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Texas Hold’em Introduction

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Texas hold’em is a fast and exciting form of poker. The game is also surprisingly complex and requires a great deal of skill to play at the expert level. It is no wonder that, hold’em has rapidly become one of the most popular forms of poker in card rooms and online.

To the uneducated eye, Texas hold’em appears to be very similar to seven-card stud, but, in fact, there are several very important differences between the two games. To begin with, the starting hand decision in hold’em, though very important, it is not the daunting factor that it is in stud. And if you do not play reasonably well on the later streets, the best you can hope for in hold’em is to break even in the long run.

Hold’em is also more of positional game that seven-card stud, because the order of betting does not change from round to round. In addition, a hold’em starting hand consists of just two cards instead of three. This means that you have less of an idea in the beginning of how strong your hand will ultimately be after all seven cards have been dealt.

Perhaps the most important difference between the two games is that Texas hold’em uses community cards, which are dealt face up on the center of the table and are part of each player’s hand. This makes it much more difficult to draw out an opponent. As an example, if you start with two Queens, your opponent starts with two Kings, and a pair appears on the board, you both have two pair. When you make two pair in seven-card stud, you frequently will beat a lone high pair. This does not occur as often in Texas hold’em.

In Texas Hold’em, a “button”, which is a small, flat disk, is used to indicate the dealer position. Prior to the cads being dealt, the first player to the left of the dealer position must post a “small blind,” and the second player to the dealer’s left must post a “big blind,” which usually is equal to the first-round bet. Blinds are a “live” bet, which signifies two things: First, a blind is a “real” bet, and to enter the pot, a player in a blind position needs only to make up the difference, if any, between his blind and the current bet. For example if the blind was $1 and the current bet is $3. The player that played the $1 blind needs only to play a $2 bet to stay in the hand. Second, players in the blinds have the option of raising when the action gets back to them, even if there has been no prior raise. When each hand is completed, the dealer button is moved one position to the left, and the processes of posting blinds is repeated, so everyone pays his/her fair share.

To start the hand, each player, beginning with the small blind, receives two cards dealt face down, one at a time. Action is initiated on the first betting round by the player to the immediate left of the big blind, who has the options of folding, calling the big blind, or raising an equivalent amount. The betting moves clockwise in this manner until all players have exercised their options and all bet have been called. On all subsequent betting rounds, the first player remaining in the game to the left of the dealer button starts the round.

After the first round of betting is completed, three cards – referred to as “the flop” – are turned face up simultaneously in the center of the table, and another round of betting occurs. The next two board cards – specified as either “fourth street” or the “turn card” and “fifth street” or the “river card” – are then dealt face up one at a time in the center of the table, with a betting round after each card. As noted previously, these board cards are community cards and are shared by all remaining players in the hand.

At the showdown, the player who makes the best five-card poker hand, using any combination of the five cards on the board and the two cards in his/her hand, wins the pot. In Texas hold’em, more than one player may have the best hand. When this happens, the pot is split.

Fixed-limit hold’em games have a two-tiered betting structure, with the lower limit used in the first two betting rounds and the higher limit(which is usually double the lower limit) used in the final two rounds of betting. As an example, suppose you are playing in a $3 - $6 hold’em game. The first player to the left of the dealer position will put in a $1 small blind, and the second player to the dealer’s left will put in a $3 big blind. On the first round of betting, the player to the immediate left of the big blind will have the options of either folding his/her hand, calling the $3 big blind or raising $3, for a total bet of $6. Subsequent bets and raises both before the flop and on the flop will be in $3 increments. All bets and raises on the turn and river cards must be in $6 increments.

Many low-stakes Texas hold’em games are also played with spread limits. Which means that any player has the option of betting or raising an amount that is not fixed. For example, in a typical $1-$4-$8 spread-limit hold’em game, there will be either two $1 blinds or one $2 blind. The first player to the left of the blind(s) can fold, call the blind or raise any amount from $1 to $4, Subsequent bets and raises on the first three betting rounds can be from $1 to $4 at the player’s discretion. Bets and raises on the final round of betting can be any amount from $1-$8.