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Texas Hold’em

Texas Hold’em is the best known and most popular form of Poker gambling in casinos and on-line. It is also the version of the game played in televised tournaments, and this clearly contributed to its worldwide popularity.

Texas hold’em is an out and out gambling game where the objective is to make the best 5- card hand from 2 cards dealt face-down, known as the ‘ Hole Cards ‘, and 5 community cards dealt face-up in the middle of the table. Players can use any combination from their Hole Cards and the Community cards to make the best hand. They are not even obliged to use any of their Hole Cards, although this scenario is very unlikely because the Community Cards are available to all the players.

The role of the Dealer in a game of Texas Hold’em is important for the order of betting, so that even if the casino provides a dealer, there must be a nominated dealer at the table, usually indicated by a disc or a button which is passed clockwise around the table from player to player. The dealer will always shuffle the cards before each poker hand, and will then discard (Burn) the top card before dealing.

Before any cards are dealt, the two players immediately to the left of the dealer must each stake a ‘Blind Bet ‘. The first player to the left of the dealer will make what is known as a ‘Small Blind ‘, which is usually half the minimum table stake. The second player will then make a ‘Big Blind ‘, which must be at least equal to the minimum table stake. This procedure is to ensure that there is at least a small ‘Pot ‘for each hand. The dealer will then deal each player 2 cards face-down, one card at a time. The players each look at their Hole Cards and the gambling starts with the first betting round with the player to the left of the Big Blind. He must match the big Blind bet (Call), increase the bet (Raise) or discard his cards (Fold). He cannot ‘Check ‘because blind bets have already been made. ‘Checking ‘is a call used to enable a player to stay in the game without making a bet. Any player around the table can check, providing no bets have been made. Each player around the table must Call, Raise or Fold during the betting round, including the two players who have made blind bets. They must match the highest bet (Call) by topping up their blind bets, Raise of Fold. The betting round continues until all the remaining players have gambled an equal amount.

Gambling then continues with the dealer burning the top card on the deck, and dealing 3 community cards face-up into the middle of the table. These 3 cards are known as the ‘Flop ‘. The second round of gambling can now begin, starting with the first active player to the left of the dealer. Again all the active players must Call, Raise or Fold, and when all the bets are equal the second round of betting is complete.

The dealer then Burns the top card, and deals another community card into the middle of the table, known as the ‘ Turn ‘ or ‘ Fourth Street ‘. A third round of gambling then continues until the stakes are again equal. The dealer will then Burn the top card again and deal another community card face-up in the middle of the table, known as the ‘ River ‘ or ‘ Fifth Street ‘. The final round of betting can then take place, again until all the remaining active players have gambled the same stake. The players will then reveal their hands in what is known as the ‘Showdown ‘. The 5 community cards in the middle of the table are commonly known collectively as the ‘Board ‘.

Other terms which may be heard during a game of Texas Hold’em online poker include:-

Kicker – the lower of the two Hole Cards in a player’s hand.
Suited – used to describe a situation where the two Hole Cards are of the same suit.
Back Door – used to describe a hand or win achieved when a player fortuitously completes a straight or a flush with the last 2 community cards.
Nut Hand, or Nuts – the best possible hand in the game, taking into account the 5 community cards.

When gambling on Texas Hold’em an experienced player will always take account of the best possible hand (Nuts) which could be achieved from the 5 community cards, and the second or third best hands which his opponents could hold with the community cards on display. This enables the player to assess the chances of his or her own hand winning the Pot. A player must also remember that the community cards are available to all the players, so that if for instance there is a high pair in the Board, his Hole Cards must be good enough to give him or her chance of competing in the Showdown.

It is clear that the quality of the player’s Hole Cards is the most important factor in any decisions regarding Texas hold’em gambling strategy during the game, and indeed the chances of making the winning hand. The quality of the Hole Cards was first assessed and ranked by David Sklansky in 1976, and published in his book ‘ Hold’em Poker ‘. These guides have been used by many players ever since.

Also important when considering a player’s poker gambling strategy, is their position at the table relative to the dealer. Except for the first round, when the Big Blind is the last to declare, the dealer has the last call. It is therefore advantageous to be as close as possible to the dealer on his right, so that there are fewer players to declare their bets after you and you should have a better indication of the strength or otherwise of their hands. It is generally considered that a player needs a better hand to gamble confidently, the earlier he or she is in the betting rounds.

Ranking of the hands in Texas Hold’em is consistent with the standard Poker rankings.