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
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
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
9♠ as your two "hole cards" and the community cards come up as
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♥ 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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")
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).
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
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.
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
Gamma Seven and
|If you have...
||...it's also called...
|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 was a great boxer, and boxers sometimes leave a ring with two "black eyes" (an Ace is sometimes called an "eye").|
|Two red Aces
||Two RED eyes.
||No one knows for sure.
||"Big Slick" only with a "chick" (Queen).
||With Ace being "one", you have 31, like the flavors at a Baskin-Robbins.
||They're the big guys of the deck.
||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?)
||"King-ten" sounds like "cuttin'".
||Self-explanatory. If their of the same suit, it's a "pedigree"; otherwise it's a "mongrel".
||Seigfried & Roy
||You have to ask?
||Say "Queen nine" fast.
||A "Queen" with a "trey". (Don't blame me; I didn't come up with it).
||Jack(s) 'n' Five.
||Two tens = "too tense"
||Woolworth's was a "five-and-dime" store.
||The poker legend Doyle Brunson won the World Series of Poker TWICE with a 10-2 as his hole cards.
||"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.
||Her biggest hit was a song called "9 to 5".
||The comedian always insisted he was 39 years old.
||They look like snowmen.
||They look like mullets in profile without the rest of the head. Red 7s would be "redheaded mullets", then.
||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.
||Up until about a decade ago, the speed limit on all Interstates was 55 MPH.
||They look VAGUELY like a sail
||It's the "dark" side of the "fours", Luke.
||Turn them sideways and they look kind of like crabs. If they're both red, you could call them "cooked crabs".
||They supposedly look like adult ducks.
Hope this little primer helps you enjoy the
poker recaps a