Texas hold ’em (also known as Texas holdem, hold ’em, and holdem) is a variation of the card game of poker. Two cards, known as the hole cards or hold cards, are dealt face down to each player. and then five community cards are dealt face up in three stages. The stages consist of a series of three cards (“the flop”), later an additional single card (“the turn” or “fourth street”) and a final card (“the river” or “fifth street”). Each player seeks the best five card poker hand from the combination of the community cards and their own hole cards. If a player’s best five card poker hand consists only of the five community cards and none of the player’s hole cards, it is called “playing the board”. Players have betting options to check, call, raise or fold. Rounds of betting take place before the flop is dealt, and after each subsequent deal.
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In Texas hold ’em, as in all variants of poker, individuals compete for an amount of money or chips contributed by the players themselves (called the pot). Because the cards are dealt randomly and outside the control of the players, each player attempts to control the amount of money in the pot based either on the hand they are holding, or on their prediction as to what their opponents may be holding and how they might behave.
The game is divided into a series of hands (deals); at the conclusion of each hand, the pot is typically awarded to one player (an exception in which the pot is divided between two or more is discussed below). A hand may end at the showdown, in which case the remaining players compare their hands and the highest hand is awarded the pot; that highest hand is usually held by only one player, but can be held by more in the case of a tie. The other possibility for the conclusion of a hand occurs when all but one player have folded and have thereby abandoned any claim to the pot, in which case the pot is awarded to the player who has not folded.
The objective of winning players is not to win every individual hand, but rather to make mathematically and psychologically better decisions regarding when and how much to bet, raise, call—or fold. By making such decisions to place influential bets, one can non-verbally represent or suggest holding or not-holding a certain or possible hand by either betting or not-betting pre-flop, and by venturing smaller or larger bets or raises at possibly more advantageous times, throughout the stages of the hand being dealt. One’s pattern of betting may encourage opponents to bet or to fold (in this complex process, called bluffing), without verbalizing a discouraging or dishonest word. The winning poker players know how to enhance their opponents’ betting and maximize their own expected gain on each round of betting, to thereby increase their long-term winnings.
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Before we get into describing the rules and game play, here’s a quick glossary of terms you’ll encounter.
- Blinds: Short for “blind bets,” these are the forced bets made before the cards are dealt. In Hold’em, blinds take the place of the classic “ante.”
- Button: Nickname for the player acting as the dealer in current hand.
- Check: Similar to a call but no money is bet. If there is no raise preflop, the big blind may check.
- Fifth Street: See River.
- Flop: The first three community cards dealt.
- Fourth Street: See Turn.
- Preflop: Anything that occurs before the flop is dealt is preflop.
- River: The final (5th) community card dealt; also known as fifth street.
- Showdown: When players reveal their hands to discover the pot’s winner.
- Turn: The fourth community card dealt; also known as fourth street.
Texas Hold’em can be played in three basic variations:
- Limit Hold’em: In Limit Hold’em, the amount you can bet or raise is fixed, according to the posted stakes. A bet placed before the turn card (4th community card) is dealt is known as a “small bet” and is fixed at the size of the big blind. A bet placed after the turn card is dealt is known as a “big bet” and is equal to twice the size of the big blind. In tournament play, these stakes are raised at set intervals, referred to as “levels”. For example, in a 100/200 level, the “small bet” is 100 and the “big bet” is 200. This means that in the first two betting rounds (before and after the flop) you can bet or raise exactly 100 chips and in the last two betting rounds (before and after the river) you can bet or raise exactly 200 chips. In limit play, the betting is capped at three raises per round, unless two players are “heads-up” in the round.
- Pot Limit Hold’em: In Pot Limit Hold’em, there are no fixed stakes. Instead, you can bet or raise up to the amount currently in the pot. This includes bets in front of you plus your call. For example, if there are 100 chips in the pot and you are the first to act in the betting round, the maximum you can bet is 100 chips. But the next player could then call that 100 and raise an additional 300 chips.
- No Limit Hold’em: In No Limit Hold’em, you can bet all of your chips at any time (referred to as going “all-in”).
In Pot Limit and No Limit games, the minimum bet or raise is equal to the big blind (see below). Once a player raises, the minimum reraise is equal to the last raise. The minimum resets to the big blind on the next round of betting.
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