How to Play Poker

The Tournament Survival Guide for Beginners

Under the glare of the lights and the watchful eye of eager cameras, an atmosphere of grit and pure determination permeates the air. Twelve poker novices occupy tables peppered with experienced players. They carefully consider their hands, conscious of their every move: praying that something as subtle as a facial twitch doesn’t give the game away.

Goliath Boot Camp: Meet the Daves

We are, of course, talking about the Goliath tournament: the biggest poker tournament outside Las Vegas.

The twelve players in question, are our Daves, the winners of a competition named ‘Dave vs Goliath’.

"When I got through to Day 2 of Goliath I was elated… Nobody expected me to finish in 17th place out of 4,210 players!"

Nick Secker

We launched a search to find a Dave who could take on the mighty Goliath tournament, taking the 12 winners through a Boot Camp taught by three poker pros: Joe Beevers, Jeff Kimber and Ellie Biessek. Following Boot Camp, they were entered into Goliath, where two Daves made astounding progress: Dave Mee finished in 74th place, while Nick Secker surprised everyone with a 17th place finish.

The element of surprise wasn’t a result of Nick’s performance on the day but, rather, the fact that he arrived at Boot Camp as a poker novice. It just goes to show how far you can progress with the right instruction and training, which is why we have decided to bring our poker expertise to you.

Here you will find the basic rules, tips and terminology necessary to hone your skills and get started with the game of No Limit Texas Hold’em. From debunking confusing jargon to exclusive advice straight from the professional’s mouth, you can learn it all. We've even included a glossary of poker terms for desktop and mobile users: simply hover over, or tap, the words highlighted in red, to find out what they mean.

So, if you’re sitting comfortably, let’s get started!

The Rules of the Game

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of different hands, strategies and poker science, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the rules of the game. Given how complicated many online guides can be, we’ve made things easy for you: a simple guide to playing the most popular poker game in the world, No Limit Texas Hold’em.

Limit? What limit?

In some poker games, there’s a limit to what you can bet, which makes no limit poker pretty self-explanatory.

The minimum bet is equal to the size of the big blind and, as the game is ‘no limit’, you can bet the maximum of everything that you have in front of you (known as going ‘all in’), when it’s your turn to act.

The blinds

No Limit Texas Hold’em plays out using two different blinds: the ‘small blind’ and the ‘big blind’.

A blind is an initial compulsory bet placed by the two players to the left of the dealer button, before any cards are dealt. This ensures that at least two players are involved in the hand and gives incentive to other players to compete for each pot. At the later stages of a poker tournament, as the blinds rise, game play can speed up and, as it becomes more expensive to play, it forces players to play hands. If you don’t play hands then you’ll run out of chips; players are forced to enter pots in order to stay alive.

Blinds also put pressure on those players who don’t want to get involved much. If a player doesn’t get involved at all, his chip stack will decrease with every circuit of the table – they’ll have placed one small blind and one big blind each round. This means that if someone doesn’t play a hand for the whole tournament, they’ll be left with no chips. In other words, they will have been ‘blinded out’.

Small blind

The small blind is always sandwiched between the button (the dealer: generally regarded as the best position) and the big blind. The small blind is usually half the value of the big blind.

Big blind

The big blind is placed by the player seated to the left of the small blind. It is twice the size of the small blind.

Ante

The ante is an additional bet introduced in the later stages of a game, when the blinds are high. Smaller in value than the small blind and big blind, it is a compulsory sum placed by each player at the table to enforce game play.

Once these initial bets have been placed and the cards have been dealt, the real action can begin. This starts with the player who is under the gun: to the left of the big blind. Play then continues, and the button moves one spot, clockwise, with each hand, along with everything else.

Player betting options

Each poker hand consists of betting rounds, which you can read about further down the page. In order to proceed to the next round, players must match the agreed price for each round (or put in all of the chips they have if they don’t have enough). However, this price can differ during each turn, as players can choose whether to match the existing price (call or check), increase the price (bet or raise), or give up (fold).

Each decision you make can be crucial, as not only does it affect the size of the pot, but also gives your opponent clues as to the strength of your hand. Equally, your opponent's betting can reveal information about the strength of their hand.

