The internet has brought a resurgence of interest in poker. Before the internet, it was hard to find people to play on a regular basis and thus difficult to improve one’s skill. Now with multiple professional poker circuits, it is becoming a very serious sport.

Still, the home game is very important as a start. It is invaluable for picking up the basics and to start developing a style. Here is a guide for home games.

Reading material to advance your poker skill

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Strategy for Beginners

  • Hand Strengths – What’s the order of strong to weak hands

    Royal Flush
    An Ace high suited straight (AKQJT of clubs)
    Straight Flush
    A suited straight (45678 of hearts)
    Four of a Kind
    Four cards of the same value (AAAAK is the highest Four of a Kind. 22223 is the lowest)
    Full House
    Three of a kind with a pair (888KK would be Eights full of Kings)
    Five cards of the same suit (4s7s9sTsKs is a King high [spade] flush
    Five sequential cards (8s9cTdJhQs is a Queen high straight
    Three of a Kind
    Three cards with the same face value (JJJ43 would be Three of a Kind Jacks)
    Two Pair
    Two pairs (JJ445 is Two pair, Jacks and Fours)
    Two cards of the same value (8836Q is a Pair of Eights, with a Q kicker.
    High card
    A high single card (A9624 is an Ace high hand)
  • Rank of Pocket Cards – Hole card ranks

    Pocket cards in hold’em are dealt face down and determine the starting strength of your hand. Needless to say, some hands are better than others and there is some debate regarding this. Here, we will give you a general idea about starting strengths.

    1. AA, KK, AKs (‘s’ in this section denotes ‘suited’)
    2. QQ, AK, JJ, TT
    3. AQs, 99, AQ, 88, AJs
    4. 77, KQs, 66, ATs, 55, AJ
    5. KQ, 44, KJs, 33, 22, AT, QJs

    Rank 1 and Rank 2 hands are very strong and you should always raise or even re-raise depending on your position. Rank 3 and 4 cards are good to call in mid or late position because the value generally rises as you have a positional advantage as well. Rank 5 hands are usually unplayable unless you’re in late position or have a blind in.

  • Betting Strategy – Basic preflop betting strategy

    Alright, the basics are laid out as follows. In early position, you should open with Rank 1,2 and 3 hands, call a raise with Rank 2, and re-raise with Rank 1 hands, if given the opportunity. If you’re in middle position, you can open with Rank 1-4 hands and call a raise with Rank 2 hands. Rank 1 hands and QQ, AK can be re-raised in this position. In late position, your playable hands increase and you can call with any of the above Ranked hands. You can also call a raise with Rank 2 or Rank 3 hands. With Rank 1 and Rank 2 hands you can re-raise. This is the bare bones for betting with no board.

    Okay, so you have a JTs and you’re sitting on the button, what should you do? Well looking above, we don’t find our hand in the ranking chart so normally we would muck it. Taking your position into account though, and assuming that 4 or 5 people have called and you don’t think the blinds will raise, you should call. Why? Normally this is a weak hand and is susceptible to many better hands, but here you’re getting to see some cards for a small sized bet compared to the pot. If you should hit your hand (straight flush, straight, flush, 2 pair), you should be able to take a good sized pot. A notable warning, if you don’t hit the flop, (a four-flush maybe enough to stay in the pot) you should fold.

  • What are the Odds? – How to know when you’re making a good/bad bet

    Count the number of cards that will help your hand. If you’re holding AK on 4th street, an Ace or a King will give you top pair with an excellent kicker. So that’s 6 cards out of 46 that can improve your hand. That is about 13% to improve your hand right there, so if the pot is $70 and you have to call $10, that’s about even odds. With a bigger pot, you should definitely call (Unless of course you’re sure someone else has a set). If you have an open-ended straight, you’ve got 8 cards that will improve your hand for a 17.4% chance to improve. A pot offering 5.75 to 1 odds would suffice a call. A note about the pot odds, you take the payoff vs. what you’re betting. So a $90 pot with a $10 bet is offering you $110 to $10 ($90 pot + $10 bet + your $10 call). An open-ended straight with a flush draw has 17 outs! Anything pot giving 2.7 to 1 odds is worth your call (Plus if you make the nuts, you will also be able to get additional bets).

Advanced Strategies

  • Effective Odds
  • Implied Odds
  • Bluffing/Representing
  • Actors and Tells