Poker is a game of decision-making under extreme pressure and uncertainty. It is also an umbrella term for betting card games that involve card comparison. The most popular form of poker that is now played online is called Texas Hold’em Poker. If you have ever played Red Dead Redemption 2, you would have come across missions where you’d be asked to play poker.
The poker that is played in RDR is also Texas Hold’em. I am mentioning this game because of the etiquette with which poker is played, unlike today’s brazen ways of playing. It is primarily a betting game that is played with mind and money. The goal is to win a hand rather than just win money. The game is highly addictive, so I suggest starting online if you are a beginner.
Online Texas Hold’em Poker
Poker is a lot different from many other card games such as Spades, Rummy, Blackjack, or other games. Many good poker apps give you a true feel of being in a casino. I have been using the Zynga Poker app for over five years now, and out of habit, I don’t switch to other apps. But some apps require a worthy mention here: Poker Heat, World Poker Club, and Jackpot Poker. The one thing missing from all these apps is etiquette, which is not the app maker’s fault. However, it just makes the environment quite toxic.
The only way to stay in a safe space on these apps is to not reveal your identity, including your photos or your name, and don’t engage in online chats. You can go to the settings of these apps and turn off things such as the chat bubbles, blocking gifts, turning off the music and vibration, and other invasive pre-settings. This behavior contradicts how the game is played offline and not in a casino. Nevertheless, my goal is to make you fall in love with this game as a great mental exercise.
Unlike chess, poker begins with the player knowing just parts of the story. To get to the end of the game, we must start from the beginning. At the first or the pre-flop stage, the only information you have is the two cards in your hand. This is the first betting round and your first decision will direct you throughout the game. But sometimes, some people go all-in at this stage. So, your job is to make a decision that serves you well in the later stages.
The entire decision-making process may seem random, but there’s already a lot of mental play at work during this stage. Four ways to make a pre-flop decision are fold, all-in, call, or raise. Going all-in before heading to the flop cards is a way to end the decision-making process for the rest of the game. Meanwhile, another way to opt-out of the round is to fold. The goal here is to make decision-making harder for others and reduce some uncertainty.
No matter if you’re talking about online poker or sit on a real table, Texas Hold’em poker, with a single 52 cards deck, can be played between 2-7 players. There are two blinds in the game, small and big, who ought to put money or chips in the pre-flop stage. The small blind puts the lowest limit on the stake at which the game is played, and the big blind puts the highest limit on the stake. The rotation happens clockwise; if there is no official dealer, the rotation of the dealer also happens clockwise. The person sitting left to the dealer is the small blind and the person sitting left to the small blind is the big blind.
Reading the room for online poker
Reading the room is even more difficult than betting when you’re playing online poker. Physically, the elements of sophistication are reflected through body language. But virtually, you will have to make some grand gestures to control the randomness of the room. It is important to learn how to tame the room and bring control of the game into your hands.
One way to prevent someone from over-betting or going all-in at pre-flop is to fold. People do not like it when they lose a betting member in the game. This gives you the power to make the game more rule-based. Going all-in is not bad, but good online poker players will assess the room and the cards before making such decisions.
Another way of reading the room is by passively observing the online chat box. If you fold a lot, you might notice in chats that someone would yell “Play, poker!” when the oddity here is that they merely respect the game, let alone follow the rules. This is their aggressive way of saying they want you to participate in the game. Some people will say “thank you” on the chat every time they win.
There are people who tip the dealer. These people are really interesting to read. You should notice instances when they bet. If someone goes all-in and pays the dealer, they are displaying a sign of weakness. You can choose to fold or proceed from here. Tipping the dealers in casinos is important because they work on wages. I have noticed that sometimes the entire table tips the online dealer just before the final reveal. That gives me a sigh of relief to bet, call, or raise.
Poker card ranking
We are dealing with a fifty-two-card deck here. You can choose the stake as per your comfort on the mobile apps. While the player has two cards in hand, five cards are dealt on the board or the game floor. These cards are called community cards. This is where the game’s beauty lies when we blend our cards with the floor cards. And we begin to notice that each poker hand is as unique as a snowflake. The combination is made between five cards, of which three are community cards. After placing all the bets, we move from pre-flop to flop.
Before we proceed to the “flop” stage of the game, let’s look at the card ranking system. I am listing the ranks from highest to lowest.
