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Learning how to play a game of Texas Hold’em can seem much more difficult than it really is. The game itself is actually very logical and simple and requires just a few minutes to learn. Mastering it, however, will take you a bit longer.
Before we get into describing the rules and game play, here’s a quick glossary of terms you’ll encounter.
* Blinds: Short for “blind bets,” these are the forced bets made before the cards are dealt. In Hold’em, blinds take the place of the classic “ante.”
* Button: Nickname for the player acting as the dealer in current hand.
* Check: Similar to a call but no money is bet. If there is no raise preflop, the big blind may check.
* Fifth Street: See River.
* Flop: The first three community cards dealt.
* Fourth Street: See Turn.
* Preflop: Anything that occurs before the flop is dealt is preflop.
* River: The final (5th) community card dealt; also known as fifth street.
* Showdown: When players reveal their hands to discover the pot’s winner.
* Turn: The fourth community card dealt; also known as fourth street.
The structure of Texas Hold’em can be broken up into three main divisions:
Once you have your players sitting around the table, the first thing you need to have is chips. Before you can figure out what kind of chips to give each player, you need to understand how the game works a little better, so we’ll get back to this.
For now, assume all players have chips in front of them.
The next step is picking the player who will start with the dealer button. Hold’em is played with what’s known as a rotating dealer, meaning a player will act as the dealer for one hand, handing the role of dealer to the player on their left when the hand is completed.
To choose the dealer, either deal every player one card, or spread the cards facedown on the table and have every player choose one.
Stacks of cash, poker’s end-goal.
The player with the highest-valued card (aces are high for selecting a dealer) starts as the dealer.
If you’re in a place with a professional dealer, or someone volunteers to always physically deal the cards, the dealer button will still rotate around the table.
Even though he or she is physically dealing the cards, for all intents and purposes, the person with the button is viewed as being the dealer for the hand.
Once the hand completes, the player with the dealer button will pass it to the player on his or her left.
Putting Out the Blinds
Now that you have a dealer, you need to put out the blinds.
There are two blinds in Holdem – a small blind and a big blind. The player directly to the left of the dealer puts out the small blind.
The big blind (exactly, or conveniently close to, double that of the small blind) is placed by the player to the left of the small blind.
The size of the blinds will dictate the stakes of the game you’re about to play. Typically, you want players to buy in for no less than 100 times the size of the big blind.
If you want to buy in for $20, you should play with blinds 10¢/20¢, or for convenience, most people will play 10¢/25¢.
Back to chips: Once the blinds are set we know what kind of chips we’ll need to play. (In the above example, we’d use 10¢ chips, 25¢ chips and maybe a few $1 chips.)
You want to give players enough chips in each denomination to allow the game to run smoothly.
Typically a player will need only 10% of their total chips in the smallest denomination, as they are only ever used to pay the small blind. For the most part, all betting will be done with chips larger than that of the small blind.
Once you have the blinds out, you’re now ready to deal the first hand.
Game-Play and Betting Rounds
The person dealing the cards deals to the left of the player with the dealer button first, rotating around the table in a clockwise manner, giving each player one card at a time until each player has two cards. These are known as your hole cards.
A hand of Hold’em consists of a minimum of one and a maximum of four betting rounds. A hand ends when all players but one have folded, or the fourth and final betting round completes with multiple players still in the hand – whichever comes first.
At that point, players enter into the showdown (to be explained in the next section).
When all players receive their hole cards, you are now in the preflop betting round.
Each player must look at their cards and decide what action they would like to take. In Hold’em, only one player can act at a time.
The preflop betting round starts with the player to the left of the big blind. This player has three options:
* Fold: They pay nothing to the pot and throw away their hand, waiting for the next deal to play again.
* Call: They match the amount of the big blind.
* Raise: They raise the bet by doubling the amount of the big blind. A player may raise more depending on the betting style being played.
Once a player has made their action, the player to the left of them gets their turn to act. Each player is given the same options: fold, call the bet of the player to their right (if the previous player raised, that is the amount you must call) or raise.
A raise is always the amount of one bet in addition to the amount of the previous bet, for example: if the big blind is 25¢, and the first player to act would like to raise, they put in a total of 50¢ (the big blind + one additional bet).
If the next player would like to reraise, they would put in a total of 75¢ (the previous bet + one additional bet).
A betting round ends when two conditions are met:
1. All players have had a chance to act.
2. All players who haven’t folded have bet the same amount of money for the round.
Once the preflop betting round ends, the flop is dealt. This is done by dealing the top card in the deck facedown on the table (it becomes the burn card), followed by three cards faceup.
Once this has been dealt, the first post-flop betting round begins.
The rules of a post-flop betting round are the same as a preflop, with two small exceptions: The first player to act is the next player with a hand to the left of the dealer, and the first player to act can check or bet; as there has been no bet made, calling is free.
A bet on the flop is the amount of the big blind. In our game, a player must put out 25¢ to make a bet.
Once the betting round on the flop completes, the dealer deals one card facedown followed by a single card faceup, also known as the “burn and turn.” Once the turn has been dealt, the third betting round starts.
The third betting round is identical to the flop betting round with one single exception: The size of a bet for this round, and the final betting round, is doubled, meaning that to make a bet in our game will now cost a player 50¢.
Assuming more than one player is left, having not folded on one of the previous streets, the river is now dealt. Dealing the river is identical as dealing the turn, with one card being dealt facedown, followed by a single card faceup.
This is the final street, and no more cards will be dealt in this hand. The betting round is identical to the betting round on the turn.
Once the river betting round has been completed, the players now enter into the showdown. At this point, the best hand wins the pot. Here are the rules you need to know about a Hold’em showdown:
* The player who bet on the river is the default first player to reveal their hand. If any other players choose to show their hand first, that is OK.
*If no betting happened on the river (all players checked), the player closest to the left of the dealer must open their hand first, continuing clockwise around the table.
* If a player is holding a losing hand, it is their option to reveal their cards or simply muck their hand and concede the pot.