Hoyle
Shopping Cart

McAfee SECURE sites help keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, spyware, spam, viruses and online scams

Poker

Poker is a game of betting, where the objective is to have the best hand in a showdown or to win by having everyone else fold (drop out of a hand). In a High/Low Poker game, the player with the highest-ranking hand splits the pot with the player with the lowest-ranking hand.

All bets made by all players go in a pile of chips in the center of the table, called the pot. No player can compete for the pot unless they are willing to meet the highest bet made by another player. Because of this rule, players are able to bluff and win the pot (everyone else folds, because they don’t want to call the bet).

The object of the game is to win the pot. A player can win the pot in one of two ways:
  1. After all bets are in, all players who are still in show their hands. This is called a showdown. The player with the best hand wins.

  2. If during betting, a player makes a bet that no other players are willing to meet, that player wins the pot without showing his/her cards.

A standard 52-card deck is used. The cards are dealt one at a time, clockwise motion (number of cards varies with game). Aces are high, but aces rank low in the sequence A-2-3-4-5.

The lower and upper bet amounts you make at each betting interval will vary depending on what game you are playing and the rules for the betting interval at that point in the game. If you want to join a table with higher stakes, be sure you have enough cash to stay in the game.

A no limit game means that you can wager all of your chips anytime you bet. In Poker, turns (opportunities to check, call, raise, fold, show, and so on) pass from player to player in clockwise rotation.

Ranks of Poker Hands

Before you play a game of Poker, you should learn the hierarchy of hand rankings. The following combinations of cards rank the same in every form of Poker. They are listed in order from highest to lowest value.

Straight Flush. Five cards in sequence in the same suit are called a straight flush. If two straight flushes compete, the hand with the highest-ranking cards in the flush sequence wins. For example, a hand composed of A-K-Q-J-10 (royal flush) beats a hand composed of K-Q-J-10-9. The royal flush is the highest standard hand and beats all other hands.

Four of a Kind. Any four cards of the same rank form four of a kind. If two players have four of a kind, the hand with the four higher cards wins. Four of a kind beats a full house or any lower hand.

Full House. Three of a kind and one pair form a full house. The full house with the highest-ranking three of a kind beats another full house with a lower-ranking three of a kind. Full house beats a flush or any lower hand.

Flush. A hand of any five cards all of the same suit is called a flush. A flush with the highest-ranking cards beats another flush hand. If the highest cards from each players hand tie, the next highest-ranking cards determine the winner, and so on. A flush beats a straight or any lower hand.

Straight. A hand of any five cards in sequence, but not of the same suit is a straight. The straight with the highest-ranking cards at the head of the sequence is the winner against another straight hand. The highest possible straight is A-KQ-J-10. The lowest possible straight is 5-4-3-2-A. A straight beats three of a kind or any lower hand.

Three of a Kind. Three cards of the same rank, such as three 8s, form three of a kind. The highest-ranking three cards wins against another three of a kind hand. Three aces are the highest; three 2s are the lowest. Three of a kind beats two pair or any lower hand.

Two Pair. Two cards of the same rank and two matching cards of any other rank form two pair. The hand with the highest-ranking pair wins against another hand of two pair. If the highest-ranking pair ties, the hand with the second highest-ranking pair wins. If the all pairs in both hands tie, the hand with the highest-ranking fifth card wins. Two pair beats any hand with one pair, or no pair (high card).

One Pair. Any two cards of the same rank form one pair. The hand with the highest-ranking pair wins against another hand of one pair. If both hands have the same pair, the highest-ranking unmatched card in the hand determines the winner.
If the highest- ranking unmatched cards tie, the next highest-ranking unmatched cards are compared, and so on. One pair beats any hand with no pair (high card).

High Card. A hand with no matched cards is called high card. This hand is commonly referred to as a runt. With two competing high card hands, the hand with the highest-ranking card wins. If the highest-ranking unmatched cards tie, the next highest-ranking unmatched cards are compared, and so on.

