How to Play Texas Hold’Em

Published: 06/09/2010
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Thanks to televised tournaments like the annual World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, Texas Hold’Em has become the world’s most popular version of “Open” or “Stud” Poker. It is a game for two to ten players using a standard 52-card deck and featuring “community cards”—five of them shared by all of the players—that are dealt in the center of the table face up. Each player also receives two “hole” or “pocket” cards dealt face down. These are combined with the community cards to create the best possible five-card Poker hand.

Whether you play Texas Hold’Em in a casino poker room or online, a non-playing dealer is responsible for shuffling and dealing the cards. Working for the house, this dealer claims a small commission called the “rake” from the “pot” of chips being played for on each hand. Rules regarding the amount of the rake are set by each casino, typically a fixed amount that is no more than a few percent of the average pot.

The term “dealer” is also used to refer to the player at the table who would be shuffling and dealing if the casino did not take care of these functions. The position of the player-dealer is marked by a “buck” or “button,” and whoever is “on the button” is the last player to receive a card. Following the conclusion of each hand, the button is passed to the next player clockwise.

Texas Hold’Em employs “blinds” rather than “antes” to start building the pot for each hand. Immediately seated to the left of the button is the player known as the “Small Blind.” This player must make a wager of a fixed amount, usually half of whatever the minimum bet is, before the hand begins. Two seats to the left of the button is the “Big Blind.” The player sitting there must ante double the amount of the Small Blind’s bet.

Before sitting down to play at a Texas Hold’Em table, always be sure to check the amount of the blinds and the limits, if any. For example, a game denoted as “2-4 Pot Limit” would mean the Small Blind is £2, the Big Blind is £4, and no player may wager more than the total number of chips that are in the pot at any given time.

As soon as both blinds have been put in the pot, the hand may begin with two cards dealt to each player, face down. Once players looked at their pocket cards, a betting round takes place, beginning with the player to the left of the Big Blind. This player has three options: call the Big Blind’s bet, raise the bet, or fold. Following this action, players then call, raise or fold in order, clockwise around the table, until all bets have been equalized for the remaining active players.

The house dealer then discards or “burns” one card from the top of the deck, unseen—a precaution to ensure than nobody has had an unfair peek. Next, the dealer places three community cards face up in the middle of the table in what’s known as the “Flop.” Players evaluate how well the three cards fit with their pocket cards and second betting round takes place, starting with the first active player to the dealer’s left.

Again, there are three options for the first player: “check” (no bet), bet, or fold. These same options are available to the other players, in turn clockwise, until someone bets. Then the options become call, raise, or fold. The betting interval goes on until all of the active players’ bets are equalized.

Once more, the house dealer burns a card before dealing the fourth community card face up. This card is sometimes called “Fourth Street” or the “Turn” card. Another betting ensues, one more card is burned, and the fifth and last community card is dealt, known as “Fifth Street” or the “River.” One final betting round takes place, the remaining active players show their hands, and a winner emerges. On the rare occasion of two hands being exactly equal, the tying hands divide the pot into equal shares.

Several variations on the basic game of Texas Hold’Em are played in poker rooms and tournaments. The “Limit” version puts a fixed maximum on the amounts that can be wagered or raised, as well as the number of re-raises possible during each betting round. In the game known as “No Limit,” players can bet anywhere from the minimum up to all of the chips they have on the table.

Wagering everything in one bet is called “going all in.” If successful, the “all-in” player wins the pot, up to an amount equal to but not greater than all of his/her chips. If there are any additional chips left over in the pot, they go to the player with the second-best hand.

Published on: 06/09/2010

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