In fixed limit, as its name implies, one’s choice of how much to bet is fixed by the stakes. Using our example of $1 and $2 blinds, the player “under the gun” (this is the first player to the left of the big blind) has three options.
He may call the $2 big blind.
He may raise but is only permitted to raise $2 as the limits are fixed.
He may fold and sit out this hand and wait for a new deal. He may not check as the purpose of the blinds is to create the initial action.
If anyone wishes to raise then they can only do so in increments of $2.
After this first round of betting the dealer delivers the flop. Players are still limited to a maximum bet of $2 and raises of $2. However, on the turn and river the betting amount doubles, so in our example the betting would now be in $4 increments. These are known as ‘big bets’. There isn’t a choice of betting either $2 or $4. If one now wishes to bet, the amount must be $4 and raises must be in $4 increments. In fact, a fixed limit game with blinds of $1 and $2 is called a $2-$4 game due to the early betting rounds being limited to $2 and the last two rounds doubling but limited to $4.
In fixed limit games, each round of betting usually has a maximum number of allowable raises, which is generally capped at three. If there’s a bet, it can usually only be raised three times, after which all players must call, or fold. In a $2-$4 game the most a player could wager on the first two betting rounds would be $8 (a call, raise, raise, raise) and $16 on the turn and river, if the betting was capped. It’s worth pointing out that some venues will allow more than 3 raises per betting round, so be sure to know the house rules before you sit down and play.
It is generally believed that the primary strategy for a fixed limit hold’em poker game stresses the importance of value betting. We will be explaining and expounding upon value betting and other strategic nuances of poker in later lessons but for now just know that value betting occurs when you actually want your opponents to call your bets as you believe you hold the best hand. So just save this little nugget of information for later in your poker development.
It’s also worth briefly mentioning a variation on fixed limit called spread limit poker. It’s very similar to fixed limit except the amount of the allowable bet is fixed to a range rather than a particular amount. For example in a $1-$3 spread limit poker game you have the option to bet or raise anywhere from $1 to $3. The normal restriction is that each bet or raise must be at least the size of the previous bet or raise. For example if the action is on you and an opponent raised $2 you could not re-raise $1. Your options for re-raising would be either $2 or $3.
The game of hold’em is typically played with nine or ten players at the table.
For example we have ten players. The dealer button is on player 1, the blinds have been posted, and each player has received their hole cards. If this doesn’t make sense to you, then don’t worry we’ll explain exactly what this all means.
FOUR OF A KIND
This hand contains four cards of the same rank/value. This example shows four 8’s, plus a 5 (remember that all poker hands must have five cards). If two or more players have four of a kind, then the highest value wins (e.g. four 9’s beats four 8’s). If two or more players share the same four of a kind, which can happen when using community cards (more on that later) then the winner is decided by the fifth card. So a player with four 8’s and a 6 would beat a player with four 8’s and a 5.
Ace of Spades
The dealer button is the round disc labelled with “Dealer” or “D”, and it signifies who is the dealer for the hand. Please be aware that each player gets to ‘act’ as the dealer, even if they don’t physically deal the cards. After each hand the dealer button moves to the next player, in a clockwise manner. The dealer button is with player 1, but for the next hand it’ll be with player 2, and then player 3, and so on.
The dealer position is also called “the button” and is the most favourable position in the game as that player gets to act last after he has seen everyone else make their decisions. The exception to this rule occurs on the very first round of betting wherein the “blinds” will act after the button.
Seven card stud (also referred to as 7 card stud) is similar to Texas hold’em in so far as you use your best five cards out of a total of seven to make your best poker hand. All the hand values remain the same, as it is still poker. However, it is not a board game like hold’em that has common cards that everyone can use. Each player receives his own seven cards that are not shared. While hold’em is often a game of high cards, seven card stud is a game of live cards – so remember to keep an eye on what’s been mucked and commit this information to memory.
A paired hand contains two cards of matching rank, plus three additional cards. The value of the pair determines who wins in the event of a tie. For example a pair of 10’s beats our example hand. If players share the same pair then the best hand is determined by the value of the highest additional card. If this is the same then it goes to the second card, and if necessary the third. So, a pair of 9’s with an Ace, 2, and 10, would beat our example hand. As would a pair of 9’s, King, 10, and a 3.
A poker hand consists of five cards. In many variations of poker, players receive or can choose from more than five cards. For example, in Texas Hold’em each player is dealt two private cards, but can also use the five community cards that are available for all the players to use. This makes a total of seven cards, but each player must choose their best five cards to make their best possible hand.
In the example, the best five cards among total of seven (two private cards and five community cards) would be combined to make a flush.
