Overview of Texas Hold'em

Texas Hold'em is probably the most popular type of poker. It is a complex game requiring a lot of strategy, but it can seem very simple when looking at the rules. This is probably the reason, why Texas Hold'em continues to take poker rooms by storm. All the online poker rooms offer this type of poker and you will also come across it in almost every home game. The biggest tournaments are played in this variant and every day several hundred thousand people sit at real or virtual poker tables to play Texas Hold'em.

How to play Texas Hold'em: Each player is dealt two cards face down (hole cards). Then, over the course of the hand, five community cards, thus cards that can be used by everyone, are dealt and placed face up in the center of the table. In the course of the game (in the following also called hand) the players bet chips in several rounds and each player has the opportunity to fold and don't risk more chips at any time. The exact rules when it comes to making a bet are explained below. All bets are collected in the middle of the table and form what is known as the pot. A hand is finished when all but one of the players have folded or the last betting round is finished. In the last case the remaining players compare their hands (= combination of five cards). In the process each player forms the best possible five-card poker hand using either none, one or both of his hole cards together with the corresponding number of community cards. The player with the best combination wins the pot. The poker hand ranking will be explained in the next article.

The button

As with most types of poker, Texas Hold'em is played with a (dealer) button. Before the first hand each player is dealt an open card, and the player with the highest card (ace, king, queen, jack and then ten to deuce) receives the button, which in tournaments is a button made of plastic and online a round symbol with a "D" on it. If more than one player has a card with the same value, the suit decides. Please note: This is the only situation in Texas Hold'em where the individual suits have any value. The order of suit value is as follows: Spades, Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs. Despite his name the button merely serves to identify which player is in the dealer position; the player with the button usually does not deal the cards. At most casinos and card rooms the cards are dealt by an employee (dealer or employee). Online the cards are dealt automatically. The player who has the button in front of him is also called "button" for this hand. After each round the button is passed on clockwise to the next player.

 

The blinds

Blinds are forced bets which have to be payed in order for the game to work. If there were no blinds, there wouldn't be any money in the pot and therefore no incentive to fight for it. Thus, each player could wait for the perfect hand without taking any risk and there wouldn't be any action.

Before every hand the two players to the left of the button have to post mandatory bets. Synonomically the bets as well as the players who post them are called small blind or big blind. The size of the blinds is determined before the first hand. As a rule the small blind is half of the big blind.

If a new player sits down at a table he also has to post the big blind when he plays his first hand. However, he can wait until he is sitting two seats to the left of the button and therefore would have to post the big blind anyway.

Betting rounds

The first round of betting ("pre-flop")

Before the first community cards are revealed (this happens on the flop, see below; everything that happens before the community cards are dealt is therefore called "pre-flop") each player receives two cards face down, the hole cards, which none of the opponents is allowed to see. The cards are dealt individually in a clockwise direction, starting with the small blind and ending with the button.

As both players to the left of the button have already placed the blinds, the betting round starts with the player to the left of the big blind.

Actions

The following actions are generally available:

  • Fold: If you do not want to call a bet made by one of your opponents, you can fold. If a player folds, he can no longer take part in the hand and has no chance of winning the pot.
  • Check: If none of the players has made a bet, then players can check. If a player checks, then it's the next player's turn to act. 
  • Call: If a player has already made a bet or a raise, you must match or call this amount in order to continue playing.
  • Bet: If none of the players has made a bet so far, then players can post a bet.
  • Raise: To raise is only possible, when one of the players has made a bet before it's your turn to act.
The first player to the left of the button now has the option of folding, calling or raising (checking is not possible, since the big blind already counts as bet). Play then continues in a clockwise direction until the big blind has acted (in poker jargon they say until the big blind has spoken). As soon as all of the players have placed the same bet or have folded, this round of betting is complete. If a player raises a bet, all other players have to act again and the the round of betting ends with the player who has made the last raise.

 

In this example some players call and the others fold. This round of betting ends with us (martenJ) in the big blind.

However, in this hand the players who first only called have to act again. They can either call, fold or raise.

The second round of betting: The flop

After the first betting round three of the five community cards are dealt.

A new round of betting begins with the player to the left of the button - the small blind. This player can either check or bet. Play then continues in a clockwise direction. This round of betting ends, when all of the players have acted once. In case somebody raises all other players have to act one more time just like in the previous betting round.

The third round of betting: The turn

The fourth community card is dealt, also known as the turn. This round again starts with the player to the left of the dealer and proceeds the same way like the betting round on the flop.

The fourth round of betting: The river

The fifth and last community card is dealt, also known as the river. As usual, the last round of betting commences with the person to the left of the dealer. 

The showdown

 

After the last round of betting each player tries to form the best possible five-card poker hand using his hole cards and the five community cards. The hole cards of the players still in the hand are now compared and the player with the best hand wins the pot. If several players have the same combination of cards, the pot is split between them (split pot). The dealer button moves one place to the left and a new hand starts.

So there are four rounds in total where players can bet, call, raise or fold. These rounds are known as "streets" in poker lingo. Depending on the type of Texas Hold'em being played (no limit, pot limit, limit or tournament), the various betting rounds require different strategies and playing styles. Recognising and mastering those is the main challenge of the game. The IntelliPoker education section will help everybody that is interested in improving their game by means of numerous articles and videos.

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