Frequently Asked Questions about Poker

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Table of Contents

Sections that have been added or modified recently are marked with the tag

P1What are the basic rules of poker? What are the hand rankings?
P2 What are some fun home poker games?
P3 How is Texas Hold'em played?
P4 How is Omaha Hold'em played?
P5 What should I expect the first time I play poker in a casino or card
room? What etiquette should I follow?
P6 What are some good books about poker?
P7 What are some good magazines about poker?
P8 What computer poker programs are best for my PC or Mac?
P9 What is IRC poker and how can I play?
P10 What skills are important for Texas Hold'em?
P11 What is a good preflop strategy for Texas Hold'em?
P12 What is a good third street strategy for Seven Card Stud?
P13 Why are poker hands ranked the way they are?
P14 Why are ace-hi flushes ranked highest, when it's much harder to get a
seven-hi flush? And similarly for two pairs?
P15 What is the correct ranking for 3-card poker hands?
P16 What are my chances of sucking out on my opponent in Hold'em? What are
my odds in Stud?
P17 What does pot-limit mean? What is half-pot-limit?
P18 What is a kill pot? What is a game with a kill? What is a half kill?
What is a straddle bet?
P19 What is a poker tournament? How does one work? What is a chip race? What
is a satellite?
P20 How does tournament strategy differ from that of regular games?
P21 What is the World Series of Poker? What is the Tournament of Champions?
P22 What the hell is Rumple Mintz?
P23 What is a burn card and why is it dealt?
P24 What happens if there aren't enough cards in the deck to deal the final
card in 7-card stud?
P25 What is the difference between a shill and a proposition player? What
skills are needed to be one?
P26 What cards are in the Dead Man's Hand?
P27 What are the Las Vegas poker room phone numbers?
P28 What poker games are spread in certain Las Vegas casinos?
P29 What do all these poker terms mean?
P30 When can I meet and play poker with fellow r.g.pers? What are BARGE,
FARGO, etc?
P31 Where can I play online poker against real people for real money? Is it
legal? Is it safe?
P32 How do you play no-limit seven-card stud? What is Mississippi Stud?
P33 Can one overcome the rake at low limit poker games?
P34 What is Hi-Lo declare? How is it played? [NEW]
P35 How many fundamentally different Omaha or Omaha-8 starting hands are
there? [NEW]

Web sites - r.g.p related:
ConJelCo (home of this FAQ) --
Big Annual Rec.Gambling Excursion --
[NEW]World Rec.Gambling Poker Tournament --
[NEW]IRC Poker -- now offline, in search of new home
[NEW]IRC Poker Database -- now offline, in search of new home, but excerpt

Web sites - maintained by r.g.p individuals:
[NEW]Dan Kimberg's Poker Page --
Ken Churilla's Poker Page --
Jazbo's Poker Page --
Abdul's Pos. E.V. Poker Page --
Jim Geary's Poker Page --
[NEW]Steve Badger's PlayWinningPoker --
David Zanetti's Mississippi Stud Page --
Wolf's Poker Page --

Web sites - other commercial:
Two Plus Two Forum --
United Poker Forum --
Poker Search --
Poker Pages --
Poker World --
Poker Forum -- --
Home Poker --
Mike Caro University Library --
Poker Digest Magazine --
Card Player Magazine --
[NEW]PokerPulse --


Q:P1 What are the basic rules of poker? What are the hand rankings?
A:P1 [Michael Maurer]

Most variants of poker satisfy the following definition, but in a home game
of course you are free to modify the rules as you see fit.

Poker is a card game in which players bet into a communal pot during the
course of a hand, and in which the player holding the best hand at the end
of the betting wins the pot. During a given betting round, each remaining
player in turn may take one of four actions:

  1. check, a bet of zero that does not forfeit interest in the pot
  2. bet or raise, a nonzero bet greater than preceding bets that all
     successive players must match or exceed or else forfeit all interest in
     the pot
  3. call, a nonzero bet equal to a preceding bet that maintains a player's
     interest in the pot
  4. fold, a surrender of interest in the pot in response to another
     player's bet, accompanied by the loss of one's cards and previous bets

Betting usually proceeds in a circle until each player has either called all
bets or folded. Different poker games have various numbers of betting rounds
interspersed with the receipt or replacement of cards.

Poker is usually played with a standard 4-suit 52-card deck, but a joker or
other wild cards may be added. The ace normally plays high, but can
sometimes play low, as explained below. At the showdown, those players still
remaining compare their hands according to the following rankings:

  1. Straight flush, five cards of the same suit in sequence, such as 76543
     of hearts. Ranked by the top card, so that AKQJT is the best straight
     flush, also called a royal flush. The ace can play low to make 5432A,
     the lowest straight flush.
  2. Four of a kind, four cards of the same rank accompanied by a "kicker",
     like 44442. Ranked by the quads, so that 44442 beats 3333K, and then
     ranked by the side card, so that 4444A beats 4444K(*).
  3. Full house, three cards of one rank accompanied by two of another, such
     as 777JJ. Ranked by the trips, so that 44422 beats 333AA, and then
     ranked by the pair, so that 444AA beats 444KK(*).
  4. Flush, five cards of the same suit, such as AJ942 of hearts. Ranked by
     the top card, and then by the next card, so that AJ942 beats AJ876.
     Suits are not used to break ties.
  5. Straight, five cards in sequence, such as 76543. The ace plays either
     high or low, making AKQJT and 5432A. "Around the corner" straights like
     32AKQ are usually not allowed.
  6. Three of a kind, three cards of the same rank and two kickers of
     different ranks, such as KKK84. Ranked by the trips, so that KKK84
     beats QQQAK, and then ranked by the two kickers, so that QQQAK beats
  7. Two pair, two cards of one rank, two cards of another rank and a kicker
     of a third rank, such as KK449. Ranked by the top pair, then the bottom
     pair and finally the kicker, so that KK449 beats any of QQJJA, KK22Q,
     and KK445.
  8. One pair, two cards of one rank accompanied by three kickers of
     different ranks, such as AAK53. Ranked by the pair, followed by each
     kicker in turn, so that AAK53 beats AAK52.
  9. High card, any hand that does not qualify as one of the better hands
     above, such as KJ542 of mixed suits. Ranked by the top card, then the
     second card and so on, as for flushes. Suits are not used to break

(* Such matchups are only possible in games where there are wild cards or
where community cards are shared, such as Texas Holdem.)

Suits are not used to break ties, nor are cards beyond the fifth; only the
best five cards in each hand are used in the comparison. In the case of a
tie, the pot is split equally among the winning hands.

Several variations are possible when playing for low. Some games permit the
ace to play low and ignore straights and flushes, making 5432A the best
possible low, even if it makes a straight flush. Other games just reverse
the order used for high hands, making 75432 of mixed suits the best possible
low. Still others count straights and flushes against you but let the ace
play low, making 6432A best. Note that in most games in which the ace plays
low, a pair of aces is lower than a pair of deuces, just as an ace is lower
than a deuce.

When a joker is in play, it usually can only be used as an ace or to
complete a straight or flush. It cannot be used as a true wild card, for
example, as a queen to make QQ43X play as three queens. When playing for
low, the joker becomes the lowest rank not already held, so 864AX is played
as 8642A, with the joker used as a deuce.

Although true wild cards are rarely seen in a casino, they are a popular way
to add excitement to a home game. Wild cards introduce an additional hand,
five of a kind, which normally ranks above a straight flush. They can also
cause confusion when two players hold the same hand composed of different
wild card combinations. The standard rules of poker do not distinguish
between such hands, but some players prefer to rank hands using fewer wild
cards above less "natural" versions of the same hand.

Another explanation of poker is at .

These comprehensive poker rule books are suitable for use in cardrooms or at

"Caro and Cooke's Rules of Real Poker" --

[NEW]Bob Ciaffone's "Robert's Rules of Poker" --


Q:P2 What are some fun home poker games?
A:P2 [Michael Maurer]

There are enough crazy home game poker variants to fill a book. Good sources
of games ranging from plain to insane are and and

Poker variants differ in the amount of skill they admit. Some, like 7-card
stud high/low with declare (no qualifier), provide skilled players many
opportunities to gain an edge. Others are a virtual crap shoot. In general,
the crazier games are designed to discourage folding and minimize the
influence of skill on the outcome. They accomplish this through a betting
structure that requires a large investment before the value of one's hand is
known. The level playing field that results is ideal for many informal
social groups.


Q:P3 How is Texas Hold'em played?
A:P3 [Michael Maurer]

Texas Hold'em is a "community card" game, meaning that some cards are dealt
face-up in the middle of the table and shared by all the players. Each
player has two down cards that are theirs alone, and combines them with the
five community cards to make the best possible five-card hand.

Play begins by dealing two cards face down to each player; these are known
as "hole cards" or "pocket cards". This is followed by a round of betting.
Most hold'em games get the betting started with one or two "blind bets" to
the left of the dealer. These are forced bets which must be made before
seeing one's cards. Play proceeds clockwise from the blinds, with each
player free to fold, call the blind bet, or raise. Usually the blinds are
"live", meaning that they may raise themselves when the action gets back
around to them.

Now three cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table; this is called
the "flop". A round of betting ensues, with action starting on the first
blind, immediately to the dealers left. Another card is dealt face up (the
"turn"), followed by another round of betting, again beginning to the
dealer's left. Then the final card (the "river") is dealt followed by the
final round of betting. In a structured-limit game, the bets on the turn and
river are usually double the size of those before and on the flop.

The game is usually played for high only, and each player makes the best
five-card combination to compete for the pot. Players usually use both their
hole cards to make their best hand, but this is not required. A player may
even choose to "play the board" and use no hole cards at all. Identical
five-card hands split the pot; the sixth and seventh cards are not used to
break ties.


Q:P4 How is Omaha Hold'em played?
A:P4 [Michael Maurer]

The rules of Omaha are very similar to those of Texas Hold'em. There are
only two differences:

   * Each player receives four hole cards, instead of two.
   * One must use *exactly* three community cards and two hole cards to make
     one's hand.

The second difference is confusing for most beginners. These examples show
how it works.

    Board        Hole Cards     Best High Hand
    =====        ==========     ==============
As Kc Qc 8d 2d   Ac 2c Jd Th    Jd Th makes ace-hi straight.

As Kc Qc Jh Td   Ac 2c Jd 8h    Ac Jd makes ace-hi straight.

As Kc Qc Jh Td   3c 2c Jd 8h    Jd 8h makes pair of jacks.  No straight
                                is possible using two hole cards.

As Ks 8h 9d 2s   Qs 4h 4d 4s    Qs 4s makes AKQ42 "nut" flush.

As Ks 8s 9s 2s   Qs 4h 4d Qd    Qs Qd makes pair of queens.  No flush is
                                possible using two hole cards.

As Ts 8s 8h 4d   Td Tc Ad 9c    Td Tc makes TTT88 full house.

As Ts 8s 8h 4d   Td 8c Ad 9c    Ad 8c makes 888AA full house.

As Ac 8s 8h 4d   Ah 2h 3h 5h    Ah 5h makes trip aces AAA85.  No full
                                house is possible using two hole cards.

As Ac 8s 8h 4d   Ah 2h 3h 4h    Ah 4h makes full house AAA44.

Omaha is often played high/low, meaning that the highest and lowest hands
split the pot. The low hand usually must "qualify" by being at least an
8-low (the largest card must be 8 or lower). One can use a different two
cards to compete for the high and low portions of the pot, and the game is
played "cards speak" rather than "declare". Aces are either low or high, and
straights and flushes don't count for low. Since everybody must use two hole
cards to make a hand, the board must have three cards 8 or lower for a low
to even be possible. Players often tie for low, and the low half of the pot
is divided equally among them. Some more examples:

    Board        Hole Cards     Best Low Hand
    =====        ==========     =============
As Kc Qc 8d 2d   8c Jc Jd Th    Jd Th makes the low hand JT82A, which
                                does not qualify as 8-or-better.

3d 5h 8d Tc Ts   Ac 2c Jd Th    Ac 2c makes the "nut low" 8532A.

3d 5h 8d Tc Ts   Ac 3c 4d Th    Ac 4d makes 8543A.

3d 5h 8d Ad Ts   Ac 3c 5d 8h    Any two make T853A, not qualifying.

Ac 2c 3d 4h 5s   Ad 2d Th Td    Ad 2d makes "nut low" 5432A.

Ac 2c 3d 4h 5s   4d 5d Th Td    4d 5d makes "nut low" 5432A.

5h 7h 8d Ac 2c   Ad 2d Th Td    Ad 2d makes 8752A, but the nut low is
                                5432A with a 3 and 4.  On the flop we
                                had the best possible low, but the turn
                                and river "counterfeited" us.

As in all split-pot games, the real goal of playing any hand is to win both
halves of the pot, or "scoop". Thus, hands that have a chance to win both
ways are far superior to those that can only win one way.


Q:P5 What should I expect the first time I play poker in a casino or card
room? What etiquette should I follow?
A:P5 [Michael Maurer]

Many people are intimidated on their first visit to a public cardroom.
Knowing what to expect and some simple rules of etiquette will help the
first-time visitor relax and have a good time.

Any cardroom with more than a few tables will have a sign-up desk or board
for the various games being played. Usually someone will be standing here to
take your name if a seat is not immediately available. This person can
explain what games are offered, the betting limits, special house rules and
so on. This is the moment of your first decision: which game and for what

Choosing a game is fairly easy; you already know which game is most familiar
to you. You may be surprised to find that your favorite home games are not
spread in public cardrooms. Most will offer one or more of Texas Hold'em,
Seven-Card Stud, and Omaha Hold'em (usually hi/lo split, 8-or-better for
low). Sometimes you will find California Lowball (5-card draw for low),
Seven-Card Stud hi/lo, or Hold'em variations like Pineapple. You will rarely
find High Draw (5-card draw for hi), and will never find home game
pot-builders like Anaconda, Follow-the-Queen, 7-27 or Guts. Except for the
joker in draw poker, cardrooms never use wild cards.

