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Texas Hold'em Rules

We mentioned before that seven-card stud poker was the most popular poker game around. Well there's only one rival to it in the casinos, and it goes by the name of Texas hold'em. In face, many poker rooms around the States will offer Texas hold'em poker as the dominant game. Some feel it's a more exciting variation of the game, and still others say it's a more sophisticated game that stud players should graduate to. Texas hold'em is the game used for the World Series of Poker tournament.

The game is probably a little different than your classic back-room session. The big difference is, in Texas hold'em poker every player receives 2 face-down cards for themselves, and all of the players share 5 face-up, community cards. Like other poker variations, the winner is the player who has the strongest poker hand (the best combination of all communal cards and private cards), or is the last remaining player.

A small point of confusion to avoid when jumping into this game, there is a white disk labeled 'DEALER' on front of one player. This disk (or button) indicates the current dealer, but of course, the actual card dealing is still done by the house. With stud poker there are face-up cards to determine who starts the action, but in Texas hold'em, we have to designate someone. After a hand is complete the dealer button moves around the table the to next player, clockwise.

Most often, Texas hold'em poker uses something called 'blinds' to seed the pot, instead of ante bets. The blind bets are posted before any cards get dealt, hence the name blind. The two players to the left of the dealer button have to make blind bets. The first player posts a small blind, and the second player posts a big blind. The small blind is a fraction of the minimum bet, while the big blind usually equals the minimum bet.

After the blinds are posted the dealer gives everyone two cards. Since the small and big blinds are essentially bets, the first to act after dealing is the person to the left of the player who placed the big blind. That player has three options:

Fold: drop out of the hand
Call: match the amount of the big blind
Raise: match the amount of the big blind and raise it

The play then moves clockwise around the table with everyone having the opportunity to place the same bets. When the betting comes back around to the players who posted blinds, they have the same options to raise, call or fold. The difference is, since they already posted a blind, they have already made a partial bet, and only have to make up the difference between their post and the current bet to stay in.

If the table plays 'live blinds' (most do) then those who posted a blind are allowed to raise when the betting comes around to them, even if no other player has raised. This makes for the strange instance of raising your own bet, but since the blind's were forced, it's not so illogical.

Once the first round of betting has been completed (all based on our two face-down cards), the next round may begin. The dealer will usually burn a card from the top of the deck before dealing (meaning the top card gets removed from play), and then place three cards face up in the center of the table. We now have enough cards to make a poker hand.

A slang name for the community, or shared cards, is 'the flop'. There are no more blind bets to place, so the first player to act in the second, and all subsequent rounds, is the one immediately to the dealers left.

Once this round is complete the dealer burns another card, and deals the fourth community card. This is sometimes referred to fourth street (much like seven-card stud), or the turn. After another round of betting, the dealer burns another card and deals another card to the community. This is known as fifth street or the river. The fourth and final round of Texas hold'em poker betting takes place after the last card. If in the end there is more than one player left, the remaining players will have a showdown.

Whoever holds the best poker hand wins. Each player's two private cards, in any combination with the central community cards (also called the 'board'), may come together for a number of different poker hands, but one will be superior to the rest. The player can use one, both, or none of their personal cards in making their poker hand. Of course, if they choose to only use the board as their hand, the best they could hope for would be a tie.

In Texas hold'em, it's not unusual that players will have the same hands. In the case of a tie, the players split the pot. The dealer button is moved along clockwise as one hand ends and the next begins.