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Take one part WPT, mix with twenty-five parts celebrity editions of any game show and reality show you can think of... and you get Celebrity Poker Showdown, a six-part elimination tournament to decide who is the best home-game poker player in Hollywood and win part of a $250,000 prize pool. And it's all for charity, of course.

Recaps by Chris Wolvie, GSNN

Dave Foley and Phil Gordon
EP: Joshua Malina, Marcia Mule, Andrew Hill Newman, Bryan Scott
Packager: Bravo
Airs: Thursdays at 9:00pm ET on Bravo

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Web design by Jason Elliott. Logo by Chico Alexander. 


Since I'll be doing the World Poker Tour recaps and have done Celebrity Poker Showdown recaps, I've been inputting a lot of comments into the recaps so the rookie poker watcher can keep up with the veteran poker enthusiast.  Since I've been getting a bit redundant in my comments as of late, I decided to combine what I know from watching WPT and the World Series of Poker on ESPN into a page for the gambling neophytes out there.  This way, you always have a reference to revert to while reading my recaps.  Think of this as a FAQ for televised poker.

1. What is poker?
2. What is Texas Hold 'Em and how do you play it?
3. What does the "dealer button", "all-in" and other poker terms mean?
4. What hands beat what in poker?
5. What are some Hold 'Em hands called?

1. What is poker?

Poker is the most popular gambling game in the world.  It involves a deck or decks of cards and money in the form of cash or, in casinos, chips.  The basic object of every variation of poker is to have the best hand of everyone you play against.  If you do, you win whatever money has been placed in a "pot" during the course of the game.  Posturing, wagering and bluffing plays a lot into poker.

Nobody's sure where poker first appeared in the world.  Similar games in France (called "Poque"), Germany ("Pochen") and Persia ("as nas") could be considered the forerunners of poker as we know it today.

Poker in America has its roots in the southern U.S. during the Civil War.  The Confederate soldiers, with not a lot to do during the long days in between battles, concocted this card game with 20 cards that consisted of betting and bluffs and other aspects taken from the above games.  Rules were added for the classic 52-card deck and the game spread to Mississippi riverboats.  From there, the game expanded throughout the country and even overseas thanks to the military.

Today, over 150 million people worldwide play poker on a regular basis.  Over 50 million Americans play the game in casinos and home games regularly.  And several thousand have made playing poker a profession.  Poker has also had its share of success in Hollywood, being a part of major hit movies like "The Cincinnati Kid", "Maverick" and "Rounders".

Poker has many different varieties, even though the object is always the same in most cases.  There are "stud" games, where what a player is dealt is what he has to work with, "draw" games, where players can trade in cards for others, and "flop" games, which is a variation of stud with "community cards" used by everyone.

There are essentially two styles of poker games when it comes to betting.  One is called a "cash game".  This is when people take what money they want to play with and play with just that.  Cash games usually have a minimum "buy-in", the least amount someone can start with to be admitted into a game.  Cash games in casinos start when a new table is needed to accommodate incoming players and stop when there's no one AT the table to play anymore.  It is more than possible for six players in a cash game to start with different amounts of money.  If they run out of the money, they always have the option of digging back into their wallets and using MORE money to stay in the game.  They also have the option to quit at any time and take home whatever money they have left.

The other way poker is played as the tournament.  In a tournament, players put in a certain amount of money to enter.  They all start with the same amount of chips (most times equal to the money they put in) and they all play at the same time.  Rules of tournaments vary from place to place, but the most common is that you keep playing until one of two things happen: you LOSE all your chips, or you WIN all the chips that all the players had.  Tournaments can be single-table, in which a set number of people all play at the same table, or multi-table, where multiple poker tables are used.  In multi-table tournaments, players are moved from one table to another as players are eliminated until all the remaining players are at one table, called the Final Table, for the last hands to determine a winner.

All WPT tournaments are multi-table.  All but one of them give the players a set amount of chips and, when they run out of them, they're out of the tournament for good.  Some tournaments (including one in the WPT) allow "re-buys", meaning they can pay more money to get more chips and stay in the tournament.

As each tournament goes on, players get eliminated and are given a "place" depending on when they were ousted.  The first one eliminated from a 75-player tournament, for instance, comes in 75th place.  The tenth player taken out is in 64th.  And, of course, the last one beaten out of all his chips is in 2nd place.  At the end of the tournament, the money collected from the buy-ins is distributed among those in the higher places, with more money going to the whoever is higher.  It's usually done by percentage or by set amounts.  For instance, in the 2003 World Series of Poker, 839 players put in $10,000 each.  After the casino took a small piece of the total (casinos usually do that), the tournament was left with about $8.2 million to distribute.  Anyone who came in 54th place through 63rd place received $15,000.  The amounts went steadily higher all the way up to the winner, who received $2.5 million.  Those that didn't place in the top 63 didn't win anything.  Those top 63 were considered "in the money."  Amounts of payoffs varies from place to place and tournament to tournament.

