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Beginners FAQ

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General Edit

Getting started Edit

Question: How do I get started playing poker? Answer: Of course different people will give different advice, much of it valid, but here's one plan:

Bankroll Edit

Question: Is my bankroll big enough? Answer: A losing player's bankroll is never big enough. Sooner or later it will all be gone unless he changes his play. For a winning player, the common rule of thumb in limit hold'em is 300 big bets. The corresponding standard for no-limit hold 'em is 20 buy-ins.

So, if you're planning to play 2/4 limit hold'em at your local casino, you should be playing with a bankroll of $1200. This is not what you'd buy in for to play with at a single session, but this is the amount you should have in reserve to survive normal swings in this game over many hours of play.

The 300BB figure is a rule of thumb, but there are factors that affect that number. If you are in a game you can crush, or one where you can win with lower than normal variance, you can get by with less, but you need to be aware that even winning players will experience significant downswings, with 100BB slides happening occasionally. Furthermore, if you are in a position to replenish your bankroll, then you don't need 300BBs either. And, of course, if you are not a winning player, there is no bankroll large enough to keep you from ruin.

For SNGs and MTTs, your bankroll requirements vary wildly based on [1] your skill, and [2] the number of entries. A skilled 9-handed SNG player (with a 40% ROI) can have a 99.7% chance to avoid going broke with just 11 buy-ins, whereas a player with the same ROI who plays tournaments with 2,000+ entries would need 395 buy-ins to have the same chance to avoid going broke! To better understand the need for good bankroll management, you first need to understand poker variance. No matter how good you are, you are still going to lose, and you will frequently have long losing stretches. Your bankroll needs to be large enough to weather these downswings that every poker player experiences.

Here's an interesting Two Plus Two thread on this topic

And here's another must-read thread on the topic

For more detail on this topic, see the article Bankroll.

How do play money games differ from real money games? Edit

Answer: The answer is simple. Play money can be reloaded with no hassle and no risk to the players. Thus, people don't play the same with play money as they do with real money. Even you, the knowledgable player, will find yourself not appreciating the value of your play money since it has none.

If you want to grow as a poker player, the stakes you're playing have to mean something to you. Let's say you set youself a "learner's bankroll" of $50. Then you have a vested interest in protecting that bankroll. You play .05/.10 online and the wins and losses mean something to that bankroll.

By using a play money bankroll, you have what amounts to an unlimited bankroll. Anyone playing on an unlimited bankroll will develop habits not conducive to building that bankroll. Why bother if it's unlimited.

Use play money to learn the mechanics of the game, if you're not familiar with them. But don't rely on those games for honing your skills. Some play money sites allow only one bankroll "top-up" for every 24 hour period. This can be beneficial for then the play money chips are more appreciated.

When you have got the hang of things with play money, find a freeroll tournament and continue your learning experience in a slightly more competitive and realistic environment.

(Note: In some jurisdictions, it is illegal to play a real money game online, even if the site is based in a jurisdiction where such play is legal. Consult your local laws on gambling.)

When should I move up? Edit

You'll find your answer here.

Interpretation of results Edit

Question: People keep telling me not to be "results oriented" but how do I know if I'm winning if I don't look at my results? Answer: Tracking how you do in each session and being "results oriented" are two different things.

First, let's talk about session tracking. In order for you to know your win rate, your standard deviation, hours played, games and limits played, etc., you must track each session you play. There are various ways you can track these pieces of information; there is stand-alone software such as StatKing or online services such as PokerCharts. Of course, if you're comfortable with a computer spreadsheet, that's a perfectly fine way to go as well. So, that's one type of result - the good kind. This type of result is closely related to the other, less useful, type of result we discuss next.

There's a bad type of "results" that people are talking about when they tell you not to be results oriented. Human beings often are more interested in the most immediate things they experience. We give more weight to that which happens in the here and now; we fixate on the short term and tend to forget past experiences and don't really look into the future when the present is treating us well.

So, when we've been winning or when we have a particularly good session, we sometimes think we're playing well and will continue to play well. We look at a session and let that color our perception of our play. Players who are being "results oriented" are fixating on the short term when, in fact, poker is a long term proposition.

Definitions & Meanings Edit

Note: A more extensive list of definitions is now available under Category:Definitions

What does "overcall" mean? Edit

You'll find a discussion here.

What is Pot Equity? Edit

There's a discussion here

What's this abbreviation? Edit

See List of abbreviations

Here's another good place to look: [1]

If you're looking for a PokerTracker abbreviation, check the help. They're all listed there.

What does "ring game" mean? Edit

Answer: A ring game, also called a cash game, is a regular poker game played for table stakes.

You'll also hear of side games which are cash/ring games played at tournament venues.

The alternative to a ring game is a tournament.

What does "drawing dead" mean? Edit

Answer: A player is “drawing dead” when there are still cards to come but there are no live cards that will improve his hand so that he can win in a showdown. The only way he can win is if his opponent folds.

Suppose you hold A2-offsuit in Hold ‘Em and by the turn the board is 3458 all different suits. If your opponent has 67, you are drawing dead. There is no river card that can save you. Note that before the turn card came you had a chance to split the pot if the turn and river had come 6 & 7 respectivly. Both players would have been playing the board. That 8 on the turn sealed your fate.

