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Texas Hold’em

As an exciting community-card game, Texas Hold’em is without a doubt one of the most popular poker games played around the world today. Designed as a variation on seven card stud, this poker game also shares common cards, often referred to as “the board.” Using easy to understand rules, most players require only a simple learning curve. With basic knowledge of the rules required for Texas Hold’em, players can incorporate simple strategies to become an “expert” relatively quickly.

The Goal

The goal in Texas Hold’em is a fairly easy one. Players want to accumulate as many chips as possible, which can only be acquired just one single pot at a time. The accumulation of chips is obtained by playing the best hand at the table, or by bluffing the other players, causing them to fold their hands before the final showdown. As each hand is completed, the player that is currently acting as the table’s dealer will pass that role over to the player on his or her left. Only then can the next hand be dealt. And so goes the game, until a final huge pot is accumulated and won by a single player, who is declared the ultimate winner.

Its History

Texas Hold’em has a rich and colorful history. The official credit of the game is given to Robstown, Texas. It is believed to originally start somewhere back in the early 1900s. Legend has it that various road gamblers popularized the game in 1967, in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was there, in 1970, that the first Texas Hold’em World Series of Poker was held. Often considered a backroom game, Texas Hold’em was thought to be too challenging for a non-professional gambler. That all changed in 2003 when Chris Moneymaker was able to turn a $40 buy-in amount into an enormous $2.5 million winning. Now, the game is considered the most widely played poker game everywhere.

The Rules

Overall, the rules for playing Texas Hold’em are very easy and basic. To play a standard, single hand of the game involves:

The Dealer – The first dealer is chosen at random. The dealer is required to shuffle the deck before the first deal of the cards.

· The Blinds – The two players that are located directly to the left of the current dealer (or the player that is holding the current “dealer button” – when a professional dealer shuffles and deals the cards at the table) are required to pay the blinds – including one small blind and one big blind. The blinds are a replacement to a traditional ante used in hundreds of other gambling card games.

· The First Deal – Using a 52-card deck, the first dealer will shuffle the deck and deal two cards, face down, to each player. The dealing will start with the player situated directly to the left of the current dealer and continue clockwise.

· The First Bet – The first round of betting begins with the individual that is situated directly to the left of the player that has placed the big blind. That player will have the first option to raise the bet, or call the bet, or they can fold their hand without betting at all.

· The Second Deal – The second round of card dealing begins with burning a single card (face down and out of view from everyone, including the dealer). Next, the dealer will deal three cards face up in plain sight on the table. This is referred to as The Flop.

· The Second Bet – The second round of betting begins with the player directly to the left of the current dealer, or the individual that is holding the “dealer button.”

· The Turn – After the second betting round is complete, the current dealer will then deal a single card face down (burning the card) followed by a deal of one card (The Turn) face up.

· The Third Bet – The third round of betting will happen exactly as the second round, starting with the player sitting directly to the left of the current dealer, or the one holding the “dealer button.”

· The River – After the third betting round has been completed, the current dealer will deal the final card (The River) face up, to reveal the final exposed shared common card.

· The Final Bet – The final betting round happens exactly like the second and third rounds.

· The Showdown – Every player that is still in the game, and holding their cards, will automatically enter the showdown. This portion of Texas Hold’em will display which player has the winning hand to take the contents of the pot of chips.

· Passing the Deal – Because the dealer does not remain the same individual throughout the game (unless there is a permanent dealer moving the “dealer button” around the table), the deck of cards passes to the next player sitting to the left of the current dealer. Before a new hand can be dealt, the new dealer must shuffle the deck to begin the process over again.

The Rankings

The hand rankings for Texas Hold’em work much the same as nearly every poker game. Every player is required to produce the best five card hand available, by combining the two cards dealt to them face down together with the community cards (the five cards dealt face up in the common area on the table). Their ranking, high to low include:

· Royal Flush
· Straight Flush
· Four of a Kind
· Full House
· Flush
· Straight
· Three of a Kind
· Two Pair
· One Pair
· High Card

The Basic Terms of Texas Hold‘em

Texas Hold’em, like any game, uses specific basic terminology for playing the game. By understanding these terms, it is easy to follow along with the rules of the game. The basic terms include:

· Blinds – A blind is a short nickname for “blind bets.” The blind is a forced bet that is required by two players before the first cards can be dealt. The blinds are placed by the two players that are sitting just to the left of the current dealer. In Texas Hold’em, a blind is used to start the hand instead of a classic, traditional “ante.”

· Burn Card – A burn card is any card that is dealt in the common area of the table face down before the next dealt community card. The burn card is used as a way to guarantee that no one has seen the next playable card coming out of the deck, because it was covered by the burn card.

· Button – The button is the traditional nickname for the player acting as the Texas Hold’em dealer during the current hand. It is also the word used for the actual “dealer button” as moves around the table to the left. The button designates the current “dealer” when there is a permanent dealer being used to deal every hand (usually at a casino table). The button manages how the betting will occur, and which players are required to pay the small and big blinds.

· Check – The word “check” is the vernacular used by a player to move the betting process to the next player on the left, without needing to raise the bet. Without a raise or a bet, the next player to the left can also “check”, to move the betting process to the left until everyone has checked or raised the bet.

· Fifth Street – It is the nickname for the River because it is the fifth shared common community card to be dealt from the deck.

· The Flop – This is the phrase or reference made about the exposed three community cards that have been dealt onto the common area of the table.

· Fourth Street – It is the nickname for the Turn, because it is the fourth shared common community card to be dealt from the deck.

