Playing poker live for the first time can be a nerve racking experience, and also a bit intimidating. The last thing you want to do is upset another player by doing things you shouldn’t, right? The purpose of this column is to offer some hints and tips on good poker etiquette and to make the introduction to live poker as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
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- Whether done with a strong hand (like two pair, a set, or better) or as a bluff, check-raising is a show of strength that puts an opponent on the defensive.
I’ll assume that you already know the basic rules of poker and are comfortable with the mechanics of the game. But there are many more rules, regulations, and etiquette issues you should know before embarking on your first foray into live poker.
When the Big Blind check-calls, the in position player can barrel the turn and river at a high frequency; To avoid getting exploited like this, you need to focus on balancing your check-raise range with both value bets and bluffs. Check-Raise Example – Cutoff Open vs Big Blind Call. Now let’s run through an example to see these concepts in.
Don’t let anything in this column put you off playing live poker. Everyone was a novice at one stage and poker players are generally a friendly bunch who are welcoming to new players. If you explain you’re new to the game then nobody will expect you to be perfect, but the following points should help you integrate into the game without any unexpected bumps:
#1 – Keeping Up with the Game
Poker players get frustrated when the game is moving slowly. Pay attention to the game so you know when it’s your turn to act. When it’s your turn to post blinds/antes, then do so without having to be continually prompted. Everyone can forget sometimes, so don’t beat yourself up about this too much – but players will appreciate it if you pay attention and keep up with the flow of the game. Also, only act when it’s your turn – don’t check, call, or fold out of turn. This annoys other players.
#2 – “I See You….And”
You’ve probably seen poker in the movies where they all say “I see you…and I’ll raise” – STOP! This is incorrect, and phrases like “I see you” are classed as a call, plain and simple. If you wish to make a raise then just say “raise”. Then make your bet. At some venues you might get away with this kind of sloppy table talk, but it’s a bad habit and one that should be eliminated early on.
#3 – Saying “Raise” When You Mean “Bet”
Another very common verbal error that beginners to poker make is saying “raise”, when they are just making a bet. Don’t say raise when you mean bet. For example, after the flop the first to open the betting should say “bet” rather than “raise”. Even though there is money in the pot, they aren’t raising a new bet – they’re opening the betting. Saying “raise” should only occur when you’re actually increasing the bet and thereby raising someone else’s previous bet. Other players probably won’t say anything because it’s such a common occurrence, but a good one to avoid nonetheless. It won’t get you into trouble but saying raise when it’s just a bet is like holding up a big neon sign saying “I’m a poker novice”.
#4- String Betting
A string bet is when a player entering his chips into the pot as a bet or raise proceeds to move chips in multiple chip movement, such as dropping chips one at a time or going back to their chip stack to pick up more chips. The ruling for string bets varies from region to region, with some places being far stricter than others. Avoiding a habit for string betting is a good idea as it can prove to be a costly mistake. Here’s some advice – when you want to make a bet, put the chips in one smooth movement. Better still; verbally declare your bet amount before even touching your chips.
If you’re wondering why this is even at all important, then let me be clear about why string betting is frowned upon. String betting is not allowed because it opens up the possibility for cheating, by trying to gain a visual tell or response from another player in the pot. Other players will probably pull you up on string betting – so just be extra careful when making bets.
#5 – The One Chip Rule
Here’s another betting situation that beginners to live poker often fail to understand – until it’s too late. If you don’t announce raise or call and throw one chip into the pot then it can be classed as a call. For example if it’s 100 to call and you place one 500 value chip across the line without declaring raise or call it’s usually only classed as a call. This is why it’s good to declare your action verbally before moving your chips. Just like with string betting, verbal declarations help cut out any potential mistakes.
#6 – Verbal Goes
In a few of the points mentioned so far, I’ve recommended making verbal declarations. I even said “verbal declarations help cut out any potential mistakes” – but they can also be costly, if made in error. You’ll often here poker players say “verbal goes”, and what they mean by this is – what you said first and foremost stands. If you say “call” and proceed to muck your cards, then your call stands and you have to put the chips in (you cards will be dead though in this example).
