One of the most addicting things about playing Texas Hold’em is its apparent simplicity. Most people can learn the rules within a few minutes and may possibly feel as though they are good players within an hour or less. At first glance it would appear that Texas Hold’em is all about luck. Those players that draw the best cards win, end of story. That is not the case. Mastering Texas Hold’em, whether you play limit or no limit takes patience, study, practice, and more study. There are subtle yet complex strategies that must be understood for one to truly master Poker. If such a thing can even be accomplished.
Normally anywhere from six to ten players participate in a game. Play starts with the dealer giving each player two cards dealt face down. These are the players “hole” cards. If playing limit, $.50/1 for instance, the small blind posts $.25 (one half the small bet) and the big blind bets $.50 (the full small bet) to begin play. This begins the initial stage of betting. Play starts to the left of the blinds (see the poker table positions chart). The first player to act from early position is known as the player “under the gun,” or UTG. Betting will proceed around the table clockwise. At this point you can either call, raise, or fold. Anyone can raise and continue to re-raise the bet until the pot is capped (the maximum amount of raises allowed per round of betting).
After the pre-flop round of betting is complete, the dealer deals three more cards face up on the table. These are community cards from which everyone at the table uses to develop their hand, in combination with the two cards they already hold. This round is called “The Flop.” At this point you will know if you already have a made hand (a pair, a set, etc..) and if there are any stronger hands you can draw to (see the poker hand ranking chart). If you don’t already have a strong hand and feel that you don’t have the odds or ability to draw to a winning hand, then this is a good time to fold your hand when the betting reaches you. You can try to bluff your way to a win but this is not advisable for beginning players. Especially not on the internet where you will almost always get callers all the way to the river, that being even more true at low limits. Betting continues after the flop (the second round of betting) with the first active player to the left of the dealer button. The first player to act can either check (refrain from betting) or bet (pay the low bet which at $.50/1 would be $.50). Each subsequent player can either check or bet (if no bet has been made) call (match a bet that has been placed) or raise (pay the bet amount and raise for an additional amount). This continues until all players have acted or the pot has been capped).
Play begins again with the dealer dealing a fourth community card called “The Turn.” At this point in play, the betting amount is raised to the big bet which if playing $.5/1 would be $1. If at this point your chances for achieving a probable winning hand look grim, it would be best to fold as the betting becomes much more expensive from here on out. It’s much cheaper to fold now than to fold on the river. Betting begins again with the next active player to the left of the button. You can again check, bet, fold, call, or raise. Betting continues until everyone has acted or the pot has been caped..
Now the final round of betting begins with the dealer dealing a fifth and final community card. There are two possible outcomes at this point. Once the final bets have been made, at this point either everyone has folded except for one remaining player who now wins the pot, or there are two or more players left in the hand. If there are still players left in the hand the “showdown” begins. Each remaining player reveals his cards. The player with the highest ranked hand wins the pot. You can view the poker hand rank chart here.
Although the rules of Texas Hold’em seem fairly straightforward, there are numerous ways skilled players take advantage of new players. From reading “tells” in live games which new players give off like neon lights, to simply knowing their odds and when it is profitable for them to continue play in a hand, these players will beat you if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you jump right into a $100 no limit Hold’em game your first day of playing poker, you will be out played. I know people who have done just that. Don’t throw your money away. Take your time, read about and study the game, and before you know it you’ll be a winning player.