No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em Poker is, for all of its subtle complexities, a fairly easy game to pick up. You can begin playing within about a half an hour of first undergoing that adventure to learn the rules, but if you want to play and make money you need to have at least a working knowledge of more in depth strategies too. However in this first article in the series, we will briefly go over the basic rules and a little bit of the history of the game.
No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em Poker is normally played at ten person tables. Back in the early days of the game each player would take turns dealing so that an element of fairness was preserved. The ‘dealer’ would then rotate around the table clockwise. Eventually casinos started running Texas Hold ‘Em games, and instead they used a casino dealer for each hand. The dealer button (often called ‘the button’) was thus created to designate which player was the dealer for a particular hand. It is vital to know which player is the button because it determines who pays the blinds that hand. The button moves one player to the left (clockwise) after each hand.
The blinds are a static amount that the two players to the left of the button need to pay before the cards are dealt out. The player to the left of the button must pay the small blind, which is equal to half of the big blind, which must be paid by the player to his left. Games are often referred to by their blind levels (for example ‘I was playing $15/$30 No Limit’), but if you play in tournaments then the blinds go up as you play. In No Limit Hold ‘Em the big blind the smallest amount you are allowed to raise by. If the big blind is 600 chips, you must raise at least 600 more. You don’t need to necessarily raise in increments of the big blind; it would be fine to bet 1300 chips there, but 1100 would be an illegal bet (because it is less than 600×2 = 1200).
After the blinds are paid, each player is given two face down cards which only they may see until the end of the hand. The small blind is always dealt to first. The player to the left of the big blind is the first to act before the flop (referred to as ‘Under The Gun’ or ‘UTG’), and he can choose to call the current amount, raise, or fold his cards. Each player then gets their turn to act, going clockwise around the table. Note that all players may fold pre-flop to a big raiser, a tactic that is often applied at choice moments by seasoned poker pros. Once it has made it around the table once with no more raises, the dealer moves the pot off to the side and gets ready for the flop.
The flop consists of three ‘community cards’ dealt out which can be utilized by anyone in combination with the two cards they were dealt (their ‘pocket cards’ or ‘hole cards’). At the end, the player with the best 5 card hand wins. Before dealing out the flop, the dealer will discard (or ‘burn’) the top card of the deck into the discard pile (known as the ‘muck’). This prevents players from cheating. After the flop there is another round of betting, beginning with the player to the left of the button. Each player may check or bet. If someone bets, other players may opt to fold, call, or raise. It is also permissible to fold even if there is no bet, but this is seldom done because ‘checking is free’.
After this round of betting is complete, the dealer discards another card and puts out one more community card. This is referred to as the ‘turn’ card. Another round of betting happens, starting with the first person to the left of the button again.
The dealer then burns one more card and deals the last community card, known as the ‘river’. Some call the turn and river 4th and 5th street. The last round of betting follows, and once everything is all sorted out everyone turns up their hands, and the best hand wins. The hand rankings in No Limit Hold ‘Em are as follows:
Royal Flush: 10, J, Q, K, A – all the same suit)
Straight Flush: 5 cards in order and all of the same suit. If there are several straight flushes then the one that with the highest card wins.
Four of a Kind: Also called ‘quads’, four of the same value card. If you compare multiples of the same quads (i.e. Q, Q, Q, Q) you compare kicker, the 5th card.
Full House: Three of a kind when a player also has another pair, for example 6, 6, 6, 7, 7. This would also be called ‘sixes full’ or more specifically ‘sixes full of sevens’. The full house with the higher value three of a kind beats lesser full houses.