How To Play Poker Like a the Pros
Poker is one of those games that is fairly easy to learn, but takes years to master. The rules are easy to learn, what to do when and how to do it, what takes time is being able to read other players, and figure out what they’re about to do before they even know they’re about to do it.
This is what takes years, this isn’t something you are going to be able to pick up from a book or a guide, this guide, however, will get you into the game, learn the rules, and put you on track to start winning every pot you play in.
Types of Poker
There are a few different kinds of poker, from Hold ‘Em, ro H.O.R.S.E, and exciting online poker games, each with their own set of rules and how you play etc. Two of the most common games are Hold ‘Em and Five-card draw. Hold ‘Em is what you see the pro’s play on TV, while five-card draw is what you may be more familiar with if you’ve played a few games of casual poker.
Hold ‘Em involves being dealt two cards, which you keep hidden, and then the dealer deals 5 more cards for the table. You then use a combination of the cards in your hand and the cards on the table to make a winning hand.
Five-Card Draw involves being dealt 5 cards from the start, and then being able to swap out a number of your cards in exchange for cards from the dealer. You can’t have more than 5 cards at one time, and you can only swap once.
There are many different types of hands in poker, going from the weakest hand to the strongest, namely:
- High card (Whatever the highest card in your hand is)
- Pair (2 of the same, Q Q or 4 4)
- Two Pair (Two sets of matching cards)
- Three of a kind (Three of the same cards, 5 5 5 or J J J)
- Straight (A sequence of cards of an suit, 4 5 6 7 8 or 9 10 J Q K)
- Flush (Five cards of the same suit)
- Full House (Two of the same cards and 3 of the same cards)
- Four of a Kind (All four of the same card)
- Straight Flush (A straight and a flush combined)
- Royal Flush (Same suit, 10 J Q K A)
Looking at the list, the strength of each hand goes from bottom to top, Royal Flush beats Straight Flush, Three of a Kind beats Two Pair etc.
You may have the term Blinds before if you’ve watched poker on TV or heard someone talk about it. Blinds are simple to understand, and are just small bets that are placed before anyone sees their cards. This is to ensure that there is always money on the table, which keeps every hand interesting.
There is a big blind and a small blind, and the two players that are directly to the left of the dealer pay in the blinds each hand (the dealer chip moves each hand, meaning each player will put in a blind at some point)
How to Play a Hand
The routine you follow when playing a hand of Hold ‘Em is quite easy to understand:
- The dealer will deal each player two cards.
- You then take a peek at your cards, and then you either bet, or fold your hand
- If a player decides to bet, every player after that has to either match their bet (call), fold their cards (get rid of them and sit out the hand), or raise the bet.
- This process continues until everyone has put in an equal amount of chips.
Once this initial process has been completed, the dealer will then deal out three face up cards on the table. These are the community cards that everyone can use to make a hand.
Every player still in the hand will then wither bet or fold again.
The dealer then deals another card face up, and the betting or folding process goes around the table again.
The dealer will then deal a fifth card (the River card), and the remaining players will raise/call/fold. The player with the strongest hand will then win the pot.
Reading the Table
Considering there are multiple ways to have a winning hand in poker, being able to read the table once all the cards are laid out is a vital aspect that will give you insight into when to play strong, when to fold, as well as knowing what other players may have.
You may be dealt double Queens, and on the flop you see another Queen and two Spades, good news right? Trip Queens is a strong hand, but the fact that there are two Spades on the table means another player could very easily be working with 4 Spades and is just waiting for that 5th one to make a Flush.
Seeing what you have as a hand is only half the battle, as you constantly need to be trying to figure out what other players may have gotten, and looking at their body language and what they are betting will help you understand what cards they may be holding.
Knowing the odds of having particular hands is also important to be wary of. This handy guide helps you understand the odds of a poker hand, what combinations of hands could be on the table, and what are the chances of an opponent having a monster hand or is bluffing you.
The hardest part of poker to learn is the psychology of reading another player, being able to tell why they are betting a lot after the flop, does it mean they flopped a strong hand? Or are they trying to bluff you?
This is only something you will be able to learn by playing hours and hours of poker. It requires you to not only play your hand smartly, but to keep an eye on every other player and what they are doing, what they are betting, when they are betting it and obviously, the final result.
However, to get on to the level of a pro poker player, you need to start paying more attention to your opponents. Obviously playing your own hand right is important, but being able to read and react to other players actions is the difference between winning and losing.
You should use this guide not only to learn how to play the game, but as a way to start understanding the ins and outs of poker. There are a number of aspects that can’t be learned in a few days, but will need time and practice to get your head around.
In the end, you are going to win and lose a number of hands, but as the great Daniel Negreanu once said, not learning anything from losing is your biggest mistake.