Choosing a betting limit is a bit harder. It is best to start playing at a
limit so small that the money is not important to you. After all, with all
the excitement of your first time playing poker there is no need to be
worried about losing the nest egg to a table full of sharks. Betting limits
are typically expressed as $1-$5 or $3-$6, and may be "spread-limit" or
"structured-limit". A spread-limit means one can bet or raise any amount
between the two numbers (although a raise must be at least as much as a
previous bet or raise). For example, in $1-$5 spread-limit, if one person
bets $2 the next person is free to call the $2 or raise $2, $3, $4, or $5,
but cannot raise just $1. On the next round, everything is reset and the
first bettor may bet anything from $1 to $5. In structured-limit like $3-$6
(usually recognizable by a factor of two between betting limits), all
betting and raising on early rounds is in units of $3, and on later rounds
is in units of $6. One only has a choice of *whether* to bet or raise; the
amount is fixed by the limit. One usually doesn't have a choice between
spread and structured betting at a given limit. Keep in mind that it is
quite easy to win or lose 20 "big bets" (the large number in the limit) in
an hour of play. Also, since your mind will be occupied with the mechanics
of the game while the regular players consider strategy, you are more likely
to lose than win. In other words: choose a low limit.

If the game you want is full, your name will go on a list and the person
running the list will call you when a seat opens up. Depending on the
cardroom, you may have trouble hearing your name called and they may be
quick to pass you over, so be alert. Once a seat is available, the list
person will vaguely direct you toward it, or toward a floorman who will show
you where to sit.

Now is the time for you to take out your money and for the other players to
look you over. A good choice for this "buy-in" is ten to twenty big bets,
but you must buy-in for at least the posted table minimum, usually about
five big bets. Most public poker games are played "table-stakes", which
means that you can't reach into your pocket for more money during the play
of a hand. It also means that you can't be forced out of a pot because of
insufficient funds. If you run out of money during a hand you are still in
the pot (the dealer will say you are "all-in"), but further betting is "on
the side" for an additional pot you cannot win. Between hands, you are free
to buy as many chips as you want, but are not allowed to take any chips off
the table unless you are leaving. This final rule gives opponents a chance
to win back what they have lost to you. If you bust out, you may buy back in
for at least the table minimum or leave.

Once you have told the dealer how much money you are playing, the dealer may
sell you chips right away or call over a chip runner to do so. You may want
to tell the dealer that you are a first-time player. This is a signal to the
dealer to give a little explanation when it is your turn to act, and to the
other players to extend you a bit of courtesy when you slow down the game.
Everyone will figure it out in a few minutes anyway, so don't be bashful.
You may even ask to sit out a few hands just to see how it all works.

There are three ways that pots are seeded with money at the beginning of the
hand. The most familiar to the home player is the "ante", where each player
tosses a small amount into the pot for the right to be dealt a hand. The
second way, often used in conjunction with an ante, is the "forced
bring-in". For example, in seven-card stud, after everyone antes and is
dealt the first three cards, the player with the lowest upcard may be forced
to bet to get things started. The third way, often used in games without
upcards like Hold'em or Omaha, is a "forced blind bet". This is similar to
the bring-in, but is always made by the person immediately after the player
with the "button". The "button" is a plastic disk that moves around the
table and indicates which player is acting as dealer for the hand (of
course, the house dealer does the actual dealing of cards, but does not
play). A second or even third blind may follow the first, usually of
increasing size. Whichever seed method is used, note that this initial pot,
small as it is, is the only reason to play at all.

If the game has blinds, the dealer may now ask you if you want to "post".
This means, "do you want to pay extra to see a hand now, in bad position,
and then pay the blinds, or are you willing to sit and watch for a few
minutes?" Answer "no, I'll wait" and watch the game until the dealer tells
you it's time to begin, usually after the blinds pass you.

Finally, it is your turn to get cards and play. Your first impression will
probably be how fast the game seems to move. If you are playing stud,
several upcards may be "mucked" (folded into the discards) before you even
see them; if you are playing hold'em, it may be your turn to act before you
have looked at your cards. After a few hands you should settle into the
rhythm and be able to keep up. If you ever get confused, just ask the dealer
what is going on.

When playing, consider the following elements of poker etiquette:

Acting in Turn

Although you may see others fold or call out of turn, don't do it yourself.
It is considered rude because it gives an unfair advantage to the players
before you who have yet to act. This is especially important at the showdown
when only three players are left. If players after you are acting out of
turn while you decide what to do, say "Time!" to make it clear that you have
not yet acted.

Handling Cards

You may find it awkward at first to peek at your own cards without exposing
them to others. Note that the other players have no formal obligation to
alert you to your clumsiness, although some will. Watch how the other
players manage it and emulate them. Leave your cards in sight at all times;
holding them in your lap or passing them to your kibitzing friend is grounds
for killing your hand. Finally, if you intentionally show your cards to
another player during the hand, both your hands may be declared dead. Your
neighbor might want to see *you* declared dead :) if this happens!

Protecting Cards

In a game with "pocket cards" like Hold'em or Omaha, it is your
responsibility to "protect your own cards". This confusing phrase really
means "put a chip on your cards". If your cards are just sitting out in the
open, you are subject to two possible disasters. First, the dealer may scoop
them up in a blink because to leave one's cards unprotected is a signal that
you are folding. Second, another player's cards may happen to touch yours as
they fold, disqualifying your hand and your interest in the pot. Along the
same lines, when you turn your cards face up at the showdown, be careful not
to lose control of your cards. If one of them falls off the table or lands
face-down among the discards your hand will be dead, even if that card is
not used to make your hand.

Accidentally Checking

In some fast-paced games, a moment of inaction when it is your turn to act
may be interpreted as a check. Usually, a verbal declaration or rapping
one's hand on the table is required, but many players are impatient and will
assume your pause is a check. If you need more than a second to decide what
to do, call "Time!" to stop the action. While you decide, don't tap your
fingers nervously; that is a clear check signal and will be considered

String Bets

A "string bet" is a bet that initially looks like a call, but then turns out
to be a raise. Once your hand has put some chips out, you may not go back to
your stack to get more chips and increase the size of your bet, unless you
verbally declared the size of your bet at the beginning. If you always
declare "call" or "raise" as you bet, you will be immune to this problem.
Note that a verbal declaration in turn is binding, so a verbal string bet is
possible and also prohibited. That means you cannot say "I call your $5, and
raise you another $5!" Once you have said you call, that's it. The rest of
the sentence is irrelevant. You can't raise.

Splashing the Pot

In some home games, it is customary to throw chips directly into the pot. In
a public cardroom, this is cause for dirty looks, a reprimand from the
dealer, and possibly stopping the game to count down the pot. When you bet,
place your chips directly in front of you. The dealer will make sure that
you have the right number and sweep them into the pot.

One Chip Rule

In some cardrooms, the chip denominations and game stakes are
incommensurate. For example, a $3-$6 game might use $1 and $5 chips, instead
of the more sensible $3 chip. The one-chip rule says that using a
large-denomination chip is just a call, even though the chip may be big
enough to cover a raise. If you don't have exact change, it is best to
verbally state your action when throwing that large chip into the pot. For
example, suppose you are playing in a $1-$5 spread-limit game, the bet is $2
to you, and you have only $5 chips. Silently tossing a $5 chip out means you
call the $2 bet. If you want to raise to $4 or $5, you must say so *before*
your chip hits the felt. Whatever your action, the dealer will make any
required change at the end of the betting round. Don't make change for
yourself out of the pot.

Raising Forever

In a game like Hold'em, it is possible to know that you hold "the nuts" and
cannot be beaten. If this happens when all the cards are out and you get in
a raising war with someone, don't stop! Raise until one of you runs out of
chips. If there is the possibility of a tie, the rest of the table may
clamor for you to call, since you "obviously" both have the same hand.
Ignore the rabble. You'll be surprised how many of your opponents turn out
to be bona fide idiots.

The Showdown

Hands end in one of three ways: one person bets and everyone else folds, one
person bets on the final round and at least one person calls, or everybody
checks on the final round. If everybody folds to a bet, the bettor need not
show the winning cards and will usually toss them to the dealer face down.
If somebody calls on the end, the person who bet or raised most recently is
*supposed* to immediately show, or "open", their cards. They may delay doing
so in a rude attempt to induce another player to show their hand in
impatience, and then muck their own hand if it is not a winner. Don't do
this yourself. Show your hand immediately if you get called. If you have
called a bet, wait for the bettor to show, then show your own hand if it's
better. If the final round is checked down, in most cardrooms everyone is
supposed to open their hands immediately. Sometimes everyone will wait for
someone else to show first, resulting in a time-wasting deadlock. Break the
chain and show your cards.

Most cardrooms give every player at the table the right to see all cards
that called to a showdown, even if they are mucked as losers. (This helps
prevent cheating by team-play.) If you are extremely curious about a certain
hand, ask the dealer to show it to you. It is considered impolite to
constantly ask to see losing cards. It is even more impolite if you hold the
winning cards, and in most cardrooms you will forfeit the pot if the
"losing" cards turn out to be better than yours.

As a beginner, you may want to show your hand all the time, since you may
have overlooked a winning hand. What you gain from one such pot will far
outweigh any loss due to revealing how you played a particular losing hand.
"Cards speak" at the showdown, meaning that you need not declare the value
of your hand. The dealer will look at your cards and decide if you have a

As a final word of caution, it is best to hold on to your winning cards
until the dealer pushes you the pot. If the dealer takes your cards and
incorrectly "mucks" them, many cardrooms rule that you have no further right
to the pot, even if everyone saw your winning cards.

Raking in the Pot

As you win your first pot, the excitement within you will drive you beyond
the realm of rational behavior, and you will immediately lunge to scoop up
the precious chips with both arms. Despite the fact that no other player had
done this while you watched, despite the fact that you read here not to do
it, you WILL do it. Since every dealer has a witty admonition prepared for
this moment, maybe it's all for the best. But next time, let the dealer push
it to you, ok?

Touching Cards or Chips

Don't. Only touch your own cards and chips. Other players' chips and cards,
discards, board cards, the pot and everything else are off-limits. Only the
dealer touches the cards and pot.


Dealers make their living from tips. It is customary for the winner of each
pot to tip the dealer 50 cents to a dollar, depending on locale and the
stakes. Sometimes you will see players tip several dollars for a big pot or
an extremely unlikely suckout. Sometimes you will see players stiff the
dealer if the pot was tiny or split between two players. This is a personal
issue, but imitating the other players is a good start.

Correcting Mistakes

Occasionally the dealer or a player may make a mistake, such as miscalling
the winning hand at the showdown. If you are the victim of such a mistake,
call it out immediately and do not let the game proceed. If your opponent is
the victim, let your conscience be your guide; many see no ethical dilemma
in remaining silent. If you are not involved in the pot, you must judge the
texture of the game to determine whether to speak up. In general, the higher
the stakes, the more likely you should keep your mouth shut.

Taking a Break

You are free to get up to stretch your legs, visit the restroom and so on.
Ask the dealer how long you may be away from your seat; 20 or 30 minutes is
typical. It is customary to leave your chips sitting on the table; part of
the dealer's job is to keep them safe. If you miss your blind(s) while away,
you may have to make them up when you return, or you may be asked to sit out
a few more hands until they reach you again. If several players are gone
from a table, they may all be called back to keep the game going; those who
don't return in time forfeit their seats.

Color Change

If you are in the happy situation of having too many chips, you may request
a "color change" (except in Atlantic City). You can fill up a rack or two
with your excess chips and will receive a few large denomination chips in
return. These large chips are still in play, but at least you aren't
inconvenienced by a mountain of chips in front of you. Remember the one chip
rule when betting with them.


Leave whenever you feel like it. You never have an obligation to stay at the
table, even if you've won a fortune. You should definitely leave if you are
tired, losing more than you expect, or have other reasons to believe you are
not playing your best game. Depending on the cardroom, you can redeem your
chips for cash with a chip-runner or floorman or at the cashier's cage.

House Charges

Last but not least is the matter of the house take. Somebody has to maintain
the tastefully opulent furnishings and pay the electric bill. The money
taken by the house is called the "drop", since it is dropped down a slot in
the table at the end of each hand. The house will choose one of three ways
to charge you to play.

Time Charge
     A simple "time charge" is common in higher limit games and at some
     small games: seats are rented by the half hour, at rates ranging from
     $4 to $10 or so, depending on the stakes. This method charges all
     players equally.
     Other cardrooms will "rake" a percentage of the final pot, up to some
     maximum, before awarding it to the winning player. The usual rake is
     either 5% or 10%, capped at $3 or $4. If the pot is raked, the dealer
     will remove chips from the pot as it grows, setting them aside until
     the hand is over and they are dropped into a slot in the table. This
     method favors the tight player who enters few pots but wins a large
     fraction of them.
Button Charge
     A simpler method is to collect a fixed amount at the start of each
     hand; one player, usually the one with the dealer button, pays the
     entire amount of the drop. Depending on house rules, this "button
     charge" of $2-$4 may or may not play as a bet. If the chips do play as
     a bet, this method also favors the tighter players, but not nearly as
     much as the rake does.

Regardless of the mechanism, a cardroom will try to drop about $80-$120 per
hour at a $3-$6 table. The exact amount is most dependent on the local cost
of doing business: Nevada is low, California and Atlantic City are high.
Since there are 7-10 players at the table, expect to pay somewhere from $7
to $14 per hour just to sit down. Add $2-$4 per hour for dealer tips and you
see why most low-limit players are long-run losers.

More information on cardroom play and etiquette can be found in George
Percy's "Seven-Card Stud: The Waiting Game" and Lee Jones' "Winning
Low-Limit Holdem". Beginning players may also want to watch for special
cardroom promotions to draw new players; many offer free lessons followed by
a very low-stakes game with other novices. Since everyone is a beginner,
much of the tension is relieved.


Q:P6 What are some good books about poker?
A:P6 [Michael Maurer, December 1994]

All thinking poker players should have this book on their shelf:

     David Sklansky, "The Theory of Poker" (formerly titled "Winning
     Poker"), Two Plus Two Publishing, 1992, $30. ISBN 1-880685-00-0.

Beginners will benefit from the following:

     Daniel Kimberg, "Serious Poker", ConJelCo, 2002, $20. ISBN:

     Lou Krieger and Richard Harroch, "Poker for Dummies", IDG Books
     Worldwide, 2000, $15. ISBN 0-764552-32-5.

     Mason Malmuth and Lynne Loomis, "Fundamentals of Poker", Two Plus
     Two Publishing, 1992, $4. ISBN 1-880685-11-6.

