This guide is for an amateur poker player. Meaning; the player knows the basic rules of poker already and how the game is played. This player has probably played poker before, but not necessarily online. This player wants to make some cash.
When it comes to Micro Stakes No-Limit Hold'Em, this is the fundamental theory: You're opponent has a certain range of hands, some are better and some are worse than yours. Your goal is to maximize your profit from the worst hands while minimizing your losses from better hands and so, make the most money against their range. As the hand goes on and more betting decisions have been made, your opponents range of possible hands is narrowed so at no point in the hand do you have to "find out where you stand". This is a common misconception.
In the following guide you will find a short list of poker lingo and their definitions, a review of the basic hands, hand ranks that will be frequently referenced throughout this guide, player strategy, helpful hints, and lastly, frequent beginners mistakes. This guide alone will NOT make you a winning player. It is to get you started on the right track. Becoming a winning player comes with practice and everyone has to pay their learning fee.
Necessary Equipment and Materials
Before you make your first deposit I would suggest playing the "Play Money" tables. PokerStars (www.PokerStars.com) has some excellent play money games. This will also give you the software you need for a later date when you are ready to make a cash deposit.
Note: You will need to download the poker software onto your computer.
Once you have the software installed you will need to create a user name and account just as you would for most online accounts. However, you don't need to deposit any money to play in the Play Money section.
After your account is created, click on No-Limit Hold'Em and go to the Play Money Table. Now you're ready to play!
Cautions and Warnings
Play within your limits
Playing Environment/Never play when upset
(Online) Poker Lingo:
These are the terms you will see throughout this guide and some you might see online.
3-Bet - To make the 2nd raise in poker (It is referred to as 3-bet because the blinds are technically the first bet).
3xBB / 4xBB - to raise before the flop 3 or 4 times the big blind. This is known as the "standard" raise.
Act - Making a play (check, call, bet, raise, fold)
Air - A hand with no value (no pair) typically associated with a bluff
All-in/AI - That moment when your chips are in the middle and your fate is resting with the poker gods.
Angle - A form of deception or cheating. An unethical play used to deliberately deceive one's opponent by calling one's hand or action incorrectly to gain an advantage.
Backdoor - A draw which takes the final two streets to complete. In Hold'em a backdoor flush happens when a player needs both the turn and river to complete their draw.
Backraise - Also known as a limp-raise, a raise from a player after he/she initially called a bet.
Bad Beat - this refers to losing a hand when you were the strong odds favorite to win. i.e. - an example of a bad beat would be holding pocket Aces against a player holding pocket 2's, and your opponent ends up beating you by hitting another 2 on the last card. Visit the Play-By-Play Examples to view an example of a bad beat.
Bankroll/BR - The amount of cash you have available to pursue your poker dreams! All professionals separate their bankroll from their normal spending money.
Bankroll Management - Properly managing the amount of money you have for poker with the stakes you play.
Bet - Wagering money in during the play of a hand
Betting Structure - The guidelines for all bets in a given games. Typically includes the blinds, antes, raise caps, and structure (limit, spread-limit, pot-limit, no-limit).
Blank - A card which does not improve/affect the texture of the board, one that does not complete and obvious drawing hands.
Blinds - Texas Hold'em Poker uses what's called a "blind" structure, meaning that two people on the table must post a bet prior to seeing their cards. Since they are forced to bet without seeing their cards, they are playing "blind", thus the name of those bets are called "blinds". There are two blinds, the big blind and the small blind. The small blind position must post half the minimum bet and sits immediately to the left of the dealer. The big blind must post the full minimum bet, and sits immediately to the left of the small blind, two seats to the left of the dealer. As the deal rotates around the table, each player takes turns posting the small blind and the big blind bets. This blind structure forces the action on the table since there will always be a pot to win.
Blocking Bet - A smaller bet designed to deter an opponent from putting in a larger bet or raise.
Board - The board refers to the community cards that are dealt face up on the table. In Texas Hold'em, there will ultimately be five community cards on the "board". The board does NOT include the two private card dealt to each player. So, if someone were to say, "the board plays", the player means that the five community cards make his best poker hand and he is not using any of the two private cards dealt to the player.
Broadways - Cards 10 and higher all the way to an Ace.
Button - Also called the "Dealer Button", this is a white puck (usually with the word "Dealer" on it), that signifies the dealer's position on the table. The dealer's position is significant because he is the last player to act for that hand. The Dealer Button rotates around the table, so each player takes turns being "on the button".
Buy-in - The required amount of chips to play in a certain tournament or cash game.