In pot limit play the amount a player can wager is determined by the size of the pot, hence the name pot limit. Pot limit play can get a whole lot pricier than limit play. As the size of the pot grows, the size of the bets can also increase. Let’s review an example using the same stakes of a $1 and $2 blind structure, as we did in limit play.
In pot limit the first player to the left of the big blind has the same options as the player in fixed limit in terms of calling, raising or folding. The difference is in how much he can raise. Calling would simply be matching the $2 posted big blind. Folding requires nothing but mucking (throwing away) your cards. If the player wishes to raise he can raise to a total of $7. How that number is arrived at is as follows: small blind bet of $1 plus the big blind bet of $2 plus a call of $2 equals $5, which would be the raise. The raiser is then calling $2 and raising $5 for a total of $7.
To demonstrate the dramatic difference between our first variation of betting in fixed, let’s see what can happen after the flop in pot limit.
With $31 in the pot, the first player can bet anywhere from $2 to $31. The next player has several options, but if he wishes to raise then the minimum amount he can raise is the size of the previous bet. The maximum he can raise is $93 more ($62 in the pot, plus the call of $31), meaning his total bet would be $124. Wow, this could get expensive!
The thing to remember in pot limit is a player who wishes to raise first counts the amount he would need to call and adds it to the pot and then can raise the size of the pot. As you can see the betting in pot limit hold’em can escalate much quicker than in fixed limit hold’em. The emphasis in pot limit is placed on post flop play. The reason for this is that you can normally see flops fairly cheaply before the pot grows to the size where raises can get pretty expensive. So our nugget to remember at this juncture for the betting variation of pot limit is to focus to strong post flop play.
If a hand doesn’t fall into any of the above categories, then it is judged on the value of the highest ranked card among the five. In this example we have a hand which is Queen high. If players share the same highest card, then it goes to the value of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and even 5th card if necessary. A hand of Queen, 10, 9, 5, 4, would beat our example hand.
This first betting round is called the pre-flop betting round. The first player to act is the player directly to the left of the big blind (in our example this would be player 4) and he has three options; to call the amount of the big blind, which in our example would be $2, to raise, or to fold. If a player decides to fold then they muck (discard/throw away) their cards facedown and sit out until the next hand is dealt. The action then follows around the table in a clockwise direction until each player has been afforded the opportunity to call, raise or fold.
The whole betting procedure of poker can be a little confusing for beginners. In our example hand you can see that players 2 and 3 have posted the blinds. If all the players to the left of player 3 decide to call the $2 bet then the action is on the small blind, player 2, who has so far only posted a small blind of $1. He now has the option to call $1 more to make up the bet, or he can raise. If he calls the extra $1, then the big blind is left with the final option. Since the blind bets are made before the cards are dealt, they are considered “live” which means that even if all the other players just call the big blind he then still has the option to raise, if he wishes. If the big blind doesn’t want to raise then the betting round is over and we can move onto the flop, which we’ll explain in a moment.
What if a player decides to raise? If a player decides to raise the big blind bet of $2, then all the remaining players must either call the new bet, re-raise, or fold.
In our example player 6 raised the betting to $4, player 7 folded and is now out of the hand. Player 8 called, but players 9, 10, and 1 all folded and are also out of this hand. Players 2, 3, 4, and 5, all called player 6’s raise. Once all bets have been equalized (i.e. matched), then the betting round is over. In our example, six players are now left in and the pot contains $24 ($4 x 6). This brings us onto the next betting round, called the flop.
Betting limits refer to the amount players may open and raise. Typically, poker games are of the following limit types; no limit, pot limit, fixed limit or spread limit.
No Limit – in poker games with a no limit betting structure, each player can bet or raise by any amount up to and including their full stack (the total number of chips they possess at any given time) in any betting round, whenever it is their turn to act.
Pot Limit – in poker games with a pot limit betting structure, each player can bet or raise by any amount up to and including the size of the total pot at that time.
Fixed Limit – in poker games with a fixed limit betting structure, each player can choose to call, bet or raise, but only by a fixed amount. The fixed amount for any given betting round is set in advance.
Spread Limit – in poker games with a spread limit betting structure, each player can bet or raise any amount within a specified range.
Casino Training School
In this lesson you’re going to learn the first and most important step about how to play poker by learning the all important poker hand rankings.
Five cards of the same suit in any order. Our example shows a Queen high flush. If two or more players have a flush then the player with the highest ranked card wins. If the players share the same high card then it’s determined by the value of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th card respectively.
There are also several betting variations that are played. In our rules of poker lesson we explainedhow to play Texas hold’em but we didn’t mention the betting limits in our example hand, as it may have been a case of too much, too soon. In this poker lesson we’re going to use hold’em as the game format – but this time using the different betting variations; fixed-limit, pot-limit and no-limit.
