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Shortcuts: How to win at poker

By Greg Duke for CNN
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(CNN) -- If your poker face generally involves looking glum as someone takes away your life savings in a wheelbarrow, you need the Briefing Room's Texas hold 'em survival guide.

Time zone management: Growing numbers of poker players can nowadays be found in the virtual equivalent of smoke-filled rooms online, adding an international dimension to the average round of Texas hold 'em. This can be exploited by the astute player with a little knowledge of the world's time zones. If you're playing in Europe then make sure you know the time in such faraway places as Canada, Vietnam and Australia -- and particularly when it's just after bar-closing time in those countries. If a Canadian called Canuck King comes online at 2 a.m. Vancouver time and starts talking jibberish in the communal chat-box then rich pickings are to be had.

On the other hand... It's rarely a good idea to play after you've just been kicked out of your local bar, or under the influence of a couple of cans of premium strength beer. Those sharks across the oceans are just waiting to turn the tables on you as the roles are reversed.

When the chips are down: Bide your time and wait for the good cards to arrive. The nature of online poker means the top three on an average 10-player table are in the money and it can often be very rewarding watching everybody fight it out amongst themselves while you play a waiting game before the pocket rockets fall in your lap.

Low stakes = long hours: Never enter low-stakes competitions late at night, no matter how sober you are. Often competitions which only cost $1 to enter will have more than 2,000 players fighting it out for a poor top prize. Five hours later your eyelids are being kept up by Sellotape -- and there will still be 300 people in the running for a pot you could have won in one game of $10 on a single table.

Sunglasses indoors? You may look a total idiot but sunglasses have more uses for the poker player than shielding your sunlight-deprived eyes as you make your way home after an all-night session. The expression may be "poker face" but "poker eyes could be more appropriate. Your eyes give away a multitude of emotions and the name of the game is to hide those feelings. The last thing you want is for that twinkle to arrive when you've landed a flush on the river card.

Keep it friendly: Playing on a table of total strangers is asking for trouble. It's much easier, and you'll get a great deal more satisfaction, taking money off your friends. If you have to roll your winnings home in a wheelbarrow they might even help! The last thing you need is to take a massive pot, reveal you've been bluffing all the way with your 7, 2 and wake up in intensive care.

Go in big... when you have the highest pair in a game of Texas hold' em. For instance if you're holding 10, Q and the flop produces 10, 5, 2 then grab as much as you can. The chances of somebody holding a pocket pair of Js or greater are unlikely -- or indeed pocket 5s or 2s to make trips. Get rid of your opposition with a big bet, because you don't want to let your rivals get to see the turn card when an ace might show up to scupper you.

Know when to fold: Don't be afraid to throw away good cards, especially when an ace is involved. If you're in a 10-player game and you've been dealt A, 4... lose them. Yes, you have an ace, but the chances are that somebody else does too, and his kicker Jack is going to beat your puny four hands down. However, if you're last to bet and everybody has folded before you, then maybe a largish bet can steal the blinds -- the bets placed to begin the round of betting -- knowing your ace is a lot stronger with only you, the big blind and small blind remaining.


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World Series of Poker champion Jamie Gold poses with his winnings.

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