When you're first learning how to play poker, it may be difficult to process all of this information, but the more you play, the more natural it will all become.

So, what exactly do we mean when we choose the following course of action?

Check

After the flop has been dealt, and if nobody at the table has yet made a bet, then a player can check. Checking involves declining to bet yourself, but keeping your cards. Uttering the word “check” or tapping the table simply means passing the action on to the next person.

If every active player checks during a round of betting, that round is considered complete.

Fold

Folding means discarding your cards until the next deal, and giving up any interest in the pot – you are out of action.

Bear in mind that you can only fold when facing a bet. Under some rules, it’s considered bad etiquette to fold when you aren’t facing a bet, and is completely against the rules in some circles.

Bet

If a bet hasn’t yet been made, you have the option to make a bet yourself. Once a bet has been made, the rest of the players then have the option to fold, call or raise during the rest of the round. The minimum bet you can place is always the same as the big blind.

Call

A call is made once a bet has been placed in a round of poker. Calling involves matching the current bet, and may mean that you don’t have a very strong hand. Unless, of course, you are trapping: feigning weakness while nursing a very strong hand, to get more chips in later betting rounds.

Raise

If you want to increase the size of the initial bet, it would be the time to ‘raise’ and make a bigger one. Bear in mind that this must be done in one motion, however, rather than putting some chips in before then throwing in some more. Only the first move counts, a guideline that’s very strictly followed.

TOP TIP: As a new player, announcing the total you’d like to raise before putting your chips into the pot will ensure you don’t fall foul of string betting rules.

You could raise for a number of reasons:

• Because you like your hand and want to increase the size of the bet as a result, and get more money into the pot.
• To get your opponent to fold.
• To get rid of players (thin the field).
• To make an opponent pay to make a hand he is drawing to.
• To take control of a hand (for example, raising in position on the flop may give you a free card on the turn).
• To raise for value.

You should always have a reason for making bets or raising. Always make sure you know why you are raising.

Did you get all that? Good, because now it’s time to move on to the meatier stuff, and to give you an insight into each stage of a poker game...

The Stages of the Game

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Pre-flop

In No Limit Texas Hold’em, there could be up to four betting rounds: pre-flop, the flop, the turn and the river.

At this stage of the game, players are dealt their hole cards: the two cards which belong solely to them, and which remain hidden from the other players for the duration of the game. After receiving these cards, play begins, with the person sitting on the left of the big blind kicking off proceedings.

TOP TIP: Before looking at your hole cards, watch your opponents look at theirs. Do they give anything away? Do they reach for chips? Do they sit back in their chair?

This player has the option to either fold, call or raise. This process then continues until all active players have placed equal bets into the pot.

Bear in mind that if someone does raise instead of call, this amount will act as the new minimum bet for that betting round.

The flop

Next comes the flop, where three community cards are dealt onto the board, face up. Betting then begins to the left of the dealer button, with similar options to pre-flop. However, this time (if nobody has previously bet), players can decide to check, passing the action on to the next player. This in itself creates the possibility of this round being ‘free of charge’, with every player checking.

The turn

Once the betting action for the flop is complete, play moves on to the turn: the fourth community card to be dealt, face up, onto the table. Here, another carefully calculated round of betting ensues in the same way as the flop: starting to the left of the dealer button.

The river

The river is the final community card to be dealt. At this point in the game, a lot can change: hands can be made or destroyed. It goes without saying that this can be the most intense card of the board… it’s time to make your final decision.

The showdown

The showdown occurs when the betting action has finished. It’s time for players to show their cards, and for a winner to scoop the pot. The last person who placed a bet is usually the first to show their cards.

Deciding the winner is simple: the player with the best five-card poker hand claims victory… and the pot! If players have the same winning hand, the pot is divided equally between them. This is called a split pot.

Once the pot has been duly awarded and the cards have hit the muck, the hand is over, and a new one can begin with the button, small blind and big blind moving one place to the left.

Ways to Play

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

When learning how to play poker, everybody has their own style. What many players – especially inexperienced ones – don’t know, is that there are four key types of poker personality…

Tight players play only a small percentage of hands, waiting patiently for either good cards or particularly advantageous situations.