Rules for Aces

In a straight, the ace can rank either high or low, depending on the card sequence. The ace is high in the sequence A-K-Q-J-10. Aces rank low in the sequence 5-4-3-2-A.You cannot use the ace to wrap a lower sequence with a higher sequence, such as 3-2-A-K-Q.

Aces rank high in all other hands except an ace is low in a low-hand (High/Low) game.

How Betting Works in Poker

Betting takes place during periods of the game called betting intervals. Depending on which game is being played, most games have between two and five betting intervals.

Hoyle Casino requires the first betting interval to begin with a mandatory bet (two mandatory bets in Hold’em games) called a blind.

After the first round, at each betting interval, a specific player has the first right or obligation to bet (open). Which player opens the betting depends upon the type of Poker being played. Usually, the player to the dealer’s left opens the betting. In the Stud-Poker games, the player with the lowest or sometimes the highest-ranking hand opens the betting.

  1. Call. Match the current highest bet in the pot. This is referred to as staying in the hand.

  2. Raise. Match the current highest bet in the pot, then add more money to the pot to become the highest bet in the pot. Each player must at least match (call) this bet to stay in. The Hoyle Casino raise rule is: in all betting intervals, if more than two players are betting, there is a limit of three raises total.

  3. Check.You are permitted to check if no player before you has opened with a bet.

When you check, you stay in the hand without having to call or raise. Each player after you can also check until one of the players makes an actual bet.

You can also drop out of the pot by folding. When you fold, you turn in your hand and lose any chips you have added to the pot for that hand.You can fold at any time.

However, it is recommended that you only fold if you don’t want to call a bet (i.e., don’t fold if you can check).

Betting continues until all bets are equalized. Bets are considered equalized when the turn comes around to the player who originally made the highest bet and when every other player either called the bet or folded.

A player does not have to meet a bet for an amount which is larger than all the chips or money that player has on the table. A player in this situation is all-in and can put all of his or her money in the main pot (even if it does not cover the bet) and stay in the hand. This player no longer participates in the betting.

If more than two players are still in a hand in which one player is all-in, bets made after that point are added to a side pot, which is only available to the players who have paid in the required bets. If the player who is all-in wins the main pot (which they contributed to), the best hand of the other players wins the side pot.

Many variations of Poker with slightly different rules are popular throughout the Poker playing world. Following are the specific rules for the variations of Poker included in Hoyle Casino:

  • Texas Hold’em
  • Omaha Hold’em
  • Omaha Hold’em High-Low
  • Seven Card Stud
  • Seven Card Stud High-Low
  • Five Card Draw
  • Five Card Draw Lowball

Texas Hold’em

In Texas Hold’em, seven cards are available to each player. Players’ hands consist of two cards dealt face down to each player and five cards dealt face up to the board, which are shared by all players in the game. Players can construct their final hands using any five cards from the two cards in their own hands and the five cards from the board. A player wins by having the highest-ranking hand of five cards.

Each hand can start with eight players or less (if a player runs out of cash or if you remove players before the deal).

Play begins with each player receiving two cards face down, followed by the first betting interval.

In the first round, the player immediately to the left of the dealer is forced to open the betting. The first mandatory bet, the blind open (or small blind) is equal to half of the lower bet amount for the table (rounding down).

The player to the left of the blind open in the first round is responsible for the second mandatory bet, the blind raise. The blind raise (or big blind) raises the pot to be equal to the lower bet amount. For example, at a $25 to $50 Table, you can expect the following blind bets:

Blind open = $10
Blind raise = $15 (Pot = $25)

The player to the left of the blind raise must call the mandatory bet amount, raise an amount equal to the size of the bet, or fold. Betting then passes around to each player as it would normally. If all players either call or fold, the player who made the blind raise then has the option of checking or raising.

In all betting intervals, if more than two players are betting, there is a limit of three raises (not counting the blind raise in the first betting interval).

