Texas hold ’em has rules which are pretty easy to learn and therefore the game is really easy to play but in order to win it takes a good deal more than knowing the rules. It is definitely a game of strategy and knowledge of how your position on the table and the behaviour of your opponents effects the outcome. In the words of the great song “You’ve got to know when to fold ‘em and you’ve got to know when to hold’em”. But let’s focus for the time being on the rules and how the game is played.
The idea of the game is to make a five card poker hand using two cards which each player is dealt and five cards which are dealt into the middle of the table which any player can use. These are called Community Cards. So you are trying to choose the best five cards from the seven available. The game has several rounds before all five community cards are dealt and at each round it is possible to bet with the money going into a pot which the eventual winner receives. When playing Texas Holdem poker the casino will take a small percentage of the pot to cover running costs but you are playing solely against the other players around the table.
The game starts with the dealer dealing two cards (called the hole cards) to each player; these are dealt face down and it is very important not to let other players see these cards. The dealer is identified by the dealer button which is in front of one of the players. After each game the dealer button moves one place in a clockwise direction around the table so that each player has a turn in being the dealer. Once the hole cards are dealt the player immediately to the left of the dealer has to put in chips to a pre-determined value known as the “small blind” and the player next to that has to put in chips to the value of the “big blind”. This simply ensures that there is some money in the pot to play for. You will know the value of the small and big blinds when you join the table and can be as little as $0.10/0.20 or can be much larger. This is really what determines the stakes for which you wish to play. Play then progresses in a clockwise direction with each player in turn assessing their cards and their chances of winning the pot after all cards are dealt. The first player to the left of the big blind can decide either to “fold” (throw the cards away and take no further part in the hand);” call” which in this case means place chips into the pot equivalent to the big blind; or “raise” which means putting into the pot more than the amount of the big blind. The next player has the same decisions to make but if the previous player has raised then a “bet” involves putting chips into the pot equivalent to the raised amount rather than the big blind amount. This player also has another option which is a re-raise which involves increasing the stakes again. Each player in turn has these decisions to make until all players who have not folded have all put the same amount into the pot. Players who are in small blind or big blind positions have the same decisions to make but the money they put into the pot at the beginning counts towards their total stake. Let’s say for example that we are playing a $1/$2 game with 6 players; the small blind player will have put in $1 and the big blind player will have put in $2. Let’s say that player 3 raises to $4 and players 4 and 5 fold and that player 6 “bets” and also places $4 in the pot. The play is then back to the small blind player to make decisions. This player can either fold in which case he loses the money that he put into the pot as small blind or he can “call” which means continue to play in which case he needs to add a further $3 into the pot ($4 less the $1 already in from his small blind bet)or he can re-raise but let’s keep it simple for the time being and just call. The big blind player has the same choices to make but if he decides to call he only needs to add a further $2. Only when all players who have not folded have put the same number of chips into the pot can the game continue.
The game continues to the next round and the dealer will deal three cards face up into the middle of the table which are known as the flop. The player immediately to the left of the dealer who has not folded is the first to make a betting decision. They can decide to continue without adding further chips into the pot which is known as a “check” or they can raise which involves placing more chips into the pot. Each player in turn proceeds as above until all players who have not folded have put the same number of chips into the pot.
Once this has happened the dealer will deal the fourth card in to the middle known as the “turn card” and betting proceeds once again following the same rules. Once all players remaining have the same number of chips in the pot the fifth and last card can be dealt, this is called the “river card” and then betting proceeds as before until all players remaining have put the same number of chips into the pot at which stage all cards are shown and the winning hand takes the pot.
Not every hand will reach this stage as it is quite often that all players except one will fold their cards. If this happens the one remaining player takes the pot.
The skill of the game is obviously to maximise your winnings when you have a winning hand and minimise your losses by getting out in time when you have a losing hand but you never know for sure what hole cards your opponents are holding and although they could be raising they could be bluffing (pretending that they have a better hand than they actually have) and so could you for that matter.
The only real way to learn this game is by playing and several online casinos have good Texas Holdem poker schools that teach you the game but nobody can teach you how to bluff or how to spot a bluff, just experience and feeling.
The following is an overview of the hands in Texas Holdem poker from weakest to strongest.
This hand contains no pair, no straight and no flush and its value is determined by the value of the best card. Here, the High Card is the King (King High). In the event that another player has a high card King the value of the second highest card will determine the winner and if the second highest cards are equal the third highest will count and so on. Only when all five cards are equal will there be a split pot.
This hand contains two identical cards with three unmatched cards. In this example, the player has a pair of sevens.
This hand contains two identical cards combined with two other identical cards of a different value, and a fifth unmatched card. Here, the player has two pairs, sevens and fives, in hand. In the event that another player has two pairs the value of the highest pair will determine the winner.
Three of a kind (Set)
This hand contains three identical cards combined with two unmatched cards of different values. Here the player has three Queens.
This hand contains five cards that are consecutive but that are not of the same suit. The value of the straight is determined by the highest card. Here, the player has a ten high straight.
This hand contains five cards of the same suit but they are not consecutive. The value of the flush is determined by the highest card. Here the player has a Queen high flush.
This hand contains three identical value cards combined with two identical value cards.; so a Full house is three of a kind plus a pair. The value of the full house is determined by the value of the three of a kind. Here the player has a full house, sevens over fours.
Four of a kind
This hand contains four identical value cards plus a fifth unmatched card. Here the player has four Kings.
This hand contains five consecutive cards of the same suit; so a straight flush is both a flush and a straight combined. It is the highest hand in Texas Holdem poker. The value of the straight flush is determined by thehighest card. Here, the player has a straight flush, nine high.
This hand is in fact simply a straight flush but it is called a Royal Flush because the high card is an ace which cannot be beaten.
Enjoy your Texas Holdem poker but play for small stakes to start with only increasing your stakes as you gain confidence and get the feel of the game.