For simplicity we’ll assume a hold’em poker game with a small blind of $1 and a big blind of $2. While the three different betting structures will all be posting the same amount, you’ll see a big difference in how the games will play due to the different betting variations.
Once the blinds have been posted each player is dealt two facedown cards, which are often referred to as their hole cards. The best two hole cards a player can be dealt in hold’em are two Aces’, but we’ll discuss the importance of starting hand selection in later lessons. All you need to know for now is that after the blinds have been posted and the hole cards have been dealt, the betting action can begin.
After the first round of betting is complete three community cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table. All the active players can use these three cards, along with their two hole cards, to make their best possible hand. These three cards are known as “the flop”. Here’s the flop before any further betting has taken place:
You will notice that all the bets from previous round (pre-flop) are now in the pot. After the flop has been dealt, another betting round begins. The first active player to the left of the dealer button starts the action. In our example this is the small blind from the opening round, player 2. The forced action created by the blind bets no longer exists and that player has two options; to check or bet. A check means to neither open the betting nor fold.
When a player checks the action moves onto the next active player, who may also check. If a player wants to check they either verbally announce “check”, or they tap the table with their finger or hand (or click the mouse if playing online poker).
If a player decides to open the betting, the option to check is over, and a player must either call, raise, or fold – this includes any players who have previously checked. Once all bets for this betting round have been matched or every player has opted to check, then we move onto the next betting round. For our example hand, let’s suppose that after the flop was dealt, players 2, 3, 4, and 5, all checked. But player 6 then bet $2, which was called by player 8. Players 2, 3, and 4 all fold, but player 5 calls the $2. These three players get to see “the turn”.
A Royal flush consists of five cards of the same suit, in sequence from 10 through to Ace. Remember that all suits are equal in poker. If two or more players hold a royal flush (highly unlikely) then the pot is split, i.e. the players share the winnings..
Texas Hold’em uses a standard 52-card deck that is shuffled before every hand.
Each player starts with two hole cards. There are three rounds of community cards. These are dealt face up, for every player to use, with betting after each round.
The best 5-card hand using any combination of the five community cards and two hole cards wins.
Each new hand begins with a small blind, a big blind, and a round of betting. The betting rules vary depending upon whether the game is Limit, Pot Limit or No Limit.
The typical setup of 7-card stud is as follows:
A full table seats a maximum of 8 players
It is played using a fixed-limit betting structure
Everyone posts an ante to begin (blinds are not used)
The initial deal consists of two private cards and one up card
An example of a seven-card stud game, when the antes are posted
Seven-card stud can be played for all sorts of stakes. A $2/$4 game would generally have a $0.25 ante – and this gives the players something to shoot for right from the start.
This hand contains five unsuited cards in sequence. Our example shows a King high straight. In the event of a tie, the best straight is determined by the highest ranked card. A straight consisting of 8, 9, 10, J, Q, would lose to our example hand. But a straight consisting of 10, J, Q, K, A, would win. Also note that an Ace can be used as the low card for a straight of A, 2, 3, 4, 5. This would lose to a straight of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
After the third round of betting is complete the fifth and final board card is dealt and that card is called “the river” – it’s also sometimes referred to as 5th street.
In our example hand, there is $30 in the pot and player 5 bets $4. He’s raised by player 6 (who makes it $8 total). Let’s suppose that player 8 folds, and player 5 decides to call the extra $4. When the final betting round ends with two or more active players (as our example has done), then we get to what is called a “showdown”.
When a player puts all his chips into the pot he is said to be “all-in”. The important thing to know is that a player can never be bet out of a pot because he always has the option to call for all of his chips. For example, a player with $50 goes all-in, and everyone folds apart from a player who only has $30 left.
This player cannot match the $50 bet, but he can also go all-in for his last $30. When nobody else is involved, the first player would get back the unmatched $20 bet (i.e. his bet is $30 rather than $50). This is shown in figure 2, below.
In this example the shorter-stack wins the pot, but the surplus $20 is returned to player 5.
The whole point of this is that players can take back any extra money when another player is all-in for less, when nobody else has called. The same applies to an extreme no limit example, where a player might bet $10,000 in a $1/$2 game. Here’s an example where it’s folded around to the big blind, who has $10 remaining in his stack.
He has $12 in total and clearly can’t match the $10,000 – but he can go all-in. If he does then the player with $10,000, would take back $9,988. No more betting would take place, as there isn’t anything left to wager. After the flop, turn and river, the player with the best hand would win the $25 pot ($12 from each plus the small blinds $1).
After the second round of betting (the flop) a fourth card is dealt and that card is called “the turn” – it’s also sometimes referred to as 4th street. In our example hand we have three players remaining.
