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How To Play Texas Holdem Poker

Texas hold'em poker is one of the more popular variations of poker played today. Its simple betting structure, and uncomplicated rules allow even beginners to learn and enjoy the game quickly, while veteran players can appreciate the depth of the strategies involved to really excel.

The Basic Structure

Texas hold'em is played by two to eight players using a standard 52-card deck. There are three assigned positions, the dealer, small blind and big blind. The position of the dealer is usually determined by dealing a single card to each player, and the person with the highest card becomes the first round's dealer. To the left of the dealer is the small blind, sometimes also called the little blind, and to the left of the small blind is the big blind.

After each round of play, all positions rotate one player clockwise, with the last round's small blind becoming the next round's dealer and so on. In games with only two players, the dealer is also the big blind.

The dealer position originally referred to the player who would actually shuffle and deal the cards in a round, and this is still often still the case in casual games played at home. However casinos provide a separate dealer for most games, while in online games, the duties of shuffling and dealing are handled by the software. The significance of the small blind and big blind will be further discussed under the rules for betting.

Gameplay

Two cards are dealt to each player, one card per round and face down, starting with the small blind. These two cards are referred to as pocket or hole cards. After the cards are dealt, there is a round of betting, starting from the player seated to the left of the big blind.

If there are still two or more players who have not folded, the dealer burns a card, and the next three cards are dealt face side up on the table. This is referred to as the flop. There is another round of betting, this time starting from the small blind position, and moving clockwise.

Again if there are still two or more players who have not folded, the dealer burns a card and deals a fourth card face up on the table. This is referred to as the turn, or fourth street. There is another round of betting, again starting from the small blind.

If after this round of betting, there are still at least two players who have not folded, a fifth card is dealt face up on the table. This is referred to as the river, or fifth street. There is a final round of betting, starting from the small blind.

If there are still two or more players active after the last round of betting, there is a showdown, where players still in the hand reveal their pocket cards, starting from the last person to bet. The winner of the showdown wins the pot.

Rules for Betting

Before the first cards are even dealt, the small blind and big blind players place their blind bets, which are forced bets placed by the two players. The small blind bet is usually half the amount of the big blind, while the big blind bet is almost always the equivalent of the minimum bet. A minimum bet is usually set prior to play, and in tournament play the minimum bet periodically increases, which also increases the blinds as well.

During each round of betting, each player takes turns choosing an action, starting with the corresponding player and moving clockwise. Players may check, raise, call or fold. The betting round continues until either all but one player has folded, or all players have matched the current bet.

A player may check if no player previous to them has raised, and they have matched the bet for this round. This signifies the desire to stay in the hand without increasing the bet.

A player may raise to increase the bet required to continue playing in the round, and must be at least the amount of the minimum bet, or the amount of the previous bet or raise. A player may not raise more than the amount they have available, and a player who raises the entire amount they have available is considered to be all-in.

A player may call if a previous player has raised, or if they have not yet matched the bet for that round. If a player does not have enough to call the total bet, they can match the bet up to the amount they have left. Players who do so are considered all-in, and can only win as much of the pot as they have matched with their bet.

A player who does not wish to match the bet, or desires to leave the hand may fold. A player who has folded forfeits his bet, can no longer win the hand, and is no longer required to match the bet further.

The Showdown

After the final round of betting and there are still two or more players in the hand, a showdown occurs. Players take turns revealing their cards, starting with the last player to bet. In the case where all players checked during the last round of betting, the player to the left of the dealer reveals first.

Each player's hand is made up of the best five cards available from the two pocket cards, and the five cards on the table. The best hand takes the pot.

Winning Hands

Straight Flush: five cards of the same suit that are all in sequence. If two simultaneous straight flushes occur at the same time, the winner is decided by the highest card. A straight flush that has the ace as the highest card is called a royal flush, and is the highest possible hand in standard poker.

Four Of A Kind or Quad: four cards of the same value, plus any kicker. The winner between two quads is determined by the rank of the cards. In the case of a tie, the kicker card determines the overall winner.

Full House: three cards of the same rank, with the last two cards matching each other. The winner between two full houses is determined by the rank of the three cards. If those cards tie, then the last two matching cards are compared.

Flush: five cards of the same suit that are not in sequence. The winner between two flushes is determined by the highest card. In the event of a tie situation, the next highest card is compared, and so on.

Straight: five cards in ascending or descending order, that are not of the same suit. The winner between two or more straights is based on the highest card in the straight.

Three Of A Kind or Trips: Also known as a set, you must hold three cards of the same value, with two other cards that are not the same as each other. The winner between two trips is determined by the rank of the three matching cards. If those tie, the kickers are compared.

Two Pair: Two cards of the same value, with two cards that match each other, plus one kicker that matches neither pair. The winner is determined by the higher pair. If that matches the second pair is compared, and then the kicker if two hands have the same two pairs.

One Pair: Two matching cards, plus three other cards that do not match each other. Winner is determined by the highest ranking pair, and then the highest non-paired cards.

High Card: a hand that has none of the combinations above. Winner is decided by highest ranking card, then the next highest and so on.
 
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