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Texas Hold’em Rules
Texas Hold’em is far and away the most popular poker game out there today. Featured in the televised WPT events, and canonized in the poker film classic Rounders. To many poker players Texas Hold’em is the only game to play.
The Texas Hold’em game concept itself is pretty simple. Each player is dealt two cards face down (called pocket cards). The dealer then deals five community cards face up; these are available to all the players to help make their hand. Players may use any combination of their pocket cards and the community cards to make their hand. The best 5-card hand takes the pot.
Of course, the game is a little more complicated than that, and as usual, the complications revolve around money.
In a Fixed Limit game, both the bet and raise amounts for each round are a preset amount. For example, in a $5/$10 Fixed game, both the bets and raises for the first two rounds of betting must be $5, no more, no less. The last 2 rounds have a bet/raise amount of $10.
In a Pot Limit Game, the maximum bet/raise can’t be more than the current pot amount. So, if the pot is $30, you can’t bet more than $30. One thing to note: If you are raising on a player’s bet, your call is already included in the pot. So, for example, let’s say the pot is $100. Player X opens the betting with $100. Your maximum bet is now $300 (Pot = Initial $100 + Player X’s $100 + your $100)
Still with us? OK, the final game type is No Limit. The name says it all; there are no maximum bet limits. You can bet as much as you like during any round of betting. The minimum bet is the big blind amount. No Limit holdem makes for big pots, fast action, and great watching.
Now that you’ve chosen a game type, it’s time to talk about 2 other betting concepts…. The Stakes, The Cap and The Blinds.
The Stakes: The stakes are tied directly to the game type you select. For a Fixed Limit game, the stakes dictate the bet and raise amount for each round. Let’s use our $5/$10 stakes example again. In the first two rounds of betting, both the bet and the raise must be $5, no more, no less. The last 2 rounds have a bet/raise amount of $10.
The Cap: In Fixed limit games, each round of betting can consist of one bet and has a maximum number of three of allowable raises, known as the cap. So, if a bet is made, that bet can only be raised three times, after which all players must call, or fold. However, if only two players remain in the hand the cap is increased, to a maximum of five raises.
In both the Pot Limit and No Limit games, the stakes represent the amounts posted as the blinds. More on the blinds next….
The Blinds: The blinds are mandatory bets posted by two players at the start of each hand, before any cards are dealt. The player directly to the left of the dealer posts the small blind, which in a fixed limit game is half the small stake, rounded down to the nearest dollar, and in pot limit/no limit games is equal to the small stake. The player to the left of him posts the big blind, which in a fixed game is equal to the small stake, and in pot limit/no limit games the big stake.
Sound complicated? It really isn’t. Let’s use our trusty $5/$10 stakes again. In a fixed limit game, the small blind posts $2 (half of $5 rounded down). The big blind posts $5. In a $5/$10 pot limit/no limit game, the small blind posts $5, and the big blind posts $10.
In poker we use blinds as an incentive for players to play a hand, and build the pot. Consider the blinds like a mandatory bet and raise; any players that want to play the hand must match the big blind to stay in. The blinds are considered live bets, so when the action goes around the table and returns to them, they have the option of checking, calling, raising or folding as they see fit.
Some other notes about blinds: Any player has the option of sitting out and waiting for the big blind to reach them. However, if a player sits out and misses posting the big blind, then that player will be required to post a big blind and a small “dead” blind before returning. This rule is in place to prevent potential abuse from players who join a table and then leave before having to post the blinds.
One thing we haven’t talked much about is the dealer. In poker each player in turn plays as the dealer. At the table we represent the dealer position with…
The Dealer Button: The Button is a graphic symbol that represents the theoretical dealer. After each hand, the button moves clockwise to the next active player, who becomes the dealer for that hand. This player is considered to be “on the button,” and is the last person to act in the betting round. The first player to the left of the button is the first player to be dealt cards, and is the first player to act in each betting round.
Texas Hold’em Gameplay
OK, let’s play some Hold ‘em. You’ve bought in to a table, sat down and posted your big blind. What’s next?
Pre Flop…The Pocket Cards: (AKA the Hole Cards). The dealer deals each player 2 cards face down. Only the player can see his/her hole cards. After the deal, the next player after the big blind decides whether to call, raise or fold the big blind. Each player in turn is given these options, until all bets are called and the big blind checks. Don’t forget, in a fixed limit game, any raises are limited to the lower stake amount, and in a pot limit game, the bet can’t exceed the pot amount.
The Flop: Now the dealer turns over the first three community cards, called “the flop”. All betting rounds start with the player directly to the dealers left. For fixed limit games, this round of betting still uses the lower stake, so in our example $5/$10 game, any bets or raises must be $5. The pot limit and no limit rules don’t change.
The Turn: (AKA Fourth Street). The fourth community card is dealt, and a new betting round begins. The bet amount for fixed limit games increases to the upper stake. Betting continues until all bets are called.
The River: Here the final community card is shown, and the last round of betting takes place. The bet amount for fixed limit games is still the big stake.
The Showdown: All the bets have been called, it’s time to show the cards. The last player to bet or raise during the final betting round will show their hand first. If all the players checked through (nobody bet), the player to the left of the dealer will show first. The remaining players’ hands will be automatically revealed moving clockwise, unless a hand is weaker than the winning hand shown. In this case, you’ll have the option to show, or muck (fold without showing). The best five card hand takes the pot. For a complete list of hand rankings, please consult the Hand Rankings page.
Buying the pot: If during a betting round you make a bet and all players fold to you, you’ve bought the pot. You have the option to show or muck your cards.