Whether you're looking to walk the walk, talk the talk, or just learn a little bit about Texas Hold 'em poker, this month's Downtime will surely get you started. Shuffle up and deal!
I play in a monthly poker game with my buddies every month (I have three young boys, so this is a much-needed escape from talking Thomas the Tank and watching Cars for the umpteenth time…I’m sure you docs can sympathize), and we all talk like we’re pros. Well, we’re not, but if you want a little knowledge to act like you know something about this little game called Texas Hold ‘Em, here’s a quick primer. If you want to know more, just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, Google “Texas Hold ‘em”, or simply read on!
How to Play
Stage 1 — “Preflop”
Starting with a standard deck of 52 cards, each person (from 2 to 11 players) is dealt two cards, face down, which become their “hole” or “pocket” cards. When everyone has their hole cards, the first round of betting begins, where players can stay in the hand by either betting or raising the minimum amount. A player “folds” their hand when they do not make a bet or “call” or “see” (match a bet or raise) another player, ending their action and forfeiting the pot. Note that in casinos, the dealer never plays; rather, a “dealer button” is passed around the table after each hand. It signifies where the dealing is done from, which is the most advantageous position at the table (“on the button”) because the dealer acts last on every hand. For home game, players act as dealers, with a new dealer every hand.
One of the more confusing things about poker is the betting, so let’s explain that quickly. To ensure action every hand, forced bets called “blinds” are put into the pot by typically two players before the hand begins. The player to the dealer’s immediate left is the “small blind,” usually half of the normal bet, and the person sitting to the left of the small blind is the “big blind,” usually the amount of the minimal bet. As the deal rotates around the table, each player takes turns posting the small blind and the big blind bets. For players to stay in the hand, they have to bet at least this minimum blind. Blind structures, depending on the type of poker being played, may increase as the game progresses.
Stage 2 — “The Flop”
After the first round of betting concludes the dealer “burns” (discards) one card and then turns over three cards in the middle of the table (known as “the flop”). These are community cards, which can be used by anyone to make the best hand possible. Another round of betting occurs after the flop.
Stage 3 — “The Turn”
After the second round of betting concludes, the dealer burns another card and then turns over an additional card, adding it to the community flop on the table. This card is called “the turn” or “fourth street,” being the fourth card face up on the table. Another round of betting follows.
Stage 4 — “The River”
The dealer burns again and then turns over one last card, which is called “the river” or “fifth street,” and adds it to the community cards. The final round of betting then transpires.
Stage 5 — “The Showdown”
Of the remaining players in the hand, the best five-card hand wins. A player can use any combination of their hole cards and community cards to make a hand, and should the five community cards make the best hand, everyone splits the pot (“the board plays”).
What Beats What?
From best to worst…
Best Pocket Card Nicknames
AA — American Airlines; Pocket Rockets; Bullets
AK — Big Slick; Anna Kournikova (“Looks good, but never wins”)
AQ — Big Chick
AT — Bookends; Johnny Moss
A8 — Dead Man’s Hand
KK — Cowboys; King Kong
KQ (suited) — Marriage
KQ (off) — Mixed Marriage
KJ — Kojak
K9 — Fido; Dog
QQ — Sigfried and Roy; Ladies
QJ — Maverick
Q7 — Computer hand
JJ — Fishhooks; Jaybirds
J5 — Motown
J4 — Flat Tire (“What’s a jack for?”)
TT - Dimes
T4 — Good Buddy; Over
T2 — Doyle Brunson
98 - Oldsmobile
95 — Dolly Parton
99 — Phil Helmuth; Popeye’s
88 — Snowmen
77 — Sunset Strip
66 — Route 66
5T — Woolworth
55 — Presto
45 — Jesse James; Colt
44 — Sailboats; Magnum
33 — Crabs; Treys
22 — Ducks
Aces Up — A hand containing a pair of Aces and any other pair
All-in — Betting all of your remaining chips on a hand. Either a very foolish move or a very smart one – it’s the ultimate aggression, especially in a no-limit game.
Bad Beat — Essentially, losing a hand when you shouldn’t have because you were the odds-on favorite to win. You have AA, a player has AK, and the flop comes K-9-2, followed up by a 5 and then the other K, giving him three kings and you two pair. That’s a bad beat.
Belly-Buster — Also known as a “Gut Shot” or “Inside Straight Draw,” it means you need one card to make an “inside” straight – a single card in the middle to complete the series. For example, if you have 5-9 in the hole and the flop comes 6-7-K, an 8 on the turn or river would give you the straight.
Board — The community cards that are dealt face up on the table.
Broadway — A straight to the Ace
Button — The name designated to the dealer, typically signified by the white puck with the world “dealer” on it. Each player rotates being “on the button,” the most advantageous position in a poker hand because the dealer acts last on every betting round.