Make sure you’re up with the game (see #1) before making any verbal declarations. For example, if someone had made a raise before you and you thought there hadn’t been a raise, yet you announced call, then your call will stand. Sometimes this ruling is relaxed, especially for beginners, but it could cost you a lot of chips/money. So use verbal utterances with great care and concentrate on what’s occurred before it’s your turn, so you know exactly what you’re calling or raising.
#7 – Cards on the Table
The cards should remain on the table at all times. Sometimes new players like to hold the cards up towards their chest when sneaking a look – and most people won’t be too strict about this. It’s something beginners tend to do. However, your cards should be visible at all times. Do not hold your cards under the table or away from view. It’s quite obvious why this would be unacceptable, but I’ve seen many new players do this.
When your cards are on the table, avoid covering them with your hands. Other players should be able to see who is involved in the hand, and shouldn’t have to ask “do you still have cards?” If you want to protect your hand then just place a chip onto of them or buy a card protector.
#8 – Mucking Your Cards
When the time comes to fold (muck) your cards, then place them into the muck pile. A lot of new players will barely push their mucked cards forward. This can cause confusion, with other players unsure whether they’ve actually been folded. Avoid any potential confusion and properly muck your cards face down along with the other mucked cards.
Be careful and muck your cards properly. Don’t wildly throw your cards into the muck, because if you cards should miss their intended target and end up on an opponent’s hole cards, then their cards could be declared dead. They won’t be best pleased with you either! This is one reason why it’s a good idea to protect your cards (see previous point), should someone do the same to you.
#9 – Talking / Gesturing During a Hand
When a hand is in progress you should refrain from talking about the hand. General table talk is usually acceptable, but if things get serious then pipe down. If by chance you would have made a great hand, then don’t let the whole table know about it either. For example, you fold 7/2 pre-flop and the flop comes 772. Don’t thump the table, yell “Oh my god!” or shake your head profusely. Do this after the hand if needs be, but never during it. It indicates what you had to the other active players involved in the hand and is considered very poor etiquette.
#10 – Slow Rolling
If a hand enters a showdown (where cards are revealed) then you should show your hole cards as soon as possible, if you’ve been called. If your opponent has shown their cards first and you have a better hand, then reveal it immediately. Don’t let your opponent think they might have won the pot, then slowly turn over the nuts (best possible hand). This is known as “slow rolling” and is one of the main ways to upset people at the poker table. You want to win their chips, not upset them!
Playing poker live is great fun. I hope you’ve found this article useful, particularly if you’re interesting in playing live poker for the first time. If you’re playing in a casino or cardroom and are unsure or confused about any aspect of the game (such as the structure, blinds/antes) then just ask the dealer when you’re not involved in a hand, preferably upon sitting down.
By Tim Ryerson
Tim is from London, England and has been playing poker since the late 1990’s. He is the ‘Editor-in-Chief’ at Pokerology.com and is responsible for all the content on the website.
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The first thing that any beginner-level poker player needs to understand is the different actions of a poker game. The basic actions in a poker game include folding, checking and calling, betting, raising, re-raising, and check-raising, and a skilled poker player will use all of these different actions countless times throughout the course of a game, as knowing how to use each of the actions allows a player variability and lets him or her change up the pace and keep opponents on their toes.
While the actions may seem simple enough, mastering them isn't. Many players who have played for years still don't fold often enough or check when they should raise. You can miss out on the chance for larger winnings if you raise right off the bat instead of holding out for a check-raise, and if you raise too often from certain positions, players will soon start to call your bluff. The best thing that you can do for yourself as a poker player is to learn how and when to employ each poker action-- and the best way to do that (after reading our strategy guides, of course) is to practice, practice, practice.
For some reason, many novice players consider folding a sign of weakness, which is likely part of the reason why they don't fold nearly often enough. Folding is a natural part of any poker game-- if you try to play all the cards that you're dealt, you'll end up losing your money pretty quickly. Instead, you want to focus on your good hands and not waste money on the bad, so if you have a hand or a position that isn't good, you're going to want to fold. If the stakes get too high and you're quite far from having the nut hand, you should fold before you get trapped. Folding just means that you're choosing to bow out of the action for the rest of the hand by tossing your cards in. When you fold, you don't show your cards (as it would give an advantage to anyone who has position on you).
