Holdem Poker Basics

Watching Texas Holdem poker games on television is what has drawn so much attention to online poker over the last decade. If you have been drawn into the excitement of the game, but want to know more about it before you attempt to play online or visit a friend’s home game, this article is intended to demystify the game everyone wants to play. After reading this article you should have a good idea about how to play holdem poker both online and live.

Holdem Poker Basics – How to Play

Each player in a game of Texas Holdem is dealt two hole cards, private cards that only that person sees. In the course of the hand, five community cards are dealt to the center of the table, which are shared by all players. Players attempt to form the best five-card hand possible using all seven cards – the 2 hole cards and the 5 community cards. Hand rankings are the same as in Draw poker.

There are four betting rounds in which players may wager on the strength of their hand. Depending on the situation, players may have the option to check, bet, call, raise or fold. Checking is passing the opportunity to open the bet, betting is opening the bet with a wager, calling is entering a wager that is equal to the current bet, and raising is increasing the amount of the current bet with an additional wager. Folding is refusing to match the current bet in order to stay in the hand, in which case the folded cards are dead, or “mucked”.

Holdem Poker Basics – The Blinds

The hand begins with the two players to the left of the dealer posting forced bets, called blinds. The first blind is the small blind, and the second is the big blind. As the deal rotates to the left around the table with each hand, so do the blinds. Therefore, each player will find themselves as the dealer, the small blind and the big blind as the game progresses.

Holdem Poker Basics – The Hole Cards and First Betting Round

Two cards are dealt face down to each player starting with the small blind, and ending with the player in the position of the dealer (generally indicated with a button since casinos provide a professional dealer, and online poker games are dealt by the software.) Since the blinds have been posted, the first to act is the player to the left of the big blind, who may call the big blind, raise, or fold. Play moves clockwise around the table, each player taking a turn to call raise or fold until every player who is still in the hand has placed an equal wager into the pot.

Holdem Poker Basics – The Flop and Second Betting Round

Once the first betting round is completed, three cards – called the flop – are dealt to the center of the table, called the board. These are community cards that will impact every player’s hand. This time the player in the small blind position – or the first player to the left of the dealer (also called the “button”) who hasn’t folded – is the first to act, having the option to check, open the bet, or fold.

Holdem Poker Basics – The Turn and Third Betting Round

After the second betting round, one card is dealt face up to the board, revealing the fourth community card. Again, the player to the left of the button has the option to open the bet, check or fold, and betting continues clockwise around the table.

Holdem Poker Basics – The River and the Final Betting Round

The fifth and final community card is called the river. Each player has formed the best hand they possibly can by this round. The remaining players check, wager, or fold if they don’t want to call another player’s wager. It is not uncommon for the hand to end here, with all players folding to the player they believe to have the strongest hand.

Holdem Poker Basics – The Showdown

If there are two or more players who haven’t folded their hands yet, here is a Showdown. All remaining players turn their cards up to reveal their best hand. The player who forms the highest ranking five-card hand between their hole cards and the board wins all of the money in the pot. In the case of a tie, such as two players having a pair of Queens, the player with the highest card aside from the cards forming their hand – called the kicker – will win. When a kicker cannot be used to break the tie, the pot is split.