When people think of playing poker, the game that comes to mind is more often than not Texas Hold’em. Despite its name, this variation of poker is pervasive across all cultures and is played in all corners of the world.
At first glance, Texas Hold’em poker looks like a confusing endeavor, but the reality of the matter is that it is a simple game that takes just a few minutes to learn.
Before we get into the finer details of the game itself, it is only right that we elaborate on a few key terms that you will hear time and time again while playing Hold’em.
Texas Hold’em Vocabulary – Poker Terms
Button – person who is playing the role of dealer for a particular hand
Blinds – Mandatory bets made prior to cards being dealt. Blinds exist in Hold’em in lieu of an ante.
Check – the action of calling without ever having wagered any money. Prior to cards being turned, the person in the big blind may check if no one else has raised the bet.
Flop – Initial 3 cards dealt, also known as the first three community cards.
Pre-Flop – Any action that takes place prior to the flop.
Turn – 4th community card dealt.
Flop – 5th and final community card dealt.
Showdown – when players reveal their final cards
Pot – Cumulative wagers that the winner of the showdown takes.
The game of Texas Hold’em is a played with a community of players of varying sizes. By taking into consideration both the two cards which you are dealt (hole cards) as well as the community cards that are laid out on the table, you are to make wagers in hopes of luring other players in and ultimately besting them by making the best possible combination of community cards and hole cards. The trick is, no combination can exceed 5 cards. When it comes down to it, there are 2 different types of Texas Hold’em poker — cash games and tournament play. Though the rules remain the same across tournaments and cash games, the two game types are played entirely differently. For this article and for simplicity’s sake, we will focus solely on cash games.
Texas Hold’em is played with anywhere from 2 to 10 players with the main goal being to win as many chips (money) as you can by winning as many showdowns as you can.
Gameplay – Texas Holdem Poker Rules
To begin playing, the person immediately left of the button and the person immediately left of them offer up the small blind and big blind respectively. Once the blinds are settled, two cards are dealt, face down, to every player around the table. These cards are often referred to as the “hole” cards. At this point everyone except the person in the big blind is able to either match the big blind (call), raise the big blind, or fold. If and when a player folds, they no longer have the opportunity to win the hand.
It is important to mention that if a player chooses to raise, the amount by which they can increase the pot size (cumulative total of bets at any given time) depends on the specific type of Hold’em you are playing. In Limit Hold’em a player is only able to raise by the amount of the big blind. Pot Limit Hold’em allows for raises that total no more than the current pot size. Finally, No Limit Hold’em, as its name implies, places no limit on the amount by which a player can raise. In fact, a player can raise to an amount totaling all of their chips; at this point a player is deemed to be “all in.”
If and when a raise occurs, the subsequent bettors have the opportunity to wager an amount equaling to the raise, fold their hand, or re-raise (the act of raising the raise, so to speak).
When the first round of pre-flop betting is complete, the flop is laid down in the middle of the table. Immediately following this, the second round of betting begins with the first participating player to the left of the button. A unique facet of the second round of betting and every round following it is that a bettor has one additional action they may take. In addition to being able to bet, call, raise, and fold, a player is now able to check. If a person checks, they are neither betting nor folding, but rather passing the action on to the next player. Once betting is settled a fourth card is flipped, this card is referred to as the “Turn.”
The third round of betting identically resembles the preceding round and culminates with the showing of the fifth and final card, the “River.” Once all 5 community cards are laid down in the middle of the table, players participate in one final round of betting. As soon as the final round of wagering is complete, the remaining active players simultaneously reveal their cards to determine the hand’s winner. As you might expect, the winner is awarded the big blind, small blind, and all subsequent bets.
It is important to keep in mind that not every hand of Texas Hold’em makes it to the Showdown. If all players except for one fold their hand at any point, the hand is finished and the one player left standing is awarded the big blind, small blind, and any wagers that may have occurred.
A classic cash game of Texas Hold’em can, in theory, never come to an end. The glory of cash games, however, is that a player can pick up and leave at any time they would like.
Hold’em Hand Combinations – Poker Hands
When it comes to the showdown, when a winner is determined, the person with the best hand combination is determined to be the winner. By utilizing no more than 5 cards, including the cards in your hand and the 5 community cards, your goal is to make the best possible hand combination. Below, we will explain all possible poker hands starting from the strongest and working to the weakest.
