Texas Hold ‘Em, also known as just plain “Holdem,” is a popular variation of standard poker. Meant for two to nine players, Holdem dates back to the early 1900s and can be enjoyed in person or online. Here, we take a quick look at the history of Texas Hold ‘Em, plus we explore the game itself and provide some valuable tips for improving your odds of winning at Holdem.
How to Play Holdem: The Basics
In Texas Hold ‘Em, players combine their hole cards and the cards available on the board to create the best five-card poker hand possible.
Blinds, or bets are placed. One player places the “small blind,” while the other places the “big blind.” These bets are compulsory for two of the players; additional players play for free. To make it fair, different players must post the blinds during each round.
Each player of Texas Hold ‘em receives two cards in the Preflop Round, which are referred to as the “starting hand” or hole cards. After all players have received their hole cards, each player in succession decides whether to continue playing or not, starting with the player to the right of the person who placed the big blind. If you have good, playable cards, you can “call the blind,” by putting in the same amount of money as the big blind; alternately, you can “raise” by putting in more money than is in the big blind. If your cards are undesirable, you “muck” or “fold,” meaning you throw your hand away. Each player has similar options, calling, raising, or folding in turn. Once everyone has contributed the same amount of money or folded, the chips are moved to the center of the table, and the second round, also known as the “flop round” begins.
In the flop round of Texas Hold ‘em, the dealer places three cards face-up on the table. Another round of betting ensues, and you decide if your hole cards and the “community” cards are sufficient to make a winning hand. Each active player uses his or her private cards and the three community cards to form a five-card poker hand. The small blind player takes action first. He or she has the option to “check” or not bet anything, or “bet” by putting money in the middle, which others will have to match to stay in the game. The final option is to throw the cards away by folding. The big blind player goes next, “calling” the small blind players bet by placing an equal amount of money on the table, “raising” by placing an additional amount of money on the table, or by folding. Each player takes a turn, calling, raising, or folding. Once everyone has placed the same amount of money on the table, it’s time for the “turn” round.
At the beginning of the turn round, the dealer adds another card to the table, making a total of six cards available to you. This card represents an additional opportunity to make the best possible poker hand, and you can use any five of the six cards to form your final five-card hand. The betting is conducted in the same manner as it was during the flop round. Once everyone has folded or placed the same amount of money in the pot, it’s time for the final or “river” round.
During the river round of Texas Hold ‘em, an additional card is dealt face-up on the table. This card represents your final opportunity to make the best poker hand possible, and you can use any five of the seven cards to form your final five-card hand. The fourth round is played in the same way as the previous rounds.
After the betting concludes, it’s time for the showdown. All players show their hands, and the dealer determines who has won, then awards the pot accordingly. It’s a winner-takes-all game. One of the basic rules of Texas Hold ‘Em is that it is a game for two or more players. Your odds of winning vary by number of players, and game play becomes more challenging as more players are added.
How Holdem Hands are Ranked
Let’s begin by looking at the weakest holdem hands and moving up to the best possible hands. The worst are high card hands that don’t make a pair, even when community cards are taken into account. Second is a pair, and third is two pairs. Three of a kind comes next, and a straight follows. A flush, with five cards in the same suit is next valuable, followed by a full house. A straight flush is next, and a royal flush is most desirable. Keep in mind that a royal flush is comprised of a ten, jack, queen, king, and ace all in the same suit. If these cards are in different suits, you’ve got a simple straight.
Tips for Improving Your Odds of Winning at Holdem
Now that you know the basic Texas Hold ‘em rules, here are some tips for improving your odds of winning. Keep the old adage that poker is a game that takes just two minutes to learn but a lifetime to master, and remember that the more you play, the better you will become at making quick, winning decisions.
Learn to walk before you attempt to run! Begin by playing practice rounds and gradually move up when you feel comfortable. Many new players make the mistake of attempting to play beyond the limits of their experience, even if quite familiar with Texas Hold ‘em rules.
Select starting hands with care.
Don’t play unless you think you have a chance of winning. Good online poker players usually play only 20 to 25 percent of the hands they are dealt, so keep this in mind if you feel like you’re not playing enough. Playing too many hands will ultimately cost you money.
Ensure you are in the right frame of mind.
Are you ready to play poker? Are you prepared to concentrate? While poker is a fun party game, your capacity for quick thinking drops dramatically with every alcoholic beverage you consume, and if you are tired, feeling angry or distracted, or even coming down with a cold, you might not play as well as normal. Play only when you are able to focus completely, as doing otherwise might cost you.
Pay attention to other players.
While this might not be possible during online play, it is certainly important when you are playing in person. Good poker players watch others even when sitting out a hand. Notice how other players are betting in certain situations, and you’ll be able to adapt your own game and increase your odds of winning.
Don’t bluff too much.
It’s true that bluffing is an important part of every poker game, but doing it too much is one of the biggest mistakes newer players make. It’s easy to get carried away, so use your best judgment.
Don’t feel like folding is a weakness.
Many newer poker players call bets just for calling’s sake, often because they feel like folding is failure or weakness. Folding is in fact a key strength that will save you money in the long run. If you don’t think your odds of winning are good, don’t call the bet!
Know when to quit.
The best poker players are judicious about winning, they don’t chase their losses, and they never play when their bankroll can’t support betting. Discipline and control will separate you from the pack, make you a better poker player, and help prevent you from playing when the time isn’t right.