Learn Texas Holdem – A Primer

I take it for granted sometimes that as popular as Texas Holdem Poker is, there are still many people out there that don’t understand how to play the game. My local neighborhood game every Friday is mostly a collection of friends that know how to play the game pretty well, in fact one of the guys is being backed to play in the 2010 WSOP this year. It’s a small stakes game that’s more friendly than competitive but a fun game nonetheless. When we have the room for more players it’s typically someone’s friend or wife joining the game and from time to time, I find myself having to give them a primer on how to play.

Texas Holdem Hand Rankings

The goal of the game is to get the best possible five card poker hand. The hand rankings are as follows:

A Pair – two of the same card with Aces being the best single pair and Twos being the weakest

Two Pair – two of each card, such as Queens and Jacks.

Three of a Kind – Three of the same card such as 4 4 4, or King, King, King.

Four of a Kind – Four of the same card such as 7 7 7 7 (very rare to see this).

Full House – One pair plus three of a kind, this is a powerful hand in Texas Holdem. An example would be you’re holding a pair of Kings and the board reads King, Queen, Ten, Ten, Five. You would have a Full House here based on the board making you Three of a Kind along with the two Tens that are out.

Flush – When you hold five cards of the same suit such as Hearts or Diamonds.

Straight Flush – When you’re holding consecutive cards of the same suit (Five of Hearts, Six of Hearts, Seven of Hearts, Eight of Hearts, Nine of Hearts). A rare hand indeed.

Royal Flush – The ultimate poker hand, a Ten to Ace Straight of the same suit. You can play a lifetime of poker and never see one of these live!


So how do you get to the point of holding a Flush or a Straight?

The game begins with someone posting a Small Blind, the person to their left posts a Big Blind, and the Button deals two cards face down to the rest of the table. The first person to act is to the left of the Big Blind. Action then proceeds clockwise around the table until the Big Blind is reached, they are then the last to act. While this is going on, any player in turn may fold (throw their hand away), call the Big Blind, or Raise (put in a bet higher than the Big Blind). Subsequent players may do the same and even Re-Raise or go All In (all of their chips go in the middle, most people know this term from televised poker).

Let’s assume that the action has left three players simply calling. The dealer at this point deals The Flop – after “Burning” (tossing away face down) one card, three cards are dealt face up. The betting then begins with the first player to the left of the Button acting by either Checking (no bet is made) or making a bet. The other players then decide to call the bet, raise the bet, or fold.

Now comes the “Turn”, another card is Burned and one more card is dealt face up. Action then follows just like on the flop.

Finally, the “River” is dealt, one card is Burned and one card is dealt face up. Action again follows as above and after the smoke clears, the remaining players in the hand will show their cards. The best hand wins!

Is that all?

Not quite, there’s more subtle things you’ll need to learn as your progress but this is enough to get started. Poker etiquette plays a large role in the game but that’s the subject of an article I’ll write later. It can be a book in itself, especially if you’re playing live poker at a casino. In the meantime, try playing for free or small stakes online at a great site like Cake Poker to begin crafting your game. Also, check out our other No Limit Holdem Strategy articles and take a few points from each and write them on a sticky note. As you continue to play reference those notes (very easy if you’re online) and try to put those strategies into play. Before you know it, you’ll be taking down big pots and perhaps find yourself explaining the game to one of YOUR neighbors or friends down the road. Good Luck at the tables!

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