Texas Hold’em Poker: Guide to Playing the King of Casino Games

Texas Hold’em Poker

Texas Hold’em Poker is without a doubt the king of casino games. No other casino game matches the sheer intensity of even a single round of a poker game. Poker is full of excitement due to its massive winnings. This high stakes game fits perfectly with the phrase ‘winner takes all’ which is true in this case. A single winner can win all the money which is in the pot unless it is a tie. The best thing about poker is that a player can even win when they do not have the appropriate winning cards. Online casino guides for beginners will help you get equipped with the knowledge of how to play this addictive game.

The name poker famously comes from the term ‘poker face’ which means a face which gives away zero emotions. Why is keeping a poker face so important in a poker game? Since this game revolves around strategy, it is of key importance to not let the other players be aware of what hand a person has been dealt. The longer a player can keep their expressions from letting loose, the closer they might get to winning.

More of the tips and tricks later, let us get into how to play the most popular type of poker: Texas hold’em.

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Basics of a Poker table

A poker table usually consists of 2 to 10 players who can participate in a game of poker. Each table is large enough to accommodate the maximum number of players without any malfunction. Customarily, players have enough room to view their cards without the fear of anyone else overlooking them.

Normally in most casinos, drinks and snacks are free in a poker room. While it is advisable to not get drunk during a game which might influence a player to make irresponsible decisions, there is still an option to order alcoholic drinks. Usually, each table has an assigned waiter who will go around taking orders. It counts as a poker etiquette to tip the waiter for each order.

After sitting around the table, the dealer will signify the beginning of a round, which will lead to the initial deal of the game.

Texas Hold’em Poker
Image source: Nyks / CC BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons

The dealer conundrum

A dealer in poker is a little different than other casino games. A dealer in poker is any player who is assigned the ‘dealer’ puck. A round button with the word ‘dealer’ revolves around the table in a clockwise direction. Whoever lands with the dealer puck acts as the dealer for the hand who will distribute cards and collect chips for the pot. A player can only be the dealer for a single round until the puck lands on them again after completing the circle.

Casinos normally appoint a person to play out the dealer part, so all players can play instead of having to sit out during a round. Commonly in this situation, the dealer puck will remain next to a player instead the casino dealer will act as a substitute for them.

Seemingly, this is all very pointless. Unless the blind bets are taken into account, which entirely depends on who has the dealer puck.

The blind bets

After the discretion of the dealer, the round begins with the blind bets. Blind bets are like the cheerleaders in betting. They amp up the crowd and ready the pot for brewing and a cascade of chips. The reason for the titular name is that these bets are made without seeing the cards. The initial most bets are solely for the purpose of getting the bets going. 

The responsibility of the blind bets falls on the players sitting left to the dealer. The first player on the left makes a small blind bet while the next one makes the big blind. The small blind is customarily half of the minimum betting limit. While the big blind is the full minimum betting limit. After the blind bets, the turn continues to the next player.

At the end of each subsequent round, the first player to begin the round will always be the small blind player unless they have folded previously in which the turn will pass onto the next player in the game.

Texas Hold’em Poker
What a hand!

The four rounds of Texas Hold’em

After the blind bets are placed by the two consecutive players after the dealer, the first round of poker begins. This round of betting is called the pre-flop round.

The pre-flop round

This is the round where the other players around the table come into play. The preflop round is based on the two cards which are dealt to each player before the flop is dealt with. The players can look at their cards which are referred to as ‘hole cards’. These players have 3 options they can use:

  • Call: an action which allows the player to match the highest bet on the table (big blind)
  • Raise: Raising a bet means doubling the highest bet in play
  • Fold: folding simply means giving up and pushing the cards towards the dealer signifying that the player will sit out the hand

This round begins with the player sitting next to the big blind player. The player will either call the bet putting an equal amount of chips as the big blind or they can raise it by doubling the amount. In case a player suspects that their hole cards are not strong enough to achieve a good hand, they will simply push them towards the dealer who will place them in the muck pile. Cards that even touch the muck pile can not be retrieved and the player has to wait for the next game.

After each player has availed the options by either calling, raising, or folding the round will come to an end with the big blind player. The chips will then be gathered in the center to create the pot and the Flop round will begin.

The flop round

Since poker is played with a single deck, there is a technique used while distributing cards to make the game fair. Each time the dealer deals the cards, they always burn the top card. This is done in case the dealer showed it to a player by accident. After burning the top card, three cards are dealt face-up on the table. These cards are referred to as community cards. Along with the two hole cards, the player can start evaluating whether they own a good enough hand to make it till the last round.

The betting round begins with the player who makes the small blind bet. A new option comes into play in this round:

  • Check: instead of betting, calling, or raising the player can hold off and wait to see the move of the next player

Checking is a very useful option especially when it comes to gauging the stance of rest of the players. As a strategic play, players can calculate if other players have a better hand by checking. However, it is important to note that a player can only use the check option if there are no bets in the new round. Once a player bets, the checking option becomes unavailable for the rest.

The round resumes the same way, with players calling or raising the stakes. Those who do not have faith in their hole cards, fold. After each in-game player has contributed the same amount of bets, the next round will begin.