Call — Matching, rather than raising, the previous bet
Calling station — If you’re the person at the table who doesn’t fold or raise but just calls a lot, other players like you – a lot.
Case — The last card of a certain rank in the deck. You’ve got 44, the other guy has 55, the flop is 4-7-K, the turn is 9, and the river is the “case” 4. Quad fours. Nice hand, Chachi.
Check — Delivered by usually knocking on the table, checking your option tells the other players that you’re not interested in betting and would rather see what they do before deciding to call, raise, or fold your hand.
Check-raise — The act of checking a hand in hopes of luring your opponent to bet and then raising over him/her.
Come over the top — When a player raises or re-raises another player’s bet
Dead money — Money put into a pot by a player who has since folded; can also be used to describe an easy mark or novice at a poker table.
Drawing dead — This means that no matter what comes out on the board, you have no chance of winning the hand. Not good.
Flush draw — You have four of the five cards needed to make a flush, which is a hand consisting of all the same suit (hearts, diamonds, clubs, or spades).
Fourth Street - See “Turn”
Fifth Street — See “River”
Flop — The first three cards of the five community cards dealt face up on the table.
Heads-up — A pot being played by only two players.
Kicker — The tie-breaking card of your hole cards. For example, you’ve got A8 and I’ve got AK. If the board shows A, 5, 4, 9, 6, we both have a pair of Aces, but my hand wins because my King is the stronger kicker.
Limp — Limping means that players are coming into the hand weakly; that is, they are only calling the minimum bet (the big blind) to play.
Loose — Refers to a style of player that continually calls or bets with weak hands
Muck —Refers to the actual act of folding your hand or the pile of discarded hands and burned cards on the table
Nuts — Simply put, the best possible hand at that moment. The nuts can change on fourth or fifth street, depending on the cards revealed. Also refers to a flush or straight that can’t be beat.
Outs — The number of cards remaining in the deck, in a best-case scenario, that can make you a winning hand. If you’ve got a flush draw (see above) after the flop, you’ve got 9 outs, since there are 13 suited cards in a deck.
Overcard — A card higher than any other card on the board. If the flop is 6-9-J and you’ve got QK, you’ve got two overcards.
Quads — Four of a kind
Rags — Poor hole cards, such as 7-2 off-suit.
Best Poker Pro Nicknames
Doyle Brunson — “Texas Dolly”
Johnny Chan — “The Oriental Express”
Antonio Esfandiari — “The Magician”
Chris Ferguson — “Jesus”
Gus Hansen — “The Great Dane”
Phil Hellmuth, Jr. — “The Poker Brat”
Phil Ivey — “The Tiger Woods of Poker”
Phil Laak — “The Unabomber”
Erick Lindgren — “E-Dog”
Mike Matusow — “The Mouth”
Carlos Mortensen — “The Matador”
Daniel Negreanu — “Kid Poker”
Men Nguyen — “The Master”
Greg Raymer — “Fossilman”
David Ulliott — “Devilfish”
Rainbow — A flop of three different suits.
Rake — Whether it’s a set dollar amount or a percentage of the pot, this is the commission the “house” takes from your game.
Ring game — A regular poker game or “cash” game, as opposed to a tournament.
River — The fifth and final card dealt to make up the community cards on the table.
Runner-runner — When you need to catch two specific cards on the turn and river to make your hand. Usually ends up with a Bad Beat on someone else.
Short-handed — A table with fewer players than usual. 2-5 players is usually considered short-handed.
Short stack — When you’ve got way less chips than most of the other people at the table, you’re short stacked and heavily disadvantaged.
Slow-play — Intentionally playing a very strong hand “slowly” in the hopes of tricking the other players into thinking they have the best hand, forcing them to bet more in later rounds, leading to more aggressive plays and larger pots.
Slow roll — Intentionally stalling before revealing a winning hand; can cause melees to break out, so use with caution.
Straight draw — You have four of the five cards needed to make a straight, which is a hand consisting of five cards in sequential order.
String bet — Usually a raise in which a player doesn’t get all of his/her chips required into the pot in one motion; a verbal announcement of a raise is needed to prevent this unethical practice.
Suited connectors — Holding two cards that are of the same suit and sequentially ordered, such as 7-8 of diamonds. Suited connectors are often good “drawing” hands (flushes and straights).
Tell — A clue, hint, or some other indication unknowingly revealed by a player that discloses his/her hand, future play, etc.
Tight — A conservative style that only plays strong hands
Tilt — When you’re angry, fuming, upset, emotionally charged, or just plain old silent from a previous hand, you’re on tilt. Typically, being on tilt impacts a player’s poker game for the worse.
Trips — Three-of-a-kind. Also referred to as a “set.”
Turn — The fourth of five community cards dealt in the game.
Under the gun — The player who acts first in a betting round.
Wheel — A straight to the 5; also known as a “Bicycle”
Sites You Can Bet On (Well, not really...)