How To Play Texas Hold'em Poker
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After the first player "under the gun" acts, play proceeds in a clockwise fashion around the table with each player also having the same three options — to call, to raise, or fold. Once the last bet is called and the action is "closed," the preflop round is over and play moves on to the "flop. After the first preflop betting round has been completed, the first three community cards are dealt and a second betting round follows involving only the players who have not folded already.
In this betting round and subsequent ones , action starts with the first active player to the left of the button. Along with the options to bet, call, fold, or raise, a player now has the option to "check" if no betting action has occurred beforehand. A check simply means to pass the action to the next player in the hand. Again betting continues until the last bet or raise has been called which closes the action. It also can happen that every player simply chooses not to be and checks around the table, which also ends the betting round.
The fourth community card, called the turn, is dealt face up following all betting action on the flop. Once this has been completed, another round of betting occurs, similar to that on the previous street of play.
Again players have the option to options to check, bet, call, fold, or raise. The fifth community card, called the river, is dealt face up following all betting action on the turn.
Once this has been completed, another round of betting occurs, similar to what took play on the previous street of play. Once more the remaining players have the option to options to check, bet, call, fold, or raise. After all betting action has been completed, the remaining players in the hand with hole cards now expose their holdings to determine a winner. This is called the showdown. The remaining players open their hole cards, and with the assistance of the dealer a winning hand is determined.
The player with the best combination of five cards wins the pot according to traditional poker hand rankings. These hand rankings aren't specifically part of Texas hold'em rules, but apply to many different poker games. Remember, players construct their hands by choosing the five best cards from the seven available their two hole cards and the five community cards.
For example, if the board is showing , a player with the two hole cards would have two pair aces and nines , and would lose to a player who has for three of a kind three nines. Learning hold'em poker begins with understanding how hands are dealt and the order of play as described above. Of course, learning Texas hold'em rules is just the beginning, as the next step is to learn strategy which involves understanding what constitutes good starting hand selection, the odds and probabilities associated with the game, the significance of position and getting to act last during those postflop betting rounds, and many other aspects of the game.
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Preflop The first round of betting takes place right after each player has been dealt two hole cards. This player has three options: The Flop After the first preflop betting round has been completed, the first three community cards are dealt and a second betting round follows involving only the players who have not folded already.
The Turn The fourth community card, called the turn, is dealt face up following all betting action on the flop. The River The fifth community card, called the river, is dealt face up following all betting action on the turn. The Showdown The remaining players open their hole cards, and with the assistance of the dealer a winning hand is determined.
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Tossing chips directly into the pot known as splashing the pot , though popular in film and television depictions of the game, causes confusion over the amount of a raise and can be used to hide the true amount of a bet. Likewise, string raises , or the act of raising by first placing chips to call and then adding chips to raise, causes confusion over the amount bet. Both actions are generally prohibited at casinos and discouraged at least in other cash games. Most actions calls, raises or folds occurring out-of-turn —when players to the right of the player acting have not yet made decisions as to their own action—are considered improper, for several reasons.
First, since actions by a player give information to other players, acting out of turn gives the person in turn information that they normally would not have, to the detriment of players who have already acted. In some games, even folding in turn when a player has the option to check because there is no bet facing the player is considered folding out of turn since it gives away information which, if the player checked, other players would not have. For instance, say that with three players in a hand, Player A has a weak hand but decides to try a bluff with a large opening bet.
Player C then folds out of turn while Player B is making up their mind. Player B now knows that if they fold, A will take the pot, and also knows that they cannot be re-raised if they call.
This may encourage Player B, if they have a good "drawing hand" a hand currently worth nothing but with a good chance to improve substantially in subsequent rounds , to call the bet, to the disadvantage of Player A.
Second, calling or raising out of turn, in addition to the information it provides, assumes all players who would act before the out of turn player would not exceed the amount of the out-of-turn bet. This may not be the case, and would result in the player having to bet twice to cover preceding raises, which would cause confusion.
A player is never required to expose their concealed cards when folding or if all others have folded; this is only required at the showdown. Many casinos and public cardrooms using a house dealer require players to protect their hands.
This is done either by holding the cards or, if they are on the table, by placing a chip or other object on top. Unprotected hands in such situations are generally considered folded and are mucked by the dealer when action reaches the player. This can spark heated controversy, and is rarely done in private games. The style of game generally determines whether players should hold face-down cards in their hands or leave them on the table. Holding "hole" cards allows players to view them more quickly and thus speeds up gameplay, but spectators watching over a player's shoulder can communicate the strength of that hand to other players, even unintentionally.