Texas Hold’em Poker
The Turn Round – Image source: David Singleton from London, UK / CC BY via Wikimedia Commons

The turn round

The turnaround is basically the same as the flop round. Except with the addition of another card that goes to the community cards. Now the players have a better idea of whether their chances of winning are strong or not. A lot of the time, some of the participants already have a complete hand that they wish to play. Consequently, this is the time when the bets take the high road and each player tries to raise the pot to accumulate more wins.

After the 4th card is placed face-up on the table, the round begins again with the small blind player or in case they have folded already, the round resumes with the next player who is in the game. The players again have the options of check, bet, call, raise or fold. Following the play of all the players, the round comes to an end, and all the bets of the round move to the pot.

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The river round

The river is the last round which adds the final card to the community cards. This is the time when all cards are available and each player finds the best hand with which they can defeat the rest of the table. The round begins again with the same options as the last two rounds. 

Now the pot is brewing bigger than ever and the players have to match the same bet in order to proceed to the showdown. Eventually, each player will reveal their cards to the dealer and a winner will be selected who takes all the bets from the previous rounds. In case of a tie the winnings are split between the winners.

The river is the make or breaks card in some intense cases. Some players go all-in putting their fate in the last card. This raises the stakes like no other way. In some cases, the other player may fold if a player goes all-in believing they might have a better hand. However, this could just as well be a bluff move. So, poker is a highly strategic game, and learning to read the cues of each player is essential. Along with this, it is significant to understand what hands are possible for other players and which are the best hands.

Hands in poker

To determine a winner, there are a set of hands which rank as best to nothing. If a player gets a combination there are ways to figure out who wins by evaluating their value. Here are the 10 hands in poker ranking from best to least valuable.

Texas Hold’em Poker
Everyone loves Texas Hold’em – Image source: Flickr
  • Royal Flush: the best hand in poker is the royal flush which comprises a 10, J, Q, K, and Ace. The condition for a royal flush is that all these 5 cards should belong to the same suit.
  • Straight Flush: this is the second-best in poker. It consists of 5 consecutive cards belonging to the same suit. In case two or more players have a straight flush, the one with the highest card will win.
  • Four of a kind: as the name suggests, 4 cards of the same rank but different suits of course, along with any other card. In case of more than one four of a kind, the card with the highest rank will win.
  • Full House: in a full house hand, the 5 cards of a player should consist of 3 cards of the same rank and 2 cards of another rank. For instance, 3 Queens and 2 9s would be a full house.
  • Flush:  a flush is the 5th best hand in poker. For a flush, all of the 5 cards need to be from the same suit however, the order or rank does not make a difference. For instance, 3, 7, 9, J, K of hearts will be considered as a flush.
  • Straight: similar to straight flush with the exception of one thing. In a straight hand, the 5 cards should be consecutive cards but from more than one suit
  • 3 of a kind: this hand comprises 3 cards from the same rank. The other two cards will be different unmatched cards.
  • Two pairs: like the name, in two pairs hands there have to be two pairs of the same ranks. Example: 2 Jacks and 2 Aces with a 5th unmatched card.
  • Pair: a pair is the second last hand which is valuable. In this there only has to be one pair of the same rank with 3 unmatched cards.
  • High card: this hand is also called nothing since it has no pairs or similar ranking or sequence cards. In this case, if all players have random cards, the ones with the highest card win.

It is of key importance to note that both the hole cards are not necessary to use. In such a case where a hole card can make a better hand in combination with 4 community cards, it is okay to discard one hole card. In some cases, using none of the hole cards is also allowed. This is called playing the board. In this case if all the community cards make a hand which does not require hole cards, a player can use them instead.

How to improve at poker

Like every other casino game, it is important to be responsible when playing. Since poker is considered an aggressive game, many players lose sight of how to control losses. Folding is a valuable option and it should be exercised in case a player is dealt a weak hand. There is no shame in handing the dealer the cards back.

Keeping in check the play of each hand is another way to improve gameplay. Learning from past mistakes should be a key strategy when it comes to poker. Also, not indulging in other people’s comments is the way to keep a stable mindset on the table.

Getting too caught up and distracted is a good way to lose at poker. Identifying certain habits of each player can lead to determining how everyone reacts when they own a good hand or vice versa. Hence it is significant to notice every move of each player which will certainly aid in you becoming a good poker player.

Texas Hold’em Poker
Rome wasn’t built in a day – Take your time

Etiquettes of poker

During a poker game, the atmosphere of the table is generally tense. Therefore, many players indulge in bringing other players down which is not the best thing to do. One should always practice composure and respect the game and those involved. Winning a game should not necessarily mean celebrating or bragging about it. Since other players will lose enormous amounts of money in one hand, it is always respectful to be a gracious winner. Similarly one should not blame others for a loss. It is best to display sportsmanship at such times.

Another thing to keep in mind is to make decisions timely. While many casinos offer no time limit when it comes to decision making, it is still a good idea to make a move in less time. This will keep the game moving forward in a smooth manner,

Moreover, do not be the person who creates distractions on the table. Some players get up during a round which can be an unnecessary action on their behalf. Keeping calm on the table is one of the etiquettes of poker.

Consequently, combined with the knowledge of how to play poker and the dos and don’ts at the table, you are now ready to test your skills at this game. This strategic game of Texas hold’em requires practice and an awareness of social skills and don’t forget to keep a poker face whilst sitting at a poker table.

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