Loose players play a high percentage of their hands. This sees them play in numerous positions with a wider range of starting hands.

Aggressive players consistently make aggressive bets: betting large amounts so that it costs their opponents more to stay in the hand. This is a choice technique for those wanting to prevent an opponent forming a better hand.

Passive players rarely raise, preferring to call and check.

Ellie Biessek

Ellie Biessek

As you become more comfortable with poker and play more tournaments, you will find that your style of play changes. As you become more confident and more able to suss out other players’ strategies, your previous style may morph into one of the more advanced personalities identified by Grosvenor poker pro, Ellie Biessek.

Tight/passive

A player with lots of patience, but a fear that stops them from taking the risks necessary to dominate a poker table.

Loose/aggressive

A player who plays too many hands, and who doesn’t hesitate to lead with bets or raise. They’re eager to get into the pot.

Loose/passive

A player who plays more hands, but who checks or calls over betting and raising. They lack the courage of their convictions.

Tight/aggressive

A calm, collected and confident player with the ability to instil fear into their opponents.

In conversation with Ellie, we were told that one of these styles of play is, often, much more profitable than the others… tight/aggressive.

"People aren’t naturally born to have the tight/aggressive style, but this is usually the winning style."

Ellie Biessek

Tight/aggressive players are categorised by their tendency to play fewer hands (tight play) but, when doing so, they lead with bets or raise, rather than checking or calling (aggressive play).

But why is tight/aggressive such an advantageous way for beginners to play? It all comes down to the perfect balance of patience and confidence, something that isn’t as easy to achieve as it sounds.

“Depending on your character, you will probably fall into one of the first three player personalities,” Ellie told us. “In my experience, people who are bubbly and outgoing are naturally loose aggressive. People who are rather conservative, who like security rather than risk, are tight/passive. People who don’t like to upset anybody and just want to have fun, are loose/passive.

“My natural style was tight/passive. I had to work on aggression. It took me a year and a half!

“The aggression was counter-intuitive, a total contradiction to the patience needed to wait for good hands.”

"If you want to beat other people, you first have to win the fight against yourself."

Ellie Biessek

Style isn’t the only thing to take into account when devising a poker strategy, though. As Jeff Kimber, another Grosvenor pro, points out below, your position at the table can have a significant effect on your fortunes.

Playing on the button (or as close to it as possible) affords some great opportunities, as does being the last to act after the flop. For one thing, you can pick up information from your opponents: if they check, you can bet and try to win the pot, and if they bet, you can raise them, and use their reaction to try to assess the strength of their hand.

Sitting in an advantageous position means that you can potentially win a hand without having the best cards.

Etiquette: How to Avoid Playing like a Newbie

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Before sitting down at a table to play a game of poker, it’s worth giving yourself a lesson in etiquette. Poker is a tough game, but this isn’t an excuse to play in a way that could cause offence to others.

Here are some important things to know before you even consider sitting at a poker table.

Don’t…

… Disrespect the dealer

As in any other game, expressing anger at the table, shouting, and generally becoming abusive or disruptive isn’t acceptable. Some disgruntled players aim this bad mood at the dealer, blaming them for their bad luck. However, the dealer has absolutely no control over the cards they hand out, so don’t blame someone else for your loss – you could get banned from the casino!

… Go on tilt

Believe it or not, even the professionals still find themselves going on tilt. This involves playing more aggressively and, as a result, much worse than you would normally, because your emotions have gotten the better of you. Some players will try and put you on tilt from the very moment you sit down, and it’s your job to prevent it from happening – or at least hide how you’re really feeling. Poker pro, Joe Beevers, has some valuable advice about going on tilt.

"It’s not about how you play the hand where you suffer the bad beat. It’s how you play the very next hand that’s important."

Joe Beevers

… Slow roll

Slow rolling is seen as the biggest breach of poker etiquette you could possibly make, and plays out like this…

All bets have finished and it’s time to reveal your cards. You know, just know, that you have the winning hand. You are unbeatable, struggling to contain your excitement, and yet, you delay tabling your hand, forcing other players to show their cards first. After a dramatic, film-style pause, you finally show your cards to be declared the winner.