This classic in the field is an advanced but slightly out-of-date work
covering a wide range of games, including an excellent section on no-limit

     Doyle Brunson et al., "Super/System: A Course in Poker Power", B &
     G Publishing, 1978/1989, $50. ISBN 0-931444-01-4.

The most recommended book for medium-limit Hold'em is

     David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth, "Hold'em Poker for Advanced
     Players", Two Plus Two Publishing, 1988/1993, $30. ISBN

These works by fellow rec.gamblers have received favorable reviews:

     Lee Jones, "Winning Low-Limit Holdem", ConJelCo, 1994, $25. ISBN

     Lou Krieger, "Hold'em Excellence", ConJelCo, 2000, $20. ISBN
     1-886070-14-8 .

Beginning Seven Card Stud players must read this small spiral-bound gem:

     George Percy, "7 Card Stud: The Waiting Game", GBC Press, 1979,
     $9. ISBN 0-89650-903-6.

More experienced stud players may benefit from

     David Sklansky, Mason Malmuth and Ray Zee, "Seven Card Stud for
     Advanced Players", Two Plus Two Publishing, 1992, $29.95. ISBN

Finally, in a different vein is the following book about reading your
opponents and preventing them from reading you:

     [NEW]Mike Caro, "Caro's Book of Tells - The Body Language of
     Poker", Mike Caro University Press, 2000, $30 (paperback), $40
     (hardback), ISBN 1-880069-01-6 (paperback), ISBN 1-880069-02-4

Many of these books are available to rec.gamblers with an Internet discount
from ConJelCo. See Dan Kimberg's Poker Reading Page at for other publishers and for some
unsolicited reviews that have appeared on the net. Nick Christenson reviews
an amazing number of books at


Q:P7 What are some good magazines about poker?
A:P7 [Michael Maurer]

Card Player is the best established periodical for poker players. Each issue
has several columns specifically about poker strategy, including regular
features by Mike Caro and other household names. It lists schedules for
small daily and weekly tournaments in the U.S. and Europe and reports large
tournament results. Other sections cover gambling and the law, cardroom
management, sports betting and general gambling news. Because it is financed
largely by casino industry advertisements, it does not print unfavorable
casino news and is not a good place to find a balanced review of a cardroom.
It is available free in most cardrooms and offers subscriptions at
first-class and bulk-mail rates.

        The Card Player
        3140 S. Polaris #8
        Las Vegas, NV  89102
        (702) 871-1720
        (702) 871-2674 FAX


Q:P8 What computer poker programs are best for my PC or Mac?
A:P8 [Hans Ruegg, John Salmom 1996; 2002 updates thanks to Zbigniew]

Commercial Programs

There are many poker programs available but the quality of them ranges from
terrible to fairly good. The following are worth considering:

Wilson Software Turbo Series

Separate games are available for Texas Holdem, 7-card stud, Omaha-8 and
Omaha High. There are both ring-game and tournament versions. Computer
players are driven by large tables describing each decision point. These
tables can be modified by the user to create new players. Play against the
computer or let the computer players play each other in a fast mode. Check
resulting statistics for the various strategies.


Masque World Series of Poker Adventure

Plays Texas Holdem, 7-card stud and Omaha. Also plays blackjack and other
casino games. Runs under DOS.

This is more of a fun simulation of playing in the World Series at Binions.
Play ring games or other casino games to get enough money to enter a
satellite. Win the satellite to get into the no-limit finals. Poker opponent
play is pretty good, but not exactly World Champion level.

Shareware for Macintosh, with nice graphics and GUI.  See

Hotpoker (formerly Netpoker)

Hotpoker ( is a suite of programs for multi-player
hold'em over the internet. C source for Netpoker used to be available; I'm
not sure about Hotpoker.

[NEW]Hold'Em Showdown

Steve Brecher's Hold'Em Showdown is an enumeration-based exact EV
calculator. See

Pokersource (Source Code)

If you want to write some of your own poker software, a fast poker hand
evaluator is available at It is
in C but uses some Gnu C extensions.


Q:P9 What is IRC poker and how can I play?
A:P9 [Michael Maurer, February 1998]
     [Nov 2002 status: IRC poker is offline while it is in search for a new

IRC poker is a real-time network poker game that allows people from around
the world to play poker with each other via the Internet. The stakes are
"etherbucks", which is to say imaginary. Each player's imaginary bankroll is
recorded from session to session, and rankings of both bankroll and earning
rate inspire competitiveness. An automatic program serves as the dealer and
controls the action. World Wide Web users can find out more about the dealer
program by looking at

The game uses the Internet Relay Chat, or IRC, to arrange communications
amongst the players and with the dealer. IRC is normally a sort of global
cocktail party, with several thousand people from around the globe engaged
in small pockets of conversation on various "channels". Within each channel,
anything one person types appears on the screens of all the other people
tuned in to the channel (although one person can also "whisper" privately to
another). The poker channels are unusual in that an automaton is always
present to supervise a poker game. However, the chat aspect of the channel
is preserved, so that the poker games can become quite social.

In order to play IRC poker, you must have an IRC client and access to the
Internet. The client is a program running on your local machine that
connects you to the IRC network. The most popular Windows interface to IRC
poker is Greg Reynolds' Gpkr, available for free at  Gpkr is regularly maintained and sure to be
up to date with the latest IRC poker changes.  If you get Gpkr you can
ignore most of what follows, since the Gpkr graphical interface takes care
of the details behind the scenes.

[NEW]  On the Macintosh, Larry Weinberg's McPoker is the client of choice;

If you are on a Unix machine, try typing 'irc' to see if a client is already
installed. If not, or if you are on a Macintosh or other system, you will
have to obtain a client by FTP. One archive site for IRC clients is The Unix client is named ircII. This
archive also contains a primer on using IRC. The official IRC FAQ is
available at An excellent generic
Windows client is mIRC, available at

Once you have a client up and running, you need to connect to the special,
isolated IRC poker server. In order to speed up the games, the poker server
is not a part of the standard IRC network. The different clients have
various ways to specify the IRC server you want to use; on Unix you can say

        irc nickname
or      irc nickname

where 'nickname' is the name by which you will be known to other IRC users.
After a moment, this command should connect you to the IRC poker server and
print a welcome message. (From this point on the instructions are
Unix-specific, but many of the commands will work on the other clients as

At this point you can find out what channels are open by typing


which prints the topic of each channel, or you can see a more detailed view


which lists all of the people on each channel. As of May 1994, typical
channels included #holdem, #omaha, and #nolimit. To join a particular
channel (for instance, #holdem), type

        /join #holdem

The action of the poker game and the ongoing conversations should now appear
on your screen. The play of the game is governed by sending special messages
to the dealer automaton; for example, the message

        p fold

indicates that you wish to fold. All poker commands are prefixed with the
letter 'p'. The command

        p commands

gives a list of all possible commands. The most important are

        p join password         % join the game (pick any password)
                                % this starts your bankroll at $1000
        p quit                  % quit the game
        p fold                  % fold when the action gets to you
        p check                 % check (do not bet or fold)
        p call                  % call a bet
        p raise                 % raise the bet

On the non-structured channels like #nolimit, some of these commands may
take an argument, such as

        p raise 50

When you join the channel you will notice the conspicuous absence of these
'p' commands despite the ongoing play. This is because most players send
their messages privately to the dealer only, using a command like

        /msg hbot p raise

where 'hbot' is the nickname of the dealer. (This is especially useful to
hide your password when you join.)

Because poker players are inherently lazy, most users of ircII have a
special set of IRC macros that saves them the effort of typing all those
characters each time they have to act. These poker macros are available from The file
contains instructions for using it on a Unix machine. Although mIRC doesn't
understand these macros, it does let you set up customized menus and aliases

In addition, curses and X-windows based front ends have been written for the
poker games. The curses version uses simple terminal graphics to draw
pictures of your cards and those of the other players, helping you to
visualize the action. When other players fold their cards are mucked, and
the board and pot are shown in the middle. This front end can be used in
conjunction with the IRC macros mentioned above. Both curses and X-windows
versions of the program are available on the web in source code form for
Unix machines at


Q:P10 What skills are important for Texas Hold'em?
A:P10 [Michael Hall]

(Hold 'em) Poker Skills in Order of Importance

Disclaimer: I'm a poker novice, not an expert.

0. Table selection
1. Hand selection
2. Reading opponents' hands
3. Opponent assessment
4. Heads up play, bluffing, and semi-bluffing
5. Seat selection
6. Check-raising
7. Getting tells
8. Pot odds calculations

The exact order of importance of skills varies by game type. For example,
you cannot read your opponent when your opponent does not know what he has.
The list above is geared towards mid-level games where some sanity prevails
but the game is not at an expert level either.

0. Table Selection.

By far the most important skill is table selection, so it ranks better than
#1, it's #0. It doesn't matter how well you play if you are always picking
the games with no fish where even an expert can't beat the rake. Most of
your income will come from a few very bad players. If you play fairly well,
you won't lose much to the better players, nor win much from the slightly
inferior players; it's the fish that count.

1. Hand selection

Now that you've found your table with a live one or two, be patient. More
than just having the discipline to play good hands and the stomach for
surviving the variance, you should realize that most of our income in Hold
'em comes from AA and KK, with notable mention to the other pocket pairs and
AK. Your object is to not lose too much while waiting for these premium
hands, and particularly not to lose too much to these hands when other
players get them. At $10-$20 and below, go ahead and make it 3 bets if you
can before the flop with your AA or KK; you'll be surprised at how little
respect you get with people calling you all the way to the river even though
your betting is screaming "I HAVE POCKET ACES!!!" And respect preflop raises
done by other players, dumping a lot of hands you would normally play such
as AT and KJ or even AJ and KQ, as you don't want to make top pair versus an
overpair. On the flop, don't bet into someone who has made it three bets
unless you can beat the shit out of AA and KK and *want* to be raised back
and then just call and go for a check-raise on the turn.

2. Reading opponents' hands

Now, think about the range of hands and their probabilities that your
opponents could have. Initially, when the players receive their first two
cards, every possible two card hand is equally probable (unless you start
grouping them like 87 offsuit, pocket aces, etc., but you get the idea.)
Every action a player takes gives you information that you can use to adjust
these probabilities. It's a Bayesian inference problem. Unfortunately,
actually applying Bayes' rule exactly is beyond any puny human brain's
capability. So, you make a major approximation and essentially just keep
around a set of possible hands, which you then prune down as action take

Suppose a player just calls preflop in early position and the flop comes Q 7
2 offsuit and he suddenly goes berserk by reraising, you have to think about
what hands are likely. The hands that make sense to reraise like that are
AQ, KQ, Q7, 72, Q2, 77, and 22. QQ would probably be slow-played here
instead. Now join that set with the possible hands before the flop. We can
just look at these hands and see which are reasonable to just call preflop
in early position. AQ and KQ are often raised in early position, but at
least sometimes they just call, so they are still consistent. Q7, 72, and Q2
are not reasonable calls from early position. 77 and 22 are reasonable
calls, though tight players would probably dump the 22. So that leaves AQ,
KQ, 77, and 22 as his possible hands, which has narrowed down the field
quite a bit. Be aware also of how other players may interpret your betting.

3. Opponent assessment

As play goes along, give yourself a running commentary of the events, "she
open-raises, he folds, he cold-calls...". You must make a lot of mental
notes based on this, and you must do this even when you're not in a hand,
because in addition to being useful during a hand, it's useful for later
hands. You want to see the frequency with which a player sees the flop, the
frequency with which a player defends his blinds from raises, and the hands
a player open-raises with, raises with, reraises with, cold-calls with, and
just calls with. This in conjunction with narrowing down the hands above
will often give you a good idea of what's going on even when there is no
showdown. Your goal is to stereotype each player, as well as to note
particular idiosyncrasies of the individuals for use not only now but in
future sessions.

4. Heads up play, semi-bluffing, and bluffing

Especially when heads-up, you should be constantly applying pressure to the
other player to make him fold. You may reraise when you think you're either
beaten badly or your opponent is bluffing. It's a bit like chess or
wargames, with attacks, feints, counterattacks, and graceful retreats. This
is part of the "feel" of poker that's hard to put into words, but hopefully
you get the idea. Bluffing and semi-bluffing is important to keep yourself
unpredictable, and with since you're keeping track of the ranges of
plausible hands, it's quite likely you'll often know where your opponent
stands. Cold bluffing is usually restricted to the river, where you might
bet into one or two opponents (who might fold) if you have no chance of
winning the pot if there is a showdown. Semi-bluffing is betting with a hand
that is not likely best but has some big outs. Your opponent may fold
immediately, and if not, you may hit your out and your opponent may
seriously misread you. There is an important balance here; you must have
sufficiently tight hand selection criteria such that when you do bet your
opponent is positively terrified that you may have a big hand like an
overpair. Semi-bluffing is very powerful, because you've been so careful in
choosing your starting hands that even if you aren't there yet you are
likely to get there.

5. Seat selection

Generally, you want the loose aggressive players to your right and the tight
passive players to your left. This is so that you can see a raise coming
before calling the first bet. However, if the game is tight enough that it
is being folded around to the blinds often, then you want some very tight
passive players in the two seats to your right, so that your blinds will not
be stolen. This is a very important skill, and just because you've found a
good table, doesn't mean that every seat at that table would be a winning
seat on average for you.

6. Check-raising

Because the nature of fixed limit Hold 'em makes calling one bet often
correct for very weak hands, it's difficult to protect your hand. A major
weapon you have to protect your hand is check-raising. However, you must be
conscious of where you think the bettor will be. Typically, if you had a
made but vulnerable hand you would check in early position if you thought
there would be a bet in late position; you then raise and the players in
between face two bets plus a risk of a reraise by the late position player,
making it difficult for them to call. If you have an invulnerable hand that
you want to make everyone pay you through the nose for, then you would check
in early position if you thought there would be an early position bet, and
then you would raise after everyone trailed in calling behind. The down side
of check-raising is that you risk giving a free card if no one bets.

7. Getting tells

Be aware of tells. If a player has his hands on his chips and is leaning
forward, all ready to raise if you bet, usually this is an act intended to
get you to just check, as the player in fact does not what to raise you or
maybe even call a bet. Two other incredibly valuable tells are the "what the
heck, I raise" tell (get *out*, he has a monster!) and the "let me check to
see if I have one of that suit with three on the board" tell (so you know he
doesn't have a flush already.) Remember that if they think they're being
watched, players typically act the opposite of what they have.

