Poker Beginners Guide: Frequently Asked Questions

In this section we shall be addressing some of the most common questions about Hold’em (and poker in general):


What is the object of poker?

The goal in poker is to win money. There are no prizes for the player who wins the most pots. In poker you need to be very selective about the hands you play. The ability to fold poor hands is an important part of the game.

When I fold, don’t I lose the money I have already invested in the pot?

This is true. However, when you continue in a hand that you only have a slim chance of winning, you are likely to lose even more money. In these situations it is best to cut your losses and save those bets for more favourable situations.

What is the best starting hand in Hold’em?

The best hole cards you can possibly receive in Hold’em are two Aces. The Ace is the most powerful card in nearly all forms of poker, and starting with two of them puts you in a fine early position. However, there are still five community cards to come, which may possibly help your opponents more than you and cause them to overtake you by the time the showdown arrives.

The next most powerful starting hand is two Kings. Other good starting hands include two Queens, an Ace and a King of the same suit and an Ace and King of different suits. Two cards of the same suit greatly improve your chances of making a flush, although this doesn’t mean that you should play every suited hand you are dealt.

What is the worst starting hand in Hold’em?

The lowest hand in Hold’em is a Trey and Deuce of different suits. However, many people actually prefer this hand to a Seven and Deuce of different suits. At least with a 3-2 you have a chance of using both cards to complete a straight!

What is a ‘flush draw’?

You are said to be on a flush draw when you have a chance of making a flush after the flop (or turn). When you have four cards of the same suit you are said to have a ‘four-flush’. One more will complete your flush. On the other hand, when you only have three cards of the same suit you still require two more of the same suit on the last two cards. This long-shot is known as a ‘backdoor’ flush draw.

What is a ‘straight draw’?

Straight draws occur when you have four cards to a straight and just require one more to complete it. For example, if you have a Jack and Ten and there is a Queen and Nine on the board, then you have an ‘open-ended’ straight draw. Any King or Eight will complete your straight. On the other hand if you have a Jack and Ten and there is just an Ace and Queen on board, then you only have an ‘inside’ straight draw. You need a King to make a straight.

What is the best position in a game of Hold’em?

The most favourable seat is the button. The button has the advantage that in every round he is the last player who has to make any commitment to the pot (the two blinds act last in the first round, but they have already placed forced bets). Thus the button can see how the other players have acted before he is forced to act himself. He therefore has more information when he makes his decision, than the other players did when they made theirs. Unfortunately, you can only play the button once every round, when it’s your turn to deal!

The second-best position in a game of Hold’em is to the immediate right of the button. When the time comes to make a decision this player (often known as the ‘cut-off’) has more information than any other player apart from the button. Furthermore, if the button folds then this player will be acting last on every round.

What is a ‘bad beat’?

A bad beat occurs when you lose a hand in which you were a massive favourite. Wherever poker players congregate you will hear lots of ‘bad beat stories’!

What is ‘dealer’s choice’?

In a game of ‘dealer’s choice’ the button gets to decide which game will be played. In UK casinos this choice is usually restricted to Hold’em, Omaha, Seven-Card Stud and ‘Irish’. However, in home games a wide range of games are often allowed, including some very weird and wonderful poker variants! Sometimes a whole round of the selected game will be played before the choice of game passes to the player on the button’s left.

What is ‘Irish’?

Irish is exactly the same as Hold’em apart from the fact that:

  • 1. Each player receives three cards before the flop.
  • 2. Each player must then discard one of his three cards after the flop betting.

From the turn onwards Irish plays like Hold’em. By now each player only possesses two hole cards.