When it comes to poker, no variation is more popular than Texas hold’em. After live poker tournaments like the European Poker Tour, World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker became televised, the popularity of Texas hold’em soared, making it the most popular poker game in the world.
Texas hold’em is often the first game taught to poker newbies as well as the most favoured version by professional poker players. Although it can seem difficult at first, it is actually quite simple to learn, using a logical game format players can typically pick up within a few minutes. It’s really mastering the game that takes time, practice and skill.
Texas Hold’em Overview
The aim of Texas hold’em poker is to play the best hand, taking in as many chips as you can to win each pot and building up your winnings to be as profitable as possible.
This is a community card poker game, played on a single table with anywhere from two to 10 players (a minimum of five players is preferable for a decent game). A standard 52 card deck excluding Jokers is used. Each game is divided into a series of hands or deals, with the pot being awarded to the winning player at the end of each hand.
A Texas hold’em hand entails a minimum of one and a maximum of four betting rounds. A hand ends when either all players except one have folded, or the fourth betting round finishes with multiple players still in the hand, whichever situation comes first. There is as much focus in Texas hold’em on the betting of each round as there is on the actual cards being played.
Blinds, and How to Bet, Deal & Play Texas Hold’em
Regular and online Texas hold’em are largely played the same way, with the key difference being in online poker, dealing takes place automatically and unless you’re playing with Web cams, you can’t see your opponents.
If playing a tournament, players buy in for a set price for an even amount of chips, while a cash game allows players to come and go as they please with as much or as little money as they see fit (there will be a max and min allowance, however).
A dealer ‘button’ is used to represent the player whom acts as the dealer for that round (the last player to act in the betting round). The dealer is first decided by whoever selects the highest card from a shuffled pack. After each hand, the dealer button then rotates clockwise.
Before cards are dealt, forced bets known as ‘blind bets’ are made which dictate the stakes of the game. These blind bets force players to contribute a certain amount of chips to the pot, rather than allow players to simply fold each time without losing money. The blinds also ensure the winning player will receive some profit.
Blind bets are made by the two players clockwise from the dealer, with the player closest to the dealer acting as the ‘small blind’ and the next player acting as the ‘big blind’. The small blind is typically half the amount of the big blind, with the big blind being the minimum bet that can be played during the game in order to call or raise. The small and big blind bets are thrown into the middle of the table, effectively becoming the start of the winning pot for the game.
*Note: some games may utilise anti bets instead of blind bets, where all players are required to place into the pot an agreed upon amount prior to the round commencing.
The game now begins with the croupier dealing two face down cards to each player, known as the ‘hole’ cards, which should not be displayed to any but the player him/herself. Each player then declares his/her first bet based on the blind bets, known as the ‘pre-flop betting round.’ Pre-flop bets start with the player left of the player who put in the big blind, and continues clockwise. During the pre-flop, players examine their hole cards and take turns declaring their bet. How a player chooses to play from this point on really depends on how good their hole cards are. Pre-flop betting options are:
Fold – pay nothing to the pot and sit out of the round until the next deal.
Call – match the amount of the big blind bet and continue in the game.
Raise – raise the current bet and continue in the game.
Check – once the betting has moved around the table and reached the big blind player again, he/she has the option to check or raise. If checking, the next round can begin, however if he/she chooses to raise, the action moves around the table again until everyone has either called or folded.
Once each player has placed their pre-flop bet, the dealer will then typically discard the card from the top of the deck, (known as a ‘burn’ card to deter a form of cheating known as card marking). Three face-up community cards (the flop) are then dealt in the middle of the table. These three cards are used by all players in combination with their hole cards in order to try and make the best possible hand.
Now another round of betting takes place, beginning from the player who put out the small blind, and following in a clockwise direction. Here players can fold, check (stay in the hand without putting in a bet), bet or raise. You cannot check if someone has before you bet. Once betting is complete, the next round begins.
This round is known as ‘The Turn’ – the dealer discards another burn card from the top of deck and turns over the very next card, placing it alongside the flop cards. The turn card becomes the fourth community card which players can use to make the best possible poker-ranking hand, and another round of betting takes place.
After betting is complete, one more burn card is discarded and the dealer turns over one final card from the top of the deck, known as the ‘river’ card. The river card is placed next to the turn card and becomes the fifth and last community card.
All remaining players take place in one final round of betting, and once completed, the lasting players turn their cards over to reveal their hands. The player with the best five card poker hand is the winner and scores all the money in the pot. The five card hand can be made up of none, one or both of the hole cards along with three, four or five of the community cards. In the instance where two or more players share the same winning hand, the pot is divided equally between them.
A player does not need to show his/her hand if all other players have folded. That player wins the pot by default and can choose to ‘muck’ his hand (return the cards to the dealer without revealing them). If a player is the aggressor in terms of betting (bets first), that player must show his/her hand if his/her opponent calls.
There are three slight variations of play in Texas hold’em play, each which comes with different betting style:
Limit Hold’em: This variation works on fixed betting limits, which will be posted on the stakes listing of the game at hand. Betting is limited to three raises per round, unless only two players are involved.
Pot Limit Hold’em: Here there are no fixed stakes, instead players can bet up to the current pot amount. The raise is equal to the big blind bet and if a player raises, the minimum re-raise is equal to the last raise.
No Limit Hold’em: As the name suggests, players can bet all their chips at once, known as going ‘all in’. The minimum amount allowed to be raised and re-raised must be at least equal to the last bet/raise.
Where Can Aussies Play Texas Hold’em Poker Online?
There are many strategies and tips for winning Texas hold’em poker, but it’s important for players to get a solid grasp of the basic rules and gameplay before moving on to worrying about strategy.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the rules and gameplay of Texas hold’em, you can put your new found knowledge to the test by playing hold’em online. Virtual poker venues like 888 Poker, which offers new players up to $888 in bonus money, have a wide range of poker variations so you can try Limit Hold’em, Pot Limit Hold’em and No Limit Hold’em as well as experience the exciting world of Texas Hold’em Tournaments.