8. Pot odds calculations

Be aware of pot odds. You can count the number of "outs" you have to
estimate if calling is a positive expected value play. You may be surprised
that I rank this so low. Although it is a subjective opinion, particularly
when heads up it's much more important outplay your opponent rather than
outdraw him. In loose games, outdrawing becomes much more important, but
then the pots are so big that you usually have odds for any half way
reasonable draw anyway.


Q:P11 What is a good preflop strategy for Texas Hold'em?
A:P11 [Abdul Jalib]

Abdul Jalib describes a carefully thought out preflop strategy at


Q:P12What is a good third street strategy for Seven Card Stud?
A:P12 [JP Massar]

Two Plus Two Publishing has requested that this section be removed from the
FAQ.  Until this issue is resolved, we are complying with their request.


Q:P13 Why are poker hands ranked the way they are?
A:P13 [Michael Maurer, Darse Billings, Roy Hashimoto]

The standard poker hands are ranked based on the probability of their being
dealt pat in 5 cards from a full 52-card deck. The following table lists the
hands in order of increasing frequency, and shows how many ways each hand
can be dealt in 3, 5, and 7 cards.

Hand                  3 cards           5 cards           7 cards
====                  =======           =======           =======
Straight Flush             48                40            41,584
Four of a Kind              0               624           224,848
Full House                  0             3,744         3,473,184
Flush                   1,096             5,108         4,047,644
Straight                  720            10,200         6,180,020
Three of a Kind            52            54,912         6,461,620
Two Pair                    0           123,552        31,433,400
One Pair                3,744         1,098,240        58,627,800
High Card              16,440         1,302,540        23,294,460
TOTALS                 22,100         2,598,960       133,784,560


1. The standard rankings are incorrect for 3-card hands, since it is easier
to get a flush than a straight, and easier to get a straight than three of a
kind. See question P15.

2. For 7-card hands, the numbers reflect the best possible 5-card hand out
of the 7 cards. For instance, a hand that contains both a straight and three
of a kind is counted as a straight.

3. For 7-card hands, only five cards need be in sequence to make a straight,
or of the same suit to make a flush. In a 3-card hand a sequence of three is
considered a straight, and three of the same suit a flush. These rules
reflect standard poker practice.

4. In a 7-card hand, it is easier for one's *best* 5 cards to have one or
two pair than no pair. (Good bar bet opportunity!) However, if we changed
the ranking to value no pairs above two pairs, all of the one pair hands and
most of the two pair hands would be able to qualify for "no pair" by
choosing a different set of five cards.

5. Within each type of hand (e.g., among all flushes) the hands are ranked
according to an arbitrary scheme, unrelated to probability. See question


Q:P14 Why are ace-hi flushes ranked highest, when it's much harder to get a
seven-hi flush? And similarly for two pairs?
A:P14 [Michael Maurer, Giancarlo DiPierro]

[Michael Maurer's original answer:] Only the classes themselves (flush,
straight, etc) are ranked by the probability of getting them in five cards.
Within each class we use an arbitrary system to rank hands of the same type.
For example, our arbitrary system ranks four aces higher than four deuces,
even though the hands occur with the same frequency. Similarly, flushes are
ranked by the highest card, with the next highest card breaking ties, and so
on down to the fifth card. This has the curious effect of creating many more
ace-hi flushes than any other kind, because any flush that contains an ace
is "ace-hi", regardless of the other cards. Thus, although 490 of the 1277
flushes in each suit contain a seven, only four of them are seven-hi
flushes: 76542, 76532, 76432, and 75432. The median flush turns out to be

A similar situation occurs for two pair hands. There are twelve times as
many ways to make two pair with aces being the high pair ("aces up") as
there are to do it with threes as the high pair ("threes up"). While the
aces can go with another other rank of pair, the threes must go with twos,
or we would reverse the order and call them, for instance, "eights up". Note
that it is fruitless to alter the relative rankings to try to account for
this imbalance, since as soon as we do the cards will be reinterpreted to
make the best hand under the new system. For example, if we decide to make
"threes up" the best possible two pair hand, now all the hands like "eights
and threes" will be interpreted as "threes and eights", and the population
of "threes up" hands will soar twelve-fold. The median two pair hand turns
out to be a tie between JJ552 and JJ44A.

[Giancarlo DiPierro suggests a fresh interpretation:] You've figured it out.
Flushes are not correctly ranked according to their mathematical
probability. The ranking of flushes and no-pair hands by the highest card
(hence the term "high-card" for no-pair hands) that is commonly used around
the world today is an arbitrary system that likely dates back to when
someone first started betting on poker hands.

The correct way to rank these hands according to how hard they are be dealt
becomes clear if you have ever played lowball or any high-low split game. In
those games, low hands are ranked by the worst card, not the best card. Any
6-high low hand is ranked higher than any 7-high low hand because a 6-high
is dealt three times less frequently than a 7-high. It doesn't matter if the
lowest card in the 7-high hand is an ace and the lowest card in the 6-high
hand is only a deuce, the 6-high wins.

Applying that principle to flushes and no-pair hands in high poker, a 9-low
hand is dealt about three times less frequently than an 8-low and about
seven times less frequently than a 7-low. So the 9-low should ranked higher,
even if the 7-low contains an ace and the 9-low does not. In any situation
where unpaired cards are determining the ranking of a hand, whether it is a
flush, no-pair, or the side cards in hands with trips of equal rank, the
worst card -- the lowest one -- should be used for the ranking.

This concept also applies to two pair hands -- the mathematically correct
way of ranking them would be to use the value of the lower pair.
Kings-under-aces is twice as rare as any queens-under hand, three times are
rare as jacks-under, four times as rare as tens-under, and twelve times as
rare as dueces-under -- the easiest two pair to make. The next time your
queens-under-kings loses to a pair of aces that turns into aces-and-dueces
on the river, you can feel justified that mathematically, at least, you had
the better hand!


Q:P15 What is the correct ranking for 3-card poker hands?
A:P15 [Darse Billings]

The standard ranking of poker hands is based on their frequency of
occurrence in a five card hand. In three card hands the relative frequency
of hands is different, so different in fact that three of a kind beats a
straight, and a straight beats a flush.

The following is a break down of all three card poker hands. They can be
used for certain three card games, such as Guts or 3-card-6. They can also
be used to analyze starting hands for games like 7-Card Stud.

Hand Type      Kinds   Each   Total     Cuml   Rating
---------      -----   ----   -----     ----   ------
straight flush   12      4       48       48   0.9978
trips            13      4       52      100   0.9955
straight         12     60      720      820   0.9629
flush  **       274      4     1096     1916   0.9133
pair  ***       156     24     3744     5660   0.7439
Ace high         64     60     3840     9500   0.5701
King high        54     60     3240    12740   0.4235
Queen high       44     60     2640    15380   0.3041
Jack high        35     60     2100    17480   0.2090
Ten high         27     60     1620    19100   0.1357
Nine high        20     60     1200    20300   0.0814
Eight high       14     60      840    21140   0.0434
Seven high        9     60      540    21680   0.0190
Six high          5     60      300    21980   0.0054
Five high         2     60      120    22100   0.0000

** More on Flushes

High Card       Kinds Percent  Total    Cuml   Rating
---------       ----- -------  -----    ----   ------
Ace high         64    23.4     256     1076   0.9513
King high        54    19.7     216     1292   0.9415
Queen high       44    16.1     176     1468   0.9336
Jack high        35    12.8     140     1608   0.9272
Ten high         27     9.9     108     1716   0.9224
Nine high        20     7.3      80     1796   0.9187
Eight high       14     5.1      56     1852   0.9162
Seven high        9     3.3      36     1888   0.9146
Six high          5     1.8      20     1908   0.9137
Five high         2     0.7       8     1916   0.9133

*** More on Pairs

Hand Type      Kinds   Each    Total    Cuml   Rating
---------      -----   ----    -----    ----   ------
   AAx           12     24      288     2204   0.9003
   KKx           12     24      288     2492   0.8872
   QQx           12     24      288     2780   0.8742
   JJx           12     24      288     3068   0.8612
   TTx           12     24      288     3356   0.8481
   99x           12     24      288     3644   0.8351
   88x           12     24      288     3932   0.8221
   77x           12     24      288     4220   0.8090
   66x           12     24      288     4508   0.7960
   55x           12     24      288     4796   0.7830
   44x           12     24      288     5084   0.7700
   33x           12     24      288     5372   0.7569
   22x           12     24      288     5660   0.7439

In the preceding tables, "Kinds" refers to the number of card combinations
in each class, while "Each" is the number of non-distinct hands of each
Kind. The product of these two numbers gives the total number of hands in
that class. "Cuml" is the cumulative total of all hands, and "Rating" is a
percentile ranking of the lowest hand in the class.

Note that "Rating" is only an estimate of the probability of beating a
random hand. To compute the exact probability, a given hand must be compared
to the (49 choose 3) combinations of the remaining cards in the deck.


Q:P16What are my chances of sucking out on my opponent in Hold'em? What are
my odds in Stud?

A:P16 [Jason Steinhorn, Zbigniew] For Hold'em. The following is an extension
of the probability table offered by Sklansky and Malmuth in their book,
Hold'em Poker For Advanced Players. It lists the probability (%) and odds
(X:1) of making any given hand on the turn, the river, combined turn or
river (i.e., catching at least one of the outs on either the turn or river),
and combined turn and river (i.e., hitting a runner-runner/backdoor draw),
given the number of outs for the hand.

Below that is a chart listing the number of outs given a particular drawing
hand, and what hands those outs will give if made.

 Chances of making a hand on the turn, river, turn or river (t|r),
 turn and river (t&r): [NEW]

        turn    turn  | river   river  |   t|r     t|r  |   t&r     t&r
Outs     (%)   (X:1)  |   (%)   (X:1)  |   (%)   (X:1)  |   (%)   (X:1)
  20    42.6    1.35  |  43.5    1.30  |  67.5    0.48  |  17.6    4.69
  19    40.4    1.47  |  41.3    1.42  |  65.0    0.54  |  15.8    5.32
  18    38.3    1.61  |  39.1    1.56  |  62.4    0.60  |  14.2    6.07
  17    36.2    1.76  |  37.0    1.71  |  59.8    0.67  |  12.6    6.95
  16    34.0    1.94  |  34.8    1.88  |  57.0    0.75  |  11.1    8.01
  15    31.9    2.13  |  32.6    2.07  |  54.1    0.85  |   9.7    9.30
  14    29.8    2.36  |  30.4    2.29  |  51.2    0.95  |   8.4   10.88
  13    27.7    2.62  |  28.3    2.54  |  48.1    1.08  |   7.2   12.86
  12    25.5    2.92  |  26.1    2.83  |  45.0    1.22  |   6.1   15.38
  11    23.4    3.27  |  23.9    3.18  |  41.7    1.40  |   5.1   18.65
  10    21.3    3.70  |  21.7    3.60  |  38.4    1.60  |   4.2   23.02
   9    19.1    4.22  |  19.6    4.11  |  35.0    1.86  |   3.3   29.03
   8    17.0    4.88  |  17.4    4.75  |  31.5    2.18  |   2.6   37.61
   7    14.9    5.71  |  15.2    5.57  |  27.8    2.59  |   1.9   50.48
   6    12.8    6.83  |  13.0    6.67  |  24.1    3.14  |   1.4   71.07
   5    10.6    8.40  |  10.9    8.20  |  20.4    3.91  |   0.9  107.10
   4     8.5   10.75  |   8.7   10.50  |  16.5    5.07  |   0.6  179.17
   3     6.4   14.67  |   6.5   14.33  |  12.5    7.01  |   0.3  359.33
   2     4.3   22.50  |   4.3   22.00  |   8.4   10.88  |   0.1 1080.00
   1     2.1   46.00  |   2.2   45.00  |   4.3   22.50  |   0.0      NA

   Number of Outs Given a Particular Hand to Improve

 Outs   Given                           In attempt to make
  15    Open Straight Flush Draw        Straight, Flush, Straight Flush
  12    Inside Straight Flush Draw      Straight, Flush, Straight Flush
   9    Flush Draw                      Flush
   8    Open Straight Draw              Straight
   4    Gut Shot Straight               Straight
   4    2 Pair                          Full House
   2    1 Pair                          Three of a kind
   1    Three of a Kind                 Four of a kind

Mike Caro has published an extensive set of tables for draw, stud, holdem,
and lowball at [NEW]

A:P16 [Harry 026, September 2001] For Stud.[NEW]

Big Dave D wrote:

> I'm trying to work out a seven stud hi-lo eight or better problem.
> You're heads up on 4th street, drawing to a busted low, say a233.
> You are up against an obvious high, say KK with KK in the hole.
> What are the odds that you make a low, any low. (which would
> obviously get you half the pot back). My mental maths says
> about 2:1 against.

The odds against getting a low are about 1.67 to 1 against, so your "mental
maths" estimate of 2 to 1 is pretty good.

Here is a chart (generated from a Markov chain) that might be helpful if
another such question comes up. If you are hoping to get a low (in any
seven-card game such as stud, Omaha-8, or hi-lo hold'em), a "good card" is
any desirable low card of a rank you don't already hold, and a "bad card" is
a card of any rank you already hold or of a rank higher than you want. For
example, suppose you hold 24468, and you believe that you must get a 7-low
or better to win the low half of the pot. At that point you hold 3 good
cards and 2 bad cards. Find that row, and look below P7. The probability
that you will make a 7-low is 0.0888. If you'd settle for an 8-low, then you
hold 4 good and 1 bad, and the probability of making an 8-low is 0.5698.

This chart doesn't take into account any other cards, so in your case (where
the opposition holds 4 kings) the probability of making your low is somewhat
better than the 0.3238 from the table (it is 0.3745, for odds of 1.67 to 1

G      B        P8          P7          P6          P5
0      0      0.1834      0.0849      0.0294      0.0058
1      2      0.0423      0.0181      0.0060      0.0012
2      1      0.1963      0.1072      0.0465      0.0125
2      2      0.0740      0.0370      0.0148      0.0037
3      0      0.4827      0.3325      0.1895      0.0715
3      1      0.3238      0.2091      0.1119      0.0398
3      2      0.1480      0.0888      0.0444      0.0148
4      0      0.7132      0.5872      0.4288      0.2343
4      1      0.5698      0.4496      0.3145      0.1647
4      2      0.3478      0.2609      0.1739      0.0870


Q:P17 What does pot-limit mean?
A:P17 [Steve Brecher]

This is an explanation of bet size limits in pot limit poker.