Unfortunately, this isn’t Hollywood, and delaying play simply to feel smug will only turn the table against you. If you think you have the best hand then show it, win the pot, and don’t risk earning yourself a less than savoury reputation.

… Discuss your hand with the table

A small - but significant - rule: while the hand is in play, don’t start chatting to people about your cards, their cards or even the community cards, as what you reveal could affect play. For example, telling another player which cards you folded can change mathematical calculations and other players’ strategies.

Once you have folded, relinquishing any right to the pot, respect that other people are still in the game.

… Misrepresent your hand

In contrast to bluffing, misrepresenting your hand involves verbally telling players that you have a winning hand at showdown when, in fact, you don’t. So, say you tell your opponent that you have the winning hand, causing him to muck his cards because he believes you’re about to take the pot, and then you show a different hand – this is misrepresentation, and the tournament director will be called to the table.

Misrepresenting your hand is an absolute no-no in poker games, and will never be tolerated.

… Act out of turn

You should always pay attention to when it is your turn to act. When playing live you will sometimes see players acting out of turn; betting, calling, folding or raising when the action hasn't gotten to them yet. Acting out of turn can disrupt the flow of the table, but more importantly, it can show your intentions to your opponents and let them know what you are going to do in advance.

Furthermore, there can be penalties for acting out of turn, such as only being allowed to call or losing the right to raise (this can depend on a particular action and on the rules of the particular card room you are in). If you do find that you have acted out of turn by mistake, just apologise and clarify with the dealer or floorman in charge what your options now are, from a betting perspective.

If you’re in any doubt, don’t be afraid to clarify with the dealer, “Is it on me?”

… Be a bad teacher

A good player will never tell another player that they are playing badly. Quite the opposite, in fact. They may try to make their opponent feel good about playing incorrectly – after all, it’s in their best interest!

So, if you ever hear someone berating another player, you can be sure they’re a bad player who is trying to make themselves look better to their peers. It’s like admitting out loud, ‘I’m a bad player, but I’m trying to convince you that I’m not!’

Remember, everyone at the table is a competitor. Play your own game.

Do…

… Pay attention to the game

When you are playing a hand, pay attention. There is nothing worse than a distracted player losing track of the action and having to be constantly reminded when it’s their turn to act. But there is another reason for paying attention to a game – one that could benefit you personally.

Focus throughout the whole game, rather than playing on your mobile phone between hands, and you could pick up vital tells you may otherwise have missed.

Knowing your Hands

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Without sounding melodramatic, if you don’t have the hang of poker hands before taking your place at a table, you don’t stand a chance.

You may only have two cards, but the community cards (lying face up on the poker table) also contribute towards your final hand, giving you seven cards to evaluate.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the ranking of hands varies between different types of poker. No Limit Texas Hold’em uses the traditional ‘high’ hand rankings, as follows.

High card

If no-one at the table has a pair, then the player holding the best five card poker hand wins.

Tie breaker: the player with the next highest card wins, and so on. Suits don’t matter here.

A pair

A pair incorporates two cards of matching rank, plus three unrelated side cards. For example, an ace of hearts and clubs, plus the eight of spades, six of hearts and two of diamonds.

Tie breaker: the highest pair wins. If players find they have the same pair, then the side cards are used as deciders - the highest wins. In the example above, the eight of spades is the highest side card and would beat an opponent’s seven of spades (or any card lower).

Two pair

Two pair, as the name suggests, involves two cards of matching rank, plus another two cards of matching rank and a kicker. For example, your hand could include a ten of diamonds and clubs, a six of spades and clubs, as well as a king of diamonds.

Tie breaker: the pair of the highest value, wins. If two players have the same pair, the highest-ranking second pair wins. If there’s still a tie, the player with the highest kicker wins.

Three of a kind

‘Three of a kind’ involves three cards of the same rank, plus two unrelated side cards.

Tie breaker: the highest ranking three of a kind wins. However, if some players discover they have the same three of a kind, the highest side card (or, if necessary, the second-highest side card!) wins.

Straight

‘Straight’ refers to five cards in a sequence, of any suit. For example, you could wind up with a straight of the two of diamonds, three of clubs, four of spades, five of diamonds and the six of clubs.

Tie breaker: the highest ranking card at the top of the sequence wins.

