Texas hold’em is perhaps the most famous card games in the world. The most popular variant of poker, the game involves individuals competing for the contents of the ‘pot’ for points or profit. The game involves a high degree of chance, so the strategy arises when players attempt to control the amount in the pot in order to minimize losses on a bad hand and maximize gains on good hands.
Like most variants of poker, Texas hold’em uses a standard 52-card deck, without jokers. Due to the fact that no one suit is worth more than any other, the number of starting combinations (comprised of two ‘hole’ cards) with significant scoring differences is 169. Because of the massive amount of variation possible in such a simple game, it has garnered the attention of game theorists for some time.
Shuffle and deal
To begin, the deck is shuffled by the dealer. In professional games or in most casinos, the dealer does not play the game, whilst in casual games the dealer is often a player. The dealer’s position cycles around the table clockwise after each hand, represented by a counter in professional games. The dealer deals out two hole cards to each player.
Texas hold’em can involve three types of forced bet from players: the small blind, big blind and (optionally) antes. The small blind (usually worth half of the big blind) is to the left of the dealer, and the big blind is to the left of the small. The big blind is equal to the minimum bet. Antes are a compulsory bet for all players, usually used near the latter stages of a tournament. The rules for the amount one may bet vary according to whether the game is high-stakes or low-stakes (limit or no-limit)and according to the specific casino the game is being played at.
The dealer ‘burns’ the top card of the deck, removing it from play. This is a throwback to the early days of the game, and is intended to prevent marked cards or accidental viewing of the top cards from affecting the game. After this, the ‘flop’ occurs: the dealer turns over the top three cards of the deck, revealing them. Any player may combine these ‘community’ cards with their hole cards to form a hand. After the flop, another round of betting is carried out and players may raise (increasing the required bet), call (match another player’s bet), check (effectively a bet of zero) or fold (drop out of the current hand without betting).
Fourth street and fifth street
After the flop and betting, another card is burned and another revealed (the ‘fourth street’ card). The betting process repeats as with the flop, except that there is now one more community card in play. Finally, another card is burned and another community card revealed (the ‘fifth street’ card).
Final betting and winning the game
The players may now use any combination of the 5 community cards or their hole cards to form a hand. Final betting commences, and any remaining unfolded players reveal their hands, the winner taking the pot.