Over the last decade Texas Holdem poker has surged to the top of list for most popular form of poker in the world. Much of this popularity is due to the spread of low buy-in tournament poker and the massive prizes won in events worldwide. Whether you play in Macau, Melbourne, Manila or online you will see the primary export of Texas poker spread more frequently than any other form. While the game may look to be overly complicated, the reality is that it is truly a game that takes only a short time to learn and get in the action. Below are the simple rules for playing Texas Holdem.
Prior to the cards being deal the two players to the left of the Dealer (known as the “button”) will place forced bets known as “blinds.” The player to the direct left of the button will post the “small” blind and the second player to the left of the button will post the “big” blind. The blinds are what characterize Texas Holdem games. For example, in a $1/$2 Texas Holdem poker game the small blind is $1 and the big blind is $2. Once the blinds are posted cards are dealt to each player one at a time starting from the small blind and finishing with the button. Once the cards are dealt the betting action starts with the player to the left of the big blind. That player can either fold, call the big blind, or make a raise. A raise must be at least the size of the big blind but can be as large as a player’s entire stack size – known as going “all in.” Betting will continue player by player until it reaches the big blind. If none of the other players raise the bet up by the time the action returns to the big blind, that player has an additional option of checking.
Once all pre-flop betting is completed the top card in the deck is “burned,” meaning discarded, and three cards are then dealt face up in the middle of the table. This is known as the “flop.” These are community cards, meaning that everyone uses them to make up all or part of their poker hand. Once the flop is dealt betting action continues starting with the small blind, who can either check or bet. Unless the action is raised all players can choose to check and the betting round continues until play reaches the button.
After all betting has been completed on the flop a fourth community card is dealt face up and is known as the turn (also known as “Fourth Street”). Betting action continues on the turn in the same manner as the flop.
After turn betting is finished the final community card is dealt face up and is known as the river (or “Fifth Street”). One final round of betting commences for players still in the hand.
If more than one player remains in the pot after river betting those players then show their hole cards and make their best five-card hand. Note that players can use any combination of cards to make their best hand. In the event that the community cards are the best five-card hand possible for a player that player will "play the board." The player holding the best five-card hand wins the pot. In the event two players have the same hand the pot is split equally between those players.
Limit vs. No-Limit
While most Texas poker you see will be played in no-limit form (with no limits on the betting other than the total amount in a player’s stack at the table), Limit Texas Holdem poker is still a popular variant of the game, especially at lower limits. Most online poker sites and casinos from Macau to Australia regularly spread these games.
The rules of Limit Texas Holdem are essentially the same as No-Limit with the exception of betting. First, blinds are established based on the size of the small bet. In a $2/$4 texas holdem game, $2 is considered the small bet and the size of the big blind. This makes the small blind $1. On occasion you will find some casinos that spread limit holdem games with the same blind for the small and big blind, but those are typically at the lowest limits. Once you get past the blinds, you will notice that betting is significantly different than in no-limit holdem. First, betting is a fixed amount. Pre-flop and flop betting is done in increments of the small bet amount. In our earlier example, betting pre-flop and on the flop would be in $2 increments. Also, there is a limit to the number of bets allowed in hand. Typically a bet and three raises is the limit. Some card rooms allow unlimited raises once play is heads-up between two players, but that varies based on the casino. Most online games continue to have limited raising even heads-up in cash games. On the turn and river, bets are the size of the big bet. From our example earlier, the big bet would be $4. The same raising limits apply on these streets.
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