Buying the Button - Coming into the deal at the small blind (not having posted the big blind yet) and posting both the sb and bb in order to have the button the next hand. If you don't buy the button you have to sit out and come in when the button passes..
C-Bet/Continuation bet - To make a follow-up bet on a flop after you have raised pre-flop.
Calling Station - A player who typically never folds, often calling bets/raises with mediocre hands other players would easily fold.
Check-raise - the act of checking a hand, in hopes of luring your opponent to bet, so that you may then raise over him and build a bigger pot to win.
Cooler - An unavoidable situation in which two strong hands are pitted against one another, usually resulting in one player losing all their chips.
Cutoff - The player to the right of the dealer button.
Donk/Donkey - Someone who is very bad at poker.
Donk Bet - When you lead into the preflop raiser and take away their continuation bet. e.g. Villain raises 4xbb preflop and you call in the sb. Instead of checking you lead out taking away their betting opportunity. This is referred to as a donk bet because it is a play many bad players make (although the bet in itself can have its advantages).
Drawing - Continuing with a hand (by calling a bet or checking) in hopes of improving your hand.
Drawing Dead - A situation where an opponent cannot improve his hand enough to win the pot.
Early Position - Players who must act first before the flop, also known as UTG or Under The Gun.
Float - Calling a bet in order to take a pot down later, kind of like a bluff slowplay or a bluff call. e.g. You call suspected continuation bets on the flop in the hopes that the bettor will give up his unimproved AK and check on the turn. You then bet and hopefully take the pot away from the preflop aggressor. We are floating over the other guys flop bet looking for an opportunity to take the pot.
Flop - In Texas Hold'em, each player has two cards dealt to them, and then share five community cards. These five community cards, however, do not all get dealt at the same time. There are rounds of betting at certain intervals during the deal. After the first two cards are dealt to each player, there is a round of betting. Then, three of the five community cards are dealt at one time on the board. This is what's known as the "flop" - the first three cards being dealt on the board. The fourth card is called the "turn", and the final, fifth card is known as the "river".
Flush Draw - a hand where you have 4 of the 5 cards needed to make a flush. For example, if you are holding two clubs, and the board flops two more clubs, you would be holding a flush draw. You would need to draw an additional club to complete the flush.
Hand History/HH - The transcript of a specific hand or complete tournament, usually obtained from the specific online site.
Heater - A player who is on a nice run, winning many pots in a short time.
Heads-Up - A situation when there are only two players playing for the pot.
In Position - Having position on your opponent; being able to act last postflop. e.g. UTG raises and you call on the button and will be in position for the rest of the hand.
Inside Straight Draw - a hand where you have 4 of the 5 cards needed to make a straight, but your 4 cards are not "connected" or in sequential order, so you need a single card in the middle of your straight to complete the straight. Also known as a belly-buster straight draw gut shot straight draw.
Isolation - Raising after a player has limped in order to get the pot heads-up.
Kicker - the kicker refers to your tie-breaking card if you and your opponent have the same winning hand.
Loose aggressive - a player at your table who plays more hands than average and plays them aggressively.
Leak - A hole or shortcoming in your game. Usually a fairly small mistake, but one in which you are 'leaking' chips - most notable is completing from the SB (largely because of the discount price) with moderate to poor holdings looking miracle flops.
Limp - to limp into the hand refers to calling the minimal bet, the big blind, to play your hand.
Maniac - A maniac is a player who plays ultra-aggressively, making big bets on poor cards, throwing his money around in the hopes of winning by bluffing and intimidation. A maniac can be a difficult player to play against, but may also be a big source of profits. Here are two examples of playing against a maniac - 14-Feb-2004 - Maniac Opponent and 14-Feb-2004 - Maniac Opponent II.
Microstakes - Stakes so low their typically only found online. Generally anything under $.25/.50 limits.
Muck - the act of folding one's hand without showing your cards.
Nit - A gambler who is afraid to gamble, or a tight player at the table.
NLHE - No Limit Hold'em
Nuts or Nut Hand - the Nuts or Nut hand is the best possible hand at that particular moment.
OOP - Out of Position, being first to act postflop.
Open Limp - Being the first person in the pot preflop, but not raising.
Option - The Big Blind's choice whether to raise/check in a limped pot.
Outs - The number of "outs" refers to the number of cards in the deck to make your winning hand.
Overbet - A raise/bet larger than the size of the current pot.
Overpair - Holding a pocket pair greater than the highest card on the board, for example, a player holds JJ on a board of 852
Paint - A face card, jack, queen, or king
Position - What spot you are in as the button moves around the table.
