Poker Virgin

I’m a poker virgin. I’ve never played a real game, even though I’m intrigued by it.

I’ve accepted an invitation to a charity poker tournament (Texas Hold’em) put on by a client of ours tonight and am writing this to try to retain some of the ‘tips’ I’ve been reading on the web.

(for experienced poker-playing readers looking for an easy post to mock, here’s your chance. I am aware of how stupid I sound below, though)

First the easy stuff:

  • Don’t play drunk, fold more than you think you should, pay attention to what other people are doing, don’t bluff much.
  • Card hierarchy. In order: straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pair, one pair, high card.
  • And the basic rules: one player is the dealer (or ‘dealer’) and to his/her left is the small blind then the big blind, who seed the pot after everyone gets their first two cards. After they do this, everyone puts money in in whole number multiples of the big blind. Everyone either folds or matches the largest bet on the table.

I can handle all of the above, but that doesn’t really tell me what to DO.

So here is what I’m going to do.

For the first few hands I’m going to do nothing, maybe not even if I see a top-3 hand.

After that, I’m going to need to start exercising judgment, which I don’t have. Aside from reading the other players (which I have no hope of doing, of course), judgment to me means knowing how to calculate pot odds and money odds. So here’s what I’ve learned about pot odds and money odds.

Pot odds are about understanding what the chances are of getting the card I want next. 52 cards in a deck, 13 cards in a suit, 4 instances of each number. Need to figure out what my chances are of getting a winning hand. Money odds is what my bet is as a share of the pot size. If my pot odds are larger than my money odds, that’s a positive sign.

Some rules of thumb for probabilities:

  • The chances of not even getting a pair through the whole session is 50%
  • The chance of one pair is 42%.
  • This means that a winning hand is probably two-pair or better.
  • Two pair is 4.75% and three of a kind is 2.1%
  • This means that the higher ones are all less than 0.5% likely.

Now, these odds are all for a 5-card draw, which is only somewhat useful for Hold ’em. I take the magnitudes as important, though.

One pair is useless, two-pair and three-of-a-kind are ok. I should only feel like I have a good shot if I’m reasonably likely to hit a flush or better.

I’m in over my head…

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