The Flop The next three cards dealt face up to the board are called the Flop. The dealer turns all three cards over at the same time, for all players to use in their hands. The second betting interval ensues with the first player to the left of the dealer. This player can check, fold, or open with a bet. The lower bet amount is required at the Flop (e.g., $25 at a $25 to $50 table). Betting stops when all players have called (the betting has equalized).

The Turn The fourth card dealt face up to the board is called the Turn. A third betting interval ensues, again starting with the player to the left of the dealer. The upper bet amount is now in force (e.g., $50 at a $25 to $50 table).

The River The fifth and final card dealt face up to the board is called the River or Fifth Street. The final betting interval takes place. The upper bet amount is still in force.

The Showdown When betting is complete, all players that are still in show their hands. The player with the highest-ranking five cards wins the pot. If hands tie, the pot is split between the winners.

Here is a summary of the deal:
  1. Two cards dealt to each player (face down), first betting interval.

  2. Third, fourth, and fifth cards dealt to the board (face up), second betting interval.

  3. Sixth card dealt to the board (face up), third betting interval.

  4. Seventh and final card dealt to the board (face up), final betting interval.

Omaha Hold’em

Omaha Hold’em is a variation of Texas Hold’em, but nine cards are available to each player instead of seven. Players’ hands consist of four cards dealt face down to each player and five cards dealt face up to the board, which are shared by all players in the game. Players must construct their final hands using two cards from their own hands and three cards from the board. A player wins by having the highest-ranking hand of five cards.

Each hand can start with eight players or less (if a player runs out of cash, or if you remove players before the deal).

Play begins with each player receiving four cards face down, followed by the first betting interval. All the subsequent game events, including blind bets, the Flop, the Turn, the River, and the Showdown are handled in the same way as in Texas Hold’em.

See the preceding section for details.

Here is a summary of the deal:
  1. Four cards dealt to each player (face down), first betting interval.

  2. Fifth, sixth, and seventh cards dealt to the board (face up), second betting interval.

  3. Eighth card dealt to the board (face up), third interval.

  4. Ninth and final card dealt to the board (face up), final betting interval.

Omaha Hold’em High-Low

Omaha Hold’em is a variation of Texas Hold’em, but nine cards are available to each player instead of seven. In a High/Low Poker game, more than one player has the opportunity to win and split the pot. Players’ hands consist of four cards dealt face down to each player and five cards dealt face up to the board, which are shared by all players in the game. Players must construct their final hands using two cards from their own hands and three cards from the board. A player wins by having the highest ranking or lowest-ranking hand of five cards (or both). In the same hand, the low hand and high hand can use different sets of cards.

Hoyle Casino’s Omaha Hold’em High-Low is also known as Eights or Better. To qualify as a low hand in Omaha High-Low, the hand must be an Eight High (8 as the high card in an unmatched hand), or better (such as Seven High). In low hands, straights and flushes are ignored, and aces count as low cards. The best low hand possible is 5-4-3-2-A, though it is also a straight. It is possible for no player to have a low hand. At least three different cards of Eight or less must be on the board for a low hand to be possible.

Each hand can start with eight players or less. Play begins with each player receiving four cards face down, followed by the first betting interval. Most of the subsequent game events, including blind bets, the Flop, the Turn, and the River are handled in the same way as in Texas Hold’em. See the Texas Hold’em section for details. When betting is complete, all players that are still in show their hands (the showdown).

The players with the highest- and lowest- ranking five cards split the pot. If no player has a low hand, the highest-ranking hand wins the pot. If there is a tie between high hands or low hands, the high or low portion of the pot is then split between those hands.

The deal is summarized as follows:

  1. Four cards dealt to each player (face down), first betting interval.

  2. Fifth, sixth, and seventh cards dealt to the board (face up), second betting interval.

  3. Eighth card dealt to the board (face up), third interval.

  4. Ninth and final card dealt to the board (face up), final betting interval.

Seven Card Stud

Players’ hands consist of seven cards dealt to each player. The first two are dealt face down. The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth cards are dealt face up. The final (seventh) card is dealt face down. A player wins by having the highest-ranking hand of five cards. Each hand can start with seven players or less. If eight players are sitting at the table, one has to sit out for the hand.

