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So, you're thinking about going into the poker room but don't want to make a fool of yourself? There is a certain amount of lingo that it is important to know when you go into the poker room if you want to look like you've been doing this for a while.
When's the best time to think about going in the poker room? The quality of play in an online poker room varies a lot by time of day. During the day on a weekday is definitely the toughest. The professional players (yes, there are quite a number of pros playing online) are home playing, but the recreational players are all at work. Of course, that's an exaggeration – there are quite a few novices playing at any time of the day, but the competition is tougher during the day.
The best time to play is late at night on a Friday or Saturday night. That's when you get the most casual players, and I suspect, the most drunk players. If you're looking to play against people who think that A6 is a strong reraising hand, fire up an online poker site at 2:00 AM on Saturday (Eastern time).
In most tournaments, once you lose all of your chips, you're out. There's one exception though – rebuy tournaments. In a rebuy tournament, you can buy more chips any time during the rebuy period if you're at or below what you started with.
In an online poker room, the rebuy period is usually an hour. At the end of that period, you can buy one add-on regardless of your stack. In the beginning of rebuy tournament, people often play like maniacs. If you see someone raise all-in in a tiny pot before the flop on the first hand, and you're holding a hand like AQ or a pair of tens, you should almost always call, where it would be an auto fold in a normal tournament.
Poker can serve as a great activity among you and your friends. Setting up a regular night as “poker night” means that everyone will set aside whatever they're doing and play together. This is a terrific way to see groups of people who usually have a hard time finding a common time to hang out.
Before your first poker night, pick up all of the poker supplies that you'll need for the evening. This can be a very modest investment – a deck of cards and some plastic poker chips – or you can really go all out. A set of monogrammed clay chips, a nice felt poker table top and high-quality plastic cards add to the excitement of the night. And don't forget the most important supply of all: beer!
Seven-card stud eight-or-better is a largely forgotten game, but you can introduce it into your home game to add some variety. It's still played at very high stakes in some places, so no site really has a claim to being the best online poker room if they don't offer it. It's very similar to seven card stud – you're dealt two cards face down and one face up, then three more face up, then one more face down, with a round of betting every time you get a card. If someone has an 8-low or better (ace is low), then the person with the best low gets half the pot. The person with the high hand gets the other half (or the whole thing if no one has a low).
*You want to play hands that have a strong chance of winning the whole pot. That's where the real money comes from in this game.
There's nothing worse than seeing poker players in live poker rooms rake in a nice big pot and neglect the poor dealer who made it all happen. Dealers make a hefty chunk of their incomes from tips, so you should give them a tip after most of the pots you win. If you win a very small one, just hang on to your money, but anything significant deserves a tip, usually a dollar.
If the pot was extra big or if the dealer is doing an especially good job, it's a nice gesture to throw in a few extra dollars. The same goes for the cocktail waiters and waitresses. Yes, technically the drinks are free, but there is strong social pressure to give at least a dollar (again, usually exactly a dollar) for a drink.
*Cocktail servers at some casinos pay for each drink they put on their tray, so they're losing money if you don't tip. You wouldn't go to a restaurant and leave exact change on a $45.30 bill, would you? So tip those dealers and servers!
When you're playing poker in a home game, it's important that everyone in the poker room agrees on some basic ground rules. For example, does everyone get to choose their own game, or are we only play one game? What are the stakes and buy-in? In some European countries, there is a custom that America should adopt.
*In the States, one player shuffles, the player to the left cuts the deck, and then the shuffler deals. In other places, the person who shuffles doesn't deal. There's no downside to this at all, and it makes it more difficult for the dealer to cheat.
A lot of times when you see a poker movie, there's a dramatic moment something like this: Villain: I raise $10,000! Hero: I don't have that much. Villain: Then I guess you'll have to fold – hahahaha! Hero: No, wait! I can get the money. This is all very dramatic, and it's also completely false. Legitimate poker rooms never play by that rule (if you plan on going in the poker room hoping to do this, think again).
If you don't have enough chips on the table to call a full bet, you can still call it - you just can't win any of the pot that's beyond your bet amount. When there are only two people left, you just reduce the bet amount to whatever the guy has. The problem is that this scene is just a little less dramatic: Villain: I raise $10,000! Hero: I call. I have $1,200 left. Villain: Oh, ok, I'll just take $8,800 back. This rule is called table stakes, and it's a universal rule of poker. Otherwise Bill Gates could win every poker game easily.
There are special kinds of poker players who play in online poker rooms and also in casinos that are actually employees of the house. This is not as sketchy as it sounds, but it takes some explaining.
A prop gets paid a small amount by the house – this is often just enough to cover the amount that she has paid to the house in rake over the course of the session – but plays with her own money. His or her job is to help start up new games, keep shorthanded games going, and generally to move to wherever the floor wants her to play. A shill has the same responsibilities as a prop, but he gambles with the house's money. If you're planning on going in the poker rooms anyway, these are great gigs if you can get ‘em!
When you're all-in before the flop with a marginal hand – this happens periodically in no limit Texas hold ‘em tournaments – sometimes you wish your hand was a little worse! For example, if the opponent holds AK and you hold KQ, you wish that you had 67 instead. With KQ, there are only three cards in the deck that help you immediately – the other three Q's. With 67, there are six: three 6's and three 7's.
Having a card in common is called being dominated (or dominating). If you can learn how to be on the right side of that match-up, you can clean up at free poker rooms all over the internet (going in the poker rooms online is a great way to make some cash)!
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|