Flush

A flush is five cards of the same suit, of any value, such as a queen, seven, six, four and two of diamonds.

Tie breaker: the player holding the highest ranked card wins the pot. In the case of further ties, however, the second, third, fourth and fifth-highest cards can also be used in the attempt to establish a winner. The suit is never used as a tie breaker.

Full house

A full house involves three cards of the same rank, alongside two cards of a different, matching rank. So, a hand involving a king of hearts, spades and clubs, as well as a ten of hearts and clubs, would be a full house.

Tie breaker: The player with the highest ranking three matching cards wins the pot. If both players have the same three matching cards, the pot is awarded to the player with the highest two matching cards (the pair).

Four of a kind

This hand incorporates four cards of the same rank (for example, four aces) and one side card, commonly called a ‘kicker’.

Tie breaker: the highest kicker wins.

Straight flush

A straight flush is made up of five cards of identical suits, in numerical order (for example, a two, three, four, five and six of spades).

Tie breaker: the highest rank at the top of the sequence, wins.

Royal flush

A royal flush is the best possible hand you could hope to wind up with. It consists of an ace, king, queen, jack and ten of the same suit. Get this hand, and you’re unbeatable!

Once you know your hands like the back of your, well… hand, it’s time to learn how to analyse your opponents.

Knowing your Opponent

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 30 seconds.

While sunglasses are permitted at the poker table, x-ray glasses aren’t, so you’re going to have to rely on your intuition to get to know your opponents and try to read their hands.

First of all, try to predict the moves they’re likely to make by identifying what kind of player they are. For example, if they’re playing fewer hands and holding back when it comes to betting and raising, they’re likely to be tight/passive, and therefore susceptible to intimidation by more aggressive players.

Loose/aggressive players, on the other hand, are so desperate to enter pots they will play too many hands and lead with too many bets, leaving them vulnerable to making costly mistakes. A loose/passive player is more likely to check or call, will therefore be involved in more hands, but can lack the confidence to make big moves.

Tight/aggressive players are the ones to really watch out for: they play fewer hands and aren’t afraid to raise when the opportunity arises. These are the players who use fear to knock out their opponents.

But playing styles alone aren’t enough to predict a player’s moves with total accuracy. You should also be looking out for players’ betting patterns, and things like tells – the little things players do that can offer clues about their cards. Here are some of the classics:

Check-raising

Check-raising involves checking before raising in a betting round. It is usually a move to coax an opponent into betting, to increase the value of the pot.

To get a little more technical: if a player check-raises on the turn, then bets on the river, it’s usually because they have a brilliant hand. And remember, if you do encounter a check-raise on the turn, you should strongly consider folding - unless you think you have an unbeatable hand yourself.

Folding on the flop

If a player bets or raises pre-flop, but then folds to a bet on the flop, it’s likely they’re a tentative player. Their starting cards will have been well worth betting on (for example, a strong pair), but this tendency to fold proves they’re capable of stepping back and carefully evaluating the situation.

That said, next time this player bets on the flop, you can assume they have a strong hand. Now you need to decide whether your hand is strong enough to beat it.

Body language

Paying attention to bets isn’t the only way to pick up tells: you can uncover a lot about a person by analysing their body language.

If an opponent looks at their hand and sits forward in their seat, they could very well have a strong hand. If their shoulders are slumped, and their body less tense in general, it’s often a sign of a weaker hand.

A person’s breathing (our most unconscious action) is also a giveaway when it comes to their hand. Shallow breathing (or if a person is not moving, apparently holding their breath) is a common indication of a weak hand or a bluff; look out for signs that a player is trying to control their breathing.

Pay attention to your opponents’ actions – both voluntary and involuntary – before they reveal their hands, as they may unknowingly reveal their strategy.

A Note on Bullies…

Estimated reading time: 30 seconds

Knowing your opponent isn’t just about uncovering their strategy or identifying their playing style, it’s knowing when they’re analysing you. Many opponents push their luck (especially with new players who are just starting to learn how to play poker), to determine how far you’ll go before you fold. Thankfully, Jeff Kimber has some sound advice for dealing with bullies at the table…

Often, bullies are bluffers and, though it may feel alien to a poker novice, aggression can stop somebody throwing their weight around. Put the pressure on, and you’ll soon uncover their real motivation…

"If we re-raise them, quite often we’ll find that they have no hand and they fold, and we win the pot."