UTG = Under The Gun, MP = Middle Position, HJ = HiJack, CO = Cut Off, BTN = Button, SB = Small Blind, BB = Big Blind
Pot Odds - Pot Odds refers to the odds or percentage of making your winning hand compared to the odds or percentage of the bet you must call compared to the CURRENT size of the pot.
Prop/Proposition Bet - A wager between two or more players on the outcome of a certain event. Prop bets can be quite interesting and have known to been made for millions of dollars.
Push - To push or move all-in. Literally; push all of your chips into the middle.
pwn/pwned - Slang from own/owned. When someone outplays or otherwise outclasses someone else. "You got pwned."
Quads - Four-of-a-kind
Rake - This is the commission the house takes from every pot. The rake can be set dollar amounts or a percentage of the pot, depending on the casino.
Range - A group of hands that make up what your opponent could have.
Rathole - Leaving the table after winning a big pot.
River - The "river" is the dealing of the fifth and final card of the five community cards dealt in Texas Hold'em. The "river" is also known as "Fifth Street". The river card is the fifth and final card on the board. See "Flop".
Scare Card - A card which completes an obvious draw, thus slowing down action.
Set - Three of a kind when your pair matches one of the community cards. e.g. You have 55 and the flop brings 4 5 A, you now have a set of 5s. (One of the strongest hands on NLHE.)
Semi-bluff - The act of betting on your hand when your hand is not made yet. ie - you have four cards to a straight or flush and you make a bet or raise a bet - even though you do not have a strong hand now, you have a chance of bluffing your opponent out of the pot or hitting the card that will complete your winning hand.
Ship It - - Same as "send it." Phrase exclaimed by the winner of a big pot. Most often exclaimed via the chat box of an online poker game. Has sarcastic, obnoxious overtones and could infuriate your opponent!
Short-handed - A short-handed game refers to a table that has few opponents. A table of 2-6 players (as opposed to a full table of 10) would be considered a short-handed game. These are the games that will be described in this guide.
Slow-play - The act of intentionally under-playing a very strong hand in the hopes of tricking your opponent into thinking that he has you beat, which leads to your opponent betting more in later rounds.
Slow Roll - Taking a long time to showdown the winning hand, usually to set off one's opponent.
Smooth Call - A smooth call is the act of just calling a bet or raise with a very powerful hand in order to conceal your strength and keep all the attention on the initial raiser.
Squeeze - Re-raising PF after another player has called the initial raiser.
Stealing blinds - open raising in late position with less than premium hands in order to "steal" the blinds.
Stone Cold Bluff - This is the act of betting your hand with no real possibility of winning the hand if your bet is called. Unlike the semi-bluff, where you still have the potential to make a winning a hand, the stone cold bluff is not relying on the cards, but on your opponent folding.
Stop 'n' Go - A move whereby you call a raise, but you are first to act on the flop and you push all-in regardless. Usually where you will probably get called by a better hand if you push pre-flop or you are going to get called anyway, but you may get that better hand to fold if they miss the flop or may have just enough money to make a better hand fold.
Suited Connectors - Holding two cards that are of the same suit and sequentially ordered. ie - 8, 9 of spades.
Tight aggressive - someone who is tight with their starting hands but always plays them aggressively. Can also be known as solid.
Tilt - This term refers to a player who is angry, upset, or emotionally unstable, impacting his poker game in a negative manner. For example, a player who just suffered a "bad beat" may go on "tilt". A player on tilt will often play erratically and more aggressively than his usual tendency.
TP - Top Pair.
TPGK - Top Pair, Good Kicker. e.g. you hold KQ or KJ and the board reads K 5 7
TPTK - Top Pair, Top Kicker. e.g. you hold AQ and board shows Q 9 3
Trips - Also known as a three-of-a-kind. Trips are commonly referred to when the player has one card in his hand and a pair on the board as opposed to a set where the player has a pocket pair and hit's the third card on the board.
Turn - The "turn" is the dealing of the fourth card of five community cards dealt in the game of Texas Hold'em. The "turn" is also referred to as "Fourth Street". The turn card would be the fourth card on the board. See "Flop".
UTG - Under-The-Gun, the first player to act before the flop.
Value Bet - Betting/raising for value, a bet which will be called by worse hands. This technique creates a larger pot.
Suited hands (hands of the same suit) Are abbreviated by affixing an "s" to the hand, as well as to abbreviate non-suited hands with an "o" for offsuit. For example:
QQ represents any pair of queens,
AK (or, sometimes, AKo) represents any ace and king of different suits, and
JTs represents any jack and ten of the same suit.
