Introduction to Texas Hold’em
Poker is a card game for 2-10 players. Texas Hold’em is the most popular variant, but there are many to choose from. The objective of poker is to win money from the other players, either by having better cards or by bluffing them into thinking that you do. All poker games are built around five card poker hands, for example a flush – all cards of the same suit:
You can learn how to rank all poker hands in the poker hand ranking tutorial. In Texas Hold’em each player has two cards that are hidden from other players (hole cards). These cards are combined with the cards on the table (community cards – also known as board cards) to make the best five card poker hand. You can use both your hole cards, one of them or none to create the best poker hand.
Your hole cards are Queen of hearts and Queen of spades. You cannot see your opponent’s hole cards. The board is 9 of hearts, queen of clubs and 6 of hearts. The best five card poker hand you can create is a pair of queens:
You do that by using both your hole cards and combining it with three of the cards on the board.
The best poker hand you can create is pair of jacks:
In this example you only use one of your hole cards to create the strongest poker hand possible. One of the first things you need to learn as a beginner is to quickly identify the best hand you can create together with the board. You also need to be able to quickly assess and compare your hand with your opponent’s hand to know the winner. There are two poker training exercises that help you practice – Hand Ranking and Best Hand.
All poker games involve betting, usually in multiple rounds. Betting can be restricted in various ways, but the most common form of Texas Hold’em nowadays is no-limit. This means you can bet all the money you have in the game in one bet. When the action comes to you and it is your turn you will choose between check, fold, bet, call and raise.
Check – if no bet has been made you can check and pass the action to the next person.
Fold – when you fold you lose the money you have placed in the pot and wait for next hand.
- Bet – if no bet has been placed you can place a bet yourself.
- Call – you match the bet your opponent(s) has placed in the pot.
- Raise – increase the bet of previous player(s).
Texas Hold’em is played in four betting rounds:
Preflop – you only see your own cards.
Flop – 3 cards on the board.
Turn – 4 cards on the board.
River – 5 cards on the board.
In the preflop round each player is dealt the two hole cards. One player is the dealer (even if there is a dealer who actually deals the cards). The dealer is also called the button (or BTN). Two players are in the blinds – small blind (SB) and big blind (BB). This means that they must place bets before they see their cards. The purpose with this is that there should be money to gamble for from the beginning, since this creates more action. The size of the big blind is usually twice the size of the small blind. For example, in $1 / $2 No limit the small blind is $1 and the big blind is $2. When playing online you can often change settings so you will see everything counted in big blinds – this makes it easier to calculate the correct play.
The player immediately to the left of the big blind starts the action by choosing to fold, call or raise. The action continues clockwise and the big blind acts last preflop. The action continues until there are no more raises – players have either called or folded.
When the preflop round has ended the dealer will deal three cards on the table and a new betting round starts. These three cards are called the flop. The first person to act on the flop is the small blind (if still in the game) and then betting continues clockwise until there are no more raises or players to act.
When the flop round has ended the dealer will deal a fourth card on the table and open the turn betting round. The small blind is first to act again.
When the turn round has ended the dealer deals the fifth and final card on the table and opens the river betting round. The small blind is first to act again. The river betting ends either by one or more players calling the last better or by everyone folding or by everyone checking. When players are calling, we have a showdown and the player who was called shows their cards. The caller(s) can then decide if they want to show their cards or throw them away (muck them).
Usually, you shouldn’t show your cards unless you have a stronger hand, since you give away information which other players can use against you in the future. The same thing happens if everyone checks. At showdown the whole pot goes to the strongest poker hand. If two (or more) hands have the same strength, the pot is shared. If a player has gone all-in without being able to match a previous bet / raise, they can only win the corresponding amount of money from the other players. In this case a side-pot has been created, which will go to the second-best hand.
That’s it! As they say, “a minute to learn – a lifetime to master”.
The rules of poker and the mechanics of the game are straightforward, but there is a lot of depth to master. The more you learn, the more you will realize there is more to it. But that is part of the charm with poker.
Good luck at the poker tables! Keep practicing, have fun and you will become a winner!