How to Play Poker - The Rules of Poker
Going All In
Now, you may ask, suppose I hold a really, really strong hand. If someone bets more than I have on the table, and I am not allowed to bet my farm, or throw in my car keys, what can I do? Will I be forced to fold my hand and give up the pot even though I'm probably holding the winning hand? Of course not.
You can always call a bet. Even if an opponent bets more than you have left, you can call that bet by pushing in the remainder of your chips. Thereby you get to show down your monster hand and may win a nice pot. This is called going all in.
However, you cannot win more from your opponent than what corresponds to the chips you bet. If a player bets €100 and you call by betting €40 all in, the other player will get back €60 before the hands are shown down.
When more than two players remain in the hand, and a player with fewer chips than the others goes all in, the situation gets a bit complicated. The player with fewer chips is allowed to call, as we saw above, but the other players will continue betting against each other and put more chips into the pot. The player who is all in cannot win any of the chips that are put into the pot after he went all in. The all-in player is entitled to compete only for the part of the pot corresponding to the amount he put into it. To handle this, the pot is split into a main pot containing the chips that the all-in player will win if he has the best hand, and a side pot made up of the continued betting, that is, the chips that the all-in player cannot win even with the best hand. If several players with different chip counts go all in during the same hand, there will be several side pots. This gets quite complicated. But don't worry, the poker client takes care of the calculations and sees to it that every player gets the correct share of the pot. You don't need to be the new Einstein to push in all your chips!
Made Hands Versus Drawing Hands
A frequent situation in poker is when one player holds a made hand while another player holds a drawing hand.
A made hand is a hand that is already good. It already contains a valuable combination like, for example, a high pair or three of a kind.
A drawing hand is a hand that is not good yet, but might turn into a good hand when the next card comes. For example, if a hand contains four cards of the same suit, it will turn into a flush if the next card is of that same suit. On the other hand, if the next card is of another suit, it will still not be good.
If the player with the made hand bets, the player with the drawing hand must decide whether it is worth calling the bet to see the next card. Or, if it is too expensive, in which case he will fold.
In order not to lose too many chips with drawing hands, you might want to think about the pot odds.
A Word On Pot Odds
When deciding if you should call a bet, do not forget to compare the bet with the size of the pot. If the pot is very large compared to the bet, you should be more willing to call. But if the pot is small and the bet is big, you will pay a high price for the chance to win a little. If you do that a lot, you may lose some of your money. Example Let's look at a couple of situations in Texas Hold'em. The fourth community card has just been dealt (the turn). You and one other player remain in the hand. You have four spades and one of them is the ace. If another spade hits on the river, you will make the nut flush. You feel convinced that it will be good enough to win the pot for you. Your opponent bets into you. How much would you be willing to call? The pot is €10.
First, let's look at your chances of making the flush. Six cards are known to you: four on the board and two in your hand. That leaves 46 unknown cards. Nine of those are spades, 37 are not. So, the odds against you making the flush are 37:9, that is, about 4:1.
In the first situation, your opponent bets €2, making the pot €12. It costs you €2 to call. That is, you pay €2 to win €12 the pot odds are 12:2, or 6:1. Since the pot odds are greater than the odds against making the flush, it will be profitable for you to call the bet in this situation (in the long run).
In the second situation, your opponent bets €10, making the pot €20. Now you have to call €10 to win €20. The pot odds are only 2:1. This is worse than 4:1, the odds against you making the flush. Therefore, in this situation it will probably be unprofitable for you to call. Again, in the long run.
A Word On Position
A thing that will (or should) affect the way you bet a hand is your position at the table. That is, if you are one of the first players to bet (early position) or one of the last (late position). In some variants your position shifts from one betting round to another (Seven Card Stud), in others it remains the same throughout the hand (Texas Hold'em).
In late position, most of the other players will have acted before you, so you have some information about their holdings. If you are in early position, other players will be waiting for your action, ready to throw in calls or raises depending on what you do. They have an information advantage over you.
In poker, information is money. When you have less information than your opponents, you need a better hand to make up for it.
In early position, play stronger hands.
Calculating Pot Limit Bets
As mentioned above, calculating the maximum bet in pot limit games can get quite complicated.
Suppose there is €10 in the pot. If you are the first player to bet, you can bet a maximum of €10. So far it is easy.
But let's say another player bets €7 before the betting comes around to you. Now the pot contains €17. So you can bet a maximum of €17, right? Wrong, you can bet more.
You actually have the right to first call the last bet, and then raise the amount that is in the pot after you have called that bet.
Let's see, first you call €7. That brings the pot up to €24. Then you can raise the amount of the pot, that is, €24. So your total maximum bet would be €7 plus €24 which amounts to €31.
In live play, this requires some attention from the players. But on our poker site, you will not have to bother with these calculations.