Play begins with each player adding his or her ante to the pot. Each player receives two cards face down and one card face up, followed by the first betting interval. The player with the lowest-ranking card showing must lead the mandatory blind open, equivalent as usual to half of the table’s lower bet amount. (If there is a tie in low card rank, the player closest to the left of the dealer opens.). The first raise increases the size of the bet to the size of the lower bet amount for the game. The betting continues as long as players keep raising their bets (up to three raises, not counting an opening partial raise). If only two players are in the hand, the number of raises is unlimited.

On the next three rounds of dealing each active player receives a face-up card, then another betting interval takes place. Cards are dealt face up until the player has four face-up cards (and two face down). The betting intervals at this part of the game begin with the player with the highest-ranking cards showing.

During the first and second betting intervals, the lower bet amount for the table is in force for bets. On the third, fourth, and final betting intervals, betting must open and continue at the higher bet amount for the table.

Finally, the final card is dealt to each player (seventh card, face down). The highest hand showing starts the betting. The players with the highest-ranking five cards split the pot. If hands tie, the pot is split.

Here is the summary of the deal:

  1. Three cards dealt to each player (two down, one up), first betting interval.

  2. Fourth card dealt to each player face up, second interval.

  3. Fifth card dealt to each player face up, third interval.

  4. Sixth card dealt to each player face up, fourth interval.

  5. Seventh card dealt to each player face down, final betting interval.

Seven Card Stud High-Low

This game is exactly like Seven Card Stud, except it also uses the standard criteria for winning in a High-Low Poker game; a player wins by having the highest-ranking or lowest-ranking hand of five cards (or both). In the same hand, the low hand and high hand can use different sets of cards. For more information on High-Low Poker rules, see the preceding section on Omaha Hold’em High-Low.

Five Card Draw

The player with the highest-ranking hand of five cards wins Five Card Draw. Play begins with each player receiving five cards face down, followed by the first betting interval. The player immediately to the left of the dealer must open the betting (blind open).

After the first betting interval, each player discards up to three cards. After all discards are completed, the dealer deals out replacement cards as necessary (leaving each player again with five cards). A second interval of betting takes place, followed by the show-down.

Here is a summary of the deal:
  1. Five cards dealt to each player (face down), first betting interval.

  2. Up to three cards may be discarded by each player.

  3. The dealer replaces discarded cards, second betting interval.

Five Card Lowball

This game is a type of Five Card Draw in which the lowest- ranking hand of five cards wins. Aces are always low.

Play begins with each player adding his or her ante to the pot. Five cards are dealt face down, followed by a betting interval.

Each player then discards up to three cards, which are replaced by the dealer as in Five Card Draw. The second round of betting ensues, followed by the showdown.

Here is a summary of the deal:
  1. Five cards dealt to each player (face down), first betting interval.

  2. Up to three cards may be discarded by each player.

  3. The dealer replaces discarded cards, second betting interval.

General Strategies for Poker

To become a good Poker player, you must learn the hand rankings and the relative power of the cards you’re holding. The power of a particular Poker hand is determined by two things: 1) How many people you’re playing against, and 2) What game you’re playing. The more people you’re playing against, the better your hand will need to be in order to win. In addition, the game you’re playing determines the number of cards that make up your hand and is therefore also critical.

On average, if you’re one of four Poker players, you’ll win one of four hands (25 percent), and if you’re one of seven players, you’ll only win one of seven hands (14 percent).You are bound to lose the majority of the time. Therefore, your emphasis should be on betting correctly based on the hand you currently hold rather than on winning a huge percentage of hands.