What does "the nuts" mean? Edit

Answer: If you have “the nuts” you have the best possible hand, taking into account the cards that are known to be in play. There are, however, a lot of flavors of nuts and who has the nuts can change over the course of a hand. Consider the following flop in Hold ‘Em:

Ad 7h 6h

Someone holding AA would have “the nuts,” at least for the moment. If the turn and river are, say, the Ks and the 2c those bullets really will be the nuts, as nothing can beat a set of aces on this board. Suppose, however, the turn is the 3c, making the board Ad 7h 6h 3c. Someone holding 5 4 would have a straight, which would now be the nuts, but again only for the moment. Now suppose that the river is the Th. Someone holding Ahxh for an Ace-high flush might think that they have the nuts, but they don’t. The absolute nuts on this board is 9h 8h for an unbeatable straight flush. It would be impossible for anyone to have a better hand.

You also may hear the term “second nuts.” This refers to the second best possible hand. In the example given above, someone who hit a flush draw with Ahxh would have the second nuts. Making the second nuts can sometimes cost you a lot of money.

What does "table stakes" mean? Edit

Answer: This is a basic rule for most cash games, certainly in a cardroom or casino. During the course of a hand, you are limited to betting the amount of money (or chips) that you had in front of you at the start of a hand. You cannot go into your pocket for more money while you have a live hand. In other words, your "stake" is what you have on the "table." This prevents you from buying in for a small stack and only reaching into your pocket when you hit a monster. The rule also prevents you from taking chips off the table. The only accepted exception is that you can use chips technically in play to tip a dealer or waitress.

One wrinkle to be aware of concerns players “playing behind.” Before a hand is dealt, a player may say, for example, “I’m $500 behind.” This means that the player has committed to put an additional $500 in play for the next hand. He may need a moment to dig into his wallet, or he may need a chip runner to go get the chips, but the money is considered on the table.

A corollary to the table stakes rule is the all-in rule. You can’t be forced out of a hand if you don’t have enough money to call the full size of a bet. You are allowed to call all-in, for whatever you have. There are old stories about games where someone would make an enormous bet and, in order to avoid being folded, his opponent had to run around and raise money, or agree to put up his farm, or whatever. Whether or not this ever happened, it is not allowed in modern cardrooms.

If there are multiple players in the hand and one of those players is all-in, then a side pot is created for all remaining action. The all-in player can only win the chips in the main pot. The remaining players who still have money on the table will be contesting both the side pot and the main pot. At showdown the players contesting the side pot will show their cards first and the winner will have the side pot awarded to her. Then the cards of the side pot winner will be compared to the cards of the all-in player. The winner of this showdown is awarded the main pot. It should be noted that if multiple players are all-in during a hand, multiple side pots are created and showdowns happen in reverse order of side pot creation. Sound complicated? It can be if you aren't paying attention.

Be sure, however, to ask the rules at a home game. It is not unknown in home games for players to be allowed to reach into their pocket for cash, or even write a check, during the course of a hand.

What does "kill" mean? Edit

Answer: In poker, "kill" refers to a device used to change the stakes of a poker game. When a kill is in play, certain criteria trigger an increase in the stakes of the game.

You will commonly see a "full kill" and a "half kill". A full kill game doubles the stakes when the kill criteria are met and a half kill increases the stakes by half. For instance, if you are playing a 10/20 Hold'em game with a full kill and the kill criteria are met, the next hand will be played at 20/40. If the game were played with a half kill, the stakes would increate to 15/30 on the next hand.

So, what are the criteria to trigger a kill?

In hold'em, the usual criterion is that a single player wins two hands in a row. On the first hand a player wins she is usually given a button that says "leg up" on it. If the player holding the "leg up" button wins the next hand, the button will be flipped over to the side that says "kill". Stealing the blinds is usually good enough to get the "leg up" but not enough to trigger a kill.

In a game like Omaha/8 or Seven-card stud hi-lo, the kill is usually triggered by someone scooping the entire pot. These games are sometimes called "7-Stud Scoop" instead of "7-Stud with a kill". The pot usually has to be over a particular size as well in order to trigger a kill. There's usually not a leg up button in Omaha/8, you just go straight to the kill after a scoop.

The holder of the kill button is often referred to as "The Killer". The killer has to put up an initial blind bet equal to a small bet for the new stakes. So, in the example above, in a full kill, you'd have to post 20. This money is live. You'll have the option to check or raise when the action is on you, assuming no one else has raised.

In hold'em, if the killer wins the hand, the kill remains in effect.

The effect of the kill is usually to loosen the game up. People seem to like to gamble on the kill pots (hands where a kill is in effect).

One final note. In my experience, the killer usually plays in turn. I have heard of some card rooms where the killer acts last. That's a nice advantage to the killer.

What is Standard Deviation? Edit

Answer: Standard deviation is a statistical measure of how tightly data is clustered around the mean in a set of data. The standard deviation tells you how diverse your results are for each session.

In poker, the higher your standard deviation, the larger your variance. Variance refers to the swings you'll see in your bankroll as you play. With a high standard deviation, you'll see your bankroll going up and down in larger amounts than someone with a low standard deviation. You may both be winning players, and you both may win at ths same rate overall, the only difference may be the session-to-session swings.

Here's an example.

Two players have played 3 poker sessions, each 2 hours in length and at the end both have come out ahead $300. That's a winrate of $50/hour. Let's look at the individual session results.

Player Session 1 Session 2 Session 3 Average Std Dev
Wild Joe +$400 -$1000 +900 $100 $985
ABC Phil +$100 -$25 +$225 $100 $125

I got these numbers using the Microsoft Excel STDEV function.

BB/100 and BB/hr Edit

Question: BB/100, BB/hr, what is this? Answer: BB/100 = "Big bets per 100 hands played" BB/hr = "Big bets per hour"

Note: This is big bets NOT big blinds. There's a big difference.

The first, BB/100, is used by PokerTracker to indicate how many big bets you're winning per 100 hands played according to the hands in its database. Since the number of hands played in an hour vary, and since the software knows exactly how many hands you've played, the "per 100" baseline is used to normalize your results.

The second measure, BB/hr, is generally used when playing in a live card room. Since you play many fewer hands live, and since you're probably not going to sit there and count how many hands you're actually playing, the "per hour" baseline is used to normalize your results.

What is "The Gap Concept"? Edit

Answer: David Sklansky in Tournament Poker For Advanced Players (TPFAP) coins the term "Gap Concept". He didn't invent the concept, but he gave it a name and described it very clearly. Here's what he has to say on Page 27:

There is a very important general principle understood by all good poker players. That is, you need a better hand to play against someone who has already opened the betting than you would need to open yourself.... The difference between the hand you need to call an opener with, and that with which you would open yourself, I call the "Gap".

Your job is to observe your opponents and try to determine what the gap is. If your opponents are very loose and coming in with marginal hands, the gap is small. If you opponent is tight, the gap is much wider.

This concept applies to ring game play as well as to tournament play. However, Sklansky points out that the size of the stacks of players yet to act behind you should also be taken into account during tournament play. A very large stack or short stack yet to act may be playing looser and be more likely to call you. That may or may not be what you want.

Stop-and-go Edit

Question: What is "stop-and-go" ("stop-n-go", "stop and go", etc.)?
Answer: Besides the stop-and-go PokerWiki article, see here: [2]

Early, middle, and late positions Edit

Although the precise boundaries of these terms for flop games may vary slightly, their meaning is consistent enough to be used throughout poker literature. In general, at a ten-player table, early position is the first three spots after the blinds; middle position is the next three spots; the last two are considered late position; and of course the two blinds (in most games) are in the earliest position of all after the flop.

A FAQ among beginners is, What are the names for the positions in a short-handed game? The best general approach is to start deleting names from the earliest to latest. For example, a six-handed game would just be considered to have two middle positions, two late positions, and the blinds. A four-handed game really has two late positions -- although in this case they would more likely be referred to as under the gun (UTG) and the button.

See also Position.

NL25 notation Edit

Question: What do abbreviations such as NL5, NL10, NL25, NL100 mean?

Answer: In online no-limit play, people often use the standard buyin which is usually 100 BBL. In fact I've seen people use this convention for a "buyin" of 100 BBL even for sites like Absolute where the max. buyin is in fact not 100 BBL.

In that case, the "buyin" in dollars is the same as the big blind in cents, so NL25 has a big blind of 25c, NL100 has $1.00, etc.

Sometimes people will also use the terms 2NL, 5NL, 10NL etc. These have the exact same meaning as NL2, NL5, NL10 etc.

Which Is Best? Edit

Limit vs. No-limit hold 'em Edit

Question: Which should I learn first, limit hold'em or no-limit hold'em? Answer:

In short, opinions vary widely. In the original FAQ, SheridanCat wrote the following:

I think limit is easier for beginners for a few reasons. [The specific reasons cited have been included in Limit versus no-limit hold 'em.]... No-limit hold'em is a great and fun game. Any student of poker should learn as many different games and variants as possible. However, I think it's clear that NL punishes unskilled players more than limit.

However, opinion is split on this topic, and the view that beginners should start with limit, though widely held, cannot be considered consensus.

For the complete article on this topic, see Limit versus no-limit hold 'em
See also Learning different variants

Tournaments vs. Ring games Edit

Which should I concentrate on, tournaments or ring/cash games? Answer: The choice between tournaments and cash games is a personal choice based on your tastes. In order to be a well-rounded poker player, I think it's good to be able to play both formats.

Tournament poker can be very lucrative when you win. You're turning a relatively small investment into a big payday. Unfortunately, those paydays don't come along very often and this can be discouraging and frustrating unless you're prepared for it. This is an interesting blog by an aspiring tournament player.

Remember that often your tournament life will come down to a coin-flip situation. When you lose you can be busted or crippled. For more on tournament strategy, check out David Sklansky's Tournament Poker for Advanced Players and Dan Harrington's Harrington On Hold'em, Expert Strategy for No-Limit Tournaments, Volume 1: Strategic Play.

Cash, or ring, games give you the opportunity to go into your pocket and reload if the game is good and you're out of chips. The paydays are not usually tremendous, like tournament play, but a winning player will make steady headway over the long-run. There will be large swings both up and down, but over time a winning player wins.

There was a time when I could say, "Tournaments aren't going on all the time, so it's important to know how to play cash poker". That's no longer true. You can find a tournament live or online just about any time you want to play.

If you want to get your feet wet in tournament poker, you might try single table tournaments, often called "Sit-n-Go" (SNG) tournaments. You'll find these offered both online and in a few card rooms. These are tournaments that start whenever there are enough players to fill a table. In a 10 person SNG, three places will often be paid with the lion's share of the money going to the first place finisher. This type of tournament tends to have a lower variance than multi-table tournaments and the buy-ins are generally lower, ranging from $2-$1000 online and as little as $100 in a cardroom.

Even though tournament poker is as available as cash/ring poker these days, it makes sense for the good player to understand the strategies for both formats. If nothing else, it can break up the monotony of playing only tournaments or cash games.

Which is better, shorthanded or full games? Edit

Answer: Neither is better, really. It's mostly a matter of what you're comfortable playing. My comments below are about Texas Hold'em, but they should be adaptable to other types of games too.

If you're playing in a live poker room you won't have the option of playing exclusively short handed. What you will find is that tables tend to go short handed as the evening wears on and players begin to leave. Often you'll hear people start to grumble when you get to 7 players and by the time you get to 5 players everyone is looking for a new, full game to get into. However, sometimes you'll find people who are willing to continue short handed. These situations can be excellent. The same thing sometimes happens online as full tables start to break a few die hards will remain to play short handed.

The reason these situations are so good for a knowledgable player is that the way you need to play changes as the table becomes short, and the less knowledgable don't know how to adjust. Thus your edge increases.

Whether you're playing a full table that's gone short or playing at a 6-max table online, the strategy is basically the same. The only difference is that the 6-max players have chosen to play that game and often know the adjustments necessary for short handed play.

Required Adjustments

There hasn't been a lot of formal strategy published on playing in short handed games. The best resource is probably the Two Plus Two Publishing forum that can be found here.

This is a great post that provides an overview of posts about shorthanded play at 6-max tables.

In a short handed game, you should play as if it's a full game where the missing players have folded. For instance, your game has become 5-handed. You're first to act. You should play hands the same way as you would a full game where you're in middle position and the first five players have folded to you. If you're not sure the types of hands you can play in this situation, you should take a look at Ed Miller's Small Stakes Hold'em for guidance on hand selection.

Hands that normally cannot win in a full game can become winners at a short game. Second pair becomes a pretty good hand that can win. Even a no-pair hand with an ace has value.

One thing you'll notice is that you're playing a lot more hands and you're probably going to be playing more aggressively. Unfortunately, this is basically how maniacs play all the time. If you find yourself at a full table with a maniac and the table goes short, beware the maniac. His play style has suddenly become more correct.

Bankroll Implications

Short handed games can be goldmines especially if you're playing with players who normally play full games. You'll be able to steal pots that you normally couldn't.

If you play short handed, you're going to notice your variance is much higher than in full games. You'll experience bankroll swings that may make you uncomfortable. Just be prepared for the roller coaster if you start playing these games a lot.

Strategy & Gameplay Edit

What are some common beginner's mistakes? Edit


  • Playing too many hands: If you find yourself playing more than 25% of the hands you're dealt, you should take a close look at your preflop hand selection.
  • Chasing draws without proper odds: You need to know the basic odds against making common hands. You also need to pay attention to the number of bets in the pot so you can easily tell if you're getting the right pot odds to draw.
  • Overplaying overcards: Ace-King looks great until the board totally misses you and there are a lot of players in the hand. Don't get trapped calling multiple bets or playing on when you are obviously beaten in many places.
  • Folding too easily: Don't be bullied when someone comes alive and bets at you. If you're heads-up at showdown, don't be afraid to call a single bet. Don't be the type of person who is always congratulating himself on making great laydowns.
  • Playing too passively: Don't be afraid to raise if you believe your hand is good. If you have a hand that looks good, bet for value. If you think you should raise, don't call, raise!
  • Playing too high for their bankroll. It is very important that you follow a proper bankroll management strategy if you want to have success in poker.

How do you figure pot odds? How about implied odds? Edit

Answer: To know how to play a hand properly, you need to understand odds for making a hand compared to the odds you're being offered based on the money in the pot and the money that will be in the pot at the end of the hand. There are unknowns in trying to figure odds since you'll rarely hold the mortal nuts, so judgements must be made throughout the hand as you figure your odds.

Pot Odds Edit

Pot odds are the ratio of your bet to the current pot size versus the odds against you making your hand. You compute and compare these two numbers to determine whether a call is correct. You're ususally going to figure pot odds to decide if it's profitable for you to pursue your drawing hand or if a call is correct after all the cards are out.

For instance, after the turn in hold'em there are 7 big bets in the pot when the betting gets to you. You have four cards to the nut flush. You have to put in 1 bet to continue, so we say the pot is giving you 7:1 odds. Compare that to your approximately 4:1 chance to make your flush. Since your chance of making the flush is better than the odds being given by the pot, you should call. What if there had been very little betting and there were only 3 big bets in the pot when the action got to you? The pot would be giving you 3:1 odds versus 4:1 to make your flush. Your odds are not better than the pot odds, thus the correct action is to fold.

The same calculations can help you decide if you should call after all the cards are out. Instead of comparing the pot odds to the odds of making your hand you have to compare the pot odds to the odds that your hand is good.

Implied Odds Edit

Implied odds are related to pot odds in that they allow you to continue playing a hand even if you don't have the pot odds to continue. Implied odds are the probability of winning bets on future rounds if you hit your hand.

A classic example of considering implied odds is calling preflop with a low pair in hopes of hitting a set. The odds against making a set on the flop are about 8:1. However, when the set comes the player who makes it is positioned to collect many extra bets from the remaining players. Say you are on the button and there are 3 limpers so far. There are 4.5 small bets in the pot at this point, so you are getting 4.5:1 on your call. Not good enough, if we only consider the pot odds of 8:1 against making the set. However, if you make the set, you can anticipate getting enough extra bets on the remaining betting rounds to make your call here correct.

Further StudyEdit

The various types of odds and their calculation is a fairly complicated subject, especially if you are not particularly gifted in mathematics, like me. For a more detailed discussion, read David Sklansky's The Theory Of Poker from Two Plus Two Publishing.

What are the odds of making a particular hand? Edit

Answer: Computing odds of making particular hands at the table is an important skill to learn for any serious poker player. The common situations are well known to anyone who has read even the most basic poker book.

For instance we know that if you flop four to a flush, your odds against making the flush by the river is 1.86:1, usually rounded to 2:1. If you miss on the turn, the odd are now 4.11:1, usually expressed as just 4:1. The same goes for straight draws, the chances of making a set on the flop, etc.

Let's see how we get the four flush numbers:

You're in the hand with Ah Qh.

The flop comes: 5h Tc 7h

You have flopped a four flush, so what are your chances of making the flush. There are 47 unseen cards. Of those 47 cards, 9 make the flush. Your chances of making the nut flush on the turn are 47/9 = 5.22. That's for every 5.22 times you're in this position, you will make your flush 1 time. We express this as a ratio: you lose 4.22 times and you win 1 time, so 4.22:1. By convention, the chance against you is first.

But that's just on the turn. You're drawing at the nut flush, so if you decide to go on, you probably will have the proper effective odds to go all the way to the river. Calculating the odds to the river is a bit more complicated.

After the flop we need to know the number of two card combinations that help us make the flush. First we need to know how many two-card combinations there are: 47/2 * 46/1 = 2162/2 = 1081.

Now, we need to know the number of combinations that help us. We need only one of our suit, but if we get running suited cards, that's okay too. First, the running suited combinations; 9/2 * 8/1 = 72/2 = 36 combinations of suited/suited. Next the suited/non-suited combinations; there are 47 remaining cards of which 9 are the flush suit, which leaves 38 cards in the other suits. Multiply the number of cards of our suit by the remaining cards and we get the total combinations that help us: 9 * 38 = 342. So, the total number of card combinations that help our flush is 342 + 36 = 378.

The odds against making our flush is (1081 - 378):378 = 703:378 = 1.86:1.


Okay, so this is why we generally do the math ahead of time. There are many references that will give you the odds for many different situations. It's good to understand how those numbers are derived. For an in-depth look at odds and probabilities in Texas Hold'em, see Mike Petriv's Hold'em's Odds Book. The example above was adapted from Petriv's book, though I think there's a simple mistake in his math that doesn't affect the final odds given.

You should note that there are many other ways for Ah Qh to win a hand other than making the nut flush. And there ways for Ah Qh to lose even when it makes the nut flush. This example is just an overview of how one goes about figuring the odds.

Why do I take so many bad beats but hardly give any out? Edit

Answer: First you should read this thread about bad beats. Really, go read it before going on.

So, The real question is, how come people seem to beat me with improbable hands while I seem to win with mostly legitimate holdings.

The reason is because you, the knowledgable poker player, are playing tighter than your opponents. They might be playing any ace in any position with any number of players. Well, they're sometimes going to catch their ace and win the hand with A4 offsuit. That's just a manifestation of the very loose play we see these days in live and online play. You, on the other hand, will be folding that hand most of the time, so you don't get to put that "bad beat" on anyone.

Also, there's something peculiar to human perception that we need to think about. We tend to remember and dwell up on the things that disappoint or frustrate us. Conversely, when things go our way, we think we deserved it; we congratulate ourselves on our cleverness and charge onward.

How do you play against a maniac? Edit

Answer: Preflop

If you're acting after the maniac and no one has raised, you raise to isolate which hands you think stand a chance. You fold the junk. If there's a lot of cold-calling going on, you can cold-call with hands that like multiway action, but be prepare to dump them postflop if it doesn't look good.


Once you've made it past the flop you have to decide how to handle the maniac. If he's the type of player that continues to play loose and aggressive, you can often call down with weaker hands than normal. This type of player often tries to bully other players by betting aggressively and will often go all the way with very little or nothing.

If you haven't been able to isolate the maniac preflop, you can try it again postflop. Remember that the other players are probably in with less-than-stellar cards and against multiple random hands even a junky hand like KJo, that you normally wouldn't be playing against a preflop raise, is a favorite.

However, when you find yourself in this type of game be prepared for your stack to fluctuate dramatically.

Tells Edit

Question: How important are tells? How do I spot them? Answer: Mike Caro wrote the definitive text on poker tells in his classic Caro's Book Of Tells. This book has been recently reissued and is readily available. He also produced a video illustrating the tells he talks about.

Human beings, when trying to be tricky, often act opposite of how someone in their situation should act. People often act weak when strong and vice versa. This is a classic tell when you see an unthinking opponent do it. If you're up against a knowledgeable player, you cannot trust this tell.

Other tells exist, but they really won't add much to your win rate. If you play a great deal with the same players and start to notice particular habits, you can make decisions based on those habits. But playing with semi-anonymous people online or live, you will rarely be able to learn much from tells.

Stick to solid play and good hand reading and you'll be far ahead. Any tell you might pick up will just be a little bonus.

That said, Mike Caro's book should be read by any serious poker student. I know it has helped me make decisions in marginal situations, and you might find that nugget that helps you some day.

Which hand wins? Edit

Answer: This question often comes up in the context of home games. The players don't fully understand how to read their Hand_rankings or the board and there's confusion about how to determine a winner. This often happens in hold 'em games where two players make their own hands with a made hand also on board.

Remember this basic rule. For standard poker games, we're trying to make the best 5-card hand. In hold'em we get 7 cards go make our best 5-card hand, and we are allowed to only use 5 of the 7 cards - period. Similarly in 7-card stud, only the best five cards play. Suits never matter in determining the winner of a pot -- their only relevance, outside of some specialized uses like "carding for the button" of a new tournament or ring game, is in stud poker to decide the "bring-in", or forced bet, and the betting order when two or more hands' upcards are tied for "highest board" in later streets.

Here are some hold'em examples:

Example 1

Player 1: Jh Th Player 2: 9h 2h Board: Ah Kh 8h 7h 3h

Player 1 wins the hand with Ah Kh Jh Th 8h. Player 2 has Ah Kh 9h 8h 7h. It doesn't matter who uses more cards from the board or that they both share the Ah Kh. It's about making a complete 5-card hand.

Example 2

Player 1: 5h 4h Player 2: 6h 3h Board: Ah Kh 8h 7h 9h

The pot is split. Both players are playing the board flush. It doesn't matter that Player 2 has a higher card in the flush suit since that would be the sixth card in the hand and does not play.

Example 3

Player 1: 8c 8s Player 2: 5h 5s Board: Ah Ac As 9s 9c

Again, the pot is split. Both players have their own full houses, but the board full house is larger and they both play that.

Know the basics first:

The winning hands in Texas Hold'em are listed in ascending order of importance below - ie best first and worst last:

Royal Flush >> Straight Flush >> 4 of a Kind >> Full House >> Flush >> Straight >> 3 of a Kind >> 2 Pairs >> 1 Pair >> High Card

Texas Holde'm Poker Hands Explained:

a. Royal Flush: 10, J, Q, K, A of the same suit

b. Straight Flush: A series of 5 consecutive hands of the same suit

c. 4 of a Kind: 4 cards of the same kind i.e 4 Kings or 4 Jacks

d. Full House: 3 cards of the same rank and 2 of another rank ie. 3 Jacks and 2 Kings

e. Flush: 5 cards of the same suit ie 3, 5 ,7, Jack, King (all of one suit ie Diamonds)

f. Straight: 5 sequential cards of any suit

g. 3 of a Kind: 3 cards of equal rank: ie 3 of diamonds, 3 of clubs, 3 of hearts

h. 2 Pairs: 2 pairs of cards of equal rank ie 2 of diamonds, 2 of hearts plus 3 of spades and 3 of diamonds

i. 1 Pair: 1 pair of cards, ie Jack of Hearts and Jack of Diamonds

j. High Card: If none of the hands form any of the combinations above, compare the hands and the hand with the highest card wins.

Need a visual guide to the best hands?

If you would like to see a visual guide to the best hands in Texas Hold'em in ascending order then check out this guide from UK Poker Buddies:

I'm interested in learning Omaha Eight or Better, how does the low work? Edit

I'm interested in learning Omaha Eight or Better, how does the low work? Answer: Omaha is a fun game to play. It's a split pot game, so the high hand wins half the pot and the low hand wins the other half of the pot. Winning the high and the low is called "scooping" and is the goal of every good Omaha/8 player.

Trying to figure out how the low works is often the most difficult thing for the hold'em player transitioning into Omaha/8. The 8 in Omaha/8 refers to the qualifier. For a hand to be considered for low, it must qualify by having none of the low cards be higher than an 8. Furthermore, there can be no duplication in the cards used to make the low hand. Suits don't matter for low and you must use exactly 2 of the 4 cards in your hand. Consider this example:

Player 1: Ah 2h 5c Kc Player 2: 2s 3s 5h Qh Board: Ac Ts 7c 8h 4s

Player 1 has a low hand of A 2 4 5 7, playing the 2h 5c from his hand and the A47 on the board. Player 2 has a low hand of A 2 3 4 7. We determine who wins by comparing the hands. Both players have a 7, so we go to the next low card. Player 2 has a 4, which is lower than Player 1's 5, so Player 2 wins the hand by making a 74 low to beat Player 1's 75 low.

This sounds complicated, but if you watch an Omaha/8 game for awhile it starts to get clear. You can learn and practice the mechanics of this game by using play money online.

The best low in Omaha/8 is A2345, also called a "wheel". The worst low is 45678. If there are not three low cards on the board after the river is dealt, there can be no low hand and the high hand will scoop the pot.

Online poker Edit

Hand histories Edit

Question: How do I post a hand history? Answer: The prolific Two Plus Two poster, bisonbison, has written a set of guidelines for posting to the Small Stakes area of that forum. He includes excellent information on how to post a hand history properly as well as a link to his excellent hand history converter.

You will find those guidelines here.

Before you post a hand to one of the other forums, read over his instructions as it's the format people will be expecting to see.

If you're posting a hand you saw or played in a live cardroom, follow his instructions as best you can and try to reconstruct the hand as well as you remember it.

Rakeback Edit

Every serious player should have rakeback on all of their online poker accounts. For high volume players this can mean hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month. The most popular site for rakeback is Full Tilt Poker and the rakeback is capped at 27% for all affiliates. Another popular site is Cake Poker where the cap is 33%. You can signup at either site through an online poker rakeback site, but always search for references.

Multi-tabling Edit

Question: What is multi-tabling? How do I do it? Answer: Most of the major online poker rooms allow you to play multiple tables at one time. If you're a winning player, this is a real advantage since it allows you to be a winner on more than one table.

PartyPoker, for example, allows you to play at ten different tables simultaneously. Additionally, if you have an account registered with one of the PartyPoker "skins" such as Empire Poker, you can play an additional 4 tables.

The tables at most sites are 800x600 resolution. So, to avoid overlap you'll need to have a monitor capable of 1600x1200 resolution or have dual screen setup. When 4-tabling, avoiding overlap makes life much easier. When 2-tabling, a little corner overlap isn't too bad.

Online Deposits Edit

Question: How do I get real money onto an online poker site? Answer: Each online poker site has a number of different options to choose from when making a deposit. For example, PartyPoker has ten different options ranging from debit/credit card to Western Union to direct debit from your checking account. PokerStars offers eight options, and the other major sites offer similar options.

Over the past two years credit card and debit card companies have cracked down on the use of their cards to deposit funds into gambling sites online. Check with the issuing bank, but you're likely to be out of luck using that method. Many people setup special bank accounts for their online transactions and have deposits and cashouts go directly to that account.

Allegations of online rigging Edit

Question: Is online poker rigged? Answer: Conspiracy theories abound. However, if you stick to the high profile online card rooms, you should be safe from shenanigans. There are no guarantees, of course.

While playing, you'll often hear players complain that the games are fixed, that the flops are juiced to promote action, that players are penalized with bad cards for cashing out, etc. If you believe any of these things, then it is suggested that you not play at that online card room.

