Everyone knows how to play a few card games. But when it comes to poker, it’s more common that we have a fundamental grip on the basics – a royal flush beats a full house and so on. However, when it comes to exactly how the cards are dealt and the betting takes place, most of us are all at sea.
Poker, and in particular Texas Holdem poker, has not achieved the global popularity it has by accident. Today, it is by far the most commonly played game at tournament level. It’s also the variation that was immortalized in the 2006 movie adaptation of Casino Royale. If you’ve never been 100 percent clear on how its played but have felt embarrassed to ask, you are not alone. The following key points tell you everything you need to know in order to take a seat at the table.
The deal and opening bets
Players usually take it in turns to be dealer. Each player is dealt two cards face down. These are known as pocket cards. Before looking at them, the player to the dealer’s left places a “small blind” bet, usually half the minimum bet. The next left player then places the “big blind,” of at least the minimum stake. Players then look at their pocket cards and there is a round of betting in which they can call, raise or fold. With every raise, the other players can either call, matching your bet, or fold.
The dealer now deals three community cards in the center of the table. He will ultimately deal two more, and the winner will be the player with the best 5-card poker hand using any combination of the two he has in the pocket and the five “board” cards. These first three cards are known as the flop. When they are dealt, there is another round of betting.
The dealer places a fourth card on the board, and this is known as the turn card. There is now another round of betting. Don’t just think about your own hand, consider what your opponents might hold, both by looking at the community cards and seeing what you can work out from the way they are behaving.
Finally, the last card is dealt, and the final round of betting takes place. Don’t be afraid to fold if you have a poor hand. For example, if there are four clubs on the board and you don’t have one in the pocket, at least one of your opponents is certain to. If you can’t beat a flush, fold your hand. Likewise, if the board includes a four, five, six and seven, you can be reasonably certain that someone will have either a three or an eight to make the straight.
Give it a try
Yes, there are more strategic nuances to learn along the way, but you are now adequately equipped to visit any one of the many legal poker sites in the US and play a hand of Texas Holdem. The best way to learn any poker game is through experience, so give it a try!