How do you know how strong your hand is? Here are the typical winning hands for various Poker games:

GameTypical Winning Hand
Texas Hold’emTwo Pair
Omaha Hold’emThree of a kind
Omaha Hold’em High-LowThree of a kind and/or 7 or 8 high for the low hand
Seven Card StudTwo pair
Seven Card Stud High-LowTwo pair and/or 8 or 9 high for the low hand
Five Card DrawTwo pair or three of a kind
Five Card Lowball9 or 10

These winning hands assume a group of seven players. If you are playing with a smaller group, you will need to revise these winning hands downward slightly.
Suppose you’re playing Omaha Hold’em with seven opponents. In order to win against a group of seven, you’ll need a pretty good hand to win. More than likely, at least one of the others will have a three of a kind, a straight, or a flush. Conversely, if you had only four opponents, two pair would be a hand worth betting on.

Betting in Poker

The strength of your hand determines how you bet in a Poker game. General strategies for playing strong hands, average hands, hands with potential, long-shot hands, and bad hands are described here.

Strong Starting Hand. Be patient, and lay low in the beginning. Don’t start out betting too high; try to draw people in, and keep as many people in as possible. Don’t raise too high (perhaps a little below normal). Call, but do not raise in response to another player’s raise. In middle rounds, make normal bets. In the final round, make your big bets.

For example, if you are dealt an opening hand of two aces, consider a low bet, perhaps raising it once. This is like “dangling a worm” in front of your opponents and trying to make them bite. If you bet too high, it’s the equivalent of splashing in the water; you’ll scare away the fish. After the second round of betting starts, you can afford to bet higher.

Average Starting Hand, with Vulnerability. Exaggerate the strength of your hand by betting as much as possible to reduce the number of players that stay in. At any point in later betting intervals, if you find that you don’t think you can win, fold. It is important to mention that in games with seven or more people or a lot of cards (e.g. Omaha Hold’em) it is very hard to win by bluffing, because people’s hands will be stronger and they will be more likely to stay in.

Drawing Hand. This hand is currently weak but has great potential to improve as cards are drawn (such as a four-card straight or flush). Try to stay in while betting as little as possible. In games with four or five betting rounds, get out when your odds of getting the card you need don’t look good.

For example, Your hand, an “ace high,” is pretty weak.You’re not going to win unless you draw a high pair (an ace) or something equally good.You can always scare some people out by betting high, but chances are you’ll just be losing money. Try to hold down the bet by checking.

Long Shot Hand. This hand has a small chance of improvement, but may show some promise, such as three cards towards a flush or four cards towards a straight. Try to stay in while betting as little as possible. Get out when your odds of getting the card you need don’t look good.

Bad Starting Hand. Fold as soon as you are required to call a bet.

Other Factors in Betting

Your position in the betting sequence can also determine how you bet. When the deal has moved to you, or you are sitting just to the right of the dealer, take advantage of this position. As one of the last players to bet, you can gauge whether the other players are strong or weak and bet accordingly.

If you choose to bluff, try to do it when you’re one of the last to bet, and everyone has checked in front of you. Otherwise, your bluff may be wasted against an opponent with a good hand who takes your bet and raises it.

If you are betting in the middle or at the end, remember this: if you raise before another player calls the opening bet, players will often fold. If you raise after other players call the opening bet, the players will most likely call your raise, since they want to protect their initial investment. The player to your left opened the betting. Your hand is strong, and if you raise the bet now, the players who did not fold are likely to stay in.

This will be to your advantage and increase your potential winnings. If the player who opened the betting had been sitting to your right, you would want to call the bet instead of raising, so fewer players would be scared off.

When you are the first player required to bet (because you’re sitting to the left of the dealer), play only your very best hands.

If you start winning some hands and getting ahead, you have the option of betting higher. While risky, this is likely to drive a couple people out; they just can’t afford to hang in unless they have a great hand. Fewer opponents, of course, will improve your odds of winning.

Strategies for Winning at Texas Hold’em

Because you only hold two cards in Texas Hold’em, the strength of your hand is highly dependent on the cards dealt to the board. Each card dealt to the board can have a huge impact on your hand (bad or good). Always be aware you are sharing the cards on the board with all players in the hand, so the cards you hold are what give you your advantage. Overall, you want the two cards you hold to be as strong as possible. If you don’t get a good hand by the Flop, it is best to cut your losses early by folding.

