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Find your poker niche

Nov 23, 2004 12:19 AM

By GT STAFF

Poker is spreading like wildfire across the country, both in organized casinos and card rooms as well as on kitchen tables and rumpus rooms.

Though most of the new games are one form of Texas hold’em, it might be helpful for new players to understand a variety of games, whether or not they’re available in a particular casino. So here are thumbnail descriptions of seven-card stud, hold’em, Omaha and five-card stud poker, as well as some tips for winning.

Seven card stud is classic poker, and in many eastern locales, it is the game of choice (whereas Texas hold ”˜em is king in Nevada and the West). After everyone antes, the casino dealer starts dealing the cards to the player on his left and continues dealing in a clockwise rotation around the table. The dealer will give every player two cards face down and one face up.

The player with the lowest ranked upcard gets to bet first. All other players in turn must either fold, call, or raise the bet. A player who folds throws his or her cards in and is out of the game. A player who calls bets the same amount as the previous bet made. And one who raises bets more than the previous bet. After the last player responds to the most recent bet, the betting round is completed and the dealer proceeds to deal another upcard to each player. Another round of betting occurs in which the player with the highest ranked poker hand showing bets first or checks. The latter means the player does not want to make a bet but is still in the game.

Once that round of betting is complete, the dealer deals two additional rounds of cards face up and then one round of cards face down to each player who has not folded. After every card is dealt to the players, another round of betting occurs. Poker pros use the term third street, fourth street, fifth, sixth, and finally seventh street to indicate the round of betting. Third street occurs after all players receive their first upcard (or third card dealt to them). Fourth street is when all players have received their fourth card and so on.

The last card, seventh street, is dealt face down. A final round of betting occurs followed by the showdown or revealing the hands. The player with the highest rank five-card hand (from the seven cards dealt) is the winner of the pot.

When playing seven card stud, here are some tips to remember to improve your chances of winning. You should fold on third street unless you have at least a pair, and if the pair is low, you should also have an ace, king, or queen odd card. If you don’t improve your three-card flush or straight by fourth street, fold. If another player has a higher pair than yours, fold unless you also have an odd card higher in rank than the high pair. When you have a good hand, play aggressively and raise, especially if you have everyone else beat on the table. Don’t stay in and chase other players — only the highest hand wins, not second best.

In the popular game of Texas 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 are community cards (or sometimes called the flop) which are used by all players. A round of betting occurs then the dealer places a fourth community card in the center of the table. Another round of betting occurs and the fifth and last community card 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 high poker hand using his or her two cards and the five community cards is the winner of the pot.

Player 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 face 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 draw poker is played as follows. Every player antes and then the dealer gives every player five cards face down (again a rotating button is used to determine who is dealt first and who bets last). An initial round of betting occurs, and once this is completed, each player in turn can draw new cards. The player is allowed to keep his or her original hand or discard as many cards as he or she chooses. The first player to the left of the button then initiates the final round of betting. Remember, as discussed in part one of this article, players can either call (bet the same as the last bet), raise (increase the bet), fold (drop out), or check (pass the betting option to the next player). The winner is the player with the highest ranking five-card high hand. (In five card draw poker low, the player with the highest ranking five-card low hand wins the pot.)

Five card stud poker 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. Remember, 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.