When you hear the term “poker”, the first thing that comes to mind, almost unconsciously, is the game of Texas Hold’em. Hold’em has undoubtedly rose through the ranks and has staked its claim as the most popular poker variant in the world. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest reason is that Hold’em is arguably the easiest poker game to learn. Though it is very difficult to perfect, Hold’em is a bit easier to begin playing than many other poker variants.
Before you ever begin playing a hand of poker, the first thing you must do is verify that you understand all of the vocabulary that this game utilizes. Action words like check, fold, raise, and showdown are all words that you need to familiarize yourself with lest you be confused when gameplay is being elaborated upon.
Texas Hold’em Poker — Background
The game of Texas Hold’em can be played with at least 2 people and a maximum of 8 people and is considered to be a community game. Players are dealt two cards (referred to as hole cards) and are to use those two cards in order to form the strongest hand. In addition to each player being dealt their own pair of cards, the table hosts 5 community cards that are able to be viewed by everyone. By combining your 2 cards and the maximum of 5 laying on the table, players are to construct the strongest possible hand. The strongest hand left standing when all is said and done is determined to be the hand’s winner.
Though Hold’em is played the same way no matter where you are or who you are playing with, there is a difference between tournament play and cash games. Cash games see a player win money at the end of every hand. At any point in time, a player can collect their winnings and leave the table. When it comes to tournaments, players will participate in any number of hands and, when everyone else has been eliminated, the winners will be left standing and will then be paid out per the tournament rules/structure.
How the Game Works
Before the game can begin, the player immediately left of the dealer and the player immediately left of him offer up the big and small blinds. For simplicity’s sake, blinds are nothing more than pre-selected, forced bets that everyone will be forced to make at some point during a game of Hold’em. After both blinds have been offered, every player around the table will be dealt 2 hole cards visible only to the person to whom they are dealt. Once everyone has been dealt into the current hand, betting begins and allows every player to either match the big blind or fold. Even the person in the small blind is faced with either matching the big blind or forfeiting their hand. If a player feels as though their hand is overly strong, they can raise the big bling, however the amount by which they can raise depends on the type of Hold’em you are playing.
In No Limit Hold’em, a player can raise by any amount they want at any time. Pot Limit Hold’em allows for a player to raise only in increments of the current pot as well as any bets that are laid down on the table at the time. Finally, Limit Hold’em restricts raising to increments equaling the big blind.
When the first round of betting (often referred to as pre-flop betting) is completed, the flop is laid down on the table for everyone to see. For those new to the game, the flop is poker slang for the first 3 community cards. Once the flop has been dealt, the second round of betting ensues with whoever is still participating in the hand. This round of betting begins with the first person to the left of the dealer that is still participating. Something that begins with the second round of betting and carries through to the end of a given hand is the fact that, in addition to betting, folding, or raising, a player is able to check. A check is nothing more than a player opting to neither bet nor fold, but pass the action on to the next player. If everyone around the table checks, the turn will be dealt without anyone having to wager any money. With that being said, however, if you check, and any player after you places a wager, you will ultimately be forced to decide whether you would like to match or raise this wager, or fold. Basically, a check can only constitute your only action in a round of betting so long as everyone else also checks.
Once all bets are settled in the first post-flop round of betting, one additional face-up card is laid down in the middle of the table. This card is referred to as the turn. The next round of betting is identical to the rounds that preceded it and finish with the turning of the 5th and final community card, the river. After the river has been laid down, one more round of betting ensues with whoever is left standing. When this round of betting, often referred to as the showdown, has been completed, players reveal their 2 hole cards and the person with the strongest hand will be determined to be the hand’s winner.
Something that is important to remember is that not every hand of Hold’em makes it to the showdown. In fact, more often than not you will find that players fold before all 5 community cards have been dealt. If this occurs, the last person standing will be the winner.
Texas Hold’em History
The game of Texas Hold’em originated from places that are nowhere near Texas. In fact, it is said that the game grew from a combination of a Persian game As Nas and a European game called Primero.
When French settlers made their way to the area that is now the state of Louisiana, they brought with them a game that was referred to as “poque.” Though this game was not exactly the same as poker as we know it, it is believed to have brought about the origins of the word poker. As time passed, and as traditions intermixed, the game of poker was born and grew all across the young United States. Before long it was one of the new country’s most popular card games; a position it has retained until today.
When the 20th century came around, poker was undoubtedly the most popular card game in the US and was making a name for itself all over the world as well. Nowadays Hold’em is often referred to as the most popular poker variant, and you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who disagrees with this.