Higher-ranking cards are usually promising to start with (before the Flop), such as an ace and any other card. Two cards of 10 and higher is good initially. To be certain of a strong hand, you need a high pair after the Flop.

Don’t count on it filling out a straight on the fifth card dealt to the board. In this case, you ought to fold before you put in more money.

Strategies for Winning at Omaha Hold’em

The strategies for winning at Omaha Hold’em differ from Texas Hold’em because four cards are dealt to the player instead of two. Also, the showdown hand must be made of two cards from the player hand and three from the board. With nine cards to choose from, the possible hand combinations are more complex, and it’s much harder for you to assess the strength of your hand.

Because each player must use three cards from the board, the cards on the board help determine what the best possible hand is in Texas Hold’em. Don’t expect to win with anything less than a high three of a kind. Flushes and straights are fairly common. They are better if they contain an ace or a king.

Strategies for Winning at High-Low Poker

For High-Low games, low hands start better than high hands, because they have the potential to become high hands, while high hands cannot become low hands.Your best strategy is to try to win both the high and low hands, because the payoff is bigger.

If you have a good hand after the three or four cards have been dealt, you have a good chance of winning.

Strategies for Winning at Seven Card Stud

Seven Card Stud is a no-frills Poker game. If you hold at least one pair, three cards toward a straight, or three cards toward a flush: stay in the first and second betting intervals (unless another player has a higher pair showing).

If you have nothing promising in your hand by the fourth card (second betting interval),you should fold.

Usually you should fold when your cards (including your hole cards) are beaten by the showing cards of any other player. If another player shows a pair, do not stay in unless you hold a higher pair (or better hand).

It is not a good idea to bet heavily against a player whose hole cards can give him or her a hand you can’t possibly beat.

Strategies for Winning at Five Card Draw

Keep tabs on which player or players are doing the most betting. It will help you evaluate their hands when it’s time to draw new cards. The drawing of cards adds a dimension to this game that is not found in Stud and Hold’em games.

Strategies for Winning at Five Card Draw Lowball

Although a 9 or 10 high is a typical winning hand in Five Card Lowball, sometimes you can win if dealt a pair after your discard, so don’t fold immediately unless there is more than one other player still in the hand. If two or more of your opponents stayed in the hand, you should fold as soon as you’re forced to call a bet.

As in Five Card Draw, you can attempt to glean information from your opponents based on the number of their discards. If they draw one card, they will be trying to rid themselves of a pair or a high card. Their hand is potentially dangerous. If another player draws two cards, you need not fear them excessively; they are liable to draw a king, ace, or one pair. If they draw three cards, it may be the first time they’ve played Five Card Lowball (i.e., they’re in trouble), or they’re desperate.

If a player does not draw any cards at all, they are either bluffing, or they have a good hand. More often than not, it’s because they have a good hand.

Poker Strategy Highlights

  • Know the hand rankings.
  • The more people you are playing against, the better your hand will need to be in order to win.
  • Never fold when you can check.
  • Focus on betting correctly based on the hand you currently hold rather than winning a huge percentage of hands.

Texas Hold’em Strategy Highlights

  • Two pair or better typically wins (with seven players).
  • Consider folding in the first round if you have a non-pair hand with both cards less than 10.
  • Consider folding in the second to fourth round if you don’t have at least a high pair or the potential for a straight or flush.
  • Be aware of what the highest possible hand is and where your hand is relative to it.

Omaha Hold’em Strategy Highlights

  • Three of a kind or higher typically wins (with seven players).
  • Remember that you must use two cards from your hand and three from the board.
  • Consider folding in the first round if you don’t have a pair, you don’t have an ace, king, or queen, and you have low potential for a straight or a flush.
  • Consider folding in the second through fourth rounds if you don’t have at least three of a kind or the potential for a straight or better.
  • Be aware of what the highest possible hand is and where your hand is relative to it.

