Poker is basically a game where the best five card hand wins, no matter which variant you play. The cards are divided into four suits, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades, all of which have an equal ranking, with the Ace being the highest card and the 2 the lowest. The most popular poker variant that has attracted players for years is Texas Holdem. Here we have compiled a basic guide to Texas Holdem to assist newcomers and beginners in understanding the game.
Texas Hold’em Basics
Texas Holdem is a community card game, as such, cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table and are shared by all the players at the table. A couple of things that make Hold’em unique are its use of a dealer button and blinds.
The Dealer Button
Whether you’re playing Hold’em at home, a casino, or online there the action rotates around the dealer. In a home game it’s easy to keep up with the dealer since the deal usually rotates around the table to the left anyway. Since casinos and online poker rooms deal for you, there is a white dealer button that rotates around the table clockwise after each hand. The dealer acts last on every round (except preflop) and has the best strategic advantage throughout the hand. It also determines who will post the blinds.
You may already be familiar with antes – a fixed amount that everyone puts into the pot before the cards are dealt. Blinds are like that. The only difference is that only the two players to the left of the dealer have to post them. Blinds consist of a small blind and big blind. The small blind, which is half the minimum bet, is placed by the first player to the left of the dealer while the following player, who is second on the left, places the big blind, which is equal to the minimum bet amount. For example in live casino $1/$2 No Limit Hold’em game, the small blind is $1 and the big blind is $2, which is the minimum you can bet on any round.
How to Play Hold’em
The game begins with each of the players being dealt two cards face down, which are theirs. These cards are called ‘hole cards’ or ‘pocket cards’. Once the cards have been dealt, betting begins in a clockwise manner, with the player next to the big blind making the first move and play continuing round the table until the last player has acted. Each of the players is free to call, raise or fold in this first round of betting. A player can ‘call’ by placing a bet of the same amount as the previous bet placed. To ‘raise’, a player must place a higher amount than the preceding bet and all players will have to call. If a player wishes to ‘fold’, then there is no betting required and the player sits out the hand.
With the end of the first round of betting, three cards are dealt out that are placed face up in the center of the table. These are the community cards that players may combine with their hole cards to make the best possible five-card hand. The three cards are known as the ‘flop’. Following this begins the next round of betting, starting with the first player to the left of the dealer. Players may check, call, raise or fold as desired. By checking, a player chooses to move on with the hand without placing a bet. Players may call, raise or fold if there is any betting in the round. However, if all players choose to check, there will be no addition to the pot in the round.
Once this betting round is over, the fourth community card is dealt face up on the table. This card is the turn card. A third round of betting takes place in the same manner as the second round.
Next, the fifth and final community card is dealt. This is the river card. A last round of betting takes place, concluding which each of the players remaining at the table must reveal their hole cards in the order that the betting took place, so they may stake a claim on the pot. The player having the highest five-card hand is the winner. The hand could be a combination of your hole cards and community cards or just the community cards.
In case two players have exactly the same hand, then the next highest card called the ‘kicker’ will determine the best hand. If the two hands are yet the same, the pot will be ‘split’ equally between the two players. Another way of winning a hand besides the one discussed above, is when all the players at the table have folded, leaving you as the sole contestant of the pot. You can claim the pot without revealing your cards, so that the rest of the players will never know whether you did actually have a winning hand or you were just bluffing.
This is the basic structure of holdem, which will help you get started. However, there is a lot more that you need to learn, before you can become an expert in the game. Moreover, regular practice and sensible use of your bankroll will help you go a long way.