It is the poker variant that drove the internet boom of the game in the late 1990s and the early part of the new Millennium, and it’s the format most commonly seen in the big-money events in the World Series of Poker and the like.
Texas Hold’em is one of the easiest forms of poker to learn, and one of the most rewarding to master. Games such as Bitcoin Texas Hold’em are readily available at sites such as Bitcasino, while other poker specialists will allow you to play at a number of tables every single hour of the day.
What is the great lure of Texas Hold’em? That’s an easy one to answer. The rules are straightforward enough to follow, and the gameplay rewards luck and skill in equal measure. In that sense, it’s the perfect card game!
Ordinarily, you will be seated at a table against anything from five to nine players, though these numbers will dwindle as the tournament progresses.
The object is to create the best five-card poker hand possible, using the two cards you are initially dealt and/or the five community cards dealt into the middle of the table.
The Texas Hold’em hand rankings are as follows, listed from weakest to strongest:
1. High Card – You don’t have any other combination, e.g. A-K-9-8-6.
2. Pair – Two of the cards in your hand are the same numerical value, e.g. A-A-9-7-3.
3. Two Pair – As the name suggests, e.g. A-A-8-8-2.
4. Three of a Kind – Again, perfectly self-explanatory, e.g. A-A-A-J-9.
5. Straight – Five cards that are numerically sequential, e.g. K-Q-J-10-9.
6. Flush – Five cards all of the same suit, regardless of number, e.g. five hearts.
7. Full House – A three of a kind and a pair, e.g. A-A-A-7-7.
8. Four of a Kind – As the name suggests, e.g. A-A-A-A-6.
9. Straight Flush – Combines a straight and a flush, e.g. 7-6-5-4-3 of diamonds.
10. Royal Flush – Quite simply, A-K-Q-J-10 of the same suit.
The game begins with the posting of the blinds, which are mandatory bets that help to build the pot and ensure that players don’t just sit out hands and worm their way onto the final table.
The “big blind” is double that of the “small”, and the requirement is to pay these moves around the table. The amounts increase over a given timeframe.
The first movement in poker is that the dealer will hand you and your fellow players two cards – this is known as the “pre-flop”, and your cards as “hole cards”.
At this point, you have four different options:
· Call – If you like your hand and want to see the flop, then you call and present the requisite number of chips, based on the big blind, into the kitty.
· Raise – If you are really sweet on your pre-flop, then you can raise the ante to an amount that suits you. All previous “callers” will now have to bet again or fold.
· Fold – If your hand is below-par, or you’re not confident after a fellow player makes a raise, then you can fold your cards and walk away.
· Check – If you are in the big blind chair, then you can check your way into the flop – meaning that you won’t have to part with any more chips – as long as nobody else has made a raise.
Once all the players have completed this sequence, the dealer will deliver the flop.
The dealer places three cards face up in the middle of the table. This is known as “the flop”.
There follows another betting round in which players again have the four choices above:
· You can call if you want to progress further into the round, and believe that you have a solid if unspectacular hand.
· You can raise if you are very confident in your hand, or if you intend on bluffing.
· You can fold if the flop has not advanced your hand in any way.
· You can check if nobody prior to you in the betting hand has made a call.
There follows two more betting rounds…
The fourth card is placed in the middle of the table. This is known as “the turn”, and once again, a betting round ensues with the same options outlined above.
The fifth and final card, the “river”, is last up, and again players have one final opportunity to position themselves in the round with their bets.
Once the final betting round is completed following the river, the remaining players reveal their cards in what is ceremonially known as “the showdown”.
The best hand is decided, and the winner takes the mound of chips that may now have stacked up in the middle of the table. If there is a complete tie, then the chips are shared proportionately.
Note that not all straights and flushes are equal. Those with the highest card will take the spoils in the event of a tie.
As we’ve mentioned, there are two elements to any form of poker, but especially Texas Hold’em: a slice of luck that will help you to secure winning hands, and a whole heap of skill.
Some poker pundits will talk about the “perfect strategy” or foolproof plays for every combination of cards, but in truth there really isn’t a single way to play this fantastic game because we simply cannot pre-empt how our fellow players at the table will go about their business.
That said, there are some proactive tips and strategies that can be deployed in Texas Hold’em that allow us to get one step ahead of the opposition.
This is a betting strategy that will really grind the gears of your fellow players.
First up, you check when the button falls on you, and then when one of your rivals calls, you immediately raise the pot.
Why? Because it will frustrate the caller, and also means that they will be trapped into upping their stake to see the flop. That will increase the pot size, which is handy if you have a decent pair of hole cards.
It’s also an interesting bluffing tactic, as your raise may force an opponent in a stronger position to fold their cards.
When should you check-raise? There is no perfect time, but this is a fabulous ploy to break up your pattern of play if you have been conservative up until this point. Your rivals won’t know what to make of you!
A word of caution when using the check-raise stratgey, and that’s not to do it when you have a complete scrub hand. Should your opponent call after your raise, you’re locked into a flop that you have no real interest in seeing!
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being “short-stacked” or dwarfed by everyone else on your table, the push-fold strategy can be useful.
This basically simplifies the game to two decisions: push (i.e. going all-in) or fold.
What’s the benefit of that? Well, you can maximise the value of your hand if your hole cards are exciting, and that’s crucial if you are low on chips and desperate to claw your way back into the game.
By folding without a call or engaging in the flop, etc., you are also protecting your chip stack for that moment when (hopefully) a strong hand comes along.
Similar to the push-fold tactic, the stop-and-go set-up requires little thought for players who lack the chip stack to play naturally.
If you are running low on chips, then stop-and-go can be used to ruffle the feathers of a player that has raised pre-flop.
Calling here – whether you’re on the blind or not – will trigger the flop, and here you raise all-in regardless of what happens on the betting front before you.
It’s an all-or-nothing, boom-and-bust strategy, but if your opponent(s) folds on the flop following a raise, you will trouser a handsome pot and wrestle some dominance away from your fellow players.
Should you find yourself in a position of power but be slightly concerned about another player still live in the round, the overbet is an interesting strategy to bully them out of the game.
Say, for example, that your hole cards are a pair of kings – a nice position to be in.
But then an ace appears on the flop, and you’re worried that a rival might now have a pair of aces that trumps your hand.
You can test the water with an overbet, which as the name suggests is making a bet or raise that significantly increases the amount in the pot and is out of context to the betting action thus far.
Two things will happen: your opponent will succumb – perhaps they didn’t have an ace all along – and fold, which strengthens your hold on the pot, or they will call or make a raise of their own.
That’s the potential downside of this strategy: if you overbet and your fellow player has a strong hand, you could be heading for deep water.
At Bitcasino, we have lots of different video poker games in which you can test out your strategies either in “free play” mode or for real cash prizes. Register today to get started!
Words: Sean McNulty
Images: Shutterstock and Bitcasino