In pot limit, as in all poker, you may fold, or call the previous bet --
which may be a forced blind, if there is no previous voluntary bet -- or you
may raise. A raise, as in all poker, must be at least as large as the
previous bet or raise. In pot limit, however, your raise may be no larger
than the size of the pot after your call. If you are the opening bettor on a
round for which no blinds are made, your bet can be no more than the size of
the pot.

Say that the pot contains p units before a previous bettor bets (or blinds)
b units. You wish to raise the maximum. What is the total amount that you
should bet?

The size of the pot when it is your turn to act is p+b. Your action includes
a call, making the pot p+2b, and thus the amount of your raise will be p+2b
and your total bet will be p+3b. Therefore:

If you wish to raise the previous bettor (or big blind) the maximum amount,
your total bet will be three times the previous bet plus the size of the pot
before the previous bet was made. If you are the first to act on the first
round, the size of the pot before the previous bet is the total of the small
blind(s), and the previous bet is the big blind.

Sometimes the minimum betting unit is larger than the size of one or more
blinds. E.g., it may be that only $5 chips play for betting, but one or more
blinds are smaller than $5. In this case, the maximum initial bring-in is
rounded to the betting unit.

Some people state the general rule that the maximum initial bring-in is
"four times the big blind." This is correct only if the total of the small
blinds, after rounding if appropriate, is equal to the big blind, and this
is not always the case. E.g., in a tournament when the blinds are $100 and
$200, the maximum bring-in is $700, not $800. The correct rule is "three
times the big blind plus the total of the small blinds, rounded as


   * 1, 2, and 5 blinds. 3 times 5 = 15; 15 + 1 + 2 = 18. Assuming that the
     minimum betting unit is 5, the maximum initial bring-in would be 18
     rounded up to become 20 -- a raise of 15.
   * With 1, 2, and 5 blinds, someone brings it in for 10. The maximum bet
     of the next to act would be 3 times 10 = 30, plus the total blinds of
     7, rounded up to 40 -- a raise of 30.
   * The pot contains, say, 1 unit. Suppose each successive bettor wishes to
     raise the maximum; how fast will the bets increase?

  size of pot before                   3 x previous bet
  previous bet         previous bet   + size of pot before
                                        previous bet
                                         = next bet

       1                   -                 1
       1                   1                 4
       2                   4                14
       6                  14                48
      20                  48               164
      68                 164               560
     232                 560              1912

So, if the initial pot size were $100, the seventh maniacal raiser would be
making a total bet of $191,200. The action can escalate quickly.

 Q: What is half-pot-limit?

A: [David Zanetti, March 2000]

In half-pot betting the maximum bet is half of whatever is in the pot. In a
head-to-head contest, HP pots and bets double with each additional bet or
raise, so four bets or raises increase the pot by a factor of 2 x 2 x 2 x 2,
or sixteen times. Pot-sized bets triple the pot, giving 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 or
eighty-one times the original pot after four bets or raises, in a
head-to-head contest.

Half-pot is the smallest of the big-bet games, and like its big brothers
pot-limit and no-limit, it provides plenty of scope for using position and
well timed bluffs to win with inferior hands, and the pot builds quickly
when you are betting for value. At the same time the more moderate bet sizes
mean that half-pot games last much longer than pot-limit or no-limit games
with a given amount of money available. Half-pot games are much easier to
keep alive than pot-limit and no-limit games, and this alone makes them
worthy of consideration as a big-bet option.

Half-pot, like limit-betting, is a game which provides reasonable odds for a
call -- 3/1 in a head to head contest, as opposed to 2/1 in pot-limit -- and
as a result there is more action and multi-way pots than in pot-limit and
no-limit. Because half-pot is a big-bet game, bets and bluffs do not
decrease in effect as the hand progresses, as they do in limit, where a
final round bet can be as little as two or three percent of the pot. In
effect, half-pot combines the best features of pot-limit/no-limit, and
limit-betting: it has multi-way action, favorable pot-odds and reasonable
bankroll longevity, like limit-betting, and it's also an excellent bluffing
form in which pots and bets build quickly, like PL and NL.

Here is a chart comparing half-pot and pot-limit pot sizes and bets in a
50-100 (cents or dollars, depending on your BR) game of holdem. In this
example the opener raises, and then bets at every round, and one player
(other than either of the blinds) calls at every round, and then raises and
is called at the end. The pot size at the start of each round includes all
bets and calls for the preceding round, so the pot at the start of the
second round in the half-pot column is 150 (blinds) + 100 + 125 (call and
raise) + 225 (call) = 600.

   Half-pot                                  Pot-limit
Start:  call 100, raise 125                       call 100, raise 250
Flop:   pot 600, bet 300                          pot 850, bet 850
Turn:   pot 1200, bet 600                         pot 2550, bet 2550
River:  pot 2400, bet 1200                        pot 7650, bet 7650
        raise 2400, final pot 9600                raise 22,950, final pot 68,850

The rapid escalation of the bets means that a hand of PL in which there is
serious action at every round of play is something of a rarity, because
players with average bankrolls tap out after three or four bets. Four rounds
of action, even multi-way action, is common in half-pot play.

Pot-limit is good, but half-pot lasts longer.

While it is perfectly understandable that some players will always prefer
pot-limit to half-pot -- and if bankroll conditions and the players are
right I like it myself -- I believe it is a mistake to dismiss half-pot as a
big-bet game. A half-pot game can survive for years in a situation where a
pot-limit game would quickly break many of the available players and revert
to limit-betting. The situation in the USA and Canada -- where pot-limit
games can be hard to find -- is a reflection of this tendency of limit games
to push out pot-limit. Players who prefer big-bet poker but who spend most
of their time playing limit because the pot-limit game folded again, (or
because their own bankroll can't handle the big swings) might consider
half-pot betting as an alternative, if not to pot-limit, at least to


Q:P18 What is a kill pot? What is a game with a kill? What is a half kill?
What is a straddle bet?
A:P18 [Stephen Landrum]

Big bet (no-limit or pot-limit) poker frequently allows a player to "kill
the pot", by posting an amount equal to current to-go amount, and the amount
to-go (to come into the hand, or call preflop) is now double the kill
amount. In no-limit games, players are frequently allowed to kill for more
than the to-go amount, but for no more than 1/2 of their stack. Some games
allow overkills - after someone has killed the pot, someone else can kill it
again, raising the amount to-go to double the new kill amount. There may be
a limit to the number of kills allowed on a hand, even though the game is
"no-limit". Killing the pot alters the order of action preflop/predraw. The
killers act after the blinds in the order in which they killed the pot.
After the flop or draw, action returns to its normal order.

To kill the pot in Hold'em or other flop games, the kill must be announced
(either verbally or by placing the amount of the kill in the pot) before any
cards are dealt. Draw lowball games frequently allow players to kill the
after seeing two cards - and some places even allow a kill in lowball after
the 3rd card is dealt. No-limit draw lowball also frequently allows the
player with the big blind to place a blind which is larger than the normal
amount, but still smaller than the to-go amount, and the new to-go amount is
twice the big blind.

Example: In a 1-2-2, 5-to-go Hold'em game, the player on the button (who
also has the $1 blind) decides to kill it for $5, rebuying his right to act
last before the flop. The blinds now look like 5-2-2, and the game is now
10-to-go. After the player to the right of the button acts, the two $2
blinds act, then the killer acts.

Example: In a draw-lowball game, 1-1-2 blinds, 4-to-go, the player with the
big blind puts out $3 before cards are dealt and it is now 6-to-go. After
two cards are dealt, the player to the right of the button kills the pot for
$10, and it is now 20-to-go. The player after the blinds is first to act.
After the player in front of the killer acts, the button and other blinds
must act, and then the killer acts.

Limit lowball games also frequently allow a player to kill the pot from any
position. In this case, the killer makes a blind of the current limit, and
the limit is doubled for that hand. As in no-limit games, the player who
kills the pot acts last after the blinds before the draw, and action resumes
to the normal order after the draw.

In addition, some limit games are played with a kill or a half kill. In
these games, there is some condition which if met, raises the stakes of the
game - doubling them in the case of a kill game, or increasing them by 50%
in the case of a half kill. In addition to the normal blinds posted for the
game, the player who met the kill condition must post a blind equal to the
new small bet size. This blind is instead of the small or big blind if the
player would have been in position to have one of those. In some clubs the
killer gets to act last after the blinds; but in others the killer acts in
normal turn order.

In a high only game, the condition is typically that someone wins two pots
in a row. In a high-low split game, the condition is usually that someone
takes the whole pot, and that the pot is some minimum size.

For example: in a 10-20 Omaha-8 game with a half kill that I've played in,
if someone scoops a pot with $100 in it, then they must post a $15 blind and
the next hand the game is 15-30.

What is a straddle bet?
In limit Hold'em and other flop games players are frequently allowed to make
a bet called a straddle bet, sometimes known as a live blind, live raise, or
live-<amount> where <amount> is the amount of the bet. The player who
follows the big blind and would normally be under the gun can raise before
cards before cards are dealt. Players that act after him must call the
raise, fold, or raise the bet themselves. The straddler's raise is live - if
no-one else raises, s/he has the option to reraise after the blinds have
acted. If straddle bets are allowed, the player behind the straddler can
also post a straddle by raising again, and so on until the maximum number of
bets is reached.

For example:  In a 6-12 game, the blinds are 3 and 6, the player after the
small blind makes it live-12 by raising before the cards are dealt, and the
player after him can make it live-18.


Q:P19 What is a poker tournament? How does one work? What is a chip race?
What is a satellite?
A:P19 [Michael Maurer]


A poker tournament is an event in which poker players compete for all or
part of a prize pool. Each player pays an entry fee and initial buy-in for a
set number of tournament chips. The chips are non-negotiable, having no cash
value except at the end of the tournament. The contestants play until all
but one or a few are busted; the top finishers divide up the prize pool
according to the tournament rules. The game's stakes increase with time to
hasten the tournament's end.


Within this framework is considerable room for variation. Many tournaments
permit "rebuys", which allow a busted player to reenter the tournament by
immediately posting additional money to the prize pool. The number of rebuys
may be unlimited, limited to one or a few, or limited to an initial period
of the tournament. Rebuys may also be available to players with short stacks
or even to all active players. Some tournaments allow an "add-on", a
one-time opportunity for all active players to buy a set number of
additional chips, again increasing the prize pool. The add-on may be
available at the end of the rebuy period, at the beginning of the
tournament, or, rarely, at any time during the rebuy period. The exchange
rate for rebuys and add-ons may be better than that for the initial buy-in.
A tournament with no rebuys is called a "freezeout". The betting structure
may be limit only, pot-limit, no-limit, or a mixture, usually limit in the
early rounds and no-limit later. Whatever the betting structure, the blinds
or betting limits increase regularly, perhaps doubling every twenty minutes
in a small tournament, or more slowly in a large one.

The Chip Race

A confusing aspect of the increasing stakes is the way in which some
tournaments get rid of the small denomination chips. At some point in the
tournament, the dealer may "race off" all the red $5 chips. Each player puts
all their red chips in front of them, and the dealer converts them to as
many green $25 chips as possible. Whatever red chips remain are raced off:
each player receives one card for each chip, and the player receiving the
highest card (ace, king, etc) wins everybody's reds and converts them to
greens. Bridge suits break ties for the high card (spades, hearts, diamonds,
clubs). In other tournaments, the red chips may simply be rounded to green
chips. Although rounding can change the total amount of money in play, it is
better at preserving the players' relative chip positions.

Some tournaments use a new chip race technique that only awards one chip to
the player with the highest card. Then that player is ineligible to receive
more chips. If more chips remain, the player having the next highest card
receives the next chip and becomes ineligible also, and so on until all
chips are distributed.


The tournament usually continues until only one player remains. The winner
may take all the money, or the top finishers may divide it up according to a
set schedule. In most tournaments, tables are consolidated and seats redrawn
when a certain number of players are eliminated, eventually resulting in a
"final table" of contestants. Sometimes, each table plays until only one
player remains, and then the survivors meet at a final table; this is called
a "shootout". Since the betting stakes are large at the final table and
payout schedules often favor first place, luck plays a major role and many
players prefer cutting a deal to playing the tournament to its conclusion.


A "satellite" is a tournament in which the prize is an entry to another
tournament. Large tournaments like the $10,000 No-limit Hold'em event in the
World Series of Poker generate a lot of satellites. Typically, the satellite
buy-in is around 1/10 the tournament buy-in, so the top 10% of satellite
finishers win a tournament buy-in. Sometimes a satellite will even have
mini-satellites, in which the prize is an entry to the main satellite. A
mini-satellite for the $10,000 event might have a $100 buy-in and award a
$1,000 buyin to a satellite that is awarding a $10,000 buy-in to the main

A satellite format popular in the larger tournaments is the
"super-satellite".  This is a multi-table tournament that awards a number of
entries into the main tournament.  The buy-in to the super can be as little
as 2% of the buy-in to the main tournament, with rebuys usually permitted.
Depending on the number of entrants and rebuys, the top N finishers receive
an entry into the main tournament.  The strategy late in a super-satellite
can be unusual because of the flat payout structure.


Many small (under $100 buy-in) daily or weekly tournaments are listed in the
back pages of Card Player magazine. Be sure to call the casino to see if
they are having the tournament that day, since the magazine is sometimes out
of date.


Q:P20 How does tournament strategy differ from that of regular games?
A:P20 [Ramsey]

Poker tournaments offer a chance to win a large sum of money for a small,
and known, fee and can be an enjoyable alternative to cash poker. However
the strategy required to be successful in a tournament can differ
significantly from that of the equivalent cash game. This section is
therefore offered as general advice to new, or inexperienced, tournament

Tournaments work by eliminating players who lose all their chips. To ensure
that a tournament ends within a reasonable time the blinds/antes are
increased at regular intervals. Your objective in a tournament should
therefore be to accumulate chips whilst minimising the chance of being

Before the Tournament

Before entering a tournament make sure you know the way it is organised; if
it is a 'freezeout' then it will cost you only the initial fee. If the
tournament allows rebuys or add-ons then you need to know the exact rules
and costs of each of your options.

