Learn to play like 007 ahead of the Texas Hold'em Poker showdown with Le Chiffre in Casino Royale...

Play Poker Like Bond
11th November 2006

When James Bond is sent to the Casino Royale to defeat Le Chiffre, a villainous banker to the world's terrorists, the dual is not with the usual guns and gadgets, but with hands of cards. In an update to Ian Fleming's original 1953 novel where the action took place over a game of Baccarat, the 2006 film features the popular game Texas Hold'em Poker. Now you can learn to play like 007....

The Object. Like all gambling, the objective is to win money. With poker, you are trying to win the other players' money, not the casino's money. The casino makes its money by taking a rake, which is a small percentage of the money the players bet. Betting is done with standard casino-style chips.

The Play. Unlike most casino games where you bet, get your cards, and then it is over, with Texas Hold'em you get some cards, make a bet, get some more cards, bet again if you like, and continue this process a few more times. You can bail at any point, which is called folding. This saves you from having to keep kicking money in, but it means you forfeit any money you have already bet since you are no longer in the game. Of everyone left standing at the end, whoever has the best poker hand wins. What they win is the pot, which is all the money that all the players have bet that round -- sometimes minus a 5% rake, which is the commission the casino takes for hosting the game.

Poker Hand Rankings
H = Hearts, C = Clubs, D = Diamonds, S = Spades
High Card. Absent any better hand listed below, whoever has the highest card wins. The highest cards, from lowest to highest, is Jack, Queen, King, Ace, which we abbreviate J, Q, K, A. The hand [K 7 5 4 3] beats the hand [Q 7 5 4 3] because king beats queen. If two players have the same high card then the second-highest card wins. So [K J 9 6 5] beats [K 10 9 6 5] because jack beats ten. If two players both have the same high card and second-highest card then you look at the third-highest card, and so on.
Pair. A pair is a hand with two cards of the same rank, like [9 9 5 4 3]. A pair beats a high card even if the rank of the pair is lower. For example, [2 2 9 5 4] beats [A K Q J 9]. All those high cards are helpless against a pair of twos. If two players have a pair then the highest pair wins. If two players have the same pair then you look at the highest card outside the pair to see who wins.
Two Pair. A hand like [4 4 7 7 Q]. Same disclaimers for breaking ties as for regular pairs.
Three of a Kind. This is just what it sounds like, three cards of the same rank, like [5 5 5 9 8]. As with pairs, with multiple players have three of a kind then the highest one wins, and high cards break ties.
Straight. A straight is a hand with consecutive ranks, like [6 7 8 9 10]. An ace can also count as 1 to complete a straight where the other cards are 2, 3, 4, and 5, or as a high card to complete a straight where the other cards are 10, J, Q, K. But it can't count as both a low and a high card, e.g., Q K A 2 3.
Flush. All the cards are the same suit, like 9C QC 10C 4C 6C.
Full House. A pair and a three of a kind, like 9C 9H 4D 4C 4S.
Four of a Kind. Four of the same rank, like 3H 3C JD 3D 3S.
Straight flush. A hand that's both a straight and a flush, like 7H 8H 9H 10H JH.
Royal flush. A straight flush composed of the highest cards, such as 10H JH QH KH AH. But of course they don't all have to be in order. QH 10H AH JH KH is still a royal flush. The Royal Flush is the jackpot in video poker, and comes around about once out of every 40,000 or so hands -- or a week and a half of full-time play.

The Play
1. Posting the Blinds. Two players each make a mandatory small bet before any cards are dealt. This ensures that there is something for everyone to play for if no one decides to bet after that. This responsibility rotates around the table from round to round so that everybody shares the burden of posting the blinds throughout the game.
2. The Deal. Each player gets two cards, face-down. These are called the hole cards. Players place their bets, or fold (bail out).
3. The Flop. Three community cards are dealt face up to the centre of the table. Each player can use any or all of these cards along with his/her hole cards to make the best five-card hand. This is done in your head; nobody touches the community cards. The players bet again, or fold.
4. The Turn (aka Fourth Street). A fourth community card is dealt. More betting, ensues.
5. The River. The fifth and final community card is dealt. Followed by the customary betting.
6. The Showdown. Anyone still in the game (i.e., anyone who hasn't folded) puts their cards down face-up so all the players can see who won. The winner takes the pot, all the money that was bet during that round.

Types Of Poker Bets
Players must match the current bet. There's a basic concept that's easy to understand: Once any player has made a bet, then all the other players have to at least match that bet to stay in the game. If Player 1 bets $10, then all the other players have to also kick in at least $10 if they want to stay in. They do not have to stay in, of course. They can fold, which means giving up and removing themselves from the current round. But naturally this means that they have no chance of winning back their money in that round.

This is why poker is a battle of wills peppered by strategy and bluffing. During a round the amount bet grows progressively higher, and each player has to decide whether their hand is really strong enough to win the pot if they keep kicking money in -- or whether they can get their opponents to think they have a strong hand so their opponents decide to fold. If all players fold besides you, then you win.

Your choices:
Fold. Bail out of the game.
Bet. Make a wager.
Check. Pass (neither fold nor bet).
Call. Match the current bet.
Raise. Exceed the current bet.

Limits and Blinds
Limits. Games are either structured, where the amount you bet is fixed, or no limit, where the amount you can bet is unlimited. Beginners should definitely play structured games. They are easier to understand, and much less risky. In a structured game the amount you bet depends on which betting round it is. For example, in a $10/$20 game, the bet is $10 after the deal and the flop, and $20 after the turn and the river. A raise has to be the same amount as a bet.

The Blinds. At the beginning of each round (before the cards are dealt), two players must make a mandatory bet. This ensures that there's something to play for. Otherwise everyone could check on every turn and at the end there would be no money to win. Think of the blinds as pre-bets. One player posts (makes) the small blind and the next player posts the big blind. A big blind is equal to the small bet. For example, in a $10/$20 game, the big blind is $10. The small blind is usually half that, in this case $5. Players take turns posting the blinds so that the responsibility hits each player equally.

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