How to Play Texas Holdem
Poker comes in an almost endless variety of forms but today we'll discuss the Texas Holdem form of the game because it's the most popular of them all by far. Texas Holdem is a relatively new game, only gaining popular within the last few decades. Until recently, the game was rarely played in casinos or home games.
The game is fairly simple in its rules but it does take a few practice rounds to get everything down pat. Once you get it down, however, the game is easy to pick up and play any time you have at least one opponent ready to duke it out.
Texas Holdem Rules
Every round of Texas Holdem begins with the dealer's button. The button is a small round disc that moves clockwise around the table each round that signifies the dealer of the hand. In venues where there is a professional dealer, the dealer's button still moves around the table to represent position.
After the dealer's button has been moved one seat to the left, a new round may begin:
- Before any cards are dealt, the 2 players to the left of the dealer must pay the blinds. The blinds are antes used to start each pot with a little money in it.
- The small blind sits one seat to the left of the dealer and pays one half of what the big blind pays. The big blind sits one seat to the left of the small blind. The size of the big blind is usually equal to 1/100th of the maximum buy-in when playing No Limit and equal to the size of the small bet when playing Limit.
- Next each player is dealt two cards face down, one at a time, beginning with the player left of the dealer. This also happens to be the player who posted the small blind.
- The player immediately left of the big blind acts first after the cards have been dealt. This player may choose to bet, call or fold. If the player does not like his cards, he may fold. If he wants to pay the minimum to see the next card, he may call. If he likes his cards, he may raise.
- After that player has made his decision, the next player may act. Depending on the action of the first player, the next player may call, raise or fold.
- The betting action continues around the table clockwise until all bets have been matched.
- Now the flop is dealt. The flop contains three cards which are dealt face-up in the center of the poker table. These are also called community cards because every player may use any number of the community cards to make the best five card poker hand.
- After the flop is dealt there is another round of betting. This time the betting starts with the person directly left of the table dealer.
- After that round is complete, a fourth card is dealt face-up in the middle of the table. This is another community card and it is referred to as the "turn."
- After the turn is dealt, there is another round where each play can bet.
- After that round is complete, a fifth and final community card is dealt in the middle of the table. This card is known as the "river."
- There is one last round of player betting after the river is dealt. After that betting is finished, the remaining players have a showdown. The player with the best poker hand (five card), using any combination of his two cards and the 5 community cards, wins the pot.
- The pot is collected, the cards shuffled and the dealer's button moves one seat to the left. A new round may now begin.
That may seem like a lot of rules, but once you get playing everything flows quite naturally and is easy to pick up. You can just look to see what the rest of the table does rather than memorize each of the above Texas Holdem rules.
Texas Holdem Winning Hands
From weakest to strongest:
Basic Poker Strategy
Texas Holdem has been studied in depth for years and countless books have been written on the subject but the game still has yet to reveal all its little intricacies and secrets. It only takes a few minutes to learn but it takes years to become familiar with all the little details.
Luckily, learning basic Texas Holdem strategy isn't nearly as difficult. If you apply a few basic rules to your game, you'll have a strategy that should withstand most of the onslaughts of your opponents in small stakes games. By applying these concepts to your game, you can become a profitable poker player in little time.
Play a tight-aggressive preflop game
Choosing your starting hands is where every round of Texas Holdem begins. If you can properly choose your starting hands from the get-go, you'll be well on your way to profitability. By being tight in your starting hand requirements, you will play stronger hands than your opponents (on average) and have easier decisions to make after the flop.
Tight-aggressive means you are tight in the starting hands you play and you are aggressive with the hands you play. You don't just go around playing every hand but when you do play hands, you come in with a raise. Controlled aggression is what makes money in poker.
It's highly unprofitable to just play every hand you're dealt. In fact, you should really only be playing the top 20% of your hands and folding all the rest. This means that you'll fold about 4 out of every 5 hands you're dealt. It sounds boring but trust me; making money at poker is not boring.
There's no such thing as a perfect list of hands you should play because that depends on too many factors such as the opponents at the table, your table image, how the game has been flowing and so on. But I can give you a few general guidelines for picking your starting hands:
Look for starting hands that have high card power and potential to turn into even stronger hands. The best starting hands are the pocket pairs TT-AA. These hands will win the pot most of the time (but not always) and are even better if they can get some help from the flop.
Other strong hands include high, suited unpaired cards. Hands like AQs, AKs and such are very strong. Hands like KQ are decent but they aren't worth playing unless you're in late position and can get in cheap.
Small pocket pairs also have a lot of potential but they usually need some help from the flop to win the pot. When you play small pocket pairs, you're hoping to hit a 3rd card of the same rank so you can make 3 o f a kind. If you play poker for any length of time, you'll see that 3 of a kind is your bread and butter.
When you choose a hand before the flop, you should come in with a raise. Don't limp in with your hands. By raising you take control of the hand and can play it under your terms. Most of the time all you have to do is make a bet to steal the pot if you were the person who raised preflop.
Play a tight-aggressive postflop game
Winning poker players also play a tight-aggressive game after the flop. In postflop terms, "tight-aggressive" means making bets and raises instead of checks and calls. If you have a strong hand you should be betting it and raising with it, not checking and calling. If your hand is weak, you should just fold it, not call and see what happens.
This also applies to your draws. You shouldn't waste your time chasing draws unless the pot is big and the bet is small. Draws miss more often than they hit! That's why you shouldn't chase them unless the investment is minimal and the payoff is large.
The purpose of playing a tight-aggressive postflop game is to play poker how you would if you could see your opponents' cards. The tight-aggressive game comes the closest because with it you bet your strong hands and you fold your weak hands. It sounds ridiculously simple but the average poker fan doesn't play that way.
Tight-aggressive play is the basis for winning poker strategy. It's a fairly obvious strategy but for some reason people just can't stick with it. Bet your strong hands, fold you weak hands. Don't do a lot of checking and calling. If your hand is strong enough to call, you should be raising. Otherwise, fold it.
Now that you've learned the absolute basics of poker strategy, keep your learning hat on. You're not even close to knowing everything there is to know about poker. That's OK though, because nobody is there yet.
Keep learning, brush up on your strategy and get a lot of table time in. Your skills will improve over time and so will the amount of money you make. If you stick with it, there is a lot of money to be made at online poker. And when I say a lot, I mean truck loads.
If you would like additional strategy for Texas Holdem, take a look at any of the following articles: