Learning From Experience

We have now talked a little bit about some of the things that you will need to know to comfortably get into a poker game in a public venue. There are still many things that you need to know, and many of them cannot be taught in this type of setting. In fact, many things that you will encounter in a poker room may only be learned by experience. Why is that? Because there are just so many little things that you need to know that it would take volumes and volumes to write them all down. With some things, you need to be prepared to learn the hard way, by not knowing them, and then by being corrected.

That in mind, let us look at some of the more obvious things that will enable you to sit in a game without feeling too out of place. There are many forms of poker games. I am going to address in this forum, at least for the time being, Texas hold'em. This is the most popular game that is played at the lowest of limits and is really the simplest to play. 

In (Texas) hold'em, a button rotates one hand clockwise each hand to signify who is the dealer. That doesn't mean that that player is dealing the cards, but for action purposes, it is as if he were. The person with the button will act last throughout that entire hand. The two positions to the immediate left of the button each post "blind" bets, or blinds. The first one will equal one-half of the lower increment of the betting limit; the second will equal the lower increment. For example, if you are in a $2-$4 limit game, the blinds will be $1 and $2. In the game, players receive two down cards that are their own. The "action" has already commenced with the blind bets, as these two players are betting "in the blind". It is up to the next player in rotation to call the blind, fold his hand, or raise the blind by doubling it. These options are given to each player around the table and when the action gets back to the blinds, they are given options. The small blind may complete the bet, raise it, or fold. The big blind may raise or check. He is already in for the full bet, unless there has been a raise.

Sound confusing? Not at all, and once you get into a game this will all make perfect sense. Now that all players have had the option to fold, call, or raise, the dealer will put out the flop. That is, three community cards will be put face up in the center of the table and each player may utilize these cards. There is a round of betting here equal to the lower limit ($2) and then the dealer will put out the turn card. Now the betting limit doubles to $4. After this round of betting, the dealer will put out the river or last card. Each player may use any combination of the five community cards and his own two cards to make the best possible poker hand. After the final (fourth) betting round, there will be a showdown or a bet and fold. The pot will be pushed, the button rotates one position clockwise, and this sequence will start over again with new blinds being posted.

Sound complicated? You won't think so once you have tried it. Remember to ask questions and don't be intimidated. It is every cardroom employee's job to answer your questions and assist you in any way that they are able. I realize that this is a very brief description of this game, but it should be enough to help you to get started. In the next few classes, we will define some of the jargon that is used at the poker tables. Class dismissed!