Texas Hold'em hints and tips

Texas hold 'em (or simply hold 'em or holdem) is the most popular of the community card poker games. It is the most popular poker variant played in casinos in the western United States, and its no-limit form is used in the main event of the World Series of Poker (abbreviated WSOP), widely recognized as the world championship of the game.

Rules

The descriptions below assume that you are familiar with the general game play of poker, and with poker hands.

Betting structures

We make no assumptions about what betting structure is used. In casino play, it is common to use a fixed limit and two blinds. The limit for the first two rounds of betting is called a small bet, while the limit for the third and fourth betting rounds is called a big bet and is generally double the small bet. The small blind is usually equal to half of a small bet, and the big blind is equal to a full small bet. (In some cases, the small blind is some other fraction of a small bet, e.g. $10 is a common small blind when the small bet is $15; this occurs mainly in brick and mortar rooms where higher-denomination chips are used. The double-blind structure described above is relatively recent; until the 1980s, a single-blind structure was most common.)

Occasionally, the fourth bet is larger still (a big river bet), and the big blind is sometimes less than the small bet, in which case it is treated the same way a sub-minimum bring-in is treated in stud poker. Antes may be used instead of or in addition to blinds; this is especially true in tournament play. The game also plays very well at the no-limit level, and many tournaments (including the above mentioned World Series championship event) are played with this structure.

Play of the hand

Play begins with each player being dealt two cards face down. These are the player's hole cards. These are the only cards each player will receive individually, and they will only (possibly) be revealed at the showdown, making Texas holdem a closed poker game. The hand begins with a "pre-flop" betting round, beginning with the player to the left of the big blind (or the player to the left of the dealer, if no blinds are used) and continuing clockwise. After the pre-flop betting round, the dealer deals a burn card, followed by three face-up community cards called the flop. The flop is followed by a second betting round. This and all subsequent betting rounds begin with the player to the dealer's left and continue clockwise. After the flop betting round ends, another card is burned, and a single community card called the turn (or fourth street) is dealt, followed by a third betting round. A final burn card is followed by a single community card called the river (or fifth street), followed by a fourth betting round and the showdown, if necessary.

The showdown

If a player bets and all other players fold, then the remaining player is awarded the pot and is not required to show his hole cards. If two or more players remain after the final betting round, a showdown occurs. On the showdown, each player plays the best five-card hand he can make from the seven cards comprising his two hole cards and the board (the five community cards). A player may use both of his own two hole cards, only one, or none at all, to form his final five-card hand. If the five community cards form the player's best hand, then the player is said to be playing the board.

If the best hand is shared by more than one player (e.g. if no player is able to beat the board), then the pot is split equally amongst all remaining players. However, it is common for players to have closely-valued, but not identically ranked hands. In particular, kickers are often needed to break ties. Nevertheless, one must be careful in determining the best hand, because often the board nullifies kickers. Straights often split the pot, and multiple flushes may occur. In the case of flushes, the flush is awarded to the player with the highest flush card which completes a flush and beats the board's flush cards. If there is a flush on board, (i.e. if all the board cards are the same suit), then undercards in that suit do not play, and if no one has a card in the flush suit beating the board, then the pot is split. The sole exception to this rule is the case of a straight-flush.

The best possible hand given the five community cards is referred to as the nuts. The lowest possible nuts is three queens (this occurs with, for example, 2 3 7 8 Q on the board, with no more than two cards of any one suit).
 

» Tips and hints
» Poker Dictionary
» Poker Hand Odds
» Texas Holdem
» Poker Strategy