Texas Hold ‘Em has become one of the most popular card games in America. You may enjoy watching a tournament on television, joining an open game at a casino or organizing your own poker night with friends. It is a great game for novice card players or professionals and one may become quite good in a very short amount of time. Your ability to read your opponents and hide your own emotions is just as important as having good cards.
A good first step in becoming a wise and productive poker player is memorizing the list of hands from highest to lowest. Recognizing potential winning hands will come with time but knowing the order of the hands should be immediate. The list is as follows:
1. Straight Flush (five consecutive cards of the same suit)
2. Four of a Kind
3. Full House (three of a kind and one pair)
4. Flush (five cards of the same suit)
5. Straight (five consecutive cards – Aces may be used before a two or after a King)
6. Three of a Kind
7. Two Pairs
8. One Pair
9. High Card (Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten, Nine, etc)
Knowing some terminology will be helpful as well. The most important terms to remember are:
the pot – where the bets are placed, usually in the middle of the table
open – to bet first
check – to pass the opportunity to bet on to the next player
call – to match the previous bet
raise – to match and increase the previous bet
fold – to bow out gracefully, losing what you have bet so far
all in – to bet everything you have all at once, usually because you have a fabulous hand or are a tremendous bluffer (only an option in No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em)
Now that you know some lingo and what you’re looking for let’s talk Texas Hold ‘Em. Each player is trying to make the best five card poker hand that they can using their own cards and any of five community cards that are available to everyone. You may decide who deals first in any manner you choose. The deal moves to the left after each hand. The person on the dealers immediate left is called “the small blind” and the person to the left of the small blind is called “the big blind”. These titles refer to a blind bet both players are required to make even before the cards are dealt. The small blind is usually the same as the minimum bet and the big blind is most often twice the small blind. The blinds insure that there is always money in the pot. Once the blinds are on the table each player is dealt two cards, face down, which are called “pocket cards”. You do not show anyone your pocket cards. After everyone has seen their pocket cards, a round of betting takes place. (More on betting below)
Next the dealer will turn over three community cards, face up, in the center of the table. These cards are called “the flop” and are the first three of the five cards any player may use. So, with their pockets cards and the flop each player can already make a five card poker hand. After the flop, another round of betting takes place.
The dealer will then turn over the fourth community card, called “the turn” or “fourth street”, and then there is a third round of betting.
Finally, the dealer turns over the fifth and final community card. This card is called “the river” and can make or break a high stakes hand. A great time to watch others for tells is right when the river hits the table. The last round of betting happens after the river has been dealt.
Once the betting is complete, the players who have not folded must show their cards. The highest hand wins all of the chips that have been bet. If the community cards end up being the best hand the remaining players split the pot.
Having a firm grasp on how the betting works will improve your game in more ways than one. You will have more time to assess the other players, hash out betting strategies and determine if your hand is worth keeping sooner rather than later.
The bet always rotates clockwise with the first person to act being the one sitting on the dealer’s left-hand side. This person may do one of three things. He or she can fold, check or bet. Then, each player in turn has the chance to fold, call or raise the bet. A round of betting is finished when all active players have acted at least once and have contributed the same amount to the pot. Minimum and maximum bets are to be decided upon before the start of the game. The maximum bet should be twice the minimum.
In a no limit game there is no maximum. A player may go all in at any time as long as it’s their turn to act. No player is required to fold due to insufficient funds to match a bet. The excess amount is either returned or used in a side pot with the other players that did match the entire bet.
Texas Hold ‘Em continues to be popular with serious and social gamblers as well as professional and novice card players both young and old. It’s a combination of card playing skill and people reading savvy. Mix in a bit of bluffing and keep your emotions in check and you’ll be walking away from the table a winner.