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How to play Texas Hold 'Em

Texas Hold Em is the king of all poker games. Exciting, fast paced and skilful, if you have ever watched poker on TV then you have most certainly seen Texas Hold Em in action.

The good news is that you do not need to be a professional poker player to enjoy this exciting game, if you want to learn the basics please read through this handy guide to introduce you to the popular game of Texas Hold Em.

Texas Hold Em is played with a typical 52 card deck. Hold Em can be played with as few as two players ( going” heads up”), to a maximum of eleven players.

The aim of the game

Ok, let’s start at the beginning. Texas Hole Em is a fast-paced seven card game where the all important aim of the game is to make the best five card hand using all the cards in play, five community cards that everyone can use in their hand and the two cards you’re dealt.

The dealer button and the blinds

Each hand one player acts as the dealer. The position of the dealer is important as the two players to the left of the dealer post the blinds, the compulsory bets put in before the deal to ensure that there’s something to play for. The player to the immediate left of the dealer posts the small blind with the player to their left posting the big blind (twice the small blind). The dealer button moves to the left after each hand so that all players take it in turns to be the dealer.

The opening deal

Once the blinds have been posted, its time for some cards. Moving clockwise around the table from the dealer, each player receives two cards dealt face down that only they get to see ( these are called pocket or hole cards ). Its now time for some betting!

Betting after the deal

After the deal, its time for some betting based on the strength of the hand the two hole cards could lead to. As the blinds already have money in the pot, the betting starts with the player to the left of the big blind as the game can only progress when all players have put in the same amount of money.

When betting, there are three options: (1) call, which is to match the big blind (2) fold which is to end their participation in the hand and (3) raise, which is to bet more than the big blind. The big blind player has one more option in that they can check, which is to continue playing but without raising. Simple, no?

The flop

Now that the first round of betting is out of the way, its time for the flop. The flop is a set of three community cards that are dealt face up in the middle of the table. They’re community cards as all players can use them when constructing their best five card hand.

Once the flop has been dealt, its time for another round of betting starting with the player to the left of the dealer who can check, fold or raise. Once all bets are equal, its time for the next card.

The turn

The forth community card is called the turn or forth street. Again all players can use this card when forming their hand. The next round of betting starts, again starting with the player to the left of the dealer.

The river

Four down its now time for the fifth and final community card: the river. Now that all the cards have been dealt, each player still in the hand knows exactly what their best five card hand is. There’s now one more round of betting.

The showdown

Once the final round of betting is over, its time to see who takes the pot. Each player left in the hand shows their cards with the winner decided by the universal hand rankings. If a player wins a pot by default, that is every other player has folded, there is no showdown and the winning player can decide whether to show their cards or not. Most players don’t, it’s always nice to keep the other players guessing.

  • Royal flush An ace, king, queen, jack, and ten in the same suit
  • Straight Flush five cards in sequence, of the same suit.
  • Four of a kind Four cards of the same rank, and one side card.
  • Full house Three cards of the same rank, and two cards of a different, matching rank. ( e.g. three 5s and two 2s).
  • Flush Five cards of the same suit.
  • Straight Five cards in sequence.
  • Three of a kind Three cards of the same rank, and two unrelated cards.
  • Two pair Two cards of a matching rank, another two cards of a different matching rank, and one side card. (e.g. two 6s, two 9s, one other).
  • Pair Two cards of a matching rank, and three unrelated cards.
  • High card Any hand that does not qualify under a category listed above. If two players have hands like this, the one with the highest card wins.

You gotta know when to hold 'em

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Basic strategies for poker success

Just knowing the rules won’t make you a winner. Luckily our bluffers guide to poker strategy will have you up to speed in no time.

While the old adage about poker taking minutes to learn but a lifetime to master may well be true, that doesn’t mean to say you can’t be up and running in a pleasingly short period of time.

So if you know the rules, but want to step up to the next level, here are our top tips to bring you poker success.

  1. It pays to be picky< the single most common error that leads to inexperienced players losing, is the natural desire to get involved and play too many hands. Consistently coming out on top requires you to have a strong understanding of which starting hands to play and which to fold.
  2. Play aggressively if you have been dealt a strong pre-flop hand, it gets money in the pot early and encourages weak hands to fold. You want those potentially weak hands out of the way. And if they do stay in, make inferior hands pay to draw against you.
  3. If you’re dealt a low pair, play cautiously and only play when the betting is cheap. If you don’t flop three of a kind or two pairs, it’s probably best to get rid. “Play aggressively when you have options”
  4. Play aggressively when you have options after the flop. If your hand has a chance of making a straight, flush or three of a kind, get raising.
  5. Watch out for the uniform flops like 7 8 9. Even if you’re holding top pair, someone could easily make a straight. Similarly, beware of suited flops. If three hearts appear, chances are high that someone somewhere is going to make a flush.
  6. Beware of “good” hands in large games. If in a full ring games e.g. six or seven are still in a hand, it’s highly likely that one of the players is holding something strong. Your pair just won’t cut it.
  7. In short-handed games, or in heads up play, good hands are hard to come by. That pair of 3s may not be so bad after all.
  8. If you have a losing streak, never start playing more aggressively to try to win back your losses. Luck evens itself out over time, so play your game and you will do ok. Losing your rag is called going off tilts. It’s a bad thing.
  9. Learn the probabilities of making certain hands in any given situation. A player, who plays the odds well, is a player who plays well.
  10. Play as often as possible even if it’s only for low stakes. There is no substitute for experience.