2. What is Texas Hold 'Em and how do you play it?

The most widely-used version of poker played by professionals is call Texas Hold 'Em, which is a "flop" version Seven-Card Stud.  No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em has been called the "Cadillac of Poker" by most.  This is because it has more strategy and requires more concentration than any other poker game.

Texas Hold 'Em is a simple game to learn and even more simple if you've ever played Seven-Card Stud.  Each player starts with two cards dealt face-down to them, called hole cards.  The players then decide whether to bet into their hand or fold the hand and wait for the next round.  Once all bets are in, three cards are dealt face-up in the middle of the table.  These three cards, called the "Flop", are community cards that everyone still in the hand can use.  After another round of betting, a fourth card is turned up, called the "Turn" or "Fourth Street".  After more betting, a fifth and final community card, called the "River" or "Fifth Street" is dealt.  Then there is one final round of betting and a winner is determined.  The object is to have the best five-card poker hand consisting of any combination of the two cards in your hand and the five on the table.

For example: if you had J♠ 9♠ as your two "hole cards" and the community cards come up as J♦ J♥ 2♦ 6♦ 5♠, this would give you three-of-a-kind: the two Jacks on the Board and the third in your hand.  But if someone else held, say, K♦ 10♦, then THEY would have a flush: three diamonds on the Board and the two in their hand.  More on what beats what in poker later.

Betting is an important part of Hold 'Em.  Since other players can see the community cards and betting usually signifies a strong hand, they can pick up just HOW strong a hand possibly is if they see you betting and by how MUCH you bet.  If the Flop comes up J♦ J♥ 2♦ and you bet big, others may think you either have a third Jack or a second 2 to make two pair.  But if someone else raises your bet, you might think they have a "flush draw" and need only one more diamond for a flush.

There are three ways Texas Hold 'Em can be contested.  There's Limit Hold 'Em, in which the amounts of money that can be bet at any time are set and cannot be altered.  If you hear of a "30/60 Hold 'Em" game, that means that players can only bet or raise $30 before and after the Flop is turned up and $60 after the Turn and River cards each are played.  In Limit games, players are also only allowed to raise a certain amount of times per hand.  There's Pot Limit Hold 'Em, in which the maximum bet is whatever is in the pot at that time.  If a game starts with 9 players, $10 antes and $30 and $60 blinds (more on that later), that means the pot starts at $180 before the cards are even dealt out, and that's how much can be bet.  If someone was to bet $180, then the pot would be up to $360 and the next person could raise to THAT much.

The third variation is No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em, the one you see on WPT, World Series of Poker and Celebrity Poker Showdown.  "No-Limit" means exactly that; there's no limit to how much a person can bet...except, of course, how much they have in front of them.  At any time, any player who thinks he has the best hand can go "all-in" and bet everything he has.  If he wins the hand (assuming someone calls his bet), he at least doubles his fortunes.  If he loses, however,...you get the idea.  A fortune is won and lost on almost every deal of No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em.  This is why you don't see too many No-Limit tables in casinos; it's usually reserved for tournaments.


3. What does the "dealer button", "all-in" and other poker terms mean?

There are many terms used in poker, and some in Texas Hold 'Em in general.  I'll cover a number of the most popular ones here.  Many others are available on the Planet Poker Dictionary.

