Poker is a card game that requires both skill and luck to win. It is played with chips (representing money, for which poker is almost invariably played) and the objective is to make a five-card hand with the best possible rank, or “rank,” which will beat all other hands. There are a number of different poker variants but most have a similar structure. At the beginning of a hand, each player contributes a sum of money to the pot called an ante. Each player is then dealt two cards face-down and can either call, raise or fold. The person to the left of the player who made the last raise must call, or raise again if they want to continue betting, or else drop out and forfeit their contribution to the pot.
Players can exchange their cards for replacement ones during or just after the betting round. This is usually done with the white or light-colored chips, which are worth one unit and the lowest value in the game; a white chip can be replaced by two, four or five red chips. Before a betting interval begins, the player to the right of the player who makes the first bet must put into the pot a number of chips equal to or higher than that amount. A player who calls the previous bettor’s bet or more is said to “call,” while a player who puts in more than the previous bettor’s total is said to “raise.”
If you have solid pre-flop cards like pocket kings or queens, then it makes sense to bet at them as this forces weaker hands to fold and increases your chance of making a strong poker hand. However, be careful not to bluff too often. If you don’t have the strength of hand to back up your bluffs then you’ll just end up throwing good money after bad.
Advanced players learn to read their opponents. They pay attention to subtle physical poker tells but they also try to understand the range of their opponent’s hands in a given situation. That means they’re looking at how many strong hands their opponent has compared to the weaker hands and trying to predict what they will do next. By learning to read other players, advanced poker players are able to make better decisions about when they should bet or fold. The more they play and observe experienced players the faster their instincts develop. This is how they become forceful players at the table and a force to be reckoned with. Ultimately, poker is a test of and a window into human nature and to learn how to dominate at the poker table is deeply satisfying. Getting to this level takes time, practice and patience but it’s well worth the investment. Good luck! – Chris Moody, poker instructor and entrepreneur. To learn more about Chris and his poker coaching programs please visit his website at www.ChrisMoodyPoker.com.