“You’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, you’ve gotta take your time…” and even though Kenny Rogers didn’t mention it, you’ve definitely gotta know how to play.
Texas Hold ’Em (or just Hold ’em) is quite possibly the most popular variation of poker, thanks to its more recent high-profile forays into worldwide tournaments. Played online and offline, you can say that Texas Hold ‘Em continues to capture the interest of millions of players, with even more casual card players now making the effort to learn how to play.
Indeed, the basics of poker are simple to understand. But mastering the nuances and strategies involved in this deceptively simple card game is what really makes things interesting.
It can be said that poker is equal parts luck, skill, and nerves. You can say that the world’s best poker players are unflappable– cool as cucumbers, yet strategic, perceptive, and calculating, with ice flowing through their veins.
Of course, we all gotta start somewhere. And while we’re all dreaming of becoming the next world Texas Hold ‘em Poker superstar, we here at Capitol Casino have put together this handy guide to help get you started.
Let’s start with the vanilla version of poker. Poker is a card game played on a standard deck of 52 cards. There are four suits in a deck– clubs, hearts, diamonds, and spades. Each of the four suits has 13 cards, with the ace being the highest, working its way down to the king, queen, jack, 10, 9, all the way to the 2 card.
Most types of poker games allow you to form a hand of five cards with which you now have the goal of forming the best possible winning combination. Other players will do the same, and the showdown at the end of a round of poker is essentially decided by the best card combination out of all the active players.
With the five cards in your hand, certain combinations might be possible.
A typical round of poker is played with each player receiving five cards from the designated dealer. Upon assessing their cards privately, each player will now be called to act in turn, moving clockwise around the table. Players have the option to:
The rounds go on until no one else has placed any further bets. By this time, those who have decided to have cut their losses have folded, and anyone left in play believes their hand is superior to the other remaining players’.
Once this happens, the showdown now occurs, and players reveal their hands to see which one has the best card combination. The player with the winning combination (or he who makes the last uncalled bet) wins the pot.
Poker itself has been around since the 16th century, and today, while the basic principles are the same, there are variations of poker with some additional rules, or an added element of hidden or shared cards, maybe even different hand rankings or rounds of betting offered.
In Texas Hold ‘Em, instead of having five cards on hand, each player has two. And then there are an additional five community cards with which players can now form possible combinations.
For you to not get lost in the conversation here are some of the most common words you will hear while the game is ongoing:
Poker is a game of suit. The goal is to win over the hand of your opponent at the end of the game. Texas Hold Em Poker can be categorized into three parts—set up, betting, and showdown.
During set-up, the players decide who will be the dealer.
Once the dealer is assigned a small blind and a big blind will be determined. The player on the left of the dealer is the small blind and the big blind is seated on the left of the small blind.
Once set-up is done, the dealer will require players to put a blind bet, also known as an ante, as a buy-in for the game.
Two cards are then dealt to each player. These first two cards are known as the hole cards. After the hole cards are given out, the betting starts. The betting can go around for four rounds, maximum. The betting stops when all other players, but one, is still in the game or the final betting round has come with multiple players still on the race, whichever comes first.
During the betting rounds, only one player can act at any given time. This is when the pre-flop happens. Betting starts with the small blind or the player to the left of the big blind.
When the first bet is placed, the second player, playing clockwise, will make the next move. The player can do any of these three acts: fold, call, or raise.
When a player folds, it means he or she is surrendering his or her cards and will wait for the next game. A raise, on the other hand, is the minimum bet being increased depending on the value given by the player who raised the bet. For example, if the bet is originally $5 dollars and a player raised it to $10 dollars, then the minimum bet to act a call is now $10 dollars. Lastly, a call means the player will add more chips to his initial bet equivalent to the raised amount.
Now that the betting is done. A showdown will happen.
During the showdown, the players will try to form the strongest five-card combination possible made of the two hole cards in their respective hands and the five community cards on the table.
The first player to reveal his hand is the player who bets on the river. But, if other players decide to reveal their hands first, there is no rule that prohibits this act. If there is no betting on the river, then the player closest to the left of the dealer is the first to reveal his cards to be followed in a clockwise direction.
