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Starting Hands Revealed

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Texas Hold'em Rules

Texas Hold'em poker uses the poker hand ranking common to all forms of poker. Holdem poker is played between two and ten players. It is a variation of poker which mixes visible and hidden cards. So let us get your poker training started.

a table of texas holdem poker at Pokerstars
Texas holdem table reaching showdown at the river

Each player is given two cards, called hole cards. The hole cards stay hidden except to the player himself (and to television viewers since the apparition of "hole cameras"), while the 5 community cards will be visible to all players. The picture on the left shows an example.

Each player is allowed to use any poker combinations of his own cards and three or more community cards in order to compose a five cards hand.

There are four rounds of betting. At first, each player receives his two hole cards and the first "preflop" betting round takes place. Then three more rounds of betting occur at each of three "streets".

At the second round, called the third street (as three cards are visible) or more frequently the "flop", three community cards are turned faces up on the felt and can be used by all players. The fourth street is the "turn" where a fourth community card is added in the middle, face up. Finally, the last and fifth street is the "river", where the final community card is displayed.

All the betting is decided by the players who can fold or muck their cards at any time if they do not want to commit any more chips. The exception is that at the very beginning of each hand, two players are designated as "blinds" and must pay a mandatory bet.

Every player will be a blind in turn in a clockwise rotating fashion. For example in a $2/$4 no-limit game, the big blind must make a forced initial bet of $4, likewise the small blind for half the amount i.e. $2, and all other players will only bet if they wish too.

When it is a player's turn to act, he has generally 5 possible actions. Betting means that he is the first to bet in the current round. Calling means that he matches whatever bet players acting before him made. Folding means that he mucks his hole cards and gives up the hand. Checking means that he stays in the hand but does not bet. Raising means that he increases the size of the bet.

Note that there are three ways to play of Texas Hold'em poker, (fixed) limit, no-limit and pot-limit. The only difference lies in the amount of betting allowed at each step. This also affects the rake, and getting full tilt rakeback is a must.

In limit poker, raisers can only increase bets incrementally, by one small blind in the first two rounds, then one big blind. In no-limit, a player can increase the bet by any amount up to his own entire stack, e.g. all his chips. Pot-limit is an intermediate version closer to no-limit, where the bet size is limited to the value of the current pot.

A Texas Holdem game is characterized by the size of the stakes, i.e. the value of the big blind, which can be anywhere from a few cents (micro-stakes) to thousands of dollars (high stakes). Preflop, the first player to act is the player to the left of the big blind, called "under the gun", then betting continues clockwise. From the flop on, betting begins at the "small blind". The last to bet is the "button" (aka the "dealer", represented by the red D on the picture), sitting to the right of the small blind.

If the betting reaches the river, all the players left when this last betting round ends will compare their hands and the strongest one will collect all the chips in the pot. Remember that the way this is done is that each player uses his two hole cards and combine them with the community cards in order to compose the best possible 5 cards hand.

Ties may occur if two or more players have hands of equal strength in which case the pot is split between the players who tie up for the best hand. Not all hands reach showdown though, and if all players fold except one at any of the betting rounds, he is declared the winner and collects the pot.


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