Getting to a point where you can choose whether to fold or play your cards is essential-- in most online games, you only have about 10 seconds to choose. If you're sure that your opponent has a better hand than you do, you should probably fold. No matter how good your hand is, if you know that your opponent's hand will beat yours, fold and get out while you can.
What Does Check Call And Raise Mean In Poker Terms
When you check, you basically pass when other players haven't bid. This can happen either while you're the big blind, when you've already put in the minimum bid and everyone else has done the same or folded, or when you're playing another round and the other players have all checked. Checking is considered a pretty weak move, and some schools of poker thought will tell you that if you have a decent enough hand, you should consider raising instead, as it offers you some protection (by getting less-confident players to fold). This is completely dependent on the situation, however-- raising on a hand where everyone else has checked can leave you vulnerable to a check-raise and leave you pot committed with someone else holding the better hand. Likewise, you can use a check when you have a very strong hand and you're afraid of scaring off other players if you come out raising-- this is a tactic called the check-raise. The main reason that people check is so that they can see the next card for free-- especially if they're on a draw hand, where the value of their hand is dependent on whether or not the right card hits (e.g., missing a card for a straight or flush).
Calling is a lot like checking in that you're basically passing on an opportunity to bet, but the difference is that you check when no one has bet and you call when someone has. Like checking, calling generally represents weakness or, at the very least, that you're not completely sure of your hand. If an opponent raises and you're sure that you have a better hand, it's better to re-raise (even just a little) to get your opponent to commit more chips. If you re-raise and your opponent calls, then you make more money, and if your opponent folds, then you get the same amount that you would have if you'd just called (but if your opponent is pot-committed, he or she will probably not fold). If your opponent raises and you're not sure about your hand, it's better to fold. Calling is often used like checking-- to get a chance to see the next cards so that you can potentially make a draw or strengthen your hand.
What Does Check Call And Raise Mean In Poker Lingo
There are two forms of betting in a game of poker (well, there are a lot of different kinds of bets, but they all come down to variations on these): raising and re-raising.
Something that a lot of novice players overlook is the amount of the bet, and a lot of online poker rooms and casinos only make it easier to miss the mark in this regard. There's a minimum amount that you can bet in any poker game, and this is often set as the default in poker rooms, but betting the minimum doesn't really do much: it doesn't offer a lot of protection (especially with smaller stakes), because other players are generally willing to call a small amount, and it doesn't make for a particularly powerful bluff, as it doesn't convey a lot of confidence. If you're trying to slowly draw money out of other players, this can be useful (if you have the nut hand and want to get as many players pot-committed as possible to increase your win, for instance), and raising the same small amount during every betting phase can confuse your opponents, but you just might cost yourself a potentially bigger win by being conservative.
There's a huge amount of literature devoted to the subject of well-executed raises, and there's a lot of debate about how much you should raise. A common consensus in Texas Hold'em seems to be that when you want to raise before the flop, raise 3-4 times the big blind if there are no callers before you.
When someone places a bet and you then place a higher bet, you've re-raised, a move that indicates that you either have a strong hand or that you're bluffing. Either way, it indicates to opponents that you want them to believe that you have a strong hand. If you think that your opponent is bluffing when he or she raises, and that you have the stronger hand, then a re-raise is in order-- either your opponent will bow out, letting you take the pot, or you can gain the pot through having the stronger hand. Either way, you win.
Just as raising presents a conundrum in terms of how much to bet, re-raising is challenging in the same way. Many sources agree that you should re-raise about three times the previous bet, plus any callers. If someone before you bets 300 and there are no callers, you would bet 900. If there was one caller, you would bet 1200 (900 + 300), if there were two callers, you'd bet 1500 (900 + 300 + 300), and so on.
Check-raising is an incredibly useful tactic that is employed in poker games all the time (especially games with heavy betting, like Texas Hold'em, Stud, and Omaha). When you check-raise, you check on a good hand (one that you could have safely raised on) and hope that someone who comes after you raises. Obviously, this only works if you have an early position. By checking, you imply that you have a weak hand, and other players are more confident about their own hands, which will often lead them to bid when they shouldn't. Once the other player has raised, you re-raise, which forces your opponent either to fold, which they probably won't, since they're already pot committed, or call with a hand that is probably weaker than yours. The check-raise offers players in early position the ability to slow play strong hands, which helps to even out the disadvantages of being in poor position.