· Pre-flop – This is in reference to any action that is taken before the first three community cards, or “The Flop,” have been dealt.

· The River – The reference “the River” is made once the last, final (fifth) community card has been dealt. It is also referred to as Fifth Street.

· The Showdown – This term refers to the moment when every player must expose their hand. The showdown will determine the player with the winning hand that takes the pot of chips.

· The Turn – Often referred to as Fourth Street, the Turn is the fourth community card dealt face up on the table, placed there by the dealer.

The Hole Cards

At the beginning of every Texas Hold’em hand, the two players directly to the left of the dealer must post a small and big blind. This works the same as an ante used in other card games. Once the blinds have been thrown into the pot, two cards will be dealt face down to each player. These cards are referred to as the pocket, or hole, cards. With the initial bets already in the pot, every player must make a decision whether to call the bet (the big blind), raise the bet (by increasing the size) or fold their cards (quit playing this hand and throw their current cards into the center of the table face down).

Every newbie to Texas Hold’em should consider folding their hand, if they do not hold anything greater than Tens, Jacks, Queens, Kings or Aces. Until the beginner learns many of the nuances of playing Texas Hold’em, it is best to wait until they have a good playable hand before exposing their bluffing poker face. It is essential to never show the hole cards to any other player in the group. Even when folding a hand, it is essential to keep the cards face down on the table. This will minimize the competitors’ ability to understand the player’s strategy by evaluating the cards that have been thrown away.

The Flop

After the initial pre-flop betting round, when each player has the ability to raise the stakes based on their hole cards, the dealer will simultaneously deal out three community cards. This is known as the flop. When this happens, every player around the table still holding their hole cards will combine the value of their two cards with the shared, community cards to build the best hand they can. By evaluating how the competitors are betting after the flop, the player can use the information to determine what type of cards each player holds.

The Turn

Once the betting round after the flop is complete, another community card will be dealt from the deck after dealing a “burn” card. Every player that is still holding their hole cards will now have a combination of six poker cards for betting. Because poker only requires the best five cards to win, every player already has one additional card in their hand.

The River

Once the entire betting round is complete, after the Turn, a final community card will be dealt. This is often referred to as the River (or Fifth Street). Every player that still holds their cards will have a final round of betting, checking, or folding. As the winning poker hand will comprise of the five best cards, there are now two cards that have no value to the player.

The Showdown

Every remaining player still holding cards at the table will participate in the showdown. Though not required, every player typically shows the cards in his or her hand, in a clockwise motion. Any player that knows they cannot beat the winning hand that has already been exposed can fold their hand instead of showing it to the competitors. Some beginner Texas Hold’em players will expose their cards to the dealer to gain assistance in determining the ranking of their poker hand.

Common Mistakes

The five most common mistakes that newbie Texas Hold’em players make include letting their emotions run away with their strategy, playing by their feelings, thinking in the short term, betting too quickly, and betting too far after the flop. In detail, this includes:

Too Much Emotion – It is true that poker can often be a stressful experience. Many times, beginning Texas Hold’em players will let their emotions run away with their strategy. They will begin making extremely poor decisions, without realizing they have lost the ability to remain relaxed and focused.

Playing by Feel – With some players, it can be quite easy to give up strategy in favor of playing by feel. The player easily forgets that the game of poker is about mathematics, and betting the odds. It is essential to think long term, and avoid getting involved by sensation when playing. It is essential to pay attention to the numbers, the situations, and the remaining cards to be played, instead of by the feeling the player experiences during the hand.

Thinking Short-Term – Sometimes, playing the best hand is still not enough to win the pot. If the player uses perfect strategy and loses the pot, they often resort to second-guessing their decisions, which can be detrimental in the long run. It is very easy to make all the right choices and best decisions, while still coming out with a losing hand.

Betting Too Quickly – Not every hand needs to be bet before the flop (pre-flop). As a newbie, it is essential to only bet when holding strong hands. Doing so will give you the best opportunities for winning the chips in the pot. By betting too quickly, on too many pre-flop betting rounds, the newbie Texas Hold’em player can rapidly run out of chips to bet.

Betting Too Far after the Flop – Just as players can bet too quickly during pre-flop betting rounds, they can also bet too far after the flop. Usually, the betting happens in dire hope that the hands will get better if the player just hangs on. Successful players typically only bet on a small fraction of the total number of hands they play, and place only a minimal amount of bets after the river.

An Effective Betting Strategy

A betting strategy usually centers on one of two events including: to get players to fold a great hand (or a dangerous hand) to take the pot from the start or, to get competitors with inferior hands to call the bet so they will make a bigger pay off during the showdown. Experienced Texas Hold’em players base their strategy on their competition’s mistakes. They win by using the folding and calling strategies of their competitors and develop tactics to determine the best moments to bluff.

Bluffing

There are generally only two necessities to ever bluff during the game of Texas Hold’em. First is to disguise moves or to vary the style of play. The second is to get the competition to fold their hands as an effective way to win the pot when holding a bad or dangerous hand. Great Texas Hold’em players understand that if they spend too much time worrying about varying their style of play or disguising their moves, they have become too predictable to their competition.

Players that are great at bluffing have an innate sense of recognizing the weakness of their competitors. The most effective bluff is one where the competitor does not believe the player is bluffing. Many times, bluffing works well even when the competition knows what exactly what is happening. This is usually a result of them holding a bad or dangerous hand.

The game of Texas Hold’em is simple to learn. However, the nuances involved in winning the game take time and effort to build effective strategies that consistently winning the pot.

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