For players with a losing hand, they can tuck their cards and concede the pot, which means they can choose not to reveal their cards.
Sometimes, two players hold the same ranking cards in a game. When this happens, a split is facilitated by the dealer. This only means that both players get 50 percent of the pot each.
1. Know Where You Sit
The game of poker starts even before the cards are dealt. One overlooked aspect of poker strategy is where you sit, so it is important to know where you sit in the table in relation to the other players.
If you know which direction is being played, then you can use this opportunity to your advantage.
Now, we know that poker is played clockwise depending on who’s opening the game and betting is done in the same direction. Experts would argue that the best position in Texas Hold ‘Em is “on the button.” When you’re on the button, you’re the last player to decide in three out of the four betting rounds.
That means you get to see how the guys seated at the flop, the turn, and the river will adjust their strategy. By the time it’s your turn, you would have an idea how many other players are still in the hand and you can make a much more informed decision on how much to bet in the game.
If there is a “best position”, ultimately there is the “worst position”; and that you would know as the small blind. After the flop, the turn, and the river, you must act first. Sometimes you can use this to your advantage by aggressively betting, However, it is generally more favorable to act last.
2. Play Smart on Both the Turn and the River
If you’re holding a draw after the turn or you are in need of one more card to have a powerful hand, most likely a flush or it can also be a straight.
The trick here is to try to get to the river at the lowest price possible. Now, if you’re sure your hand has the best fighting chance after the turn, be sure to make it costly for other players to check the river.
Next, you have to check the community cards. If it includes a pair, keep in mind that other players might play full house. If it is three cards of the same suit, it is possible that your opponent is carrying a flush.
After the river, it is now time for you to decide whether to check, bet, fold or call depending on the value of your cards. Unfortunately, during this period, you do not have a chance to get another card should you choose to progress your hand.
If you’re not confident that your hand is the best on the table, no matter what happens do not bluff here.
3. Raise to the Same Size with All Hands You Play
Remember, poker is just as much as a game of strategy than it is of chance, so you wouldn’t want to give out hints to your opponents. Every little bit of information, even hand gestures, small mannerisms (or “tells”), and confidence level can give you away,
When you keep your betting size the same all throughout the game, your opponents will have difficulty guessing what hand you are holding. Some players do not realize that raising their bets can mean more than just a bluff.
Also, this gives them an idea that your hand has no chance against the other players and you are merely surviving the table. By doing so, you are practically creating a trap for your opponents to pay you off when you reveal a monster.
4. Know Who You Are Up Against
Chances are, poker rooms have their regular patrons. Each player has their own style and demeanor when they play. They have favorite hands to play and they have a pattern in strategies. This is why it pays to do a little research.
Before sitting on the table, ask around how your opponents like to play the game. Remember that in Poker, information is as good as a strong hand.
Things can go sour if you fail to do your homework before buying in. The old lady you think is a newbie on the table may actually be the one to play the pro-game; or maybe, the lady seated beside you has already won tours outside Sacramento Casino.
It might also pay to Google “poker rooms near me” and see who frequents the place. You never know who will be sitting within a game.
5. Don’t Play Favorites
Sometimes, poker players have a favorite suit to complete for various reasons– like it has won them a few big games, or it is the easiest hand for them to complete, or whatever reason they can find.
However, for newbie poker players, it is best to play at your advantage and see how the cards are being dealt. You might also want to observe how your opponents react to specific cards when they are laid on the table.
While poker players try their best to be emotionless during a game, their subconscious instantaneous reaction may give a hint as to how the laid out card will play for or against them. If you are someone who likes to play a full house but the cards on your hand is not even a pair, you might want to reconsider your favorite suit.
So, there you have it. While poker is a game of mind, luck, and strategy, it is definitely a craft that can be mastered with enough practice. Many professional poker players do take the game seriously, considering it to be both an art and a science.
Here at Capitol Casino, our poker rooms have various players which make it a good place to practice. New players can learn from professionals and the pros can take up a challenge with fellow seasoned players.
So the next time you are asked to play Texas Hold ‘Em poker, do not be afraid to join the table. There is always a first time, so give it a try and enjoy the learning experience.