You will also notice that the pot now contains $30, which is made up of $24 from the first betting round, and $6 from the betting on the flop. After the forth community card (the turn) has been dealt, another round of betting takes place, exactly the same format as the previous betting round, starting with the first active player to the left of the dealer button. In our example, this would be player 5. He may check or bet. Let’s suppose that player 5 checks, as do players 6 and 8. If all the players check, the round is over, and we move onto “the river”.
Two cards of matching rank, with another two cards of another rank, plus an additional card. In the event of a tie, the highest pair wins. If players share the same highest pair, then the value of the next pair wins. For example, a pair of Aces, and a pair of 6’s would beat our example hand, as would a pair of Kings and a pair of 7’s. If two or more players share the same two pair, then the value of the fifth card counts. So, a pair of Kings, a pair of 6’s, with a 4, would beat our example hand.
A full house contains three cards of the same rank, plus a pair. In our example you can see three 10’s and a pair of 7’s. The value of the three matching cards determines the strength of a full house. So three Jack’s with a pair of 7’s would beat our example hand. If players share the same three cards, which is possible when using community cards, the strength of the pair is then taken into account. So, three 10’s and a pair of 8’s would beat our example hand.
No limit hold’em has been called by many but most notably, Doyle Brunson (legendary poker player), as the ‘Cadillac of poker’. Its name says it all – there is no limit, except the size of the blinds. Still using the same blind structure as $1 and $2, the first player to act can call, fold or raise. The difference from the other two structures is that a player can raise a minimum of the size of the big blind, but his maximum allowable bet is only limited to the chips he has in front of him at the table (the amount he started the hand with). If there has been a bet beforehand, then the minimum raise amount would be the size of the previous bet. For example, if a player bets $50 then if the next player wishes to raise he must bet at least $100. This is the same as in pot limit, but with one big different, there is no maximum limit.
To use an extreme example to demonstrate the dynamic this format of betting offers, let’s imagine a player in the same $1 small blind and $2 big blind game that happens to have $10,000 in front of him. The action is on him and if he wishes to play he must at least call the $2, however he can elect to raise his entire $10,000!
Please bear in mind that although this player has gone all-in for $10,000 – it’s really only $200 – which is the total amount the other player can wager. He can’t win money that another player doesn’t have, and vice versa. This is not like the movies! If you recall the scene from the classic western comedy ‘A Big Hand for the Little Lady’ – she gets up during the middle of a poker hand and runs to the bank to get the deed for the ranch – to call someone’s bet. Well, you can’t do that in Texas hold’em. You can’t do that in any casino anywhere in the world. Poker is always played at table stakes, and table stakes means you can only wager the amount of money you have in front of you when the hand begins. You can’t reach into your wallet mid-stream and pull out more money. You certainly can’t run and get the deed to your ranch, and toss that into the pot – or the keys to your BMW, as a way of calling a bet. That’s the movies – not real life!
Five cards of the same suit, in sequence. This example shows a Jack high straight flush. If two or more players hold a straight flush then it is the highest that wins. For example, a Queen high straight flush beats a Jack high straight flush. You will notice that this is very similar to a Royal flush, and that’s because a Royal flush is in fact an ace high straight flush – but it’s given its very own ranking.
After the final betting round is completed, it’s time to see who has won the hand, and the money in the pot. Now that all of the cards have been dealt, each player can combine his two hole cards with any of the five cards on the board to create his best five card poker hand. The winning hand must been seen, which means players can now reveal their two hole cards. The player that was called (player 6) is required to show first. Figure 7 shows an example showdown after both players have shown their hole cards.
Which hand wins? Player 5 has a straight (9, T, J, Q, K), and player 6 has a higher straight (T, J, Q, K, A) but his best hand is a flush (A, K, Q, T, 5 of hearts). If you studied the poker hand rankings lesson then you will be aware that a flush always beats a straight. Therefore player 6 wins this hand, and as you can see in figure 6, after the final betting on the river, the pot now contains $46. Player 6 wins the pot of $46, and a new hand can begin.
THREE OF A KIND
Three cards of the same rank, and two unrelated cards. Our example shows three 4’s. Three 5’s would beat our example hand, three 6’s would beat three 5’s, and so on. If players share the same three cards, then the value of the highest unrelated card would count and if necessary, the value of the second unrelated card. So, three 4’s with Jack, 8, would beat our example hand. As would three 4’s and 10, 9 (because 9 is higher than 8).
Before any cards are dealt the two players to the left of the dealer button are required to post what are referred to as the blinds. These are forced and compulsory bets that encourage the action and give players something to shoot for. Typically there is a small blind directly to the left of the button, who posts half the size of the big blind’s obligation. The amount of the blinds is determined by the stakes of the game.
We’re using blinds of $1 and $2. In case it’s not obvious, they are called blind bets because the two players are required to post them before they see their cards.