Texas Hold 'Em

Texas Hold 'Em

Poker legend Doyle Brunson calls Texas Hold 'Em the Cadillac of all poker games. Not too many would be tempted to disagree with the man who has become an institution among professional poker players. But Texas Hold 'Em, the most popular poker game around, could also be compared to another type of car, the top-fuel dragster.

The Cadillac may be the most desirable car among Brunson's generation. For decades, the Cadillac was the sign of success. Texas Hold 'Em is, like the Cadillac, the top of the heap among poker games, generating more interest and money than any other variety of this great game. But Hold 'Em is also a lot like drag racing in the fastest vehicle available. This game is fast, compared to some other styles. It can also be dangerous (to the bankroll) if money is not managed properly.

Just where did this game come from, the one that carries the name of the "Lone Star State" all over the world? As Brunson states in his excellent "Super System 2" book, the game was carried to Las Vegas and the world in the 1960s by a small group of Texas gamblers. Hold 'Em was developed, as Brunson writes, because it was a good style of poker for a player that wanted to develop strategies.

It may be hard to imagine today, with Texas Hold 'Em played by hundreds of thousands of players around the world, but just a few decades ago only one casino in Las Vegas dealt the game. Aside from this one location, Texas Hold 'Em was played in cash games, by "road" players who travelled to find games in private homes, backrooms of hotels and so on. But eventually, the game caught on with players outside the relatively small fraternity of professionals. It took about 30 years, but the poker explosion happened, gathering steam in the late 1990s and bursting onto the television screen in the first years of the new century.

How To Play Texas Hold 'Em

There are many books and instructional videos for Texas Hold 'Em, some of which stick to the basics of how the game is dealt and what a player must do in a few common situations. Other educational material, such as Brunson's book, the books of Dan Harrington, or the writings of the Mad Genius, Mike Caro, take the average player into the smallest details of Hold 'Em strategy.

For now, it may be best to stay with the basics. In Texas Hold 'Em, each player is dealt two cards, face down. Five more cards are dealt onto the middle of the table in this manner: three cards face up – the flop; one card – the turn; one card – the river. From the total of seven cards, two in front of the player and five "community" or shared cards on the table, a player makes his or her best five-card hand.

Here's a typical "hand" or round in Texas Hold 'Em:

The player to the left of the dealer puts out a bet called the small blind. This is a required bet for that player. The next player to the left puts out the big blind, which is usually double the small blind. For example, Player 1 puts out a $1 chip and Player 2 puts out a $2 chip. (Keep in mind that the "dealer" position moves around the table to the left and the blinds (required bets) move as well.

Each player is dealt two hole cards. Player 1 has the option to fold, bet or raise based on the amount of the blinds. Players cannot check in this round, since there are bets on the table. Three raises are usually allowed in the round.

The three community cards are dealt, face up in the middle of the table. This is the flop. Players can then check, fold, call or raise. In the next round, one card is dealt face up next to the flop cards. This has come to be called "the turn." Another round of betting follows.

In the last round, the final community card is dealt face up. This card has come to be called "the river." A final round of betting follows. Players who have stayed in the hand use their two pocket or hole cards and the five shared cards to make their best five-card hand. The player with the best hand gets the pot, unless two players have equal hands. The pot is then split evenly.

So that's it. But don't be misled into thinking that you are ready to take on the pros just because you understand how Texas Hold 'Em is played. Dan Harrington, Barry Greenstein, Mike Caro, Dave Sklansky and many others have written volumes on the strategies used by top Hold 'Em players. Brunson devotes more than 100 pages of his Super System 2 book to No Limit Hold 'Em, and that material was condensed to fit into the book. He asked the great poker professional Jennifer Harman to write the section on Limit Hold 'Em. She was able to squeeze this section down to about 80 pages!

Have a great time at the tables!