Unwary players can hold their hand such that a "rubbernecker" in an adjacent seat can sneak a peek at the cards. Lastly, given the correct light and angles, players wearing glasses can inadvertently show their opponents their hole cards through the reflection in their glasses.
Thus for most poker variants involving a combination of faceup and facedown cards most variants of stud and community are dealt in this manner , the standard method is to keep hole cards face-down on the table except when it is that player's turn to act. Making change out of the pot is allowed in most games; to avoid confusion, the player should announce their intentions first. Then, if opening or cold calling, the player may exchange a large chip for its full equivalent value out of the pot before placing their bet, or if overcalling may place the chip announcing that they are calling or raising a lesser amount and remove the change from their own bet for the round.
Making change should, in general, be done between hands whenever possible, when a player sees they are running low of an oft-used value. The house dealer at casinos often maintains a bank and can make change for a large amount of chips, or in informal games players can make change with each other or with unused chips in the set.
This prevents stoppages of play while a player figures change for a bet. Similarly, buying in for an additional amount should be done between hands once the player sees that they will be out of chips within a couple of hands if buy-ins cannot be handled by the dealer it can take two or three hands for an attendant to bring another tray to the table.
Touching another player's chips without permission is a serious breach of protocol and can result in the player being barred from the casino. Many tournaments require that larger denomination chips be stacked in front i. This is to discourage attempts to hide strength. Some informal games allow a bet to be made by placing the amount of cash on the table without converting it to chips, as this speeds up play.
However, the cash can easily be "ratholed" removed from play by simply pocketing it which is normally disallowed, and in casinos leaving cash on a table is a security risk, so many games and virtually all casinos require a formal "buy-in" when a player wishes to increase their stake. Players in home games typically have both cash and chips available; thus, if money for expenses other than bets is needed, such as food, drinks and fresh decks of cards, players typically pay out of pocket.
In casinos and public cardrooms, however, the use of cash is occasionally restricted, so players often establish a small cache of chips called the "kitty", used to pay for such things. Players contribute a chip of lowest value towards the kitty when they win a pot, and it pays for expenses other than bets such as "rent" formally known as time fees , tipping the dealer, buying fresh decks of cards some public cardrooms include this cost in the "rake" or other fees, while others charge for decks , and similar costs.
Public cardrooms have additional rules designed to speed up play, earn revenue for the casino such as the "rake" , improve security and discourage cheating. All poker games require some forced bets to create an initial stake for the players to contest, as well as an initial cost of being dealt each hand for one or more players.
The requirements for forced bets and the betting limits of the game see below are collectively called the game's betting structure. An ante is a forced bet in which all players put an equal amount of money or chips into the pot before the deal begins. Often this is either a single unit a one-value or the smallest value in play or some other small amount; a proportion such as a half or a quarter of the minimum bet is also common.
An ante paid by every player ensures that a player who folds every round will lose money though slowly , thus providing all players with an incentive, however small, to play the hand rather than toss it in when the opening bet reaches them. Antes are the most common forced bet in draw poker and stud poker but are uncommon in games featuring blind bets see next section. However, some tournament formats of games featuring blinds impose an ante to discourage extremely tight play. Antes encourage players to play more loosely by lowering the cost of staying in the hand calling relative to the current pot size, offering better pot odds.
With antes, more players stay in the hand, which increases pot size and makes for more interesting play. This is considered important to ensure good ratings for televised tournament finals. Most televised high-stakes cash games also use both blinds and antes. Televised cash games usually have one of the players, normally the dealer, pay for everyone to accelerate play. If there are six players for example, the dealer would toss six times the ante into the pot, paying for each person.
In live cash games where the acting dealer changes each turn, it is not uncommon for the players to agree that the dealer or some other position relative to the button provides the ante for each player. This simplifies betting, but causes minor inequities if other players come and go or miss their turn to deal.
During such times, the player can be given a special button indicating the need to pay an ante to the pot known as "posting"; see below upon their return. Some cardrooms eliminate these inequities by always dealing all players into every hand whether they are present or not. In such cases casino staff or neighboring players under staff supervision will be expected to post antes and fold hands on behalf of absent players as necessary.
