Texas Hold’em is the world’s most well-known poker variant
Televised poker and the worldwide boom it helped create cemented Texas Hold’em as the most popular version of the game, and it remains so today, both in casinos and poker rooms around the globe, and with online poker.
Here you will find a detailed overview of the game, as well as some useful information that should help you find the best deals with YourPokerDream in terms of where to play. The aim is to give you confidence to get started when you sit down at the table to do battle.
Texas Hold’em in a nutshell
The old adage that poker takes minutes to learn and a lifetime to master is a fitting one and, before we continue in more detail, we can briefly sum up the basics as follows:
Each player is dealt two ‘hole’ cards (face down), the dealer will deal a total of five ‘community’ cards (face up) over the course of three separate betting rounds, namely Flop, Turn and River. Three cards are dealt on the Flop, a fourth on the Turn and a fifth on the River.
The object of the game is to make the best possible 5-card hand using ANY combination of the 7 available cards – the two hole cards and five community cards. Note that we said ‘any’ combination – if the best hand is made up of the five board cards (e.g. 10c Js Qd Kh Ac), then every player in the hand would use those cards. Including as soon as the players are dealt their starting hands, there is a round of betting at each of the four stages, should the hand last that long. To remain in contention in a hand a player must put chips into the pot at least equal to the present bet; all the chips wagered in a hand go to the eventual winner(s).
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Texas Hold’em Rules
Let’s look at the basics of Texas Hold’em. The first important point to note is that the very nature of online poker is quite different to playing in a bricks & mortar casino or card room in that software – rather than an actual, real-life dealer – is responsible for all the practical part of the game. This speeds up proceedings significantly, and accounts for certain procedural differences compared with live poker.
Texas Hold’em uses a conventional 52-card deck (no Jokers!), from which each player is dealt two ‘hole’ cards (face down).
Poker chips of varying values represent a player’s stake in a Cash game, while in a tournament scenario we pay a buy-in and then receive a starting stack of chips. Whether real or virtual, it’s convention in poker to use chips.
To start the game a minimum of 2 players is required; when only two players are involved they are said to be ‘heads-up’ – it’s interesting, by the way, that this is one of numerous poker terms that has found its way into everyday English language. The most players that can be found at a table simultaneously is 10, while so-called ‘full ring’ tables of 9 players has become the popular choice online. It follows that the more players there are involved in a hand, the more possibilities there are for the advantage to move from player to player as a hand progresses through the betting rounds. Consequently, a strong hand is going to be more vulnerable as the number of opponents increases.
In recent years, online poker has seen so-called 6-max tables become extremely popular. With fewer players, the Blinds come round quicker (a third of the hands in an orbit are made of Blinds in this format), and that means having to be proactive and play more aggressively than in full ring games. Otherwise the increased frequency of the Blinds will eat away at your stack. Online poker rooms nowadays make sure that all games – from heads-up tables to 6-max to full ring – are part of their poker offering.
The dealer distributes cards to players and manages the action. In an actual poker room dealers have to be skillful in numerous ways, from the dexterity involved in shuffling and dealing to constantly keeping up with the bets and the ever-changing size of the pot, making sure players abide by the rules and so on. But, as anyone who has played both ‘live’ and online poker will tell you, in the former environment this is an arduous and time-consuming task, and one which is carried out automatically by computer software, and in a fraction of the time.
Blinds and Betting
In Texas Hold’em the Blinds form the foundation of the minimum bets, and a player’s stack size determines the highest possible bet they can make in the No Limit format. The Blinds are obligatory bets made by the two players sitting directly to the left of the Dealer – first the Small Blind puts in, for example, $1, then the Big Blind $2, which is the minimum bet that subsequent players must at least equal in order to remain in the hand. The Dealer ‘button’ travels clockwise around the table one seat at a time so that each player will during an orbit of hands have made both Small and Big Blind bets. It’s the Blinds which guarantee that each hand starts with chips in the middle, thus getting the action going.
As for buy-ins, the highest in a Cash game at an online poker room is typically 100 Big Blinds (100BB), and the minimum can be, for instance, 30 Big Blinds. These limits can vary from room to room. Note that in a Cash game a player is, of course, free to leave the table at any time.
The object of Texas Hold’em
Poker revolves around winning money/chips from your opponents by winning hands. Typically, this would be by having the best hand at showdown when all betting has ended, forcing others to fold through aggressive betting, bluffing and so on. In a Cash game the object is to make a profit by leaving with more chips (money) than we started with; in a tournament we pay a buy-in, receive a starting stack and try to finish amongst the prizes. Note that in the ‘Rebuy’ format, for instance, we can buy subsequent starting stacks, as well as add on a set amount of chips after the rebuy period has ended.
The Mechanics of Texas Hold’em
- The first factor to take note of is the Dealer or, more specifically, the player with the Dealer Button for that particular hand.
- Next we have the first obligatory pre-flop bet in the shape of the Small Blind (SB; half of the minimum bet).
- Then comes the Big Blind (BB; twice the amount of the SB).
- Each player receives two ‘hole’ cards, dealt face down, the SB being the first to get a card, around to the Dealer, and subsequently a second card each.
After seeing their hole cards, the players decide whether they wish to Fold (give up their cards) or remain in the hand, for which the requirement is to at least match the amount of the BB with a Call. Alternatively, a player can raise and, in – literally – No Limit poker, the raise can be their entire stack. Note that the first to act in this pre-flop betting stage is the player ‘under the gun’ (UTG) to the immediate left of the BB, the latter having already made their ‘forced’ bet. This continues clockwise until all the players have made their decision. It is not so unusual for everyone to fold all the way round to the BB, who emerges from the hand with a profit in the shape of the SB. So, to sum up: a player can Fold, Call or (re) Raise.
In this betting round, three community cards – the Flop – are dealt face-up in the middle of the table. Another round of betting takes place, but this time the player to the immediate left of the Button is the first to act.
The next betting stage, the Turn, sees just one community card, after which the remaining players bet once more, again with the nearest active player to the left of the Dealer initiating proceedings.
When betting on the Turn has finished, the River brings the fifth and final community card. The final round of betting takes place (again the nearest active player to the left of the Button begins) and the task is to make the best possible 5-card hand using any combination of the seven cards available. Remember that this can include all five ‘board’ cards and neither of the hole cards.
Unless someone is the sole survivor after the River betting round, the winner of the hand is determined by the so-called Showdown, which sees the remaining protagonists’ cards revealed, and the best hand(s) winning the pot. In the event of two (or more) hands being identical, the pot will be divided equally between the winning players.
An ante is another obligatory bet that is different from the Blinds in that it tends to come into play during a tournament in order to speed up the game by juicing up the pot pre-flop, with everyone contributing an amount (the Ante) smaller than the blinds. Traditionally, this tends to be introduced once the latter stages have been reached, but there are also tournaments that feature Antes right from the start, as well as ‘big’ Antes – the point being to bump up the pot and provide players with more incentive from the off.
No Limit, Pot Limit, Limit and Mixed Texas Hold’em
While the rules are just about the same, there are a few differences depending on the specific version being played. No Limit Hold’em (NLH) and Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) are the most closely related in that pots can quickly become enormous, while Limit Hold’em – as its name suggests – limits players to only being allowed to bet the Big Blind initially, and up to a multiple of four BB per round. Finally, Mixed Texas Hold’em sees the format switch from round to round, so that players have to adjust for example, from No Limit to Pot limit.