There are many players who have played hundreds of thousands of logged hands and have found nothing unusual in the distribution of cards.

Bonus whoring (hunting) Edit

Question: What's this "bonus whoring" I hear about? Answer: "Bonus whoring" is the term used to describe taking advantage of as many online poker site bonuses as possible. It's unnecessarily pejorative since those bonuses are there to be used. There's nothing wrong with bonus whoring to build your bankroll.

The idea is to find as many bonuses as you can and earn them as cheaply as possible.

And here's another very in-depth guide to bonuses written by Gonzo787 on

You should also learn about rakeback before depositing money on any poker site.

Books & Software? Edit

What are the best beginner's books for any particular game? Edit

Answer: Here are a few titles to get you started. The subject of book recommendations is relatively subjective; there is some contention about the value of a couple of the books I've listed. For more information on books, visit the Two Plus Two forum on books and software. Some online ebook options can be found at a poker book review site.

Limit Hold'em Edit

No-Limit Hold'em Edit

  • Stewart Reuben & Bob Ciaffone: Pot-Limit & No-Limit Poker. I hesitate to recommend this as a beginner's book, but there is so little on the topic available, this is a place to start.
  • Ed Miller: Getting Started In Hold'em. While this covers mostly limit hold'em, there is a good primer on no-limit strategy as well.

7 Card Stud Edit

  • Roy West: 7 Card Stud.
  • George Epstein & Dr. Danial Abrams: The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners. I haven't read this one, but Mason Malmuth gives it a good review.
  • Ray Zee, David Sklansky, Mason Malmuth: 7 Card Stud for Advanced Players. It's advanced, but it's an excellent book on the game.

Omaha 8 or better Edit

  • Mark Tenner & Lou Krieger: Winning Omaha/8 Poker. Some haven't liked the writing style, but other than that the information is good and well presented.
  • Ray Zee: High-Low Split Poker...for Advanced Players. Again an advanced book, but an excellent one and a must-read. It also covers 7 Card Stud 8 or better.

Omaha High Edit

  • Bob Ciaffone: Omaha Hold'em Poker: The Action Game. This is a slim volume that covers both high and high-low Omaha. It's about the only game in town for Omaha high.

General Edit

  • David Sklansky: The Theory Of Poker. This was my first poker book. Probably not the place to start, but anyone who studies the game must read this book.
  • Bob Ciaffone: Improve Your Poker. While not a strategy book, per se, it covers a lot of topics about poker that will help a beginner.
  • Larry Phillips: Zen And the Art of Poker. Again, not a strategy book. Rather this book will help you think about how you think about the game. It's often derided, but it tends to help people overcome frustration with their play.

Jones' WLLHE vs. Miller's SSHE Edit

Question: What are the differences between Jones' Winning Low Limit Hold'em and Miller's Small Stakes Hold'em? Which one is appropriate to my level? Answer: There's a misconception that Ed Miller, et al's, Small Stakes Hold'em is a beginner's book. In fact, it's a fairly advanced book that introduces concepts usable in any loose game. It's too bad the publisher didn't bother to put "for Advanced Players" in the title to deter the complete beginner.

With the publication of Ed Miller's new book, Getting Started In Hold'em, this question has become somewhat moot. This new book eclipses Lee Jones's venerable low limit book as a beginner's text, and should be read in its place, I believe. Once the concepts in Getting Started... are understood, the reader should move to the small stakes book and Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players

What's some good poker software? Edit

Answer: You really have only two serious options for poker training software:

Wilson Software makes a line of software that covers every major poker game.

Biotools Inc has a line of Poki Academy products available that play Texas Hold'em.

The products from both of these companies have their merits as practice software. Additionally each product has hand analysis and simulation tools.

However, neither company creates a product that can compare to playing against an actual human being either live or online. After awhile you will find you can beat the software; the real challenge is to beat real people making real people plays.

PokerTracker stats - what's good? Edit

Answer: PokerTracker is a tool that tracks your online poker play and provides a number of interesting and confusing statistics. The stats offered are about both your play and the play of your opponents.

People often ask what good stats are. They've collect a few thousand hands in PokerTracker and want to start evaluating their play. The first thing to remember is that until you have, say, 10,000 hands in your PT database, your stats won't really tell you much. The more hands you have, the more you can trust what the stats are telling you.

That said, let's look at what "good" stats might be.

The idea behind all of our study and play is to develop a playing style that takes advantage of the edges we get from playing good hands in good position with good odds and punishing those players who play worse than we do. So, we generally go for a tight/aggressive style of play.

If we use the autorate guidelines posted by Two Plus Two forum poster bisonbison, we see that a tight/aggressive player has the following stats:

VP$IP (Vol Put $ In Pot) < 20 Preflop Aggression >= 5 Posftflop Aggression >= 2

The aggression numbers are based on this formula: (raise percentage + bet percentage) / call percentage.

The "Postflop Aggression" number should not take into account preflop, so that indicates only your postflop aggressiveness. This style of play will garner you a "money bag" icon in PokerTracker. If you see an opponent who has that icon, be careful when playing against her.

You should note that these ratings were concocted by humans making judgements. There is some small dispute among people about the actual values used to rate people's play, but the "optimal" numbers above are roughly agreed upon.

What do the numbers with the slashes from PokerTracker mean? Edit

Q: What do the numbers with the slashes from PokerTracker mean?

A: The numbers are usually cited in the format VP$IP/PFR%/(postflop only)AF, where:

  • VP$IP = voluntarily put $ in pot - the percentage of times you put money into the pot, not including the small or big blind itself (completing SB, raising, limping etc.)
  • PFR = preflop raise percentage - the percentage of times you raise when it is your turn to act preflop
  • AF = the product of the flop, turn, and river aggression factors (postflop)

Where only two numbers are cited, they refer to VP$IP and PFR%, respectively.