A blind bet or just blind is a forced bet placed into the pot by one or more players before the deal begins, in a way that simulates bets made during play. The most common use of blinds as a betting structure calls for two blinds: This two-blind structure, sometimes with antes, is the dominating structure of play for community card poker games such as Texas hold-em. Sometimes only one blind is used often informally as a "price of winning" the previous hand , and sometimes three are used this is sometimes seen in Omaha.
In the case of three blinds usually one quarter, one quarter, and half a normal bet amount , the first blind goes "on the button", that is, is paid by the dealer. A blind is usually a "live bet"; the amount paid as the blind is considered when figuring the bet to that player the amount needed to call during the first round.
However, some situations, such as when a player was absent from the table during a hand in which they should have paid a blind, call for placing a "dead blind"; the blind does not count as a bet. If there have been no raises when action first gets to the big blind that is, the bet amount facing them is just the amount of the big blind they posted , the big blind has the ability to raise or check.
This right to raise called the option occurs only once. As with any raise, if their raise is now called by every player, the first betting round closes as usual. Similarly to a missed ante, a missed blind due to the player's temporary absence i. Upon the player's return, they must pay the applicable blind to the pot for the next hand they will participate in. The need for this rule is eliminated in casinos that deal in absent players as described above. Also the rule is for temporary absences only; if a player leaves the table permanently, special rules govern the assigning of blinds and button see next subsection.
In some fixed-limit and spread-limit games, especially if three blinds are used, the big blind amount may be less than the normal betting minimum.
Players acting after a sub-minimum blind have the right to call the blind as it is, even though it is less than the amount they would be required to bet, or they may raise the amount needed to bring the current bet up to the normal minimum, called completing the bet. When one or more players pays the small or big blinds for a hand, then after that hand permanently leaves the game by "busting out" in a tournament or simply calling it a night at a public cardroom , an adjustment is required in the positioning of the blinds and the button.
There are three common rule sets to determine this:. In tournaments, the dead button and moving button rules are common replacement players are generally not a part of tournaments. Online cash games generally use the simplified moving button as other methods are more difficult to codify and can be abused by players constantly entering and leaving.
Casino card rooms where players can come and go can use any of the three rulesets, though moving button is most common. When a player immediately takes the place of a player who leaves, the player may have the option to either pay the blinds in the leaving player's stead, in which case play continues as if the player never left, or to "sit out" until the button has moved past him, and thus the chair is effectively empty for purposes of the blinds.
Many card rooms do not allow new players to sit out as it is highly advantageous for the new player, both to watch one or more hands without obligation to play, and to enter the game in a very "late" position on their first hand they see all other player's actions except the dealer's. For these reasons, new players must often post a "live" big blind to enter regardless of their position at the table.
The normal rules for positioning the blinds do not apply when there are only two players at the table. The player on the button is always due the small blind, and the other player must pay the big blind. The player on the button is therefore the first to act before the flop, but last to act for all remaining betting rounds.
A special rule is also applied for placement of the button whenever the size of the table shrinks to two players. If three or more players are involved in a hand, and at the conclusion of the hand one or more players have busted out such that only two players remain for the next hand, the position of the button may need to be adjusted to begin heads-up play.
The big blind always continues moving, and then the button is positioned accordingly. For example, in a three-handed game, Alice is the button, Dianne is the small blind, and Carol is the big blind.
If Alice busts out, the next hand Dianne will be the big blind, and the button will skip past Dianne and move to Carol. On the other hand, if Carol busts out, Alice will be the big blind, Dianne will get the button and will have to pay the small blind for the second hand in a row.
A kill blind is a special blind bet made by a player who triggers the kill in a kill game see below. It is often twice the amount of the big blind or minimum bet known as a full kill , but can be 1. This blind is "live"; the player posting it normally acts last in the opening round after the other blinds, regardless of relative position at the table , and other players must call the amount of the kill blind to play. As any player can trigger a kill, there is the possibility that the player must post a kill blind when they are already due to pay one of the other blinds.
Rules vary on how this is handled. A bring-in is a type of forced bet that occurs after the cards are initially dealt, but before any other action. One player, usually chosen by the value of cards dealt face up on the initial deal, is forced to open the betting by some small amount, after which players act after them in normal rotation. Because of this random first action, bring-ins are usually used in games with an ante instead of structured blind bets.
The bring-in is normally assigned on the first betting round of a stud poker game to the player whose upcards indicate the poorest hand. For example, in traditional high hand stud games and high-low split games, the player showing the lowest card pays the bring-in.
