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Playing Texas Hold’em

A. Antonova (editor)

As far as poker is concerned, there are many different variations of the game which translates in deviations in the rules and betting structure. Texas Hold’em is among the most popular and commonly played variations of the game of skill. Certain parallels can be drawn between Hold’em and other widespread variants, such as Seven Card Stud, for instance.

Both Texas Hold’em and Seven Card Stud utilize the same hand rankings and players aim at forming the best possible five-card hands. However, at the start of a Texas Hold’em game, each participant receives two hole cards that are dealt facing down. This marks the start of the first betting round. Also, there are five community cards in Texas Hold’em for all players to use, which are dealt at three stages, called the Flop, the Turn, and the River. The purpose of each player is to form the highest ranking hand possible by combining their hole cards with some of the community cards at the table.

The Button

The game of Texas Hold’em is played with a standard deck, containing 52 cards. In gambling establishments, the dealer does not partake in the game with bets but is simply there to shuffle the deck, deal the cards to players, and help them evaluate their hands during the showdown. The player seating to the immediate left of the dealer is the one to act first.

A small plastic disk, referred to as the dealer button is placed in front of the first person to act. The button then changes position clockwise so that all players get to act as “dealers” in their own turn. This is to prevent some of the players gaining an advantage over their opponents. The first person to act is typically at a disadvantage since they cannot collect enough information as to what their opponents would do next. That is why at the next hand, the dealer button will move to the next player in a clockwise direction.

The Blinds

At the start of each hand in Texas Hold’em, some of the players are required to contribute with two forced bets so that a pot can accumulate before anyone is actually dealt any cards. These forced bets are referred to as the small and the big blinds. The player to the left of the dealer assumes the role of the small blind and places half of the minimum bet at the table. The player to the small blind’s left posts the entire minimum bet or the big blind. From this, it follows the big blind is twice the size of the small blind, for example, $10 and $20.

Forced Bets Situation

Pre-Flop

Once two of the players have posted the big and the small blinds, the first betting round, called pre-flop, can commence. The croupier then deals each player two hole cards that are facing down. These hole cards are dealt one at a time to each participant, with the player immediately to the left of the button (the small blind) being the first one to receive a card.

Dealing Cards Situation

After everyone has been dealt their two hole cards, each of the players must act in turn and choose from several betting actions. The player sitting to the left of the big blind is entitled to act first. Players can call (match the amount of the big blind), fold (surrender their hole cards and no longer be in hand) or raise (bet an additional amount that is at least twice the size of the big blind). Checking (refusing to act while remaining in hand) is not allowed during the Pre-flop.

Preflop Situation

The Flop

When each player has acted on the Pre-flop, the croupier “burns” or discards the deck’s top card. A new betting round commences after three of the community cards, the Flop, are dealt face-up in the center of the table. Players evaluate the situation and choose to call, fold, raise, check or bet. If a player opts for bluffing or assumes they have a good enough hand, they can bet by simply moving their chips toward the center of the table.

Flop Situation

The Turn

Once the second betting round is complete, the croupier burns yet another card from the deck’s top and deals the fourth face-up card in the center of the table, next to the Flop. The fourth face-up card is referred to as the Turn or less frequently, as the Fourth Street. All players remaining in hand can again choose from one of the above-mentioned betting actions. If all participants opt to check, this means this betting round is complete and remaining players get to see the fifth and last community card for free.

Turn Situation

The River

The fifth and final community card to be dealt face-up in the center of the table is referred to as the River or Fifth Street, though less often. It is dealt after the croupier burns another card from the top of the deck and this marks the start of the last round of betting. Each player in hand chooses from folding, calling, raising, betting or checking.

River Situation

The Showdown

Once all five community cards appear at the center of the table, the most exciting part of the game, or the showdown, can start. Players flip over their hole cards to reveal who has the best hand, which must always consist of a total of five cards. There are several options for players here.

Their final hand can comprise three community cards and the two hole cards or one hole card with four community cards. At rare occasions, players can use all five community cards on the board to form a hand. The last option may result in participants chopping the point as there is a possibility of ties in this case.

Showdown Situation

The player with the highest ranking five-card hand at the table is awarded the pot. Whenever two players tie, the kicker cards that are otherwise irrelevant to their hands are used to break the tie. If both hold kickers of the same rank, the pot is split between the two players.

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