Know your games!

Jul 17, 2005 11:53 PM

This week we conclude our two-part series on casino poker by reviewing the rules of hold’em, Omaha, and five card stud poker.

In the popular hold’em poker, the high hand only wins the pot (no low hand winner in this game). Each player receives two cards face down, a round of betting occurs, then the dealer places three cards face up in the center of the table.

These community cards (or sometimes called the flop) are used by all players. A round of betting occurs then the dealer places a fourth community card in the center of the table (this is called the "turn).

Another round of betting occurs and the fifth and last community card (the "river") is placed face up on the table. A final round of betting occurs followed by the show of hands. The player who has the highest ranking five-card poker hand using his or her two cards and the five community cards is the winner of the pot.

Players who bet last in hold’em have a decided advantage over the other players. Players rotate, therefore, as to who bets as a button is used to indicate an imaginary dealer. At the commencement of play, the button is placed in front of the first player to the right of the dealer. The dealer will deal the cards starting with the first player to the immediate left of the button. This player also is required to initiate the betting round.

The player who has the button always bets last (remember, this is the imaginary dealer). After each game is completed, the button rotates around the table in a clockwise manner after each round of play. Therefore, everyone has a chance to bet last.

Here are some tips to increase your chance of winning at hold’em. You should stay in a game if your first two cards dealt to you are A-A, K-K, Q-Q, or A-K or A-Q suited. Other playable hands are any two cards higher than 10 such as K-J. Never stay in if you have a pair less than sevens.

You generally want to see all lower cards in the flop than the rank of your pair. Bet aggressively if you have a strong hand to force players out before the flop. Your best position on the table is to bet last which justifies staying in with marginal hands. Finally, observe the play of your opponents to determine who tends to stay in with weak hands and who stays with only strong hands.

In Omaha poker, every player receives four cards face down (a button is used similar to hold’em) and there are five community cards. Betting occurs after the initial four cards are dealt to each player and after each community card is dealt.

The players form their five-card poker hand by using two of the four cards dealt to them and three of the five community cards. This five-card hand constitutes the poker hand of the player at the showdown.

In Omaha poker high, the player with the highest ranking five-card high poker hand wins the pot. In high-low split eight or better, the player with the highest ranking five-card high poker hand and the one with the highest-ranking five-card low poker hand split the pot equally. The latter low hand cannot contain any pairs or a nine, 10, jack, queen, or king (hence the term "eight or better").

Five card stud poker is a classic game but you don’t see it very often. When you do it is played to determine a winning high hand only. Each player in turn receives one card face down and one face up. A round of betting occurs with the player with the lowest ranked upcard betting first. The dealer then deals three additional cards face up to each player with a round of betting occurring between each deal. The player with the highest ranked poker hand wins the pot.

One of the keys to being a successful winning poker player is to learn when to fold. Players who stay in a game too long generally will be steady losers. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Only the winner takes the pot — there are no prizes for being second best. Therefore, learn not to play cards that cannot win a hand.

And finally, it’s important that you learn how to read your opponents. This takes skill and practice, but after a while, you should begin to pick up clues that players make as to the type of hand they hold. Learning the patterns of fellow players is what usually separates the good poker players from the great ones.