In low hand games, the player with the highest card showing pays the bring-in. The high card by suit order can be used to break ties, but more often the person closest to the dealer in order of rotation pays the bring-in. In most fixed-limit and some spread-limit games, the bring-in amount is less than the normal betting minimum often half of this minimum.
The player forced to pay the bring-in may choose either to pay only what is required in which case it functions similarly to a small blind or to make a normal bet.
Players acting after a sub-minimum bring-in have the right to call the bring-in as it is, even though it is less than the amount they would be required to bet, or they may raise the amount needed to bring the current bet up to the normal minimum, called completing the bet.
In a game where the bring-in is equal to the fixed bet this is rare and not recommended , the game must either allow the bring-in player to optionally come in for a raise, or else the bring-in must be treated as live in the same way as a blind, so that the player is guaranteed their right to raise on the first betting round the "option" if all other players call. Some cash games, especially with blinds, require a new player to post when joining a game already in progress. Posting in this context means putting an amount equal to the big blind or the minimum bet into the pot before the deal.
This amount is also called a "dead blind". The post is a "live" bet, meaning that the amount can be applied towards a call or raise when it is the player's turn to act. If the player is not facing a raise when the action gets to them, they may also "check their option" as if they were in the big blind. A player who is away from their seat and misses one or more blinds is also required to post to reenter the game. In this case, the amount to be posted is the amount of the big or small blind, or both, at the time the player missed them.
If both must be posted immediately upon return, the big blind amount is "live", but the small blind amount is "dead", meaning that it cannot be considered in determining a call or raise amount by that player.
Some house rules allow posting one blind per hand, largest first, meaning all posts of missed blinds are live. Posting is usually not required if the player who would otherwise post happens to be in the big blind. This is because the advantage that would otherwise be gained by missing the blind, that of playing several hands before having to pay blinds, is not the case in this situation.
It is therefore common for a new player to lock up a seat and then wait several hands before joining a table, or for a returning player to sit out several hands until the big blind comes back around, so that they may enter in the big blind and avoid paying the post.
For this same reason, only one set of missed blinds can be accumulated by the player; old missed blinds are removed when the big blind returns to that player's seat because the player was never in any position to gain from missing the blinds. In online poker it is common for the post to be equal in size to a big blind and to be live, just like the big blind. This can create a tactical advantage for the player if they choose not to play during the time they would otherwise spend in the blind in full ring games.
A straddle bet is an optional and voluntary blind bet made by a player after the posting of the small and big blinds, but before cards are dealt. Straddles are typically used only in cash games played with fixed blind structures. Some jurisdictions and casinos prohibit live straddles. Straddles are normally not permitted in tournament formats and are rarely allowed online.
The purpose of a straddle is to "buy" the privilege of last action, which on the first round with blinds is normally the player in the big blind. A straddle or sleeper blind may count as a raise towards the maximum number of raises allowed, or it may count separately; in the latter case this raises the maximum total bet of the first round.
For example, straddling is permitted in Nevada and Atlantic City but illegal in other areas on account of differences in state and local laws. The player immediately to the left of the big blind "under the gun", UTG may place a live straddle blind bet. The straddle must be the size of a normal raise over the big blind.
A straddle is a live bet; but does not become a "bigger blind". The straddle acts as a minimum raise but with the difference being that the straddler still gets their option of acting when the action returns to them. In a No-Limit game if any other player wants to make a raise with a straddle on board, the minimum raise will be the difference between the big blind and the straddle. Small Blind is 5, Big Blind is 10, a Straddle would be The minimum raise would be 10, for a total of 30, it doesn't need to double to Action begins with the player to the left of the straddle.
If action returns to the straddle without a raise, the straddle has the option to raise. This is part of what makes a straddle different from a sleeper because a sleeper does not have the option to raise if everyone folds or calls around to him.
Some casinos permit the player to the left of a live straddle to re-straddle by placing a blind bet raising the original straddle. Depending on house rules, each re-straddle is often required to be double the previous straddle, so as to limit the number of feasible re-straddles. Straddling is considered poor long-term strategy by most experts, since the benefit of obtaining last action is more than offset by the cost of making a blind raise.
Because straddling has a tendency to enrich the average pot size without a corresponding increase in the blinds and antes if applicable , players who sit at tables that allow straddling can increase their profits considerably simply by choosing not to straddle themselves.