Source: Two Plus Two poster ZenMusician and subsequent edits.

For more info see also [3], [4]

PokerManager Edit

PokerManager is a software program that provides live advice and Player statistics for online Texas Hold'em players. You play better while seeing your opponent's stats (e.g., raise %, see flop %, etc). You can study your old hands, and tune-up any "leaks" where you are losing money with bad plays.

See PokerManager Features for a detailed list of everything PokerManager can do for you.

PokerManager is unique in that it is the only Poker Software program with real Data Mining Capabilities

How do I find things on the Two Plus Two forums? Edit

Answer: AngryCola found this how-to on using the forum search engine. This comes from

The search feature used by the 2+2 Forums is very powerful, however if you're not familiar with how to use it properly, it may not yield the results you are looking for.

To Perform a Search:

  • Go to the Search Page
  • Select the Category, Forum or Forums that you would like to search from the left.
    • Selecting a Category will search all forums in that category.
    • Selecting one forum will search in just that forum
    • Selecting multiple forums will search only withing those selected forums
  • On the right, to search a keyword enter it into the box. You can click "Advanced Search Tips" for more help.
    • Entering a single keyword will search for that word.
    • Entering 2 or more words will search for each word, as if there were an OR operator. So entering peanut butter will search for posts containing peanut OR butter
    • Entering 2 or more words WITH PLUS SIGNS will search with an AND operator. So entering +peanut +butter will search for posts that contain peanut AND butter but they do NOT have to be together.
    • Entering 2 or more words IN QUOTE MARKS will search for the phrase. So entering "peanut butter" will search for posts that contain the PHRASE peanut butter and will not return the post if it contains only one of the words.
    • Entering 2 or more words with A MINUS sign will exclude words from the search. So entering +peanut -butter will search for posts which have the word peanut in them and DO NOT have the word butter.
    • You can mix and match search operators. For example, entering "peanut butter" -jelly would return posts containing the PHRASE peanut butter and NOT containing the word jelly.
    • Entering "peanut butter" +jelly -dance would return posts containing the PHRASE peanut butter and containing the word jelly but NOT containing the word dance.
    • TIP: The search engine can return a lot of results. If you want to just see the original post and not the replies, include "-re:" in your search terms.
  • Below that, you can choose whether you are searching the subject AND body of the posts, or just the subject.
  • Under the Username search section, you can enter a username here. This can be done with or without keywords. So entering "peanut butter" +jelly + dance in the keywords and the username of navaho would return posts containing the PHRASE peanut butter AND the word jelly AND the word dance posted by the user navaho.
  • Next select a date range. There's an option to search all posts, or search for posts newer or older than a certain criteria. Narrowing down the search time will increase the speed of the results.
  • Next you can choose how many results per page you wish to view.
  • As well as choose to view a profile of the body. If selected this will show you the first few words in the body of each post.
  • When you are finished, click "Submit".

Important note: After about 3 months the forum messages are archived to the 2+2 Archive Server , so you can search there for older messages.

What are some good odds calculators? Edit

Answer: There are two common odds calculators you'll find mentioned.

Texas Calculatem Poker Odds Calculator

  • Texas Calculatem is probably the most well-known poker odds calculator on the net. It's a free poker odds calculator that can be used at the texas holdem poker table. Make sure to check out Calculatem Pro as well. ||

MagicHoldem Real time poker calculator

Alternatively if you want something really simple to play with and give you an idea you can take a look at: this is a free tool and it's a little clunky but it can be useful for beginners.

What are some good web based odds calculators?Edit

TwoDimes is a web-based calculator that's commonly used for analyzing a played poker hand.

Poker Stove is a client based application that you can use offline. Mathematically exact and a really good tool if you want to improve your game.

Try them both out and see which you prefer. If you're looking for a graphical odds calculator in flash - try Pokerlistings Odds Calculator - it's quick and exact -

You may also hear reference to a tool called Poker Probe. This is an old DOS-based application written by Mike Caro that computes odds for all the popular and some of the unpopular poker games. You can still get this applcation from Conjelco though the price tag is hefty.

Credits Edit

The original version of this document was written and compiled by 2+2 user SheridanCat and stored at [5]. This wikified version is open to community editing; individual contributions can be tracked by viewing its history.

The original author's disclaimer and acknowledgements follow.

Do you have a disclaimer? Edit

Answer: We sure do.

All information contained in this Frequently Asked Quesitons document is accurate as far as we know. We are not in the habit of distributing bad information, but strange things happen. Therefore, we do not guarantee the accuracy of the information. This stuff isn't gospel, folks. Once you have read it here, read other resources, such as this and this, then see if what we say still makes sense. If it doesn't, well, read some more. And if we still sound like we're talking out of our hats, see the next paragraph.

Of course, if you see something you believe to be wrong, please contact us.

(NB: With this wiki format, you can also be bold and edit it yourself.)

Is there anyone who should be thanked? Edit

Answer: Yes, there are people needing thanks.

First I want to thank JFB37 for answering some of the questions on the list of Frequently Asked Questions. I'd also like to thank AngryCola for suggesting that we really, actually do the FAQ this time. Thanks to AngryCola, pzhon, theRealMacoy and Joe B. for excellent feedback and suggestions. Also thanks to AncientPC, ZenMusician and other regular posters on the Two Plus Two Publishing Beginner's Forum.

Thanks to all the beginners on the forum who have asked the questions.

Finally, thanks to Two Plus Two Publishing for the great books and the excellent discussion venue they have made available.

Discussion threads Edit

Download Software for freeEdit

External Links Edit

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