- Royal Flush: A, K, Q, J, 10 of the same house
- Straight Flush: for example, A, 2, 3, 4, 5 of spades
- Four of a kind
- Full House: for example, three Aces and two kings
- Flush: all five cards of the same house
- Straight: for example, A, 2, 3, 4, 5 of any house
- Three of a kind
- Two pair
- One pair
- High card
The flop stage
The flop is the stage when the cards are revealed for the first time. In the following photo, you can see that I may have a chance of getting a flush based on the floor cards. So by that logic, I would bet or raise a bet here. Let’s say we are playing on a $500K/$1 million stake on Zynga poker. Now, if someone goes all-in, I would be tempted to do the same at this stage. But if someone calls, let’s say $1 million, I would raise their bet to at least $4 million. This stage is also called the second betting stage. But you must also keep the card ranks in mind before proceeding.
After this comes the third betting stage. The deck’s top or burn card is dropped when dealing the cards. The card put face up on the board after betting is called the ‘turn’ card. Most people check at this stage. Checking in at any stage means that you decide to see the cards before placing a bet. You can check at any stage you like when you are unsure.
The final betting round is called the ‘river.’ This is that stage where your hands will tightly clench the cards, as you can see in the photo. So my river looks beautiful but there are two aces on the table. As far as the flush is concerned, I have got it. But if someone has an ace and a nine, then they have a full house and win.
The final reveal still doesn’t tell the entire story. But there is a chance to be creative here. You can always pull in the good old bluff if you have cards that don’t stand a chance of making any combination. This is the perfect stage to bluff. In my head, there are two thoughts, straight and full-house. Now if someone bets now or goes all-in, I would certainly fold.
Once you have seen everyone’s cards and combinations, you may get surprised. One of the strategies that I use here is the one-to-many mathematical function. There will come times in your game when you would be thrilled to see your cards. And you may forget about the rest of the combination and the card ranking rules.
So just to stay vigilant, I use this mathematical function in my head. It states that the elements of one set may have a relationship with elements of another set. Now let’s say that I have two aces in my hand. These aces can easily make the relationship of four of a kind with the community cards. But it also will be of no use if there is a straight flush on the table. So, not just in this stage, you can use this function throughout the game, so you can bet, raise, or bluff.
Bluffing is an important part of playing poker. It works much better in physical environments but you can practice that online first. There is a difference between calculated bluffing and blind bluffing. Calculating your bluff based on your cards is seen as graceful, but betting just to make a grand statement is off-putting even on online forums. You can turn your nothing cards into something worthy through a bet. You just have to keep in mind the order of the ranks and place bets in the pre-stages of the reveal, when it seems like something interesting is happening on the table.
The aspect of bluffing may seem annoying in the beginning, but if you play with your friends, you will be able to appreciate it more. Now let’s imagine that you and I are playing. You have two aces in your hand and I have a six and a two. The cards on the board are an ace and two nines. Now I have a chance to bluff. I will try to make you think that I have a full house. Now let’s imagine that we are at the river stage, and the cards are an ace, two nines, one king, and one jack.
I again have an opportunity to make you think that I either have a full house or straight. So, I will bet here, or may even go all-in, if you call my bets. If you fold, the game is mine. But if you call, I can choose to muck or not reveal my cards.
Gambling and gaming
After the COVID-19 outbreak, online poker game forums saw an increase of 255% in first-time users playing during the lockdown. With social distancing being the prime reason, the online poker gaming industry saw a 43% growth this year. The years of lockdowns also saw the real-life casino industry suffer losses but is now predicted to be around $876 billion by 2026. Meanwhile, the physical poker machines had a global market of $14.7 billion and are forecast to see remarkable growth in the coming years.
These statistics show how addictive the game is and what drives this addiction is a mental pleasure. If you bet too much in real life, you will develop an aversion to this game. But as far as the mobile apps or real-life poker tournaments are concerned, you don’t have much to lose. That’s also a drawback of the online gambling industry.
Betting and when to go all-in
Betting is the most lucrative aspect of the game, but going all-in is a privilege. Let’s say you have an ace and a king of the same house in your hand. You can imagine getting a flush, a full house, straight, or even the most coveted rank — the royal flush. These are a few one-to-many combinations you can imagine while you are playing. And if someone can afford to go all-in in the pre-flop stage, you do the same. Chances are that they either have cards that may not match up to the community cards or are bluffing.
If someone bets a high sum in the pre-flop stage, they will keep betting till the river is revealed. And since you started off with good cards, you will make it till the end, even if it means you only have a high card. Don’t underestimate a high card because winning a bluff over just a high card is so satisfying.
The following video is my gameplay on Zynga Poker and it’s about betting, winning, losing, and catching a bluff in the end.
Photo credits: The feature image has been done by Kraken Images. The photos in the body of the article have been taken by Christopher Isak and Ujala Chowdhry for TechAcute.
Source: Acumen Research and Consulting (Global Newswire)
Editorial notice: Gaming such as playing online poker is great fun, but gambling can be addictive and harm your wellbeing. If you need help, you can call these hotline numbers.