The Betting Rules

Before sitting down to play poker , you should ask few questions such as: Is check-raising allowed? Is a flat bet impose or is there any variable betting? Does the low card bring it in or the high card in seven-card stud? To what extent raises are allowed? Is it necessary that the player who opens the pot have to bet first in next round?

You should be completely familiar with the rules of the game before sitting down to play. A friend of mine made a first time mistake as he played draw poker in Gardena . He is the only man I know who made a royal flush but lost the hand. In Gardena , you need jacks or better to open and a joker is used as a bug. That means joker can be used with straights, flushes and aces; but cannot be used to make a pair except with aces.

My friend N.S. bought into a $2-$4 draw poker game for $40 and the first hand he made was an ace-high straight.

(JOKER)

He was in the third place behind the dealer. The man under the gun checked, the second man checked, and N.S pleasantly bet $2. All the players behind him folded, but then bang! The man if first place raised and the man in second place re-raised. Foolishly, N.S. called the double raise, and the first raiser called the re-raise.

When the time came to draw cards, the man in first place stood pat. The man in the second place stood pat. N.S. was good enough to realize his straight was beat, if not by the man in first place, certainly by the man in second place. So he prudently discarded the ace of clubs to draw a straight flush in hearts - or any kind of flush, as with the joker he would have an A, Q high check raising in poker.

Drawing to 10 J Q joker, N.S really had four cards that would make the straight flush the 8 9 K and A When he looked at the card he had drawn, there it was king of hearts! He had made a royal flush, the pure nuts of pure nuts.

The man in second place bet. N.S. raised. The man in the first place called. The man in second place re-raised. N.S re-raised. The man in first place finally folded his jack-high flush, but the re-raising continued until the entire $40 with which N.S. bought into the game was in the pot. The second player turned over a full house - king full of 9s. N.S showed his royal flush very happily.

As he was about to collect the money in the pot than his rival asked, "Where are your openers?"

N.S. exclaimed "Openers? But I have a straight."

"But you drew one card," said his rival. "You do not have openers."

Recall that in Gardena card rooms you need jacks or better to open. The joker can be used only with aces, straights and flushes. As N.S. had given away his ace of clubs and had perhaps drawn one card to make the royal, he had no proof whatsoever that he had opened with a legitimate opening hand. Obviously, there is a rule in Gardena card rooms to hide such situations: "When splitting openers, player must declare the same and defend split card by turning it face up under a chip." N.S. was not informed about his rule, his royal flush was declared null and void, and the full house won the pot.

Other than knowing the rules, it is significant to use them to your benefit as the man in Gardena with the full house did. Nevertheless, we are not talking about exploiting technicalities but fairly adjusting your play to suit the rules of the game. Let's say the game does not allow check-raising. Precisely, that rule takes away a very efficient weapon, which assumingly you can use better than other players in the game. However, it changes your playing approach where it gives more strength to the player in the last position. Hence, when you are in last position, you should bet more as you are no longer putting yourself in danger of a check-raise. In earlier rounds, you can semi-bluffs more because the bad thing that could happen would be that you would get called not raised. You can even bet more in the first position than you usually would as you cannot check-raise. (Though, against rigid players it may be better to check and call, rather than bet with a good hand in first position, because you may persuade them to bet with a hand they would have folded if you had bet.)

Adjusting Correctly to the Structure

The most significant thing is to adjust your play to the betting rules, the betting limits and the ante structure with which you are dealt with. This skill to adjust is the one the biggest edge against the good but non theoretical player. It takes sometime for non theoretical player to find intuitively the correct way of play in unsuitable structure. Meanwhile, that player may make expensive mistakes.

Suppose the hold'em $15-$30 game that used to be played at the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas tempted few hostile hold'em players in the country. Even though as they are good and tough, many players did not realize that the structure of this game, as compared from other $10-$20 hold'em poker games they knew, requires a change in the approach.

There is normally a 50-cent ante and a $5 blind in the $10-$20 games. It costs $5 to come in and another $5 to raise. However, in the above example of $15-$30 Golden Nugget game, there was no ante but there were two blinds - $5 and $10. It cost $10 to come in and another $15 to raise for a sum of $25. Therefore, in this game it cost drastically more to come in, comparative to the betting limits, than it did in the $10-$20 hold'em game especially when there was a raise. When you call the $5 blind in the $10-$20 game, you contribute half of the $10 bet on the flop; but when you called the $10 blind in Golden Nugget $15-$30 game, you contribute only two-third of the $15 flop bet. When you raise, (or call a raise) in the $10-$20 game, you contribute more bets on flop - $25. Furthermore, when you call the $5 blind in first position in $10-$20, you risk being raised only the cost of the initial bet; but when you called the $10 blind in $15-$30 in first position, you risk being raised another $15 - one-and-half times the initial bet.

The consequences of these structural changes in the $15-$30 game, which made much costlier to come in, was that you had to play very tightly and play only hands that did not depend on high implied odds. Hands such as ace, king and big pairs increase in value whereas the hands such as 6, 7 suited and baby pairs, which are played in $10-$20 game, decrease in value. Such differences were so important that anyone who understood them and adjusted to them correctly had an edge in the $15-$30 hold'em over players who may have been great in $10-$20 but who contended on playing the same way in the $15-$30 online poker game.