Ante: A small amount of money put into the pot before any cards are dealt.  Antes serve two purposes: it determines who is playing in the hand and it puts SOME money in the pot for the players to play for.
Dealer Button: In some games (particularly flop games) where a central dealer is involved, a white plastic disk is passed around the table.  Whoever has the disk is designated the "dealer" and the central dealer starts dealing the cards to that player's left.  After the hand is over, the button is passed to the player on the "dealer"'s left. 
Blinds: In flop games, blinds are posted by the two players to the left of the dealer button.  These are initial bets to assure there's money in the pot, even if there's no antes.  The person to the immediate left of the dealer button posts a "Small Blind", and the player to the left of him posts a "Big Blind" that is twice as much as the Small Blind.  Play then starts with the player to the left of the Big Blind.
Check: This is an option not to bet.  This can only be done if nobody has bet in the current round.  If a bet has been made, you cannot check; you must either call or raise the bet or fold your hand.
Call: Put in money equal to the current highest bet.
Raise: Increase the current highest bet.
Fold: End your hand and your involvement in the current hand.
Check-raise: To check during a round of betting, then to raise any bet made during that same round.  This strategy is used by players to feign a weak hand and get his opponents to bet.
Slow-roll/Trap: To not play aggressive with a strong hand, to lull the opponent(s) into thinking they have the better hand and bet big.
Kicker: A tie-breaking card in a hand.  For example: A-A-9-9-7 is better than A-A-9-9-4 because 7 is the higher-ranked kicker card.
Straight/Flush Draw: In flop games, having four cards that can make a straight/flush if the right card comes up before the River.  If a Flop comes up with two diamonds and you have two diamonds in your hand, you have a flush draw.  If you have 10-9 and the Flop comes J-K-6, you have a straight draw, needing a Queen for a straight.
All-in: In No-Limit games, putting all your money in on one hand.
Drawing Dead: Having no card left in the deck that can beat your opponent.
Outs: Cards that can win you the hand if it comes up.  If your opponent has three of a kind and you have 10-9-8-7, a 6 or a Jack can win the hand for you with a straight, making 8 possible "outs": the 4 Jacks and 4 6s in a standard deck (assuming no Jacks or 6s have been played yet).
Off-suit: Two hole cards not of the same suit.
Suited Connectors: Two holds cards of consecutive rank and of the same suit, like 8♠ 7♠.  These are good starting cards because you have a fair possibility of getting a straight and/or a flush draw later in the hand.
Over the top: To re-raise a large raise.
Overcard: A card of higher rank than your opponents.  For instance, someone with Ace-Jack has two overcards to someone with two 7s.  This means that and Ace or a Jack in the community cards would make the 7s an underdog.
Short stack/"Down to the felt": Having very, very few chips; very little between you and the felt of the table.
Bluff: To feign having a good hand when you don't and bet into it in order to scare players out of the hand.
On tilt: To play recklessly due to frustration, usually after losing a hand you thought you should have won.
Bad beat/Suck-out: To lose a GOOD hand to a LUCKY hand.  In Hold 'Em, that usually means having the best hand before the River card is dealt, then having one of the very few cards that could beat you come up on the River

4. What hands beat what in poker?

The object in most poker games is to get the best five-card poker hand.  The ranks of poker hands were determined by the probability of each hand coming up with five cards dealt.  The probabilities get a little askew in seven-card or nine-card hands, but the ranks of hands remain.  I'll show the hands from worst to best in poker where wild cards aren't involved.

High Card
A♥ K? J? 9♦ 7♠
If no two cards in a hand are of the same rank, at least one is of a different suit and all five cards are not of consecutive rank , the hand is scored by the highest card.  In this case, it's "Ace-high".  In poker, the rank of cards, regardless of suit, is as follows: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.  Therefore, an Ace-high would beat a King-high, which would beat a Queen-high, etc.  The worst five-card hand in poker is 7-5-4-3-2 with at least one of them in a different suit.

One Pair
Q♥ Q♠ A♠ K♥ 8♠
Any two cards of the same rank makes a pair.  Again, rank determines who wins, so a pair of Aces would beat this pair of Queens.

Two Pair
A♣ A♦ K♣ K♦ 10♣
Pretty self-explanatory: two different sets of two cards of the same rank.  Aces and Kings here are the best you can get.  If two players have two pair, the one with the higher top pair wins.  For instance, Aces and eights beats Kings and Queens.

Three-of-a-kind ("Trips" or a "Set")
J? J? J? 9? 6?
Again, self-explanatory.  Any three cards of the same rank.  This is three Jacks, but three Queens, three Kings or three Aces can beat it.

7♠ 6♦ 5♦ 4♥ 3♠
Five cards of consecutive rank, like 7-6-5-4-3, in any suit.  If more than one straight occurs, the highest-rank card wins.  For example, this "7-high straight" can be beaten by a "King-high straight" (K-Q-J-10-9).  An Ace can be used as the high card (A-K-Q-J-10, or "Broadway") or the low card (5-4-3-2-A, or a "Wheel") in a straight.

A♣ K♣ 10♣ 4♣ 3♣
Five cards of the same suit.  Ties are broken by the rank of the highest card.  This flush CAN be beaten if the opponent has, say, A-K-J-9-7 of hearts since the Jack beats this flush's 10.