Starting Hands (in order of Strength):
1 AA, AKs, KK, QQ, JJ
2 AK, AQs, AJs, KQs, TT
3 AQ, ATs, KJs, QJs, JTs, 99
4 AJ, KQ, KTs, QTs, J9s, T9s, 98s, 88
5 A9s...A2s, KJ, QJ, JT, Q9s, T8s, 97s, 87s, 77, 76s, 66
6 AT, KT, QT, J8s, 86s, 75s, 65s, 55, 54s
7 K9s...K2s, J9, T9, 98, 64s, 53s, 44, 43s, 33, 22
8 A9, K9, Q9, J8, J7s, T8, 96s, 87, 85s, 76, 74s, 65, 54, 42s, 32s
Table Selection/Buy In
Starting Hands Strategy
In microstakes a very simple, yet important concept is starting hands. Now that you know the hand ranks you may have realized that higher cards are generally the correct cards to play. Play only Ako, Aqo, Ajo, all suited broadways, all pocket pairs, and suited connecters 67s and higher. This will be further explained in Pre-Flop strategy. In micro stakes it expected that you will be folding many hands pre-flop because playing lower cards with the intention of bluffing isn't a useful strategy in these stakes.
The most important thing before the flop besides starting hand selection is position. Position is probably the most important aspect in poker.
Above is a diagram of the positions. The best position to be in is on the "button" when you'd be technically the dealer. The players in the blinds are the worst positions to be in. The reason for this is because the button gets to act last after the flop. This is a huge advantage because you get to see what the players before you do. Similarly, the big blind (BB) acts first after the flop followed by the small blind (SB) which is why they are the two worst positions to be in.
When you enter a pot you are going to always raise and never call. You'll see opponents call pre-flop but it is not profitable. If the blinds are $.10/$.20 for example, a standard raise will be three times the size of the BB so in this case, a standard raise will be $.60 + 1 BB for every "limper" that is in the pot. So if one person calls and you come in with a raise, you'd raise to $.80. The reason for raising is you want your playing style to be tight (conservative) yet aggressive. Tight refers to how many hands you play while aggressive refers to how you play. Quantity and quality. Raise with strong starting hands to "punish" players for calling you with weaker hands. It makes them decide whether or not paying more money is really worth it for their hand. It also gives you the initiative post-flop which increases your chance of winning the pot.
What to play in each position
Button: Any suited hands or Ace high hands
Cut Off: Any suited hands or suited Ace high hands
Middle position 2: All range
Middle position 1: All range
Small Blind: eliminate Ajo
Big Blind: eliminate Ajo
If Someone Raises Pre-flop
When someone else raises pre-flop things are a little different. You want to call with all of our suited connectors, pocket pairs (AA and below), and suited broadways. Re-raise with 10 10, AQ and AK. If you get re-raised from that point, you want to shove all in in this situation.
When you raise pre-flop and get called by someone, you will usually bet two-thirds the size of the pot (continuation bet) regardless of if our hand improved or not. Obviously, you will always bet when your hand improves and depending on the texture of the board, even when you miss.
Dry Board: Ideal situation and you want to continuation bet the flop
Wet Board: Be cautious and continuation bet when you have two suited and two connecting cards together or more. Constitute a wet flop and you should simply check or fold.???????????
If you were not the raiser pre-flop and you call someone else's raise, you will only continue in the hand with strong draws or pair + FD, a pair + SD, open ended straight flush draw, gutshots, and flush draws. You should call any bet by your opponent on the flop with middle pair or better (pair). You should raise any bet by your opponent, with the intention of going all in, if he raises or with the intention of going all in on the turn if he just calls your raise.
Turn and River
The turn and river is where you can really make a lot of your money through value betting with strong hands. If you have top pair and are in control you will keep betting (2/3) of the pot until the hand is over. If you aren't in control you should call if you only have top pair or you can raise/bet if you have two pair or better. **Make sure you aren't calling bets or betting without top pair or better on the turn. Fold if you do not meet these qualifications.
Value betting strong hands is the way to make money at this stake. Bad players call too much and if your hand is no good, fold to minimize your losses. If you can minimize your losses by keeping bluffs to the flop (or continuation betting) and value betting (which is playing aggressively (betting and raising)) you will make money.
