If you know the basics, skip this page. This article is for the people that know absolutely nothing about the game. I promise to keep it brief. Mike Sexton of the World Poker Tour (WPT) often says, “Texas Hold’em takes only minutes to learn and a lifetime to master.” He’s not wrong. It is one of the easiest poker games to begin to learn (don’t get me started on Omaha High Low or RAZZ!), but has as many nuances as there are players.
Everyone gets 2 cards face down. The dealer will eventually reveal 5 Community Cards (referred to as The Board) between rounds of betting. Whoever has the best FIVE card hand (of the 5 Community Cards combined with their 2 personal cards, wins. Let’s break it down into steps…
- The blinds – The person to left of the dealer button puts out a mandatory “Small Blind” bet and the person to their left puts a out a mandatory “Big Blind” bet. (for example, in a $2-5 No Limit Holdem (NLH) game, the Small Blind would be $2 and the Big Blind would be $5, and all bets and raises would be in increments of $5. In a $1-3 NLH game, the Small Blind would be $1 and the Big Blind would be $3 and the betting can be in any increment of $1 as long as it is at least double the Big Blind.) These forced bets are BEFORE the cards get dealt and are to help incentivize the betting action. These early (blind) positions are strategically the weakest as they have to act first in every round of betting without knowing what the others behind them are going to do. Because of that, you need a much stronger hand in the first two positions in order to even be in the hand. The good news is: because you already have money in the Pre-Flop pot, you may be getting good odds to add a little more to see if you get lucky on the Flop. We will talk more about pot odds in a later article.
- The deal – Everyone (usually 9-10 players at a table) gets dealt 2 “hole” cards (cards no one else should see).
- 1st Round of Betting – after everyone sees their “hole cards”, the betting starts with the player to left of the “Big Blind” (two seats to the left of dealer) and goes clockwise around the table. Your options are to either
- “Call” – (match) the Big Blind, a minimum requirement to stay in the hand.
- Raise – (has to be at least double the Big Blind bet, or
- Fold – surrender your hand by putting it toward the center of the table for the dealer to collect and put into “the muck” (discarded cards)
- If someone raises after you, you have these same three options again when your turn comes. (Do NOT bet or act or speak out of turn. More on this later.)
- The Flop – The dealer then “burns a card” (discards the first card on the deck to minimize anyone seeing it and having an unfair advantage. If a card is accidentally exposed during the deal, everyone must be notified of what is is, and IT becomes the burn card. If a card is accidentally exposed while dealing to the Blinds, then the dealer must re-shuffle and re-deal the whole hand.) and then lays the next 3 cards in the deck out on the table. This is the Flop.
- 2nd Round of Betting – After the Flop, starting with the Small blind (to the left of the dealer) Everyone has the same 3 options of Call, Raise, or Fold as well as “Bet” and “Check”. If there are no bets in front of you, you have the option to “Check” which means you are passing on your option to initially Bet. You can “open the betting” by making the first Bet. The players after you then only have the options of Calling, Raising, or Folding. Checking is no longer an option. If they don’t want to Call (the initial bet) or Raise (at least double the initial Bet), they must then Fold.
- The Turn – The dealer then “burns” the next card in the deck and the flips over the next card as the 4th exposed Community Card (called the Turn card). You will hear this referred to as “Burn and Turn”.
- 3rd Round of Betting – Again starting with the Small Blind position, everyone can Check, Bet, Call, Raise or Fold. See second round of betting note for when you can Raise, Check Bet or Fold.
- The River – The dealer then “burns” the next card in the deck and the flips over the last card as the 5th exposed Community Card (called the River card).
- 4rd Round of Betting – Again starting with the Small Blind position, everyone can Check, Bet, Call, Raise or Fold. See second round of betting note for when you can Raise, Check Bet or Fold. This will be the Final round of betting for this hand.
- Showdown – If someone “calls” the last person to initiate a bet, the person who initiated that bet has been called and must expose their cards first to see who has the best 5 card hand (combining their 2 personal cards withe the 5 Community Cards). If no one calls the bet, the person who initiated that bet wins, as all others have folded by not calling.
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