Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em: A guide to prom-night card playing
Published: Thursday, May 7, 2009 - 10:35pm
WHEN SATURDAY NIGHT arrives, Uni High promgoers will dress up and head to the Champaign Country Club for a night of dancing, frolicking, and poker.
That's right — to go along with the prom theme of A Night in Vegas, a poker table will be set up for those students who need a break from dancing, didn't want to dance anyway, or just really want to test their card-playing skills.
Games of five-card draw, blackjack, and the traditional Texas hold 'em will be open to prom guests, who can win chips dealt by sophomore dealer Albert Anastasio. The big winners may even get a prize at the end!
I know there must be juniors and seniors out there saying: "Oh no! I really wanna play poker, but I have no idea how to! If only some fabulous, really cool person could post the rules on the school's online newspaper so I can learn how to play and practice!"
Well luckily for you, after quickly doing my homework one recent evening, I gathered up a few family members so I could run through the game and explain it to you. Now, everyone will be able to sit at the poker table with a few tips, tricks, and the mind of a master poker player.
TEXAS HOLD 'EM
Let's start with Texas hold 'em, one of the most popular ways to play poker.
Here is a step-by-step description of what should happen when you get to the poker table.
1. The preflop: After the dealer (Anastasio) does quite a little bit of showing off, each person will receive two cards. Wait until Anastasio tells you when it's OK to look at your cards. Different places have different rules.
2. The player to the left of Anastasio will make the predetermined small blind , a required bet amount. The player left of that person makes a big blind . The blinds ensure that there is always money in the pot.
3. In more formal settings, after the big blind has been made, the player to the left of the big blind is the first one to look at their hand and make a bet. Then the other players can look at their cards. Since prom is a little more informal, you would need to find out when you can look while your playing.
However, be careful with looking at your cards. This is best done by flipping up the corners toward you so that you can read the cards with the least amount of card showing. If you can, memorize them so that you never have to look at them throughout the game. Trust me. It totally sucks when you have a great hand but everyone knows because they caught a glimpse of your cards.
Which leads me to my next bit of advice: Have a good poker face. Or even a good poker body. Little signs like blinking, fidgeting, smiling, frowning, or tapping your fingers can give away what type of hand you have. So if you get two aces, don't let a huge grin take over your face. Take a note from "West Side Story" and "play it cool, boy."
4. The first person to make a bet can either call, raise, or fold. Then everyone does so. However the small-blind player does not have to add any more money since he technically "opened the bets." Same with the big blind. But if the big blind wants to raise, he can.
5. The flop: Three cards from the deck are simultaneously dealt and flipped over for everyone to see. Another round of betting commences.
6. The turn: The top card from the deck is flipped face up in the center of the table as the fourth community card. Place your bets.
7. The river: The top card from the deck is flipped face up in the center of the table as the fifth and final community card. The small blind opens a fourth and final betting round, which proceeds as a regular betting round. Place your bets one final time
So at the end you will pick your hand using the two of the cards in your hand and three of the of the community cards and determine the winner!
Basic Five-Card Draw
The basic five-card draw is, in fact, pretty basic. This game is also useful for promgoers to learn since it is another popular poker game.
Here we go!
1. The first betting round is just like in Texas hold-em. Small blind, big blind, and the bets.
2. Each player is dealt five cards. Take a look at them and see what type of hands you have. Most likely you won't have anything fabulous the first time around, but you never know.
3. Another round of betting.
4. Here is the risky part. After all bets are in, you get to pick up to three cards to exchange. But no more than three. If you don't want to exchange any cards you don't have too. You can "stand pat" and keep the hand you were first dealt. After the dealer collects the cards you have discarded, he will replace them with new ones.
5. After the new cards are dealt, bets are made.
Blackjack is a fun game with a very simple objective: to beat the dealer.
Let me explain.
If all your cards total higher than the dealer's without going over 21 … you win! If your cards add up to a number over 21 … you lose! Actually, the term is "bust" if you want to get technical.
Here's what happens:
You are given a card. Cards 2-10 are counted as their face value and all face cards have a value of 10. So if you have for example a queen and a 6, your total is 16.
Ace, however, can count for either 1 or 11. If you don't have any aces, then you are said to have a "hard hand" since your hand can only have one value. If you do have an ace, you have a "soft hand" since an ace can be two things.
So if you have an ace and a 4, you have a soft hand because you can add up your cards to equal 5 or 15. The game is played depending on what you tell the dealer.
Hitting: To take a hit means that you want another card. The name comes from the signal, which is to tap the table or make a beckoning motion to the dealer. Hitting is usually done twice though you can do this as often as you want — just try not to go over 21!
Standing: After you are satisfied with the value of your cards, signal the dealer that you want to stand by waving your hand over the top of your cards.
Doubling down: When you double down you get to double your bet after you have two cards. You only get one more card, though. To signal, just place an additional bet next to your original. Please, for goodness sake, do not double down when you have a bad hand. Do you really want to lose twice the amount if you lose?
Splitting: If you are dealt two cards of the same rank, you can split them into two different hands. You must, however, also make an additional bet. The signal for this is to place another bet near your original bet. Don't separate the cards, though. The dealer will do this. Then play normally, hitting and standing for the two hands.
Surrendering: I don't know about prom, but some casinos allow you to surrender and give up half of your bet after the first two cards. This is known as a late surrender. The annoying thing about this is that players will often surrender, and the game just gets boring!
For those who want to refresh their memory on the different poker hands and lingo, here is a quick simple guide. The different sets let you know who the winner is.
Royal flush: Five-card sequence from 10 to the ace in the same suit (10, J, Q, K, A). Lucky Duck!
Straight flush: Any consecutive five-card sequence in the same suit — e.g., 8, 9, 10, J, Q or A, 2, 3, 4, 5 of same suit. Ranking between straights is determined by the value of the high end of the straight.
Four of a kind: All four cards of the same index — e.g., J, J, J, J. I got this once and put in all my money. Later I was astounded to find out that my opponent had a four of a kind in kings which beat my queens.
Full house: Three of a kind combined with a pair — e.g., A, A, A, 5, 5. Ties on a full house are broken by the three of a kind, as you cannot have two equal sets of three of a kind in any single deck. I got this too! But I was playing by myself so I didn't win anything.
Flush: Any five cards of the same suit but not in sequence. The high card determines the winner if two or more people have a flush.
Straight: Five cards in sequence but not in the same suit. A straight cannot wrap, meaning it is not a straight if you have a Q, K, A, 2, 3. The higher straight wins if two or more people have a straight. In case of straights that tie, the pot is split.
Three of a kind: Three cards of the same value. The highest set of three cards wins.
Two pair: Two separate pairs — e.g., 4, 4, Q, Q. As usual the pair with the higher value is used to determine the winner of a tie.
Pair: One pair of two equal-value cards constitutes a pair.
High card: If no one has any of the above winning hands, the tie is determined by the highest-value card in the hand. If the highest cards are a tie, then the tie is broken by the second-highest card. Suits are not used to break ties.
Poker fold: If you fold your hand in poker, you lay down your cards and stop playing the hand. You are out. You give it up. Most people do this if their hand is so terrible that they really don't want to lose any more money. Simply don't bet anything and wait for the next hand.
Have fun at prom!