Helpful hints and Common Mistakes
Practice and Patience
Bankroll and Buy-Ins
Be Aware of the Long Term Nautre of the Game
Give the opponent the benefit of the doubt in an unfamiliar situation
Bad Beats and Tilt (Be decision oriented as opposed to results oriented)
When you take a bad beat, it means you played the hand correctly (or at least decently), and got unlucky due to the run of the cards. This is no reason to get mad; your main objective at the table is to make correct decisions, and you have done just that. There is no sense in getting emotional over something you cannot control. When you get all your money in the pot pre-flop with AA against someone's KK, it is a fact that you will lose roughly once in five times, and there's nothing you can do about it. Why let random luck have control over your emotions? Take bad beats in stride, don't let them affect your game, and you will be that much more efficient at the table.
Learn From Your Mistakes (Hand Histories)
This is an extremely important concept for those who plan on moving up in limits. It is important to be critical of your own play; when you lose a large pot, you should go back, analyze every street of the hand, and do your best to find any errors you made. It is important to be honest with yourself and about your play. Everybody makes mistakes, and every mistake you make is an opportunity to improve your game
One of the most popular forms of poker today is Texas Hold'em. In Texas Hold'em each player receives two hole-cards and five subsequent cards are dealt face-up in the middle of the table, also known as the "flop", "turn", and "river". The object of the game is to make the best five-card poker hand possible using your two hole-cards and the five community cards.
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A white object, known as the "dealer button" is passed to the left after each hand to signify where the deal should start. Each player will then be dealt two cards after which the first found of betting commences.
The majority of Texas Hold'em games use a two-blind structure. These two blinds, the Small and Big Blind, are forced bets used to encourage action. The player to the left of the dealer, or dealer button, must post the Small Blind. The player to the left of the Small Blind must post the Big Blind, typically double the size of the Small Blind.
In most fixed-limit games the size of the Big Blind is used for the first two rounds of betting. The turn and river use a bet double this size, also known as a "Big Bet". Therefore, in a $2/$4 game the blinds are typically $1 and $2 and the Big Bet is $4. In No-Limit games the Big Blind is typically 1% of the table buy-in. When sitting in a $2/$4 No-Limit game, one can presume the buy-in is $400.
Once the blinds are posted the dealer will deal cards one at a time to his/her left until each player has two cards. The first round of betting, known as "Pre-Flop", is shown in the picture below.
This picture was taken from a $25 buy-in NL game on FullTilt Poker just after the deal. The player "Ringotan" is the dealer for this hand, making "reraisebob" and "loin30co" in the Small and Big Blind respectively.
The first player to act after the deal is the player to the left of the Big Blind, in this case, "MisterKriss". Because they are first to act this player is commonly referred to as being "under-the-gun" or UTG. They will not necessarily act first on the next three betting rounds as long as the Small or Big Blind remains in the hand.
Each player has the option to fold/call/raise once the action (moving to the left) gets to them. In fixed-limit games, there is typically a "cap" on the number of raises in each round, generally three or four. In No-Limit players may choose to raise as small as 2x the Big Blind or to bet all of their chips, deemed "going all-in". If no one has raised once the action is on the Big Blind he/she has an option to check (seeing the flop for just the posted blind) or raise.
Once the action is closed (either a check by the Big Blind or a call of the last raise) the dealer will then take one card, and place it face down in the middle of the table. This card is referred to as a "burn card". Its main purpose was to help deter cheating in the days when poker was solely played as underground games. The dealer will then place three cards, face-up, in the middle of the table. These community cards are known as "the flop". An example of the flop can be seen below
In the picture above one can see that there are two players remaining with cards, the Big Blind "loin30co" and the player on the button "Ringotan". The first player to act after the flop is the first player to the left of the button still remaining in the hand. In this case "loinco30" will act first by either checking or betting. Ringotan will then have the option to either bet or check after a check or fold, call, or raise after a bet. Once the action is closed the dealer will then burn another card, and place one more card face-up next to the flop. This card is known as either the "turn card" or "fourth-street". An example of the turn can be seen below
The action will remain the same of the turn, with the player to the left of the button acting first and the player on the button (or the last remaining player to its right) acting last. Once the action is closed the dealer will burn one more card and place one final card face-up next to the turn card. This card is known as either the "river card" or "fifth-street". An example of the river can be seen below
Once the river is dealt players will have one last chance to place any bets, and once the final bet is called or all players check, the players will reveal their hole cards to determine a winner. A player's whose final bet was called must show his/her cards first, and the player who called must only show if he/she has a better hand and wants to collect the pot. Otherwise, the player can "muck" their cards, not allowing their opponent to see what they called with.