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Texas Holdem Rules

Texas Holdem is a community card game. That means there are cards used in this game which all players can see and use as part of their showdown hands. Texas Holdem is not the only community card poker variant, there are several others like Omaha, Royal Holdem, Double-Board Holdem etc.

Let’s not cut too far ahead though and take a closer look at the rules of this game, because it is not only the flagship of every online poker room out there, it is also the most popular poker variant in the world today.

Texas Holdem begins with people sitting around a table, and one of them doing the dealing. The dealer has a button in front of him, which travels one position in a clockwise direction with every hand. This way, everybody gets their turn being the dealer. The dealer-button has further significance as well, but more on that later. The person on the immediate left of the dealer is in the Small Blind position (SB). The player on the SB’s left is the Big Blind (BB). As the dealer button goes around the table so do the SB and the BB positions. The SB posts an amount of money, half of what the big blind will post, before anything else happens. These bets are blind bets, hence their name. Once the two blinds are posted, the dealer gives every player a card in a clockwise direction, then he repeats the deal so that every player ends up with two cards placed face down when the deal is complete.

Before we go any further: you might wonder what the blinds are good for. Well, they are the very catalyst of the game, all action stems from the blinds. Imagine, if there were no blinds, everyone would fold but the player with the best hand who would then win nothing this way. The blinds are there to force action, and most of the action, especially in low fixed limit games revolves around them. After each player gets his two hole cards (that’s what the two face-down cards are called, or pocket-cards) a betting round begins. This is called pre-flop betting. The players in the blinds will naturally want to retain their blind bets while all other players will want to steal them, this is how action begins: with a battle for the blinds. Good players will generate a lot of action preflop for several reasons. First of all, it is the basic theory behind winning poker that one needs to act on positive expected value (what that is, we’ll discuss in another article). Positive EV is not something static though. It can be manipulated by skilled players, and that’s why skilled players are not happy with just checking around and moving on to the next stage. The quality of the starting hand (the hole cards) is also very important here. Not all starting hands are equal, there are some that carry much better odds for an eventual winning hand than others, and there are some which do not carry excellent odds, yet they yield excellent payouts when they do strike. There are starting hand charts out there which detail every hand and discuss its properties, and even though poker is a betting game, which basically means starting hands are less important than actual betting strategies, one should still pay attention to them. In this respect one needs to remember that the more important thing is WHY a chart recommends a hand over another one and not WHAT.

Anyway, back to pre-flop betting. By acting aggressively before the flop, (which may seem senseless for a rookie) a good player will obtain one or both of two things: other players will be intimidated or they’ll consider that calling is not lucrative and they’ll fold.

The fewer people there are in a hand, the better the odds get for each starting hand involved. What these pre-flop raisers do is that they generate positive EV for themselves, by cutting down the competition from the get go. The other thing which can happen is that someone calls them, but on later streets decides in favor of folding. This will leave so called “dead money” in the pot, which further augments our pre-flop raiser’s odds. (in order to understand why, you’ll need to understand pot odds, which we’ll discuss later).

Anyway, as you can see, the battle for the pot begins as soon as the last dealt card hits the table. This betting round is followed by the flop. The flop is made up of three community cards that are laid out face-up in the middle of the table. Players have to form their 5-card poker hands using their two hole-cards (which no one can see but them) and the three community cards on the table. Based on the value of the hand they get this way, another betting round takes place. Always remember that after the flop, your final hand is 75% made.

People can once again call, bet, raise or fold according to their strategy. Betting always goes around in a clockwise direction as well as dealing. The flop is followed by yet another community card, called the turn. The turn is the ‘turning’ point of a hand. This is when the eventual winner is usually decided, as well as the size of the pot he’ll end up taking down. The turn is where most strategic moves meant to influence the eventual size of the pot take place. He who manages to get an opponent pot-committed on the turn will almost surely get him/her all-in on the river. After another betting round, the last community card, the river is dealt. People still in the game will make their final hands using either both their hole-cards and three of their community cards or one hole-card and four community cards. The river is followed by the last betting round, and then the showdown. Upon showdown, the highest ranking 5-card poker hand takes the pot.

I hope this little run-through will whet your appetite for poker. Make sure to check back for more in-depth strategy considerations.

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