The rules of Texas Hold’em poker are very simple and once you read these rules, you will be playing like a pro in no time.
Dealer button, blinds and antes
Although online tables and casino game tables will have a dealer who will deal every hand for you, the game is still played as if each player takes it in turn to deal. The dealer button (usually a large, white disc with ‘Dealer’ written on it) represents the player who is the figurative dealer, and this moves one place to the left after every game. Therefore the cards will be dealt as if this player were dealing.
Immediately to the left of the Dealer button is the small blind and to the immediate left of the small blind is the big blind. A blind, or blind bet, is a forced bet that a player has to put in the pot before any cards are dealt (and thus cannot see what the cards will be). This is to ensure that no matter what happens, there is at least some money in the pot, thereby forcing action to occur. In other words, if a hand had no money in the pot, every player could fold their hand without losing any chips and the game could last several hours longer than it should.
The big blind is usually (but not always) twice the size of the small blind. So for example, the small blind might be $5 therefore the big blind would be $10. However some tournaments may start the first level where the small blind and big blind are the same amount.
The amount of the blind bet increases over time in levels. This is why there is usually a clock in poker tournaments, to give you an idea of how long each blind level is. For example, for the first 20 minutes the small blind might be $5 and the big blind might be $10, then for the next 20 minutes the small blind might be $10, the big blind might be $20 and so on. The reason for these levels and the timer is again to ensure that tournaments don’t last forever.
As well as blind bets, there is another type of forced bet called an ante. These usually don’t come into play until the latter stages of a tournament. Whereas the small blind and big blind are only put into the pot by two players to the left of the dealer, the ante is paid by every player on the table including the two players who are paying the blind bets.
Playing the game
Texas Hold’em is relatively simple to play. Once the small blind and big blind are put into the pot, two cards are then dealt to each player face down. These cards are referred to as ‘hole’ cards or ‘pocket’ cards. The first player to act is the player immediately to the left of the big blind. The player then has three options; fold (get rid of his cards because they don’t want to play this hand), call (match the big blind bet because they want to play this hand) or raise (put in at least twice the big blind).
Once the first round of betting has concluded, the dealer removes the first card on the deck face down. This is called a ‘burn’ card and is done to remove the possibility of cheating. Three community cards are then dealt face-up on the table. This is known as ‘the flop’. Every player who is still involved in the hand can use these three cards as part of their hand. Another round of betting follows, starting with the player immediately to the left of the dealer button. If the player immediately to the left of the button has folded, then whichever player is nearest to the left of the button is first to act.
Once the second round of betting has finished, another ‘burn’ card is removed from the deck. Another community card is then dealt face-up on the table. This card is known as ‘the turn’. Again, another round of betting follows starting with the player immediately to the left of the dealer button
After the third round of betting, a ‘burn card’ is removed followed by the final community card, which is known as ‘the river’ card. Players who are still involved at this stage can use any combination of their two hole cards and the five community cards to create their best 5-card poker hand. Once ‘the river’ card has been dealt, a final round of betting occurs. All players still in the hand at the end of the final round of betting then show their cards. This is known as ‘the showdown’. The player with the best 5-card hand then wins all the chips in the pot. You can view our poker hand rankings to see which is the winning hand.
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The best hand you can possibly get is the Royal Flush, this consists of five cards of the same suit, descending in order from Ace – King – Queen – Jack – 10. (This hand is extremely rare)
Five straight cards of the same suit. EG 9-8-7-6-5 of hearts
Four of a Kind (Quads)
Four cards of an equal rank (with a fifth card left over). EG. 8-8-8-8-2
Full House (Full Boat)
Three cards of one rank and three cards of another rank.
Any five cards of the same suit
Five cards in a sequence (note: all straights include a 5 or 10)
Three of a Kind (Set)
Three cards of the same ran
Two cards of one rank, two cards of another rank and another random card
Two cards of the same rank, and three random card
If none of the players still in the game at the end have a hand, then the player with the highest card wins. This is known as a High Card
One of the first things a new poker player will learn is that not all hands are created equal. Even the greenest player will probably realize very quickly that low hands are generally to be avoided. But they will often find they have bad luck with hands that appear to be quite good. So, what exactly is a good poker hand?
Possibly the most important of all poker lessons you can learn is not to play too many hands. There is a recommended percentage of the number of hands you should play: In a game of 9 or ten players, you should play less than 10% of the cards you are dealt. If there are fewer players at the table, you can afford to play play a few more hands (or play a little looser as it is known).
Here are a few tips on how to best play opening hands for you to remember:
Position, position, position
Yes, position is crucial in Texas Hold’em. When you are near the dealer button you should play tight, the further you are away from the dealer the looser you can play. This is because when you are further away, you can see how the earlier players have played and infer what sort of hand they have – and react accordingly.
Start from a position of power
If you are next to the button and decide to join the action then you shouldn’t just call, it’s important to make a statement and raise. By raising you will send a clear message that you are not to be messed with despite your vulnerable position.
If you’re used to playing table games, multi-table and sit’n'go tournaments are a different kettle of fish altogether. You should play much tighter at the start of the tourney as the blinds are not worth risking your stack for. However, as the blinds go up, then you can start playing a few more hands.
The hands to play
In an early position: High pairs (AA to 88), High suited (AK-A10, KQ/J, QJ) and Unsuited (AK, AQ).
In a mid-position: Pairs (77-55), Suited (A9, K10 – J10, 109, 98), and Unsuited (AJ/10, KQ/J)
In late-position: Pairs (44-22), Suited (A8-A2, K9, K8, Q9, J9, 108, 87, 76, 65, 54) and Unsuited (A9, K10, QJ, Q10, J10, 109)