Poker Basics

In this article we’re going to look at poker basics or more specifically, how to play ‘No-Limit’ Texas Hold ‘em, the most popular poker variant where you can bet all your chips whenever it’s your turn to act. Now the movies would have us believe that if someone bets more than you have in front of you, you can call that bet with your car keys and raise them your wife. The reality however is that you can only bet with chips that you in front of you in a given hand. So, if you want to play big, make sure you cash your wife in for chips before you start playing.

How does Texas Hold ‘em work then? Actually from now on, I’ll just call it Hold’em. That’s what the cool kids are doing, and using the ‘Texas’ is a good indicator that the person in question is not a good player.

OK so you’re sat in your seat, you’ve got your sunglasses, your baseball cap, you head phones, your hoodie, and your energy drink. You look the part, but we need to back it up with some skills.

How a Hand Progresses

The game works like this: Each player is dealt two cards faced down (the dealing duties move clockwise around the table after each hand) and the action is started by the two players to the left of the dealer being forced to put in ‘blind’ bets, the player immediately to his left puts in the small blind, and the next player puts in the big blind, typically twice the small blind.

The first player to act is the player to the left of the big blind. Things always move clockwise in Hold’em. He looks at his cards and decides whether to fold, giving up on the pot and go back to listening to his iPod, call the big blind, or raise to an amount which must be at least twice the big blind. If he raises, then any player wishing to continue in the hand must at least call this raise.

So lets say the big blind in a game is $1 and a player raises to $3 and everyone folds and the action comes back around to the big blind. He too has the option to call, raise or fold but it only costs him $2 to call due to the $1 he already has invested in the pot. So let’s say he calls the $2. The raise has been matched and we can continue to the flop.

The dealer now puts three cards face up in the middle of the table which either player can use to make his poker hand. This is called the ‘flop’.The action for the rest of the hand always starts with the small blind and moves clockwise around the table. In our hand, the big blind would act first. Here, he has the option to bet or check. Checking basically means passing the action to the other player to see what he does. If there were no raises pre-flop the big blind also has the option to check and see the flop.

After all bets on the flop are called, or if everyone checks, the dealer puts down a single card called the ‘turn’, and there’s another round of betting. Finally, after this comes the ‘river’ and a final round of betting. If there are no bets on the river, or if any bets are called, then we have the showdown where any remaining players show down their cards and whoever has the best 5-card poker hand made up from the two in their hand and the five community cards on the table wins the hand. That player scoops the big pile of chips in the middle of the table and begins to stack them proudly in front of them. Remember though, you can win at any point in the hand if you bet or raise and everyone folds and you’re under no obligation to show what you had.