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How to Play Poker - The Complete Texas Hold'em Guide

by John Grochowski  |  11/11/2019

How to Play Poker

 

Poker is one of the most popular games in the world of gambling, but it's not as straightforward as games such as blackjack and roulette.  This means players need to learn how to play poker effectively before staking any money.  Fear not, if you're a beginner and just starting out with the game, then we are here to help. This is your one-stop-shop for all things poker, and by the time you have finished reading, you will know everything that you need to get started. The most straightforward and best poker game to play is Texas Hold 'em, and that's what we'll talk you through.

 

Texas Hold 'em

Texas Hold'em, sometimes referred to as No-Limit Hold 'em, is the most popular version of poker. If you have ever sat and watched a poker game on television or at your friends' house, then the chances are that they are playing this form of the game. 

Texas Hold'em - Royal FlushThe principle of it, in essence, is very simple. Players are handed two cards face down and use these to combine a winning combination with the five cards in the middle of the table. The player with the best hand, or the one that gets the whole table to fold, then wins the pot. 

There are four rounds of betting, and at any point, one of the players can put all their chips in. This is called "all-in", and it is when the game gets most interesting. The best aspect of the game is that players are always one game away from doubling, tripling, or even quadrupling their pot. However, on the flip side, you are also one bad hand away from losing everything.

Texas Hold 'em is by no means the only poker game, but in terms of simplicity and popularity, there is nothing better. It has a brilliant blend of luck, number crunching, psychology, game strategy, and of course, it can be extremely enjoyable. 

 

Poker Rules - How To Play

Poker Rules - How to PlayThe most essential factor that players must get their heads around before playing poker is truly understanding the rules and what you need to do in order to win. Of course, that goes without saying, but if you're a beginner and looking to learn how to play Texas Hold 'em, this is where you really need to pay attention. 

Dealer Button

This is a very simple start, the player that has the dealer button is the dealer for that round. They will shuffle the cards and then hand them out to the players one by one. They will go around to the left. They will also lay out the cards that everyone can see in the middle of the table. 

Small Blind & Big Blind

The first bets that are put down on the table are put down by the small blind and the big blind. The small is the player to the left of the dealer, and the big is the player located next to the small. The small blind will have a smaller bet, for instance, $5, while the big blind will then have a higher first stake, which is usually double that of the small blind.

The Deal

Cards are dealt out by the dealer one by one in a clockwise direction, with the final deal being the second card to the player on the right, or the dealer themselves if you're playing with friends and everyone is involved.

Texas Hold'em - The FlopThe Flop

In Texas Hold 'em, this is the name for the three cards that are dealt face-up in the middle of the table. This is undoubtedly one of the most enthralling parts of the whole game of Texas Hold'em, as it gives players an incentive whether they believe their hand has a good chance of winning. 

The Turn

This comes after the flop and the first round of betting and is the unveiling of the fourth community card. The dealer must remember to burn one card, and then put the next card down next to the third card that was dealt.

 

The River

Following on from the turn, there is another round of betting, and once that has concluded, the dealer will then burn one card and place the final community card face-up on the table. That is known as the River.

Texas Hold'em Poker - Community CardsCommunity Cards

This is the name of the cards that are face-up in the middle of the table. Players must make combinations with these cards in order to win the game.

Betting

Once the first bet has been made, the game truly begins. This is when players can begin to lay their stakes onto the table. To get into the game, the first person that makes a bet after the big blind must at least match that amount. Players can also raise the stake at any time, or they can settle and allow the dealer to put down the next card. 

Play Winning PokerWays To Win

The best way to win at Texas Hold 'em would be to have the most prestigious hand and the combinations on the table. We will touch on the hands a little later on. Should you have the best hand, then the pot is yours. However, you can also win the game by bluffing. To do this, you must have a good "poker face" and make the others at the table believe that you have the best cards possible. They will all fold, leaving you with the prize pot. If the game ends in a tie, then the pot is shared between the players that are tied.

Split Pots

This often occurs when a player goes all-in with their remaining stake, and the rest of the table want to continue betting. When this is the case, the last bet that has been made with the all-in remains in one prize pot, while a new one is opened for bets after that point. 

After a Hand - Showing Your Cards When You Lose

It isn't compulsory to show your cards when you lose a hand, but some players do like to show how close they were. While it isn't against the rules to not show your hand, it is, however, bad etiquette.

After a Hand - Winning and Not Showing Your Hand 

Should you be in a showdown and you believe that you have a winning hand, then you will need to show your cards. However, if all of the other players fold before you, then you will not have to show your hand as this could give your opponent a heads up to whether you were bluffing or not. This will be something to learn when you know how to play basic poker.

Play Good Starting Hands

When you have a good opening pair, it is crucial that you utilize that. However, that doesn't mean going all-in as your opponents will know that you have a good hand. It's about your strategy - winning as much as you can by making your opponents believe that you have a moderate hand. It is important to know when to bet, and when you have a good hand, you will need to bet. That is the step by step poker basic fact that must be adhered to for all beginners.

The Importance of Position

This is a critical issue when it comes to poker as you want the best seat possible. Having the best seat will ensure that you get free cards, and can also control the pot. That means that you can maintain the value that suits you, and therefore last longer in the game. It will also ensure that you can bluff more often, and calculate what cards could be where.

Poker Hand Rankings

As we have mentioned throughout, the best way to win a round of poker is by having the best hand. Here are the hands listed (with highest ranked first) that you should be hoping for and what they mean.Poker Hands

Royal Flush:  The best possible straight flush that you can get is a royal flush. That would consist of an ace, king, queen, jack, and a ten of a suit. This hand is unbeatable, so if you have this, you’re a guaranteed winner.

