Texas Hold ‘Em is a popular poker variation that is played by two or more players. The 7-card game has recently become a household name, due to the increased exposure it has received during the past several years. The game utilizes straightforward rules and brisk game play, making it a favorite among novice and professional players.
Televised poker tournaments have exposed a generation of interested viewers to Hold ‘Em style poker. Major tournaments like the World Poker Tour and the annual Las Vegas World Series of Poker have made instant celebrities – and millionaires – out of successful poker strategists who land fame and fortune with high profile wins.
Curiosity is at an all time high for Texas Hold ‘Em, so it is a popular game at online casinos. New players are allowed to participate in competitive games without venturing real cash, providing a Hold ‘Em apprenticeship that eventually brings newbies to the cash tables.
In fact, poker sites provide entry paths to high stakes tournaments, for online players who win satellite tourneys, and climb their way into the big leagues. Coveted World Series of Poker seats can be earned by winning online preliminary rounds that are entered for a few dollars each. Players like Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer, past winners of the World Series No Limit Hold ‘Em Main Event, qualified for and won the prestigious tournament by winning their way through lower-level online qualifying events.
Summary of Play
Texas Hold ‘Em employs a betting regiment that includes the use of ‘blinds’. Blinds are predetermined amounts of money, like antes, that are placed in the pot by specifically designated players. The first blind, or ‘small blind’ is the responsibility of the player to the immediate left of the dealer. The small blind is equal to one-half of the table’s minimum bet. The second blind, or ‘big blind’, is equal to the full amount of the minimum bet, and is contributed by the next player to the left. ‘Posting the blinds’ occurs before any cards are dealt, and ensures that each hand starts with some money in the pot. When only two players remain in a game, ‘heads-up’ rules require the small blind to be posted by the dealer, and the big blind to be contributed by the dealer’s opponent.
Once the blinds have been posted, each player receives two cards, face-down, called the ‘hole cards’. The hole cards are to be viewed only by the individual player to whom they are dealt. Hole cards in place, the player to left of the two blind contributors starts a round of betting, by placing a wager or folding. Each subsequent player may then call, raise or fold when it is his or her turn to bet.
As the game progresses, five ‘community’ cards are dealt to the center of the table. These cards are available to all the players who remain in the game, to combine with their own hole cards to create the best possible five-card combinations. The winner is the player who assembles the best five card hand, based on accepted poker hand rankings.
Poker Hands and Rankings
Texas Hold ‘Em hand strength mirrors other poker game rankings. Poker hand rankings from worst to best:
High Card is use to determine a winner when no player has a pair.
Pairs are cards of the same rank, which are joined in a single hand. One pair might consist of two sevens, or two Aces, etc.
Two-Pair requires an additional set of matched cards to create the next most valuable hand, following a single pair – like two Aces and two sevens. The comparative strength of each hand is determined by the ranking of the highest pair present.
Three-of-a-Kind is achieved when three cards of the same rank, from any combination of suits, are present in a hand.
Straights are five-card sequential runs that draw from any of the four suits. The higher the card values within the straight, the stronger the hand.
A Flush requires all five cards in the hand to be from the same suit. Like a straight, the strength of the cards a flush contains determines the comparative strength of the hand.
Full House is any five card combination that contains a Pair and a Three-of-a Kind. The triplet stands ‘over’ the pair, to weight the value of the Full House.
Four-of-a-Kind captures cards of the same rank from all four suits. The value of the hand is determined by the ranked card’s strength – four nines is a more powerful poker hand than four threes.
A Straight Flush occurs when each card in a hand is not only similarly suited, but in sequence as well. The hand beats all others, except the coveted Royal Flush.
A Royal Flush is a Straight Flush comprised of the five highest cards from any single suit, i.e - Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten.
Playing Texas Hold ‘Em Online
Casual in-person games allow for a physical dealer rotation that is not possible at online Hold ‘Em tables. Instead, online poker sites use a virtual disc know as the ‘dealer button’ to designate the dealer of each hand. The dealer position carries weight, because it identifies who is responsible for posting each blind, and it comes with a betting advantage that places the dealer on the end of wagering rounds.
Once the blinds have been posted, each Texas Hold ‘Em player receives two face-down cards known as hole cards. The player to the left of the second blind provider launches a betting round that requires every other player who wishes to remain in the game, to call the big blind amount.
To advance the game, three ‘community’ cards are dealt face-up to the center of the table. The ‘flop’ is used by every player, to create combinations using their individual hole cards. The second round of betting is initiated by the active player sitting closest to the dealers left side. Betting progresses in a clockwise direction until each player has made his or her intentions clear.
At the conclusion of the flop round, an additional community card is dispatched to the center of the table – face-up, to be used by each player to form their best five-card combination. The turn round progresses as the active player closest to the dealer’s left opens the betting. Each player calls, folds or raises the turn bet, until everyone has spoken – and contributed to the pot when appropriate. The Turn is also known as ‘fourth street’, because it represents the fourth community card.
The River provides the fifth and final community card – along with an additional round of betting. As usual, betting moves around the table in a clockwise direction, until each player has had an opportunity to act. The River is sometimes referred to as ‘fifth street’ for its association with the fifth community card.
During betting rounds, players that do not have enough chips available to call a bet may opt to go ‘all in’. The player commits any remaining chips in his or her possession, and is allowed to remain in the game. If betting continues beyond this point, and the all in player wins the hand, the pot is split between that player and the opponent with the next best hand.
The culmination of of the final round of betting, is ‘the showdown’, when players reveal their hands. It is common for hands to be closely ranked, so when there are close calls, ‘kickers’ are used to determine winners . For instance, players with identical pairs are allowed to use their next highest individual cards to add strength to their hands, i.e. – a pair of eights with a Jack kicker beats a pair of eights with a nine kicker.
In rare cases, multiple players submit identical winning hands. To be fair, each player is then given an equal share of the pot.