Jeff Kimber

Poker Face: the Bluffing Game

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

If there is one word that is synonymous with poker the world over, it’s ‘bluffing’. At the same time, it is perhaps the most misunderstood poker term. Far from simply keeping a straight face, bluffing is a complex skill that requires a reasonable level of poker knowledge and a lot of practice.

BLUFF: To make other players believe that you have a better hand than you actually do by betting or raising.

Successful bluffing involves keeping your cool and stopping your body from giving the game away, but this alone won’t fool your opponents. What you need to do is up the stakes: bet or raise when your hand isn’t that strong.

Done correctly, this can instil some doubt in your opponents’ minds; planting a seed of doubt that could make them rethink their strategy. There are certain instances where bluffing could be too risky, and others where it could help you gain the upper hand. All you need to do is pick your time carefully…

When to bluff

A bluff is often successful when it follows a safe move (such as a check or a player showing weakness) by the previous player, as your action appears strong in comparison. As a new player, bluffing can also be effective:

On smaller pots

Here, the risk is much smaller. Bluffing at smaller pots is a great way to get the hang of bluffing, without suffering a big loss if things don’t go to plan. However, this tactic can depend on your playing style.

Bluffing on smaller pots is generally associated with loose/aggressive players, while tight/aggressive players such as Ellie Biessek wouldn’t recommend it:

“First of all, it doesn’t matter how many pots you win, but how many chips. Poker can be a game of deception – to be a successful bluffer you need to establish your image. Once other players think that you aren’t capable of bluffing because you don’t try to bluff those small pots, when you bluff a big one, your bluffing success rate would be higher.

“In my opinion, good players care more about big pots than small ones.”

TOP TIP: It’s important that the story you’re telling with your bluff makes sense. Play the hand like you would if you actually had the hand you’re representing.

Jeff Kimber

When fewer players are in the pot

It’s easier to throw one or two people off the scent than a whole table. Plus, with fewer hands in play, there is less chance of these remaining hands being strong. However, this is quite a common moment to bluff, so be persistent and stick to your guns.

When you have given opponents ‘the fear’

This one relies on how other players perceive you, so it requires a bit more investment. If you consistently appear strong and confident, making the competition wary, they will be much more likely to fold when you bluff.

When NOT to bluff

"It's nearly always the best hand at the river that gets the chips" - Joe Beevers

"It's nearly always the best hand at the river that gets the chips" - Joe Beevers

There are points during a game where poker novices should steer well clear of bluffing. These are the territory of more experienced players who are better at reading the situation. Perhaps the most important thing for a newbie to remember is:

Avoid bluffing on the river

River bluffs make it very easy to spot an amateur player. At this stage of play, your motivation to bluff is likely to be sheer desperation to win the hand, regardless of how you have played to this point. The resulting bluff appears sudden; singling you out and offering vital tells to the rest of the table.

But for all of the emphasis on bluffing, Joe Beevers is quick to remind new players that this isn’t the only way to reap success at the table.

Rather than assigning too much importance to bluffing, remember to prioritise your hands. At the end of the day, the hands in play can make all of the difference, and it’s almost always the best hand at the river that gets the chips!

Slow playing

Slow playing involves playing a strong hand weakly - rather than the other way around - to encourage more players to stay in the pot. Our own poker pro, Jeff Kimber, explains.

Slow-playing is all about setting a trap for your opponents; coaxing them into the pot without revealing the strong position you are in. By keeping your emotions in check and being patient (calling bets on the flop and the turn), you can spring the trap later and make an impressive pot.

The Science of Folding

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 30 seconds

When learning how to play poker, it’s important to understand that it isn’t all about winning the most pots, but the most chips. Folding poor hands saves money. If you limp into lots of pots most of the time you will lose most of your chips. Folding is an important way to protect the chips you have – put them in only when you have a good hand.

One of the mistakes that many beginners make is calling too much before the flop. The problem with this is that you’re effectively compounding error: playing a weak hand pre-flop when you perhaps shouldn’t, and then finding yourself putting more chips into the pot on the flop or the turn. You will be using more chips when you could have saved yourself using them in the first place.