Royal Flush

Royal Flush

Straight Flush:  A typical flush would include five cards of the same suit going in order. The higher the numbers that you have in your flush, the better it is. So two, three, four, five, and six in clubs wouldn’t be as good as eight, nine, ten, jack and queen.

Straight Flush

Straight Flush

Four of a Kind:  Another solid hand can consist of four numbers of different suits. The higher the number, the more chance of a winning hand.

Four of a Kind

Four of a Kind

Full House: This is also referred to as a boat and contains three cards of one rank and two cards of another. However, this would lose to four of a kind. 

Full House

Full House

Flush:  This will contain five cards of the same suit, but they don’t have to be in order. It ranks below the full house, but it is better than a straight. 

Flush

Flush

Straight: This will include five cards that go in order, but don’t necessarily have to go in the same suit. It is better than a three of a kind but would lose to a flush. 

Straight

Straight

Three of a Kind:  This hand would consist of three cards of the same number, and the other two cards would be the kicker. It is better than two pairs, but not as good as a straight. 

Three of a Kind

Three of a Kind

Two Pair:  This would consist of two cards of one suit, another two cards with a separate suit, and a final card that is the kicker. It isn’t the strongest, and can only beat the one pair and high card. 

Two Pair

Two Pair

Pair:  A pair is similar to the two pairs except for one big difference; there are only two cards of the same suit. You would be extremely lucky to win with this hand. 

Pair

Pair

High Card:  On the rare occasion that you get to the end, and nobody has any of the prior mentioned hands, then the player with the highest ranked card will win. 

High Card

High Card

Betting Basics

Texas Hold'em - Fold, Check, Bet, or RaiseFold, Check, Bet or Raise

As we have mentioned throughout, when it comes to your turn to bet, you will have a decision to make judging by the cards you have. You can fold if you don’t want to continue to match the bet that has been put down. This is the best option if you have a poor hand. You can check, which means that you’re content with the amount that has been raised on the table. 

You can bet again, which means you can either match the bet or up the stake. The latter of these means that you will raise the stake, and then it's up to the rest of the table to match your bet to continue the game.

Ending The Betting

The betting will end either when everybody has checked at the end of the round of betting, or everybody has folded. You can also get to the stage where the match will end in a showdown, but we will discuss that later on.

Winning Without Showing Your Hand

You can get away without showing your hand if everybody else at the table folds. You can throw your cards back to the dealer, and since you didn’t have to declare your winning cards, you won’t need to show what cards you had. This will preserve your tactic should you have been bluffing. 

The First Betting Round

Blinds and Antes

Both of these are bets that must be made if players want to stay in the game. They are both forced in order to see the cards that are to be put down as the community cards. The blinds are set by the dealer, and the player must meet those requirements.

When Playing With Antes

Players who are playing with antes must place the minimum bet before the community cards are placed on the table and after the cards have been drawn. 

When Playing With Blinds

Players who are playing with blinds will need to put down the minimum bet, which will be the same amount that has been put down by the big blind.

Small Blind

The small blind will be the player sat directly to the left of the dealer, and they will be required to put a smaller amount down than the big blind. However, if they want to stay in the game, then they must match that bet before being allowed to check.

Big Blind 

The big blind will have the power in the opening round of betting as they would have put the biggest amount down. Should no player up the stakes in the game, then they can be the first to check. The big bind is usually double the amount of the small blind.

Checking in the Big Blind

Once the big blind has put down their amount, then the player located next to them can decide whether they want to fold or match the initial bet that was placed.

Texas Hold'em Showdown

Texas Hold'em - Poker Tournaments

When you get to the final round of betting and if two or more players remain, there will be a showdown to determine the player that will win the pot. 

Showing Your Hand - When You Have Lost

In the showdown, if you have to show first, then you can’t win without showing your cards. Should you go second and know that you’re beaten, then you don’t have to show your cards. However, this is considered poor etiquette, so if you want to make friends, you would be better to show the cards.

Showing Your Hand - After Winning

When you get to the showdown, you will likely have to show your hand if you want to win. The only case when you don’t have to show your hand when you’ve won is when the opposing player has folded.

 

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Playing Texas Hold'em Online

The growth of the online gambling world has made it more efficient for players to play Texas Hold 'em online, as they would merely have to log in to their account and begin playing rather than visiting a land-based casino. However, there are aspects that players should be aware of before playing online.

Differences To Table Play

There are many differences between playing poker online and in a casino. The main one is that it is a better way for beginners to learn basic poker rules as there isn't as much pressure as there would be in a casino. That is mainly down to players not being physically around you like they would be in a land-based casino. However, live casinos do sometimes include other players, so that is something to be aware of. 

Also, the main aspect of bluffing is non-existent when it comes to online games, as the players you are playing against can't see your face. That also ensures that as a beginner you have a very good opportunity to successfully get to grips with the game before facing opponents face to face.

Other Types of Poker

Omaha Poker

As we mentioned, Texas Hold 'em isn't the only form of poker, and one of the others that you can expect to play is Omaha. It has many similarities to Texas Hold'em, but in this game, players are dealt four cards. The five cards in the middle remain the same, but players can only form a winning combination with two of their four cards. This ensures that they have a better chance of getting a better hand since they have four cards at the start, as opposed to the two that you get in Hold 'em.

Stud Poker

Unlike Texas Hold 'em, in Stud Poker the player will receive a mixture of face-up and face-down cards that are dealt in multiple betting rounds. It is also different in the way that the first person to make a bet may not be the same as the last round. This is a good game for beginners to build confidence as they play poker.  Once you are feeling comfortable with Stud Poker, then Texas Hold'em is your next step up.

Texas Hold'em Poker - Know When to Hold'em, Know When to Fold'em!

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