Straddling is voluntary at most cardrooms that allow it, however house rules can make straddling obligatory at times by using a special token called "the rock" at the table. Whoever is in possession of the "rock" is obliged to place a live straddle for double the big blind when they are in the UTG position. The winner of the ensuing pot takes possession of the "rock" and is obliged to make a live straddle when the UTG position comes around to him.
If the pot is split the "rock" goes to the winner closest to the left i. This is very similar in principle to the "kill blind" of a kill game, but does not necessarily occur in the same circumstances, and the betting amounts do not have to be affected beyond the first round as in a kill game. A Mississippi straddle is similar to a live straddle, but instead of being made by the player "under the gun", it can be made by any player, depending on house rules one common variation is to allow this left of big blind or on the button.
House rules permitting Mississippi straddles are common in the southern United States. Like a live straddle, a Mississippi straddle must be at least the minimum raise. Action begins with the player to the left of the straddle in a common variation, action starts left of the big blind, skips over the straddle who is last. If action gets back to the straddle with no raise, the straddle has the option of raising. The player to the left of a Mississippi straddle may re-straddle by placing a blind bet raising the original straddle.
A sleeper is a blind raise, made from a position other than the player "under the gun". A sleeper bet is not given the option to raise if other players call, and the player is not buying last action; thus the sleeper bet simply establishes a higher minimum to call for the table during the opening round and allows the player to ignore their turn as long as no one re-raises the sleeper bet. Sleepers are often considered illegal out-of-turn play and are commonly disallowed, but they can speed up a game slightly as a player who posts a sleeper can focus their attention on other matters such as ordering a drink or buying a tray of chips.
It can also be an intimidation tactic as a sleeper raise makes it unfeasible to "limp in" a situation where a player with a mediocre starting hand but acting late only has to call the minimum to see more cards , thus forcing weaker but improvable starting hands out of the play.
Alice is in the small blind, Dianne is in the big blind, Carol is next to act, followed by Joane, with Ellen on the button. Betting limits apply to the amount a player may open or raise, and come in four common forms: All such games have a minimum bet as well as the stated maximums, and also commonly a betting unit , which is the smallest denomination in which bets can be made.
It is also common for some games to have a bring-in that is less than the minimum for other bets. In this case, players may either call the bring-in, or raise to the full amount of a normal bet, called completing the bet. In a game played with a fixed-limit betting structure, a player chooses only whether to bet or not—the amount is fixed by rule in most situations. To enable the possibility of bluffing and protection , the fixed amount generally doubles at some point in the game.
This double wager amount is referred to as a big bet. Some limit games have rules for specific situations allowing a player to choose between a small or big bet. For example, in seven-card stud high , when a player has a face-up pair on the second round 4th street , players may choose a small or big bet e. Most fixed-limit games will not allow more than a predefined number of raises in a betting round. The maximum number of raises depends on the casino house rules , and is usually posted conspicuously in the card room.
Typically, an initial bet plus either three or four raises are allowed. Once Player A has made their final bet, Players B and C may only call another two and one bets respectively ; they may not raise again because the betting is capped. A common exception in this rule practiced in some card rooms is to allow unlimited raising when a pot is played heads up when only two players are in the hand at the start of the betting round.
Usually, this has occurred because all other players have folded, and only two remain, although it is also practiced when only two players get dealt in. Many card rooms will permit these two players to continue re-raising each other until one player is all in. Sometimes a fixed-limit game is played as a kill game. In such a game, a kill hand is triggered when a player wins a pot over a certain predetermined amount, or when the player wins a certain number of consecutive hands.
The player triggering the kill must post a kill blind , generally either 1. In addition, the betting limits for the kill hand are multiplied by 1. The term kill , when used in this context, should not be confused with killing a hand , which is a term used for a hand that was made a dead hand by action of a game official. A game played with a spread-limit betting structure allows a player to raise any amount within a specified range.
These limits are typically larger in later rounds of multi-round games. Playing spread-limit requires some care to avoid giving easy tells with one's choice of bets. Beginners frequently give themselves away by betting high with strong hands and low with weak ones, for instance.
It is also harder to force other players out with big bets. There is a variation of this known as "California Spread," where the range is much higher, such as or California Spread, as the name implies, is played in California, Colorado, and Minnesota, where local laws forbid no limit.
In a half-pod limit game no player can raise more than the half of the size of the total pot. Half-pod limit games are often played at non-high-low games including Badugi in South Korea.