Full House ("Full Boat")
A♣ A♥ A♦ K♠ K♦
Any three-of-a-kind of one rank and a pair of a different rank.  This full house would be referred to as "Aces full of Kings" (the rank of the three-of-a-kind "full of" the rank of the pair) and is the best full house you can get.  Ties are broken by the rank of the "trips", then the pairs.  K-K-K-5-5 beats J-J-J-10-10.  And K-K-K-5-5 beats K-K-K-2-2 (though this is only possible in flop games).

Four-of-a-kind ("Quads")
7? 7? 7? 7♣ A?
All four cards of one rank that are in the deck.  Four 7s beats four 5s but not four Aces.  In Texas Hold 'Em, it's possible for players to have the SAME four-of-a-kind, but only if the four-of-a-kind is part of the community cards.  In that case, the fifth card is compared.  7-7-7-7-A beats 7-7-7-7-K.

Straight Flush
J♣ 10♣ 9♣ 8♣ 7♣
Five cards of consecutive rank and all in the same suit.  Just like regular straights, highest card determines the winner.  A Jack-high straight flush like this beats a 7-high straight flush.

Royal Flush
A? K? Q? J? 10?
An Ace-high straight flush.  Since there are only 4 ways to get this hand out of over 2.5 million possible five-card hands, it makes this the best poker hand of all!

When wild cards are introduced into a poker game, five-of-a-kinds become possible, putting a four-of-a-kind and a wild card together.  Most casinos keep jokers for draw games, though.


5. What are some Hold 'Em hands called?

Many Texas Hold 'Em poker hands dealt in the first two cards have cute nicknames to them.  A few have no real rhyme or reason for the nicknames, but most do.  I'll list a fair number of such hands here.  Others can be viewed at GoCee.com, Gamma Seven and Poker Forum.

If you have... ...it's also called... ...because...
Any two aces Bullets, American Airlines, Pocket Rockets Bullets and rockets are deadly things, and so are Aces in poker to others.  American Airlines because it's "AA".
Two black Aces Joe Louis Joe Louis was a great boxer, and boxers sometimes leave a ring with two "black eyes" (an Ace is sometimes called an "eye").
Two red Aces Visine Two RED eyes.
Ace-King Big Slick No one knows for sure.
Ace-Queen Big Chick "Big Slick" only with a "chick" (Queen).
A-3 Baskin-Robbins With Ace being "one", you have 31, like the flavors at a Baskin-Robbins.
K-K Cowboys They're the big guys of the deck.
K-J Kojak or Bachelor's Hand Slip an "o" between "K" and "Jack".  "Bachelor's hand" if  they are of different suits, called "Jack-King off-suit" (OK, now take away the "suit" there...see?)
K-10 Woodcutter "King-ten" sounds like "cuttin'".
K-9 Dog Self-explanatory.  If their of the same suit, it's a "pedigree"; otherwise it's a "mongrel".
Q-Q Seigfried & Roy You have to ask?
Q-9 Quinine Say "Queen nine" fast.
Q-3 Gay Waiter A "Queen" with a "trey". (Don't blame me; I didn't come up with it).
J-J Hooks Duh.
J-5 Motown Jack(s) 'n' Five.
10-10 Tension Two tens = "too tense"
10-5 Woolworth's Woolworth's was a "five-and-dime" store.
10-2 Doyle Brunson The poker legend Doyle Brunson won the World Series of Poker TWICE with a 10-2 as his hole cards.
9-9 German Virgin "Nein" means "no" in German.  So if you were to proposition a German maiden and she was saving herself for marriage, she'd tell you "no" at least twice.
9-5 Dolly Parton Her biggest hit was a song called "9 to 5".
9-3 Jack Benny The comedian always insisted he was 39 years old.
8-8 Snowmen They look like snowmen.
7-7 Mullets They look like mullets in profile without the rest of the head.  Red 7s would be "redheaded mullets", then.
7-2 off-suit Beer Hand It is the WORST hand in Hold 'Em and, if you HAPPEN to win with it, your friends will demand that you buy them beer with the money you just took from them.
5-5 Speed Limit Up until about a decade ago, the speed limit on all Interstates was 55 MPH.
4-4 Sailboats They look VAGUELY like a sail
Black 4s Darth Vader It's the "dark" side of the "fours", Luke.
3-3 Crabs Turn them sideways and they look kind of like crabs.  If they're both red, you could call them "cooked crabs".
2-2 Ducks They supposedly look like adult ducks.

Hope this little primer helps you enjoy the poker recaps a little better.

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