Arguably the fastest growing game in the World over the past decade, Texas Holdem has surged in popularity. Most of what you see on Television shows like the World Series of Poker on ESPN, Celebrity Poker on Bravo, among others is Texas Holdem. In fact many of today’s school poker celebrities like Phil Hellmuth, Chris Moneymaker, and Johnny Chan have had their success playing this version of poker.
Like all poker games, 50% is knowledge and 50% is luck and the way that the cards fall. We don’t guarantee you’ll be able to walk into your nearest casino and walk out a couple hours later with your pockets full of money after reading this tutorial, but it should help build a good base of knowledge of Texas Holdem and how to play it. If you wish to learn more on this poker game, check out the resources and books listed on the final page.
Without further ado, let’s delve into Texas holdem poker.
Texas Holdem: An Overview
The granddaddy of them all, Texas holdem is quickly becoming the game of choice in card rooms around the world. Its an easy game to learn, but a very complex game to master. Players receive two cards down, known as hole cards, then 5 cards are dealt face up (community cards) and then try to make their best 5 card poker hand out of the 7 cards.
The 60 second overview of Texas holdem:
- Two cards are dealt face down to each player, a round of betting ensues.
- Three cards are dealt up in the middle of the table for each player to use in their hand, another round of betting takes place.
- A fourth card is dealt face up in the middle of the table, more betting.
- A fifth and final card is dealt face up, and the last round of betting occurs.
- The player with the best 5 card poker hand (out of the 7 cards in total) wins the pot.
In depth overview:
Texas holdem begins with the dealer button a small flat disk that indicates who is to deal the cards. The two players to the immediate left of the dealer button are the blind positions, first to the left is the small blind, and second to the left is the big blind. The dealer then deals two cards face down to each player, known as hole cards or pocket cards, and the first round of betting ensues. Any other player wishing to enter the hand must at least call the big blind (there is an option to raise on top of the big blind if you wish) in order to stay in the game, otherwise they must fold.
Once the first round of betting is complete the dealer burns one card and places three cards up in the middle of the table for all players to use, known as the flop. Once these community cards are laid down a second round of betting ensues beginning with the first player to the left of the dealer that is still in the game. Players may bet, check, raise or fold.
Following this second round of betting another card is laid face up, known as fourth street or the turn card. Another round of betting takes place.
Finally the last card is placed face up on the table (for a total of 5 face up), this card is called the river card. A final round of betting takes place and the person with the best 5 card poker hand between any of the community cards and the two face down wins the pot. Occasionally two players will have hands of equal strength (see rank of hands for more information); in this case the pot is split equally between the two.
There are three types of betting structure in Texas holdem poker, pot limit holdem, limit holdem, and the Cadillac of holdem, no limit holdem:
- Limit Holdem In limit holdem the amount that a player wishes to bet or raise with is limited to predefined amounts. For example, say you’re playing a $2/$4 limit holdem game, the big blind pays $2 and the small blind would pay $1. For the first two rounds (pre-flop and post flop) of betting all bets and raises are in $2 increments. Betting after the turn and the river requires $4 increments. One variety of limit holdem is known as spread limit holdem. This game is played the same as limit holdem except for one small difference; any raising is done based on a predetermined spread. For example in a $2/$4 game a casino may set the spreads as $1-$4 for the first 3 rounds of betting, so if you raised a $2 bet it would be the called amount ($2) + $1, $2, $3, or $4. The final round of betting would have spread limits of $1-$8, meaning bets and raises can be anywhere in that range.
- Pot Limit Holdem – In this type of Texas holdem game the maximum bet cannot exceed the amount that has been accumulated in the pot at that point. The game starts out the same as no limit and limit games where the blinds and minimum betting amounts are predefined. Bets usually start out relatively small, but the more bets placed results in a larger pot, which means that betting can escalate very quickly if players are betting aggressively.
- No Limit Holdem – In no limit holdem, as the name suggests, means that any player can bet or raise any amount of their chips at any given time. No limit holdem is usually more difficult than limit holdem because the amount a player bets isn’t limited, and may or may not be indicative of their hand strength. The minimum bet in a NL Holdem game is usually equal to the big blind for the first two rounds of betting and then twice the big blind for the final three rounds of betting. When you hear a player going “All In” this is usually in the context of a no limit holdem game, the player pushes all their chips into the center of the table, or into the pot as their bet. The advantage of this is you can’t be bluffed, and you’re automatically are in the showdown, unless all other players fold. If you win the showdown from going all in you usually at least double up. The disadvantage of going all in is that if you lose to an opponent with more chips than you, you’re out.