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By Ashley Spegel

Beer and testosterone: two key components of poker that will guide you through your journey into the risky realm of the game.

As a poker virgin, specifically a cute, female poker virgin, those two accessories will work to my advantage so I can play my cards right and chalk up a few points for Team Estrogen.

Hormones aside, poker is a game of intimidation. In order to make your opponents’ hands sweat, you’ve got to learn the basic rules and the lingo.

“The objective of poker (Texas Hold’em) is to make the best hand by combining your cards with the cards on the table,” Jos Diening said, a rep for the Student Poker Championship, which made its way to Ryerson last week.

The game is played with eight players, one of whom is the dealer. Generally, the responsibility of dealer is rotated after each round. The player to the left of the dealer is the small blind, and they put in a half bet.

For example, if the bet is 50, the small blind puts in 25. The player to the left of the small blind is the big blind, and they put in a full bet. Next, the dealer distributes two cards, face down — hole cards — to each player.

After examining their hole cards, all players bet, raise or fold. A player must match the big blind’s bet in order to participate in the game. If the hole cards don’t look promising, a player will fold, or forfeit, and wait for the next round.

“When the first round of betting is done, the dealer burns, or discards, the top card on the deck,” Diening said. “He then places three cards, called the flop, face up in the middle of the table.” Based on the combination of the hole with the flop, all players bet, raise or fold, and turn cards.

By this point in the game, there are three cards on the table and two cards in each player’s hands. You’ve also had a few sips of beer and have been hit on at least three times. Maintaining your game face and a little bluffing are critical throughout the game, according to the tour’s participants from Ryerson.

“Wearing sunglasses doesn’t hurt either,” Vuk Zrnick said, another rep for the Student Poker Championship.

When the third round of betting is complete, the dealer burns a card and places another card, — the turn — face up alongside the flop.

After examining the four cards on the table in combination with their hole cards, all players bet, raise or fold. From the deck, the dealer dispenses the fifth and final card — the river — and places it adjacent to the flop.

Again, all players look over the cards presented on the table, in conjunction with their hole cards, and bet, raise or fold. When the betting and a pint of beer are finished, the players reveal their hands to see who had the best one.

There are a number of sequences you should aim for to win the game, including a pair (two cards of the same number), a straight (five cards in numerical order) and a flush (five cards of the same suit).

The key to winning the game is practice and familiarizing yourself with the body signals, or tells, of your opponents.

“Look at aggression, betting patterns, body language and the looking in your competition’s eyes are good indicators of what’s up their sleeve,” Diening said. “It’s important to play the person and not the cards.”

The best thing about poker is that it doesn’t end until one player is left with all the chips, so make sure you’ve got all the beer and testosterone you need to lead you to your victory.

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