Omaha Hold’em High-Low Strategy Highlights

  • Three of a kind or higher typically wins (with seven players).
  • 7 or 8 high typically wins the low hand (with seven players).
  • Remember that you must have an “eight high” or lower hand to win the low hand.
  • Remember that you must use two cards from your hand and three from the board.
  • Consider folding in the first round if you don’t have a pair, you have low potential for a straight or a flush, and you don’t have at least two unlike cards eight or under.
  • Consider folding in the second through fourth rounds if you don’t have at least three of a kind, potential for a straight or better, and you don’t have an eight-or better hand.
  • Be aware of what the best possible hands are and where your hand is relative to them.

Seven Card Stud Strategy Highlights

  • Two pair or better usually wins (with seven players).
  • Consider folding in the first or second round if you don’t have at least one pair, or three cards to a straight or flush.
  • Consider folding in the third and fourth rounds if you don’t have at least one high pair or four cards to a straight or flush.
  • Consider folding in the fifth round if you don’t have two pair or better.
  • Generally fold if you are beaten by the showing cards of any other player. Always fold in the last round if this is true.
  • Determine what the best possible hand could be for each of your opponents based on ideal hole cards, and bet according to how your hand stacks up to them.

Seven Card Stud High Low Strategy Highlights

  • Two pair or better usually wins high (with seven players).
  • 8 or 9 high typically wins low (with seven players).
  • Consider folding in the first or second round if you don’t have at least one pair or three cards to a straight or flush, and you don’t have at least three unpaired cards 9 or under.
  • Consider folding in the third and fourth rounds if you don’t have at least one high pair or four cards to a straight or flush, and you don’t have four unpaired cards 9 or under.
  • Consider folding in the fifth round if you don’t have two pair or better and you don’t have a low hand of 9 high or lower.
  • Generally fold if you are beaten by the showing cards of any other player. Always fold in the last round if this is true.
  • Determine what the best possible hand could be for each of your opponents based on ideal hole cards, and bet according to how your hand stacks up to them.

Five Card Draw Strategy Highlights

  • Two pair or three of a kind usually wins (with seven players)
  • Keep track of how many cards your opponents draw:
    • Stands Pat: Either has a great hand or is bluffing.
    • Draws 1: Has two pair or is going for a straight or flush.
    • Draws 2: If the betting was heavy before the draw, then this person is likely to have three of a kind. If the betting was light, they could be going for a long shot straight or flush, or have a pair with an ace kicker. It could just be a bluff.
    • Draws 3: If there was heavy betting, they likely have a high pair. If there was light betting, they likely have a low pair or no pair.
  • Consider folding before the draw if you have no pairs, no face cards or an ace, and no potential for a straight or flush.
  • Consider folding if the betting is heavy before the draw and you don’t have a high pair.
  • Consider folding in the final round if you have less than two pair.

Five Card Draw Lowball Strategy Highlights

  • 9 or 10 high typically wins the hand (with seven players)
  • Keep track of how many cards your opponents draw:
    • Stands Pat: Either has a great hand or is bluffing.
    • Draws 1: If there has been any raising prior to the draw, then watch out! It is likely they have four very low cards.
    • Draws 2: If the betting was heavy before the draw, they likely have three very low cards, but the odds are still against them drawing a winning hand.
    • Draws 3: Probably not a contender.
  • Consider folding before the draw if you don’t have four unpaired cards under 10.
  • Consider folding in the final round if you don’t have a 10-high or lower hand.

Poker Tournaments

How Are Poker Tournaments Played?

Real world tournament structures can vary widely from one to the next, but most have the same underlying foundation: a large number of players sit down with the same number of chips and play until only one person has any chips left. This is true of the Hoyle Casino tournament, which will be discussed in the rest of this chapter. To succeed in a Hoyle Casino Poker tournament, you should understand the level and progression of the stakes, the structure for advancement and elimination, and the prize distribution. These things are what make it a tournament, and not just regular Poker.

