Poker Cheat Sheet


So you’ve read up on poker strategy, learned some poker terms and have become better acquainted with the nuances of poker etiquette, but when the time finally comes for you to belly up to the cash table or head online to try your hand at a sit-and-go tournament, you want to be sure you know what you’re doing. Fortunately, we’re here to help!

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5-card hand rankings, from highest to lowest.

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This poker checklist should help you keep your head in the game – something you’ll need if you hope to finish with some money in your pocket.

Before the Cards are Dealt

While the differing structures found across the many varieties of poker will change your strategies greatly, there are a few things you’ll always want to keep in mind regardless of the type of game you’re playing. Here are some questions to ask yourself at the beginning of every hand.

  • Where is the dealer button in relation to your seat?
  • Do you have to place any blinds or antes into the pot pre-flop?
  • Which players have larger chip stacks? Which have smaller ones?
  • Who are the aggressive players at the table, and where are they sat?
  • How many big blinds/antes do you currently have in your chip stack?
  • If need be, are you in a strong position to bluff?

After the Deal

Once the cards are dealt, every variety of poker opens with a betting round. Now that you’ve seen your cards you are in a better position to assess your chances of winning this hand. Of course, you’ll need to consider the following when making your decision.

  • How strong are the cards you’ve been dealt?
  • What is your high card? Your kicker?
  • Do you have any pairs? Sets?
  • Do you have a draw to a flush or straight?
  • What hands could you currently beat in a showdown?
  • Did any of your opponents have a notable reaction to their cards?

First Betting Round

Now that you’ve seen your cards it’s time to enter the first round of betting. There are some other factors to consider besides your hole cards alone.

  • How many players will act before you? How many after you?
  • Will you get to see the aggressive players bet before you do?
  • What is the minimum bet? How much of your stack will it take to call a raise?
  • Based on your cards’ strength, what is your goal for this hand?
  • Is it worth risking money on the hand?
  • What is the pot size? How much do you stand to win by participating?
  • Should you raise the pot in order to drive out more hesitant players or earn more money?
  • What’s the largest bet an opponent would call? How much would scare them away?
  • If you decide to bet/raise, should you expect a challenge from players in later position?
  • How much of your chip stack are you willing to risk if someone raises you?

Though these points can translate to all forms of poker, different variations will require their own strategies and planning. Here are are some of the more common variations and things you’ll have to consider for each.

 

Drawing Games

There are several varieties of poker where there is a drawing round following the opening round of betting. For these games you will start with what will form the base (if not the entirety) of your ending hand – which means you’ll have a few things to consider during the initial round of betting.

  • With your current cards, what is the best hand you could make?
  • How many cards would you have to take to make your optimum hand?
  • Should you make your hand, what cards can you beat?
  • How aggressively have your opponents been playing their cards?
  • Using this knowledge, should you continue to play the hand?
  • Following the betting round, there is a drawing round wherein you can trade in as many or as few of your cards as you like. This is followed by a final round of betting.
  • With all cards dealt, what is the strength of your hand? What could you beat?
  • Have your opponents done anything to signify the strength of their hands?
  • If you’re confident in your hand’s strength, what is the most you could bet and still get a call?
  • If you’re less confident, how much can you bet to scare opponents away?
  • How much are you willing to call if a player bets before you? Would you be willing to raise their bet?

Texas Hold ‘em/Omaha

Hold ‘em and Omaha are two sides of the same coin. Though players will start with differing numbers of hole cards, both games launch into a first round of community cards known as the flop. These three exposed cards should stir a number of questions in a player’s mind.

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Community cards consist of the Flop, Turn, and RIver.

  • Gauging the pre-flop betting, who has a strong starting hand?
  • Did you notice any reactions from your opponents?
  • Did you make a hand on the flop? Any pairs? Sets?
  • Do you have a flush draw? A straight draw?
  • Looking at the community cards, what is the best hand that could be out there?
  • Are there any overcards? Pairs on the board?
  • What is the best draw? Do you have it?
  • If you have a hand, what could it beat?
  • What cards could come to improve your hand? What cards do you not want to see come through?
  • Knowing all of this, should you check or bet? How much of a bet would you call?

There are two further rounds of betting (the turn and the river), and each of these steps should be repeated. Though you will want to keep in mind that draws will become weaker with each round. When it comes time for the final showdown, here are some more thoughts.

  • Assessing the strength of your hand, do you think you have the best hand?
  • If you are confident, how much are you willing to bet? How much are you willing to call?
  • If facing a bet, would you be willing to raise? Would you be willing to call someone that raises you?
  • Looking at the size of the pot, how much could you win by betting into this hand?