Poker is the most popular card games played across the globe and its rise to fame was fairly swift! As you can imagine over time, the rules have changed quite a bit, especially compared to what we landed with today. This guide will go through the basic rules of Texas Hold'em which will be geared for novice or beginner players.
The game is said to date back as far as the Sung Dynasty of 10th Century China, so to rise to the level of popularity it sit at today is really quite something. Poker is played in live games and online, the later really taking off over the last 10 years. Poker is a game of bluff and can be exciting to both watch and play. The game enjoys real swings in emotion, from the exuberant, to 'i want to kill my PC' - which can happen in the space of a few minutes. This is one of the attractions and make poker so appealing. The game itself revolves around a concept i like to refer to as 'last man standing'. In essence, in a poker game, the last man standing wins the money. To be the last man standing you have to risk money and as such a hand of poker can become a battle of who has the most determination. Where one man is left standing, he wins outright (with the exception of some high-Low games where a pot is split). Where more than one player is left standing, the best 5 card poker hand wins the pot (the money).
With an element of luck and a good measure of skill thrown in (together with serious amounts of money that can be won), poker remains the card game of choice - and it's not difficult to see why.
The basics of Hold'em are fairly straight forward to learn however there are many forms and variations of the game to learn if you wish to really excel. There are however very few poker variations that do not following the basics, so it's important to master these. This guide will focus on the rules of Texas Hold'em as this is by far and away the most played game both live and online.
Hold'em is a community card game with shared cards that are used by all players in the hand. The objective is two-fold; 1) to win the hand by getting other players to exit the hand or 2) having the best hand at showdown. Here is how the game is played.
A dealer button is used to determine the players who need to post the blinds (big blind and small blind). These are two enforced bets that need to be posted by the two players to the left of the dealer button. The blinds were introduced so that there is money in each pot, and so incentive for players to get involved.
Each player is then dealt two hole cards. These are private cards dealt face down. There is then a round of betting in which players would decide whether to exit the hand or make a bet. At this stage, players will only really have the two cards they have been dealt to decide what to do. There are other factors like position and insight into opponents however we won't focus on these just now. As the big blind is the biggest bet (even though it's enforced), players have the option to fold (exit the hand), call the big blind (match the value as a et) or raise the previous bet (which might be the big blind). At this stage players with poor hands will likely fold. All remaining players who have stayed in the hand still have a chance to win the pot (collective value of all the bets made). All players who folded would lose any contributions to the pot and play no further part of the hand.
The dealer then deals three cards face up on the table, known as 'the flop'. These 3 cards are the first of 5 cards that will be dealt. These are the community cards. At this stage, players still in the hand will have two face down cards and the three shared cards. The objective is to make the best 5 card hand so players left in the hand will know relative strength of their hand so far. Using this, there is another round of betting in which players would again either fold, call (match) any previous bet or raise any bet already made.
Where a player raises, he/she is saying that they have a good hand. They are trying to get other players to fold (remember if all but one fold, the last man standing wins the pot).
After the betting on the flop is complete, a fourth, singular card is dealt to the board (known as the Turn Card), again face up. There are now 4 face up shared cards. There is another round of betting and then a fifth and final shared card is dealt to the board (known as the River Card). Players will now have two cards face down and 5 shared cards, so 7 available cards to make their best 5 card hand.
There is a final round of betting and any players still in the hand have a showdown. At this point, players in the hand turn over their hand and the player with the best hand wins the pot (all the money). The dealer would shuffle and a new hand would then begin. The dealer button would move round one place so that all players get a chance to post the blinds.
Hopefully this gives you an overview into how a hand of Texas Hold'em is played. You will see that any one hand has four betting rounds so the trick is to play good hands that have the best chance of improving, as it can get expensive to pay for 4 rounds of betting only to lose the hand.
New players to the game tend to play too many hands and this is a surefire way of losing money. After all the aim is to minimize the risk you are taking and maximize the profits. To do this you need to be selective about the hands you play - this becomes easier with experience.
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Yes, every poker site out there features Hold'em as it's primary game of choice - mainly as it drives more traffic than any other game. That said, not all poker rooms are equal - some are considerably better than others, both in terms of traffic and the overall quality of the experience. It is worth considering the traffic on your chosen site. It's not great having to sit about waiting for players to sit down and does nothing for the overall experience.
All our listed sites have good player traffic, functionality and are the top hitters in terms of innovation, security and rewards. Before signing up make sure you check our online poker room reviews, which look at each poker room in more detail.