You’ve probably already heard of poker’s most popular incarnation, Texas Hold‘em. It’s the marquis event at the World Series of Poker, it’s on TV at any given hour of the day, and it’s even integral to the plots of Blockbuster movies like Casino Royal and Rounders. Thanks to straightforward rules and game play that’s the textbook definition of “easy to learn”, Texas Hold ‘em has conquered the world.
The object of the game is to win all the chips contributed to the pot by getting (or pretending to get) the best five-card hand of poker using any combination of 2 personal cards and 5 community cards, and the action takes place over four rounds of betting.
The game starts with a regular deck of cards (no jokers). You have three positions of note in every round:
The Small Blind
The Big Blind
The dealer position is marked by a “dealer button” that moves clockwise one position after every hand, the small blind is always in the next clockwise position to the dealer and the big blind is always to the left of the small blind (when there’s only two players left, the Dealer becomes the Big Blind).
Before the first card is dealt, the big and small blinds need to ante up. Anytime you’re playing Texas Hold‘em there’s going to be an established “blind” or minimum bet, the small blind is obliged to ante up half the blind while the Big Blind has to ante up the full minimum bet (This becomes important as the blinds usually increase dramatically during tournament play).
After the blinds are in, two cards are dealt to every player face down (These are your private “pocket” cards), followed by a round of betting.
The person sitting to the left of the Big Blind bets first. Unless you’re the Big Blind, in the first round of betting you’re going to have to either match the biggest bet made at the table, raise the bet, or fold.
If the betting hasn’t been raised above the minimum bet by the time it’s the Big Blind’s turn, they can either raise the bet, or “check”. When everyone checks, the second round begins.
Players entering a game in progress must ante up the equivalent of the big blind when they enter the game. This is to prevent new players from entering the game behind the blinds and gaining an unfair advantage.
Players are free to fold at any time under any circumstance. Folding forfeits any chips that you’ve already bet (including blinds) and takes you out of the game until the next hand without revealing the cards in your hand. With the exception of tournament play, players are free to enter and leave a table of Texas Hold ‘Em at any time taking any chips they haven’t already bet with them.
Now, the community cards are dealt on the table face up in three rounds, each followed by a round of betting.
The Flop (three cards)
The Turn (one card)
The River (one card)
After the last round of betting, all players must show the two cards in their hand, the last person to “call” has to show their hand, followed by the rest of the table. The best hand of poker wins the pot.
There are three different variations of Texas Hold‘em, defined by their betting restrictions.
No Limit: Easily the most popular version, it means you can go “all in” anytime, and make any size bet you like, so long as it matches the minimum bet, or the highest subsequent bet on the round.
SIDE BETS – After a player has gone “all in” and bet all their remaining chips, players who have more chips and still wish to bet can create a “side pot” who’s contents will be awarded to the best poker hand excluding the player who has already bet everything they have. There can be as many side bets as necessary.}
Pot Limit: A player can only raise the amount that’s already in the pot.
Limit: The player cannot raise more than the established bet (usually but not always the big blind).