In your first few tournaments it will probably be sensible to forgo all
these options, play your best game with your starting chips, and gain as
much experience as possible at minimum cost.

As a general rule it is mathematically sound to rebuy at any stage providing
that you are not out-classed by the opposition (and the cost is not a major
concern). This is true even if all the other players at the table have far
more chips than you.

A good 'rule of thumb' for add-ons is to take the option if you currently
have less than the average number of chips *and*, by taking the add-on you
will then have an above average number of chips. The add-on is less sound if
you have a very small stack or a large stack. Of course the cheaper the cost
of the add-on chips the more attractive the option is regardless of stack

Make sure you know how many prizes there are and whether the tournament is
played to a finish or ends at a fixed time. The correct strategy when you
get down to the last few players or the last few hands can lead to some
plays which would be irrational in any other circumstances.

Also check the blind/ante structure; how it changes and how frequently it
changes during the tournament. The blinds typically double at fixed
intervals of between 20 and 40 minutes. This information is important:
Suppose at some point you have 1800 chips and there are currently blinds of
200 and 400. After you have paid your next blinds you will have 1200 chips
left or 3 times the big blind. If however the blinds are likely to double
before you next post then, after posting, you will have 600 chips left which
is less than the big blind of 800. Clearly the strategy you need to adopt
will vary considerably in these two situations, in the first you can be
reasonably conservative whilst in the latter you have to win a pot quickly
and will need to be aggressive.

The Early Stages

In the early stages of a tournament keep the following points in mind:

If it is a 'freezeout' tournament a lot of players will play tight in the
early stages not wanting to be eliminated quickly. Some players will however
be aggressive looking to build a big stack quickly with a fall back of a
return to the cash games if things don't go to plan. Selective aggression
against the tight players can be effective in this situation.

If rebuys are allowed the play in the early stages will tend to be a lot
looser. A lot of the players will be prepared, and even expect, to rebuy and
they will play marginal hands aggressively trying to build a big stack
early. Players who are not going to rebuy will play a lot more cautiously.

At the start of a tournament the cost of the blinds will be relatively low
in respect of the average stack size and will become even lower if rebuys
are allowed. This allows you to play much more marginal hands than normal.
It is worth risking a small part of your stack (say 5% or less) to see the
flop with small pairs, suited connectors and other marginal hands to have
the chance to double your stack if you hit big on the flop.

By the same token it can be right to play good hands relatively
conservatively preflop. If you hold AK in late position and there are
several callers it is often better just to flat call. You know if you raise
you will not get the other players to fold. By flat calling you minimise
your loss if the flop is not to your liking and you have the benefit of
disguise if you hit the flop big.

If you are by nature an aggressive player then use the early stages to try
and build a substantial stack. This risks early elimination but when
successful it will give you sufficient chips to survive the first few blind
increases even if the cards turn against you.

If your natural game is passive or middle of the road then the best strategy
is to try for a steady accumulation of chips. Play looser than normal
preflop providing that the cost is small in relation to your stack but play
slightly tighter than normal post-flop. This generally means not putting in
that extra bet or raise when you think, but are not sure, that you are ahead
- the saving of a bet when you lose the pot is worth more to you than the
extra bet you could potentially win.

Finally in the early stages do not be concerned with eliminating other
players. You are too far from the prize list to worry about how many players
are left. It is more important to concentrate on keeping your stack in good
condition. For example a player raises and everyone else folds. You hold T9s
and have a big stack. Your opponent is almost allin so the cost to you even
if you lose the pot is small. Even so, fold. Your opponent has almost
certainly a better starting hand than yours and even if you win it will not
increase your stack by much. Having made a good start you need to be careful
not to bleed chips unnecessarily.

The Middle/Late Stages

In the middle and later stages of a tournament the structure of the game
gradually changes and the strategy necessary changes too:

As the blinds increase they represent an increasing percentage of the
average stack. Winning the blinds therefore becomes more significant and the
first player into the pot will normally enter with a raise rather than a
flat call.

The converse of this is that it now costs a significant proportion of the
average stack to call a raise. Therefore the quality of hand needed to call
a raise increases. The result of this is that a lot of hands go raise, all
fold and you can go several hands without even seeing a flop.

As players are eliminated the game in the middle/late stages will be played
most of the time with less than a full table. This, and the increasing
blinds, means that unless a players is winning hands at regular intervals
even a big stack can be quickly depleted. To counter this all players,
regardless of their normal style, have to play very aggressively.

So the general strategy in the middle/late stages is to increasingly loosen
the requirements for an opening raise and to tighten up the requirements for
calling. Your objective should be to win, on average, the blinds once per
round. Each time you win the blinds you can, in effect, survive one further
round of hands.... and each round of hands you survive increases your chance
of hitting a premium hand and an opportunity to double your stack.

A player who has an average or large stack commands respect when they raise
and will often win the blinds unopposed. A player with a small stack will be
called much more frequently because they do not have sufficient chips to
seriously damage the larger stacks. There is, therefore, a critical stack
size and it is worth a player taking extra risks to try and avoid falling
below that point. As a rule of thumb this critical size is about 4 big bets
in a limit game and about 6 times the big blind in pot and no-limit.

If your stack does fall below the critical level then a change of strategy
is required. It is no longer sensible to raise with marginal hands because
you expect to be called. So raise if you are lucky enough to hit a premium
hand but otherwise limp in to a pot with any reasonable hand. If there is no
raise then you can judge the flop and fold if absolutely necessary. If you
limp into a pot and it is then raised be prepared to put all your chips in
and keep your fingers crossed. If there is a raise in front of you then you
should also loosen your calling requirements when you are very short of
chips. A hand such as Ax or a low pair offers a reasonable chance of
doubling your stack and you can't afford to wait for a better opportunity.

If you have a big stack (e.g. twice the average or more) then you are in a
strong position but this can change rapidly. A big stack allows you to play
more conservatively and wait that bit longer for better hands before raising
however the blinds will soon eat into even a large stack so you have to
remain aggressive. Normally it will pay to be selectively aggressive, that
is be prepared to mix it with the smaller stacks but keep out of the way of
the other large stacks as they can do you serious damage.

Experienced tournament players with large stacks are likely to call a raise
by a short stack even if they have only a moderate or poor hand. They are
risking losing a few chips for the chance of moving one place closer to the
prize money. There may even be several callers with good stacks and poor
hands. It will not be unusual for these players to check down the hand once
the short stack is all-in to maximise the chance of eliminating the all-in

Whilst this is good tournament strategy it is probably best in your first
few tournaments to call a raise only with a very good hand and ignore
whether the raiser has many or few chips. However if you do get head to head
with a player who is almost all-in you should force the other player to
commit their last few chips at the first opportunity; certainly if you would
call if they bet then you must bet to prevent them checking. It is a
cardinal error to let a player off the hook because no matter how few chips
a player has left they can bounce back to being chip leader within a few
hands if they get the run of the cards!

As the blinds rise a raise or a call starts to take a significant proportion
of the average stack. The effect of this is that most players will continue
to play aggressively on the flop if they have even a small part of it and
quite often they will play aggressively even if the flop misses them
completely (ie bluff). You will have to respond in kind
especially if conceding the pot would leave you with a stack below the
critical level. For example you hold AsQd, raise and are called by the big
blind. The flop is Jh 8h 2c and the big blind bets. Even though this flop
does nothing for you you should call unless you are in a strong chip
position. The big blind is as likely to be on a draw or bluffing as he is to
have a genuine hand.

The Final Stage

If all goes well you will survive to the point where you are down to the
last few players and almost in the prize money.

At this stage the blinds will be so high that virtually all the players left
will have stacks at or below the critical size. In addition you will be
playing the game increasingly short-handed which means that you can see
fewer and fewer hands before your stack is anted away.

You need at this stage to know exactly how near the prize money you are and
how many chips each of your opponents has. If you have an average or large
stack the correct strategy is still to be ultra aggressive in raising but
conservative in calling. However when you have fewer than average chips it
can be right to adopt a tighter strategy! There are two reasons why this may
be so:

Suppose there are 5 players left and there are prizes for the first 4 only.
If the player under the gun does not have enough chips to cover the big
blind next hand then you will be probably correct to fold any non-premium
hand and hope that utg doesn't get lucky. In general this extends to playing
tight if you can survive longer than one or more of the other players left
in the game. This will force them to try and win a pot before you have to -
if they lose you are one further notch up the ladder whilst if they win you
still have a chance to also win a pot and be back in the same relative
position to them.

Providing that you have enough chips to see the next few hands then playing
tight also avoids the chance of immediate elimination and gives the other
players a chance to eliminate each other or to agree to make a deal, either
of which is to your advantage.

In most tournaments the last few players are allowed to agree a deal sharing
the prize fund in different proportions to that originally envisioned. A lot
of tournaments will end in this way because regardless of how big a lead the
chip leader has the blinds are so high that who wins will be more a matter
of luck than skill or weight of chips.

There are typically three types of deal:

  1. A saver is agreed for all those players still in who subsequently get
     eliminated outside the original prize scale. For example if there are 6
     players left and only 4 prizes then the players may agree that the next
     2 players eliminated will receive $100 each and the prize for the
     eventual winner will be reduced by $200. The game then continues.
  2. The whole of the prize fund is distributed amongst the remaining
     players and the game is ended at this point. The amount each player
     receives will be related to the number of chips they currently have but
     the exact amount will be subject to negotiation.
  3. Part of the prize fund is distributed amongst the remaining players and
     then the game continues; normally on the basis of the winner takes all
     of the remaining prize money (and the trophy if any).

If you are going to split the prize money on the basis of chips held then it
is probably easiest to let the experienced players do the initial
negotiating. They will ask if you would be happy to accept $x and it is then
up to you to accept or reject the offer. If you are one of the chip leaders
then you should expect to receive less than your chips are worth whereas if
you have less chips than average you should insist on receiving more than
their face value. For example with 5 players left if you have 10% of the
chips you might expect 15% of the prize fund; if you have 40% of the chips
you might have to settle for 30-35% of the money.

For new tournament players the important point to bear in mind is that any
deal requires the explicit agreement of *all* the remaining players. If you
do not like the proposed deal you do not have to accept it simply ask the
dealer to carry on. If things continue to go your way you will end up with
all the chips and the bulk of the prize money. Remember however that in
these final stages luck is more important than skill and a sensible deal
leaves everybody happy.

[Several books have been written on the subject of poker tournaments, but
none has received universal praise from rec.gamblers. Jay Sipelstein's
reviews of McEvoy's "Tournament Poker" and Buntjer's "The Secret To Winning
Big In Tournament Poker" are in the Poker Book Review Archive at --ed.]


Q:P21 What is the World Series of Poker? What is the Tournament of
A:P21 [Jim Albrecht, JP Massar]

Q: What is the World Series of Poker?

The World Series of Poker is a yearly series of poker tournaments hosted by
Binion's Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas. The official WSoP home page is at

Q: How do the WSOP satellites work? [Jim Albrecht, 1996]

Those satellites are for all events. Actually, they are to win "tournament
buy-in chips" worth $500 towards a buy-in to any event. You could for
example, win a hold'em satellite and receive 3 chip and $60 in cash. This
has a value of $1,560 and may be used as a buy-in for any $1,560 event. The
chips can be added up to play in a larger event, or can be sold to you
friends at discount. They are usually obtainable for $480. In the "old
days", or PC (pre-chip) days, you received a receipt and HAD to play in the
specific tournament that matched the satellite you won. Now you have all
kinds of options. Just think of them as tournament stock certificates. These
chips are without question the best invention of the 90's for tournament
poker (I would say this even if it wasn't my idea)...... :)

Q: What about the satellites for the $10,000 WSOP event?  [Jim Albrecht,

Supers start on Monday night and run nightly throughout the tournament
dates. You win a piece of paper with your name on it (WOW!) This piece of
paper (a receipt) allows you to play in the $10,000 event and win up to
$1,000,000. Disclaimer: Winning is not guaranteed. This part is up to you.

The first Super you win is non-transferable, non-negotiable, and must be
played by YOU. This will be clearly stamped on your receipt. If you win a
second Super you will be paid in Buy-in chips (twenty $500 chips). You may
do as you please with these. Stake a friend, play in several events yourself
or sell to the highest bidder. Best place for a sale: The line for sign-up
on the day of the event. Early sales (first week of the tournament) can
fetch as low as $9,500. The day of the event you should be able to get

Q.  What is the Tournament of Champions? [JP Massar, October 1999]

The first annual TOC, organized by Mike Sexton and Chuck Humphrey under the
auspices of Tournament of Champions, Inc, was held at the Orleans Hotel
Casino in Las Vegas in July, 1999. To enter the next TOC, you must win a
TOC-recognized tournament sometime in the preceding year.  Thus, the TOC is
a 'tournament of tournament champions'.  The 1st TOC was won by David Chiu.

The current format of the TOC is alternating rounds of Limit Texas Hold 'em,
Omaha Hi/Lo, and Seven Card Stud.  The final three tables are played using
No Limit Hold 'em. The entry fee for the year 2000 TOC is $2000.

[NEW] [The TOC has not been held in recent years -- editor, Jun 2002.]


Q:P22 What the hell is Rumple Mintz?
A:P22 [Michael Maurer]

Rumple Mintz is the official rec.gambling spelling of a brand of 100 proof
peppermint schnapps called Rumple Minze, imported from the Scharlachberg
Distillery in Germany. Best served shaken over ice for five seconds, then
strained into a short glass. It is the official drink of rec.gambler poker
players everywhere, and is known to increase poker skill dramatically.
Legend has it that one rec.gambler won $4000 in a 50-100 Hold'em game while
under its spell, lived to tell the tale in a trip report, and assured its
eternal fame.


Q:P23 What is a burn card and why is it dealt?
A:P23 [Michael Maurer]

A burn card is a card dealt face down at the beginning of a round, before
any other cards are dealt. This card is not used in the play of the hand.
The main reason for this custom is to guard against marked cards. If the
cards are marked, a player who can read the backs will know what the top
card on the deck is. In a flop-game like Hold'em or Omaha, knowledge of the
next board card is extremely profitable. Knowledge of which card it will
*not* be is slightly useful, but much less so.


Q:P24 What happens if there aren't enough cards in the deck to deal the
final card in 7-card stud?
A:P24 [Michael Maurer]

The burn cards will be shuffled into the remaining deck. If there are still
not enough cards, a single community card will be dealt face-up and used by
all the players.