As a new poker player, folding could save you a huge amount of money during a game. The problem is, knowing when to fold isn’t always easy.

Folding isn’t a simple matter of casting aside a bad hand, and there are a number of situations when folding may be the best course of action. Folding a bad hand of cards is a no-brainer. Sometimes, however, it’s also good practice to fold a good hand.

When to fold

When you find yourself with a good hand, it’s easy to let your excitement run away with you. For many new players, the only way they’d even consider folding a decent hand was if it was prised from their fingers. However, folding a good hand can be incredibly advantageous.

Firstly, stop and think: do I know this is a good hand, or do I feel that it is? You need to know with complete conviction that your cards could win the pot. So take a look around. What do you see? A facial twitch or a hitch in breathing? Did someone hesitate slightly before betting? These are all tells that you can use to deduce whether an opponent has a better hand. If the signs point to ‘yes’, then fold.

The science bit

We said there was some science to come! But, we promise, it’ll be nothing like your school lessons.

Much easier and far less boring, the first thing you need to do is add up your chips. If you’re sitting in front of a short stack, you have to play a tighter range of hands, knowing that any hand you play may be the one you’re going to have to commit to with all of your chips.

Next, try to calculate some statistics about your opponent. How often do they raise? How much, on average, do they raise by? Is there a gulf between their lowest and highest bets? The answers to all of these questions will help you figure out what kind of person they are, the hand they could be in possession of and, therefore, whether you should consider folding.

Finally, consider the odds. Are you getting the correct price to call the bet and make your draw? Pit the price of your bet against the value of the pot – are your chances of winning the same, or more? If not, it’s best to fold.

The Big One: Going ‘All In’

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

At the start of a tournament, when you have a big stack of chips relative to the blinds, you would have to think very carefully before ever going all in. In reality, at the beginning of a tournament, this may likely only happen if you hold the nuts. As the tournament progresses and the blinds are higher, relative to your chip stack, the situation may change and, as the blinds increase, you may find a lot more wins in the tournament. It’s all about risk versus reward, based on the size of the blinds.

No Limit Texas Hold'em has one major feature that sets it apart from other forms of the game… the ability to go all in.

Going all in (pushing all of your chips forward as a bet) is a game-changer. One false move and you could lose everything you had. However, make your move confidently and you could be rewarded.

When to go all in

If you have a good number of chips, and the time is right, you can go all in as a bluff. For example, when a passive player who you’re confident has a decent hand makes a bet after the flop. Chances are, they’ll step aside if they think you have something better, rather than risk losing their chips. This prevents them from playing a (potentially) winning hand.

TOP TIP: Ensure you know what you’re trying to achieve by going all in. If you’re looking for a call, as you have a great hand, be sure that your all in won’t scare away your customer. If it will, maybe a smaller raise would work better.

While it has its virtues, the risks that come with the words ‘all in’ are no secret. Potentially, you could lose everything, so it’s important to know when to bite your tongue!

One thing to remember is that if you end up with a good starting hand, try not to let your excitement run away with you. If everyone else has folded and the value of the pot is low, then there is next to nothing to gain from going all in.

Unless you’re in the big leagues, it’s best to save this hallowed move until later in your poker career.

Are you Ready?

It’s the end of the Goliath tournament. Nick Secker is still beaming from ear to ear, having done his Grosvenor-sponsored mentors proud by snagging 17th place out of 4,210 competitors. Cameras are hungry for interviews, and congratulations pour in from every corner of the room.

It just goes to show how far dedication and the right tuition can take you.

The hallowed hall of Goliath 2015

The hallowed hall of Goliath 2015

This guide might be lengthy, and all of these brand new words and complex strategies may seem mind-boggling, but pay close attention and take your time, and you’ll soon see results. It won’t happen overnight – after all, our Daves had two intense days of training with renowned professional players – but with practice and drive, everything will soon fall into place.

Just remember these essentials: know your hands, know your opponent, know the rules and know the lingo. And if you aren’t feeling confident enough to put these skills into practice during a live game, why not sign up for a poker account and test your skills online?

If 12 everyday Daves can master how to play poker, so can you!