A straight flush is any hand that consists of 5 sequential cards all of the same suit. An example of this would be 9♥10♥J♥Q♥K♥. If the straight flush has an Ace as a high card, it is referred to as a Royal Flush.
4 of a Kind
4 of a kind, also known as quads, is a hand combination that consists of 4 cards of one rank. An example of this would be a 9♥9♣9♠9♦.
Full House is also known as a full boat, and consists of 5 cards—1 pair and 1 3 of a kind. An example of this would be 8♥8♠10♥10♠10♣.
A flush is a hand that consists of 5 cards all of the same suit. An example of this would be 3♥5♥10♥Q♥K♥.
A straight is a hand that consists of 5 cards in sequential order. An example of a straight would be 5♥6♠7♠8♣9♥.
3 of a Kind
As its name implies, 3 of a kind is a hand combination consisting of 3 cards all of the same rank. For example, 7♥7♣7♠ is an example of 3 of a kind.
2 pair is defined by having two separate 2-card pairs. To illustrate this, if the community cards are 9♥Q♣6♠2♥3♠, a player may possess a hand consisting of 9♣ 6♥ to complete the 2 pair.
As its name implies, 1 pair is when you can only link up two cards of the same rank. If the community cards are A♥Q♠3♦5♠9♥, and you have a hand consisting of A♦ and 7♦, you will have one pair.
Having just a high card means that you could make none of the above combinations, and are simply hoping that a card in your hand is higher than the cards in the hand of someone else who also failed to make any of the above combinations. For example, if the community cards consist of K♥9♦7♥2♥6♠ and you posses a hand made up of A♣ and 2♥, your Ace high card would best a hand consisting of Q♥ and 3♦.
The high card is something worth talking a bit more about, because in a few of the above combinations (the ones that do not utilize 5 cards), a high card may come into play. In a situation where 2 people have the same 2 pair, for example, the high card may very well come into play. For example, if your hand is 5♥ Q♥, your opponent’s hand is 5♦ A♥, and the 5 community cards are 5♠9♥9♠10♦K♦, you both have 2 pair (5♠ and 9♠). In this instance, you would lose to your opponent by virtue of the high card because your opponent has an ace of hearts in his hand while your highest card is only the queen of hearts.
Now that you know more or less all of the components of the game of Texas Hold’em, it is only right that we walk through one sample hand to illustrate how all of these aforementioned components work together to build a hand, a sequence of hands, and the entire game of Texas Hold’em.
For this example, let’s say that the community cards consist of K♠J♦10♠6♥3♠.
If you hold the A♦ and K♣, you have the highest pair, kings. While this may seem like a surefire victory for you, you must take into consideration the possible hand combinations that other players might have.
In this example, if another player has the K♦ and J♠, his two pairs will win him the hand.
Beyond that, if a player has a hand that consists of 10♦ and 10♣, his three pair will also beat your high pair.
Still another pair that defeats your single pair is a hand consisting of 5♠ and 7♠.
Finally, another player could defeat your pair if he or she possesses the Q♠ and A♥.
As you can clearly see from this basic example, Texas Hold’em has a way of making you think that your card combination cannot possibly be beat that of another’s. The reality, however, is that you must pay close attention in order to consider the possible combinations that your opponents may have.
When poker was first founded was not officially recorded, but most historians agree that its roots stretch back to the 16th century. Beyond that, poker is said to have formed from a Persian game called As Nas and a European card game named Primero. From As Nas, poker derived tactics such as bluffing, while the different hand combinations were an important aspect of Primero.
When the French arrived to the Louisiana Territory in the 18th century, a popular game of theirs was referred to as “poque.” It is thought that the name of this card game paved the way for the use of the term “poker.” As more and more Europeans settled the area, and populations advanced northward and westward, the newly derived game of poker found its way to new players all the time. By the middle of the 19th century, the game of poker had evolved into a 52-card game that can regularly be found in books describing card games of the era.
By the time the 20th century dawned on the United States, poker was found in just about all inhabited areas of the country. Propelled by the playing of the game during the Civil War, poker was a mainstay of American card games and even began being introduced to other countries around the world. Nowadays you will be hard-pressed to find any global casino-goer that is not at least vaguely familiar with the game of poker, specifically Texas Hold’em.