Q:P25 What is the difference between a shill and a proposition player? What
skills are needed to be one?
A:P25 [John Murphy]

A shill is paid by the house at an hourly rate, and plays with house money.
A prop is paid by the house and plays with his own money. Many states
require cardrooms to identify house players if asked, but may not require
them to do so otherwise. Shills and props are directed to games by the
house. This means that they may be constantly shifted to tougher games, as
non-house players boot them out of seats in juicy games. The most important
skill for a prop is to be able to excel in all games, since they may be
called to play any game that the house offers, against players who
specialize in that game. Also, be they must be prepared to sit and wait if
all games are full.


Q:P26 What is the Dead Man's Hand?
A:P26 [Stephen Landrum]

Legend holds that Wild Bill Hickok was shot to death during a poker game in
Deadwood, South Dakota, and that the hand he held was two pair, black aces
and black eights. On that most people agree. The fifth card is not known for
certain. In order of credibility, the following kickers have been suggested:

Five of Diamonds
     The actual card is supposedly on display in Deadwood, previously on
     display at the Stardust in Las Vegas.
Nine of Diamonds
     Listed below in the glossary, this card was supposedly reported by
     first hand accounts, and is used in a recreation in Deadwood.
Queen of Clubs
     On display at Ripley's Believe it or Not.
King of Spades
     Appeared in the 1936 movie The Plainsman with Gary Cooper as Hickok.


Q:P27 What are the Las Vegas poker room phone numbers?

A:P27 [Dave Marshall, June 1994 -- any volunteers for an update?]

Here's a list of all the poker rooms in Las Vegas (Santa Fe, Boomtown, and
Henderson poker rooms not included) with addresses and the *direct* phone
number of the poker room. In one or two cases, the poker room doesn't have a
direct line, so the main casino line is used instead. See bottom for the two
800 numbers I know of.

Aladdin Hotel & Casino                      3667 S Las Vegas Blvd    736-0329
Binion's Horseshoe Hotel & Casino           128 Fremont Street       366-7397
Circus Circus Hotel-Casino                  2880 S Las Vegas Blvd    734-0410
Continental Hotel & Casino                  4100 Paradise Road       737-5555
El Cortez Hotel                             600 Fremont Street       385-5200
Excalibur Hotel-Casino                      3850 S Las Vegas Blvd    597-7625
Flamingo Hilton                             3555 S Las Vegas Blvd    733-3485
Fremont Hotel                               200 Fremont Street       385-3232
Gold Coast Hotel & Casino                   4000 W Flamingo Road     367-7111
Hacienda Hotel & Casino                     3950 S Las Vegas Blvd    739-8911
Harrah's Las Vegas                          3475 S Las Vegas Blvd    369-5234
Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino              3535 S Las Vegas Blvd    731-3311
Jackie Gaughan's Plaza Hotel & Casino       1 S Main Street          386-2249
Las Vegas Hilton                            3000 Paradise Road       732-5995
Luxor Hotel And Casino                      3900 S Las Vegas Blvd    262-4210
MGM Grand Hotel                             3799 S Las Vegas Blvd    891-7434
The Mirage Hotel And Casino                 3400 S Las Vegas Blvd    791-7290
Palace Station Hotel & Casino               2411 W Sahara Avenue     367-2453
Rio Suite Hotel & Casino                    3700 W Flamingo Road     252-7777
Riviera Hotel & Casino                      2901 S Las Vegas Blvd    794-9255
Sahara Hotel                                2535 S Las Vegas Blvd    737-2317
Sam's Town Hotel & Gambling Hall            5111 Boulder Highway     454-8092
Sands Hotel & Casino                        3355 S Las Vegas Blvd    733-5000
Hotel San Remo                              115 East Tropicana       739-9000
Sheraton Desert Inn                         3145 S Las Vegas Blvd    733-4343
Showboat Hotel & Casino                     2800 Fremont Street      385-9151
Silver City Casino                          3001 S Las Vegas Blvd    732-4152
Stardust Hotel & Casino                     3000 S Las Vegas Blvd    732-6513
Treasure Island at The Mirage               3300 S Las Vegas Blvd    894-7291
Tropicana Resort And Casino                 3801 S Las Vegas Blvd    739-2312

800 Poker Room Numbers:
Binion's : 1-800-93-POKER
MGM Grand: 1-800-94-POKER


Q:P28 What poker games are spread in certain Las Vegas casinos?

A:P28 [Joel Trammell, June 1997 -- note the stale date, any volunteers for
an update?]

Sometime around June 1997, the following casinos were spreading the poker
games listed:

ALADDIN HOTEL (702)736-0329
7-card stud: $1-4, Hold'em: $1-4.

BINION'S HORSESHOE (702)366-7397, (800) 93-POKER
7- card stud: $1- 5, Hold'em: $1-4-8, $4-8, $10-20, $15-30, Omaha High:
$4-8, Omaha Hi-Lo (8 or better) $4-8. 18 tables.

BOULDER STATION (702)432-7777

CIRCUS CIRCUS (702)734-0410

EXCALIBUR (702)597-7625
7 card stud: $1-5, Hold'em: $1-2 (Novice Table), $2-6, 2-6-12.

FLAMINGO HILTON (702) 733-3485
7-card stud: $1-4, Hold'em: $1-4-8. 6 tables.

GOLD COAST (702) 367-7111
7-card stud: $1-4, Hold'em: $1-4-8-8, Omaha: $1-4-8-8. 6 tables.

HARRAH'S (702) 369-5234
7-card stud: $1-5, Hold'em: 1-4-8-8. 9-10 Tables.  Well run room, $5 comps
are for the asking. Lots O' granite except on weekends.

LUXOR (702) 262-4210

MGM GRAND (702) 891-7434, (800) 94-POKER
7-card stud $1-5, $5-10, $10-20, Hold'em $1-4-8-8, Omaha, higher limits

MIRAGE (702) 791-7290
7-card stud: $1-5 thru $400-800, Hold'em: $3-6 thru $400-800: no limit, pot
limit, Omaha: $4-8 thru pot limit: hi-lo split (8 or better): $15-30 thru
$400-800: no limit razz $15-30 thru $400-800. 31 tables.

MONTE CARLO (702) 730-7777
7-card stud: $1-4, $4-8, Hold'em: $1-4-8-8. 8 tables.

ORLEANS (702) 365-7111
7-card stud: $1-5, Holdem: $2-4-8, $3-6-12, and sometimes $10-20, Omaha:$4-8

PALACE STATION (702) 367-2453
7-card stud: $1-2, $l-4, Hold'em: $2-4, 1-4-8-8, Hi-Lo Split: $1-3-6-6. 9

RIO (702) 252-7777
7-card stud: $1-4, Hold'em: $1-4-8-8. 6 tables.

RIVIERA (702) 794-9255
7-card stud: $1-4-8, Hold'em: $1-4-8, hi-lo split: $l-5,3-6.

SAHARA (702) 737-2317
7-card stud: $1-4 ,1-4-8, 2-6, 3-6, 5-10, Hold'em: $1-4-8; hi-lo split:
$3-6, 5-10, beginners poker;$1-4. 18 tables.

SAMS TOWN (702) 454-8092
7-card stud: $1-4, Hold'em: $1-4-8, Omaha: $1-3, $2-4, $3-6. 10 tables.

SHOWBOAT (702) 385-9151
7-card stud: $1-4, Hold'em: $1-4-8.

STARDUST (702) 732-6513
7-card stud: $1-5, Hold'em: $3-6.

SUNSET STATION (702) 547-7777

TEXAS STATION (702) 631-1000

THE PLAZA (702) 386-2249
7-card stud: $1-3, Hold'em: $1-3-6, Omaha hi-lo split: $3-6, pan: 50 cents
and up, pineapple hold'em hi-lo split: $1-4-8.

TROPICANA (702) 739-2312
7-card stud: $1-4, 1-4-8, 1-5-10, Hold'em: $1-4-8-8.


Q:P29 What do all these poker terms mean?
A:P29 [Michael Maurer, August 2000]

Four good poker glossaries are available on the net:

John Hallyburton's compendium, compiled with the help of several
rec.gamblers, is at

Lee Jones' glossary from the popular book "Winning Low-Limit Holdem" is at

Dan Kimberg's glossary, complete with usage examples and hyperlinks, is at

Michael Wiesenberg's incredibly thorough "The Official Dictionary of Poker",
is online at and is also
available in print (MGI/Mike Caro University, ISBN: 1880069520).


Q:P30 When can I meet and play poker with fellow r.g.pers? What are BARGE,
FARGO, etc? [NEW]
A:P30 [Michael Maurer, December 2001]


     Big Annual Rec.Gambling Excursion
     Las Vegas, NV
     Beginning of August [August 1-4 2002]
     Organizers: Chuck Weinstock <>, Peter Secor
     <>, Michael Zimmers <>
     Web page:
     To subscribe to the BARGE mailing list, send email to:
     Information last updated Nov 2002.


     Foxwoods Annual Rec.Gambling Outing
     Foxwoods, CT
     Late September or October [Oct 4--6, 2002]
     Organizer: Don Perry <>
     Web page: and
     Mailing list:
     Information last updated Nov 2002.


     Mississippi ARGE
     Biloxi, MS
     November [October 31 -- November 3, 2002, Grand Casino Biloxi]
     Organizer: Steve Jewett <>, Randy "Mitch"
     Collack <>
     Web page:
     Mailing list:
     Information last updated Nov 2002.


     Southern ARGE
     Tunica, MS
     Late February or early March [possibly in February 2003 at the
     Organizer: Steve Jewett <>, Randy "Mitch"
     Collack <>
     Web page:
     Mailing list:
     Information last updated Nov 2002.


     Christmas ARGO
     Las Vegas, NV
     Christmas [Not held in 2001]
     Organizer: Alan Bostick <>
     Information last updated Nov 2002.


     Extraordinary Southern California Annual Recreational Gaming
     Outing and Tournament
     Los Angeles, CA
     Near Valentine's Day [February 7-9, 2002 at the Bicycle Casino]
     Organizers: Lou Krieger, Russ Fox, Marc Gilutin, Jerrod Ankenman,
     Steve Nissman
     Web page:
     Information last updated Nov 2002.


     ATLantic City ARGE
     Atlantic City, NJ
     Late March [March 22-23, 2003 at the the Taj Mahal]
     Organizer: Steven Eisenstein <>
     Web page:
     To subscribe to the atlarge mailing list, visit
     Information last updated Nov 2002.


     The Annual Rec.Gambling Entry Tournament
     Las Vegas, NV
     First held in 1994. Usually occurs during the first week of WSOP
     Organizer: Ken Kubey <>
     To join the mailing list, send email to Ken.
     Information last updated Nov 2002.


Q:P31 Where can I player online poker against real people for real money? Is
it legal? Is it safe?
A:P31 [Michael Maurer, November 1999.  Contributions from Jim Geary.]

Ken Churilla maintains a list of online poker rooms at As of November 1999, there were
about a half-dozen sites offering live games against real people for real
money. Betting stakes ranged from $2-$4 to $10-$20, with rakes in the 5% or
10% range with a maximum of $3 or $4 per hand.  The usual procedure is to
establish an account with the cardroom by making a deposit, usually through
a third-party clearing agency. Typical forms of payment are check, credit
card, PayPal, or FirePay. When you want to withdraw money you can reverse
the process or ask for a paper check.

[Geary:] The idea of online poker has some advantages over the usual kind.
You don't have to drive to a casino.  You can play in your underwear.  You
can smoke or breathe clean air, according to your pleasure.  You don't have
to tip the dealer; plus, the lower operating costs of online cardrooms may
be passed on to players.  You can sing along to your music without
disturbing anyone.  You have the ultimate poker face.  You can't be mugged
in the parking lot.  And finally, online poker attracts players who have
never been inside a real cardroom and thus may not be that sophisticated in
their play.

[Maurer:] Is it legal?  As of this writing, the issue is ambiguous in most
U.S. states and at the U.S. federal level.  Most of the cardroom sites are
operated from the Caribbean or Central America.  Existing laws tend to
target illegal gambling operators rather than the players, but since the
online operators are out of reach there is political pressure to modify this
approach.  In the U.S., several federal bills have been proposed that
regulate or forbid online wagers.  You're on your own until legal systems
catch up with technology.

Is it safe? The jury is also still out on this one. There are a number of
risks.  First is the ease of collusion among players.  The magnitude of this
risk is a matter of ongoing debate, but it is possible for your opponents to
communicate secretly or even be the same person.  Second is the possibility
that the cardroom will not honor a redemption request, that is, will stiff
you when you ask for your money.  Third is the possibility that the
technology is not secure, allowing others to compromise the game's or site's
integrity.  This could take any number of forms, from others knowing your
cards, knowing what cards will be dealt next, changing what cards will be
dealt next, or even impersonating you and withdrawing your money.  Fourth is
the possibility that an insider at the cardroom will take advantage of
existing security flaws or secretly create new ones to favor their
accomplices during play.  Fifth is the chance that a cardroom insider will
compile records of your play and reveal them to your opponents for strategic
or tactical analysis.  Sixth is the chance that you will be found guilty of
a crime in some jurisdiction, perhaps not even your own, simply for
playing.  For example, if your internet traffic is routed through Virginia,
as much of it is, are your internet activities subject to Virginia law?
Seventh is the chance that opening an offshore account will bring other
aspects of your life under the scrutiny of authorities, for example, by
increasing the chances of an IRS tax audit.

You might notice that many of these risks exist in real cardrooms.  It is
likely that some risks will be greater in the online world and that some
will be lesser.  At least one of the online cardrooms takes the precaution
of applying collusion detection algorithms to the database of hand
histories.  It may turn out that the cost of collusion will be lower in the
online world.  Also, in time, it is likely that some of the online cardrooms
will seek audited validation of their software and processes by one of the
major accounting firms.  But for now, you have to judge for yourself whether
you can accept the risks.

[NEW]How do I find out what games are available and how many tables are
active at each online site?