The Stakes

Each player buys in for a set amount of tournament chips that have no value outside of the tournament. Everyone in the tournament starts with the same amount of chips. There are no re-buys, meaning you cannot buy additional chips after you've run out in order to stay in the tournament. This is called a freezeout tournament. There are two types pf tournaments, limit and no limit. A Limit tournament means each bet and raise is a set amount. The bet amounts are increased every seven hands throughout the tournament. This gradually forces the betting higher and higher, so no matter how conservative the play, players will eventually be eliminated from the large blinds and antes (see the chapter on Poker for details on blinds and antes). A no limit tournament also increases the minimum bet amount every seven hands, but the player can bet all of their chips at any time.

Advancement

The Hoyle Casino Poker tournament uses a round-based structure for advancement. There are three rounds in each tournament. The first round has 49 players at seven tables. After 14 hands, the top three players at each table, 21 in all, advance to the second round. The second round lasts for 28 hands. The top two players from each table then advance to the final table. The seventh spot at the final table goes to the round two third-place player with the most chips. The third round lasts for as many hands as it takes for one player to win all the chips.

Payout Structure

Once you have paid the buy-in and begin play, eventually you will either walk away with a cash prize for making it to the third round, or you will walk away with nothing. The winner is the last player with any chips. Second place and below are determined by the order of elimination. If two players “in the money” are eliminated in the same hand, the two prizes are combined and split between the two players.
The first place prize is thirty times the buy-in amount, the second place prize is ten times the buy-in, and the third place prize is 5 times the buy-in. The fourth through seventh place players win back their buy-in.

Strategies for Winning at Poker Tournaments

Success in Poker tournaments requires skill at both the game that is Poker, and the game that is the tournament. Understanding how to play the game at hand (7 Stud, Texas Hold 'Em, etc.) is, of course, essential to winning.You’ve got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em–if you don't, you aren’t going to be advancing very far.

The key to success in a tournament, however, is knowing how to play the game that is the tournament as well as the game at hand. The structure of the tournament can alter how you play each hand–sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically. Consider how the stakes, the rules of advancement, and payout structure might affect your strategy.

For example, since the stakes increase every seven hands, winning early round hands isn’t as important as winning late round hands, where the stakes are higher. Consider this in your risk-reward assessment of staying in a given hand.
Or, consider this scenario: there are two hands left in round two, and you are in fourth place at the table, where the top two players will advance. Are you going to play those last two hands strictly by the book? If so, you are playing the Poker game, but not the tournament game.
In this situation, you should stay in with any reasonable chance of winning in the second to last hand, provided it looks like the pot will grow big enough to move you into contention. If you are still in fourth place in the last hand, you should stay in on any chance of winning at all. The tournament chips can’t be used at any other game, so you have nothing to lose, and you give yourself one last shot at making the cut, which is all that matters.

As the first two rounds advance, you should generally play a bit more conservatively if you are in a position to make the cut, and much more aggressively if you are not. Do not take this to unwarranted extremes, however. If you bet too aggressively on undeserving hands, you may find yourself out of chips with several hands to go that could have made the difference. If you fold playable hands because you are in a position to make the cut, you might miss out on a large pot and take less money with you into the next round.

Betting strategy also changes when you are playing against an all-in player in the third round of a tournament. When a player goes all-in, they must win the current hand or they are eliminated from. It is to everyone else's advantage to see them eliminated.
If you have a hand worth betting on, but you are not sure you can beat an all-in player, checking to keep some other hands in is not a bad idea. Betting “incorrectly” in an effort to eliminate another player might feel underhanded, but it is not. Since you are doing it to put yourself in a better position to win a bigger prize, it is simply smart play, not crooked play.

Just remember that in a tournament your goal is to finish high enough to win a prize, not just to win each hand. Know the rules of the tournament well, and consider how they will affect your strategy to earn a spot at that final table.

Poker Tournament Strategy Highlights

  • Advancing is the bottom line. Stay alive!

  • Become familiar with the tournament format, particularly the level and progression of the stakes, the structure for advancement, and the prize distribution.

  • Play more aggressively if you are behind towards the end of a round, and more conservatively if you are ahead towards the end of a round.

  • Always work to eliminate other players.