no one pays you.

Count Your Outs

Unless you flop four aces every hand, most of the time, you’d find yourself waiting for the right card. For example, you’re holding 9 10 of diamonds, and the first three cards you see are 7,8 and Ace. You now need either a 6 or a Jack for the best hand. These are your “outs.” They are what saves you from a dominant hand like Ace Queen in this case.

Knowing how many outs you have helps you determine if the pot odds are in your favour. When facing a bet that gives you higher pot odds than your chances of making the best hand, go for it. In the hand above, there are four 6’s and four Jacks in the deck, giving you 8 outs. That translates to a 5:1 odds. So, knowing this, any bet that gives you a higher ratio than 5:1 would be an easy call.

Play Your Position

You may have heard it once or twice at the table, but what does it mean to “play your position?” In poker, the only thing as important as your chips is information. The privilege of acting behind other players gives you an incredible edge.

Let’s look at it in the simplest scenario. You’re holding pocket 7’s and heads up on the button. You also raised preflop. The flop comes 8, 4, J, and your opponent bets right away. You decide to call, and the turn comes an Ace. Now your opponent checks. What can you assume he or she has at this point? If your opponent bets on top pair 50% of the time, it’s a high chance they have a Jack. The Ace has hindered their action and thus gives you the opportunity to bluff. Your range of potential hands is more powerful than other players since you made the initial raise.

Of course, many other factors go into this. Things to consider include the range of hands, player behaviours, and stack sizes. It doesn’t always happen as we predict, but knowing how it works helps refine our decisions.