Texas Hold'Em 101
This year the Poker explosion rocked the world as televised matches made their way to TV and into the living rooms of millions of viewers. The coverage of the World Poker Tour on the Travel channel and ESPN’s broadcast of the World Series of Poker has sparked the interest of the “kitchen table” poker players as well as some people who have never played poker before.
The game that has everyone buzzing is Texas Hold’em : However before you race down to the casino and sign up for a high stakes tournament you need to learn the basics of the game and get some playing experience in low limit games. The matches you see on television are No Limit Texas Hold’em games. That means that at any time a player can bet all of his chips. This is a great format for tournaments but as a beginning player you will want to first learn to play Limit Texas Hold’em. Limit games has structured betting rounds and you are limited to the amount of money you can bet during each round. More precisely you will want to play Low Limit Texas Hold’em as you learn the game. Some of the low limit games you will find in the cardroom are have a betting structure of $2/4, $3/6 $4/8. After you gain experience you can move up the higher limits or No Limit if you desire, but you must learn to walk before you can run. Let me explain the game and then give you some winning tips to get started.
How to Play : Texas Hold’em is a deceptively simple game to learn but a harder game to master. Each player is dealt two personal cards and then five community cards are turned up on the board. You make the best five card hand using any combination of the seven cards. For this example we will use a low limit structure of $2/4. There are four betting rounds and the first two have a limit of $2 and the last two rounds have a limit of $4. You must bet or raise only the amount of the limit for that round.
The Start : To start a new hand two "Blind" bets are put up or "Posted." The player immediately to the left of the dealer puts up or "posts" the small blind which half the minimum bet one dollar. The player to the left of the small blind posts the big blind which is equal to the minimum bet which is two dollars for this game. The rest of the players do not put up any money to start the hand. Because the deal rotates around the table, each player will eventually act as the big blind, small blind and dealer.
The Opening : Each player is dealt two cards face down with the player on the small blind receiving the first card and the player with the dealer button getting the last card. The first betting round begins with the player to the left of the big blind either putting in two dollars to "Call" the blind bet, or putting in four dollars to "raise" the big blind or folding his hand. The betting goes around the table in order until it reaches the player who posted the small blind. That player can call the bet by putting in one dollar since a dollar blind was already posted. The last person to act is the big blind. If no one has raised, the dealer will ask if they would like the option. This means the big blind has the option to raise or just "check." By checking the player does not put in any more money. A rookie mistake sometimes occurs here. Because the blind is a live bet live, the player with the big blind has already put his bet in. I have seen some players throw their cards in not realizing that they are already in the hand. Another rookie mistake is betting or folding your cards when it is not your turn. You must wait before you act.
The Flop : After the first betting round is completed, three cards are dealt and turned face up in the middle of the table. This is known as the "Flop." These are community cards used by all the players. Another betting round begins with the first active player to the left of the dealer button. The minimum bet for this round is again two dollars.
The Turn : When the betting round after the flop is completed, the dealer turns a fourth card face up in the middle of the table. This is referred to as the "Turn." The minimum bet after the turn is now four dollars and begins again with the first active player to the left of the dealer.
The River : Following the betting round for the turn, the dealer will turn a fifth and final card face up. This is called the "river," and the final betting round begins with four dollars being the minimum bet.
The Showdown : To determine the winner, the players may use any combination of their two hole cards and the five cards on the "Board" (Table) to form the highest five-card hand. In some rare cases the best hand will be the five cards on board. Don’t count on that happening too often. In that case the active players will split the pot. A sixth card is never used to break a tie.
This Poker Column was written by Bill Burton, who writes for About.com, please visit his bio page at About.com. Buy his book at BillBurton.com