A: [Dennis Boyko, Oct 2002]

Poker Pulse,, is an independent poker tracking
portal showing close to real time counts of money players and games from
many of the top online multi-player poker rooms. The Poker Pulse main page
shows you the current real money ring game, players and real money
tournament players at may sites. In addition to the player counts you can
see a break down of the types of games at each site (e.g. number of hold'em
games, number of omaha games, number of stud games and 1 on 1 games). There
is a details page for each of the poker rooms covered, that shows you the
current count of games with an average pot < $10, average pots between $10
and $30 and average pots > $30 plus other room specific details. Poker Pulse
also features weekly chart features showing poker action graphically. Past
chart features have included plots of peak and average player counts at each
of the tracked rooms versus the hour of the day.


Q:P32 How do you play no-limit seven-card stud? What is Mississippi Stud?

A:P32 [David Zanetti, March 2000]

It isn't practical to play classic seven-card stud with no-limit betting,
but here is a game called mississippi seven card stud, which can. Deal the
start cards as for conventional seven-card stud, two down, one up; then deal
each active player two more upcards, then a fourth upcard, then a fifth
upcard. In other words deal the cards 3-2-1-1 instead of 3-1-1-1-(1).

Mississippi is more suited to half-pot, pot-limit and no-limit betting than
seven-card stud for two reasons: The four round structure is less crippling
financially than five rounds, and the fact that only two hole cards out of
seven are concealed means that hands as small as trips of the biggest card
showing can be the absolute nuts at the end. Similarly, a straight or flush
is the absolute nuts if none of your opponents have paired their board, and
aren't showing three cards to a possible (bigger) straight or flush. In
seven-card stud (with it's third hole-card) trips, straights and flushes can
never be the nuts at the end because your opponent could have quads or a
full house without showing a pair, or a (bigger) straight or flush if they
have two cards to a straight or flush showing.

Mississippi also plays well as a limit game. It's faster and more active
than seven-card stud because the two card individual flop not only speeds up
the game, it is better value than taking the cards one at a time, and you
get more callers at every round on average as a result. Mississippi can be
dealt with the last card down for limit betting if you prefer it that way.

If you like mississippi, the layout also works very well with an extra
hole-card, a form called murrumbidgee stud: the deal is the same as
mississippi except everyone gets three hole-cards to start: only two of the
hole cards can be used at the end. Hands like (3s,Kc,Ac)3c, have a lot of
ways to improve: you'll make the flush 20% of the time by the end, and there
are eight cards which give you at least kings up. (9s,Jc,Qc)10c will make
either a straight or a flush over 40% of the time by the end, and if you
flop Ko,8c or Kc, 8o, you have a twenty-three way straight and flush draw. A
king or an eight on the flop, plus one club, gives you a twenty way straight
and flush draw. There is plenty of action in murrumbidgee, making it an
excellent short-handed game: it can be dealt for up to six players at time.

Disclosure: the writer invented mississippi in mid 1998 and murrumbidgee in
early 1999.


Q:P33 Can one overcome the rake at low limit poker games? [NEW]

A:P33 [Bob Dainauski, August 2000]

In a game with no rake and no toking, there is no question that in the long
run (with the cards breaking even) the better players will win money at the
expense of the weaker players. The question is: Can strong players win
enough from the weak players to more than cover the expenses in a game with
a rake and/or toking?

How much do the rake and tokes cost us? It varies, but we can calculate some
ranges. Let's assume a 10 seat $2/$4 game dealing 40 hands per hour. Assume
a rake of 10% to $4. As a good player, you are somewhat tighter than your
opponents, so let's assume you win an average of 3.5 pots per hour (4 would
be your "fair share"). Your average rake expense ranges from a probable low
of around $1.46 per pot (from TTH sims) to a probable high of around twice
that amount (in line with the observations of experienced players in certain
games). Add in a $1 toke per pot, and your average expense per hour likely
falls somewhere between $8.50 and $14. In terms of big bets, this is 2.25 to
3.5 big bets per hour. Across other limits we can calculate expense ranges
the same way:

10% rake to $4, $1 toke

      Est. Total Hourly
Limit Expense (Big Bets)
----- -----------------
10-20 0.76 to 0.88
5-10  1.23 to 1.66
3-6   1.91 to 2.62
2-4   2.25 to 3.50

Some games have lower expenses. For example, some on-line games feature a
rake of 5% to a max of $3 with, obviously, no toking. The expenses here
(From TTH sims) are:

5% rake to $3, $0 toke

Est.  Total Hourly
Limit Expense (BB)
----- ------------
10-20 0.45 and up
5-10  0.55 and up
3-6   0.58 and up
2-4   0.53 and up

Now we need to estimate the win rate for a good player in a sufficiently
weak game. Unfortunately this resists a straightforward mathematical
solution. Our best source of information comes from the observations of top
theorists and experienced players. These sources have cited approximately 1
BB per hour (after expenses) as the approximate profit a strong player might
expect at limits of 15-30 and up. This corresponds to a pre-expense win rate
of about 1.5 BB / hr. (TTH sim showed a .54 BB expense factor for 15-30).
Experienced players have reported higher win rates in exceptionally weak low
limit games. Players in the softest of games report win rates as high as 3+
BB per hour after expenses So, a good player in a weak enough game can
achieve a pre-expense win rate of 1.5 BB / hr and up, perhaps exceeding 4 BB
/ hour in extremely favorable circumstances.

This indicates that the rake can be overcome in even the lowest limit games
if you are sufficiently strong and your opponents sufficiently weak.
Remember, if you're not one of the better players in a given game, it
wouldn't matter if there were no expenses, you'd still lose.

Any given poker game at a given time comprises many factors: fixed factors
such as the rake, betting structure and rules; variable factors such as the
talent, mood, and motivation (etc.) of you opponents; and personal factors
such as your ability, discipline, and toking level (etc.). Therefore, the
question we should really be asking is "Can I beat the players at *this*
table at a rate sufficient to overcome the particular expenses of *this*
game?" This all points back to the importance of skill #0, judicious table


Q:P34 What is Hi-Lo declare? How is it played? [NEW]

A:P34 [Stephen Landrum, January 2002]

Hi-Lo declare is a popular variation in home games that can be applied to
any game that can be played hi-lo. The betting proceeds normally to the end
of the hand, then everyone still in the hand declares whether they are going
high, low, or both ways.

There are many variations to the rules, so it is best to make sure that the
rules used in your game are announced in advance and that everyone agrees to

There are several ways that the hand can be declared. One of the most
popular is to declare simultaneously with chips. Each player secretly
conceals chips in their hand; then at the same time all players open their
hands to reveal their declaration. Common systems for chip declare include
using number of chips (for instance, no chips means low, one chip means
high, two chips means both ways), or using color of chips (for instance
white chips in hand mean low, red chips mean high, both colors mean both
ways). Another way of declaring is for the players to announce aloud in turn
(either from dealer's left, from the high showing hand, or from the last
bettor depending on what's been agreed upon in advance). This latter form of
declare obviously has a huge positional advantage for the player who gets to
declare last.

After the declare, there may be another betting round, depending on the
house rules. If there is an additional betting round, a "lock" bettor may be
allowed to bet or raise, or may be required only to check and call depending
on the house variation being used. A "lock" bettor is a player who declares
one way and no-one else declares that way.

After the declare and optional betting round is the showdown. At the
showdown, the best high hand (of the hands that have been declared as going
high) and the best low hand (of the hands that declared low) split the pot.
If everyone has declared the same way, then the whole pot is awarded to the
best hand that way. If more than one player has they same best hand in the
way they've declared they split that share of the pot.

If someone declares "both ways" (also called a "hogger"), things get more
complicated. If the "both ways" player has the best high and the best low
hand, then they win the whole pot. If they are beat in either direction,
however, they win none of the pot. What happens if they have the best high
but are beat low, or have the best low but are beat high is a matter of
house rules (and can be a matter of great dispute if the players have not
agreed beforehand). In some houses if a player declares both ways and has
the best high hand but is beat low, the second best high hand is allowed to
win the high share of the pot (the same reasoning applies if the both ways
declarer has the best low but is beat high). In other houses, if a player
declares both ways and has the best high but is beat low, then no-one wins
the high, and the entire pot is awarded to the best low hand.

Another important variation in the rules to know about for declaring both
ways is whether a both ways declarer is allowed to tie on either side. In
some houses, the both ways declarer must win both sides free and clear, or
get none of the pot. For instance if player A declares both ways, and player
B declares high, and they both have the same straight, then player A gets
nothing. Other houses allow the both ways declarer to get shares if the pot
if they tie on one side (as long as they win or tie on the other as well).
For instance if Player A declares both ways, and player B declares high, and
they both have they same straight, then A would get 3/4 of the pot (all of
low and half of high), and B would get 1/4 (half of the high).

It leads to the least complications in extremely rare situations if "second
best" hands are allowed to win if a both ways declarer is beat in the other
direction. If second best hands are not allowed to win, then situations can
arise where no-one is eligible for a share of the pot and a long argument is
likely to ensue. For instance Players A, B, C and D declare hi, low, both
and both respectively. Player C has the best high hand, but player D has the
best low hand, if "second best" hands are not allowed a share of the pot,
then no-one is allowed to win. If "second best" hands are allowed to win,
then player A wins high, and player B wins low. If "second best" hands are
not allowed to win in your game, it's probably best to have a house rule to
allow them to win in the case where no-one would otherwise be eligible for
any of the pot.

In the case where all players have declared both ways, but no-one wins both
ways, it's best to treat it as if the hand had been played without declare,
and the best high hand and the best low hand are allowed to split the pot.

Hi-Lo Declare Examples

Here are some showdown clarifications for Hi-Lo Declare under different rule
sets. For illustration purposes, the game used will be 7 card stud (so that
there can be ties on either the high or low sides), but the concepts apply
to any game that can be played Hi-Lo.

Rule variation #1 - "Both ways" must win free and clear (cannot tie), and
2nd best hands cannot win. This is probably the most popular rule set used,
but needs some extra rules to settle unusual situations.

Rule variation #2 - "Both ways" hands are allowed to tie, and 2nd best hands
are allowed to win if they are only beat by hands that are otherwise
ineligible to win. This is the most liberal set of rules, and is almost
always clear about how the pot is divided. Even this needs clarification if
everyone declares both ways.

Rule variation #3 - "Both ways" must win free and clear, but 2nd best hands
are allowed to win. This set is included because at least one home game is
currently known to use it.

In the cases where no-one is eligible to win, an extra rule needs to be
invoked to handle the situation (the pot rides to the next hand, second best
hand is allowed to win, both ways allowed to win just one way, etc.)

| Declaration and hands:  | Variation #1   | Variation #2   | Variation #3   |
| A: high with KQJT9      | A gets 1/2 the pot for high                      |
| B: low with an 8532A    | B gets 1/2 the pot for low                       |
| A: high with KQJT9      | A gets 1/2 the pot for high                      |
| B: low with an 7532A    | B gets 1/2 the pot for low                       |
| C: both ways with 76543 |                                                  |
| A: low with an 7532A    | A wins the whole pot                             |
| B: both ways with 76543 |                                                  |
| A: high with three 9s   | B wins the whole pot                             |
| B: both ways with 76543 |                                                  |
| C: low with 8532A       |                                                  |
| A: high with flush      | A gets 1/2 the pot for high                      |
| B: both ways with 76543 | C gets 1/2 the pot for low                       |
| C: low with 6542A       |                                                  |
| A: high with three 9s   | C wins the pot | A gets 1/2 pot | A gets 1/2 pot |
| B: both ways with 76543 |                | C gets 1/2 pot | C gets 1/2 pot |
| C: low with 6 low       |                |                |                |
| A: high with 98765      | A wins the pot | A gets 1/4 pot | A gets 1/2 pot |
| B: high with 98765      |                | B gets 3/4 pot | C gets 1/2 pot |
|     and low with 7653A  |                |                |                |
| C: low with 76542       |                |                |                |
| A: both ways with 76543 | none eligible* | A gets 1/2 pot | C wins the pot |
| B: both ways with 76543 |                | B gets 1/2 pot |                |
| C: high with KKJJ9      |                |                |                |
| A: both ways with 76543 | B wins the pot | A gets 3/4 pot | B wins the pot |
| B: high with 76543      |                | B gets 1/4 pot |                |
| C: high with KKJJ9      |                |                |                |
| A: both ways with 76543 | B wins the pot | A gets 3/4 pot | B gets 1/2 pot |
| B: low with 76543       |                | B gets 1/4 pot | C gets 1/2 pot |
| C: high with KKJJ9      |                |                |                |
| A: both ways with 76543 | none eligible* | A gets 1/2 pot | none eligible* |
| B: both ways with 76543 |                | B gets 1/2 pot |                |
| A: both ways with 76543 | none eligible* | B wins the pot | none eligible* |
| B: both ways with flush |                |                |                |
|      and 76543          |                |                |                |
| A: both ways with 76543 | none eligible* | B wins the pot | C wins the pot |
| B: both ways with flush |                |                |                |
|      and 76543          |                |                |                |
| C: high with KKJJ9      |                |                |                |
| A: both ways with 76543 | none eligible* | none eligible* | none eligible* |
| B: both ways with flush |                |                |                |
|      and 8543A          |                |                |                |

In summary, Hi-Lo declare is popular and can add fun and variety to your
home game, but arguments are best avoided by clarifying the particular house
rules and unusual situations in advance.


Q:P35: How many fundamentally different Omaha or Omaha-8 starting hands are
there? [NEW]

A:P35 [Frank Jerome, Jul 2002]

Although there are C(52,4) = 270,725 different 4-card hands, many of them
are indistinguishible as starting hands because they differ only in suit.
For example, AhTh9c8c is equivalent to AsTs9d8d. How many distinct starting
hands are there? A total of 16,432, as follows:

  715.....C(13,4).......all four cards in same suit

 2860.....4*C(13,4).....two suits (3,1), no pairs
 2145.....3*C(13,4).....two suits (2,2), no pairs
  858.....13*C(12,2)....two suits (3,1), one pair
 1716.....13*2*C(12,2)..two suits (2,2), one pair
   78.....C(13,2).......two suits (2,2), two pairs

 4290.....6*C(13,4).....three suits, no pairs
 1716.....13*2*C(12,2)..three suits, one pair
   78.....C(13,2).......three suits, two pairs
  156.....13*12.........three suits, triplets

  715.....C(13,4).......four suits, no pairs
  858.....13*C(12,2)....four suits, one pair
   78.....C(13,2).......four suits, two pairs
  156.....13*12.........four suits, triplets
   13.....13............four suits, quads


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