Rules of Texas Hold'Em

Guide to the Rules of Texas Hold'Em as winandgo guides you through playing the game with information about the dealer's button, blinds, opening deal, flop, turn card, river, showdown and the all-in







Poker Image This is the most popular poker variant, most likely to have kept you glued to the television screen if you've seen the game on TV. Start by getting the basics of the Rules of Texas Hold'Em straight and you'll soon be ready for the big league: 'The Cadillac of Poker'
Let's start at the beginning. It is a fast-paced, high-octane community-card game and the most popular form of poker played today. The aim is to make the best five-card hand from any combination of the two private 'hole' cards that you are dealt face down, and the five 'community' ones dealt face up which everyone uses. We'll go through the play shortly - as well as all four rounds.


Dealing and betting always go clockwise. Each hand, one person gets the dealer button - a small object that looks like a hockey puck and has 'dealer' written on it. The deal and the action start to the left of who has the button, which moves round one player each hand to make everything equal overall. Of course, if you're playing with your mates, there's a real dealer for each. Online or in a casino there isn't, and so we use the button instead.






The position of the dealer is important, because it is the two sitting to the dealer's left who post the blinds. They make the game more exciting and are compulsory bets, cunningly introduced to ensure there's some money to fight for in every pot. Otherwise, they would probably sit around discussing golf and sports cars until one of them was dealt Aces, and where would be the fun be in that? If you're beginning to get the hang of the language of poker, you'll have figured out that they are so called because you make these bets 'blind', in other words without having seen yours first. The one to the immediate left of the dealer posts the small blind, and the one to their left posts the big blind (which is usually double the small blind). The size of them are dictated by the stakes of the table or, if you're in a tournament, how advanced the game is. But more about that later.


The opening deal is how a hand starts. Once they have been posted, it's time for some cards. Moving clockwise round the poker table from the dealer, each receives two dealt face down that only they get to see. These are also called pocket or 'hole' cards, and are not revealed to others. Then it's time for some betting.


Because they are in play, the rules of Texas Hold Em say that betting starts with the one after those who have already placed the small and big blinds. In other words, it's the third to the left of the dealer. At this stage, each is gambling on what they feel their pockets have the potential of creating. For this round, each has three choices: to fold (and throw in their hole cards), raise, or call (in other words, match) the last-biggest bet. Because those who posted them have effectively opened, the others in the game have to at least call this bet to stay in the hand on this round. This means that 'checking' - a term used when there's no bet to match and you want to stay in the game but don't want to place a bet - isn't an option. This goes round the table in a clockwise direction until each has called, folded or raised. If no-one has raised by the time it returns to the person who posted the big blind, this player may check his own blind, fold or raise. If there has been a raise, it is re-opened (those after the raiser can again choose whether to fold, call or raise) and continues until everyone has folded, put equal amounts in to call or gone 'all-in' by betting all the chips they have on the table. In many games, there is a limit to the number of raises, or they would be there all day and night without getting any further. It is over either when only one is left with hole cards because all the others have folded, or when more than one reaches the showdown. In which case, it's time for the next stage.




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The Flop


When the first round is out of the way, it's time for the flop. This is where things begin to get interesting. It is a set of three dealt face up in the middle of the table all at once, and each uses these community ones to build a five-card. Then it's time for another round. But things change a bit this time, because some will have dropped out, and there are no blinds after the first round. Betting starts with the first still in sitting on the immediate left of the dealer, regardless of whether the dealer is still active. And, because there are none for them to match, that player is free to check - as are all the others, unless someone bets. Then it becomes similar to that before the flop and takes place among all still in the hand. If everyone checks, or when you've all put equal amounts in, it's time to move on to...


The Turn Card


Once the round has finished, it's time for a fourth card to be dealt face up on the board. This is the turn card and again can be used by all to construct their best hand, after which it follows the same pattern as it did above.


Four down, one to go. When betting on the turn is complete the rules of Texas HoldEm say it is now time for the fifth and final community card to be dealt: the card known as the river. Now that them all have been dealt, each can decide what their best five-card hand is. However, if the community cards (known as 'the board') display a royal flush, no-one can use their hole cards and everyone 'plays the board' and splits the pot. Assuming that's not the case, it's time for the final round. If more than one is still in the hand after this round, they move on to the showdown.


The Showdown


It's now time to see who takes the pot. Each who's still in declares their hand, starting with the last person to bet, and so on, unless they choose to 'muck' them, which is the same as folding. This is useful if, for example, your bluff on the river got called. The winner is decided using universal hand rankings. If someone wins the pot by forcing everyone else to fold on the river through betting (obviously a smart guy), there's no showdown and the winner can decide whether to show theirs or not. Most don't, as it's always nice to keep people guessing. But it's also nice to have the opportunity to show off when you make a massive bluff and win.


You might already have heard the immortal words, 'I go all-in'. Since we're not barbarians, poker games are generally played with 'table stakes'. This means that you can't be bet out of a hand if you don't have enough money. Instead, you can simply go 'all-in', whereby you bet all the chips you have on the table. You are entitled to see all the community cards and take part in the showdown, at which stage, if you have the winning hand, you can win up to the amount you went all-in for from each player.

Still confused?

Don't panic if this is all still a bit hazy. As with so many things in life, the secret is in the doing. Spend some time getting used to it and allow the strategy for winning to become clear. Before you take a tilt at a World Series bracelet, however, it's worth playing for free on one of the many poker websites offering practice games until you have mastered the basics. Then it's good to move on to low-stakes games and play towards raising your standard.


Sit and Go Strategy

This is like a tournament in miniature. Just like a large multi-table tournament, you have an early stage in which players are feeling each other out, a middle stage in which they jockey for position and a late stage in which they are high and they may have to make moves to survive. In this, all these things just happen much faster. Regardless, sit and go tournaments are the most popular form of texas holdem online today.

As an early sit and go strategy in the early rounds of a sit and go, you don’t want to push things. They are small and there are no antes, which means you are risking a lot to win a little every time you enter a pot. This does not mean you should not be aggressive.

If you are the first to come into a pot, you should come in raising. If you have a monster, you should bet it with authority. However, chasing and making fancy moves at this stage is not necessary.


In a turbo tournament, they go up faster, usually every five minutes. This gives you much less time to play slow and feel out your opponents. After the first round or two, you already have to start thinking about making moves.

That said, you still have that round or two. In many cases, especially at low buy-ins, turbo players are looking for the first opportunity to move all-in. If you hang back for the first round or two, you may find yourself up against a significantly reduced field.


Deep Stack Strategy

If the tournament is deep stacked, it may mean you are playing a high buy in, which means possibly tough opposition. In a low stakes deep stack tournament, players may not appreciate the value of their chips because they have so many. They will make bets and raises out of proportion. Play extra tight and let them put too many chips at risk when you have a monster.





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