Texas Holdem Overview
Texas Holdem is the most popular form of poker played today, with more people playing it than every other poker variation combined. Despite its relatively young age, Texas Holdem is called “the Cadillac of Poker” because of its firm establishment as the greatest, most sophisticated poker variant of them all.
Little is known about its exact origins but Texas Holdem is generally believed to have originated from somewhere in Texas (big surprise). Robstown is the most widely cited city of origin but it’s hard telling where, exactly, the game came from.
What we do know is that a group of card players from Texas, including Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim, Crandell Addington and Roscoe Weiser are largely responsible for turning Texas Holdem into a mainstream game. The group traveled across Texas, playing all forms of poker but they always made sure to introduce Texas Holdem to the places they went.
In the late 1960s, they introduced Texas Holdem to Las Vegas, where it slowly increased in popularity. The first World Series of Poker was held in 1970 and Texas Holdem was established as the Main Event in 1972. That year, there were a grand total of 8 entrants.
At some point, Doyle Brunson published his game-changing Super/System strategy book and several other books were published, which finally brought Texas Holdem the exposure it needed to really take off. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Texas Holdem became a mainstream poker game in casinos and card rooms across the country.
The popularity of Texas Holdem grew at a steady rate up until the early 2000s where it exploded thanks to online poker and the coverage of the World Series of Poker on TV. When it was revealed that the champion of the WSOP had qualified through an online poker site, interest in the game reached all time highs. In comparison to the first Texas Holdem WSOP with 8 players, the 2009 WSOP had 6,494 entrants.
There are several variations of Texas Holdem that you will probably want to learn about as well. By far the most popular is no limit holdem, but there is also pot limit and fixed limit holdem.
How to Play
A hand of Texas Holdem can be divided into four parts: the preflop stage, the flop, the turn and the river. Each part involves the dealer handing out cards and the players making bets. After the final card has been dealt, there is one last round of betting followed by a showdown in which the remaining players use any combination of their hole cards and the community cards to make the best possible 5 card poker hand.
Before any cards can be dealt, two players must post the “blinds,” which are Texas Holdem’s version of antes. The blinds are mandatory bets that are used to start each pot with a little money in the middle.
The player to the left of the dealer must pay the small blind, which is equal to half the lower betting limit. The player to the left of the small blind must pay the big blind, which is equal to one minimum bet. In a game of $4/$8 Holdem, the blinds would be $2 and $4.
The position of the dealer should move one seat to the left after every hand so that all the players at the table must take turns paying the blinds. If the game employs a full time dealer, a small token called the “dealer’s button” can be used to represent the position of the dealer each hand.
After the blinds have been paid, the dealer gives each player two cards face down. These are called the “hole cards” and they will be used in combination with the community cards later in the hand to create each player’s poker hand.
A round of betting follows next. The player to the left of the big blind begins the betting by either calling the minimum bet amount to stay in, folding or raising. After that player acts, the betting continues around the table to the left.
The dealer now deals three cards face up in the middle of the table. These are the first of 5 total community cards and they may be used by all of the players at the table. This is followed by a round of betting that begins with the first player to the left of the dealer.
There is no requirement to call a bet to stay in during this round so the players have the option to “check,” or pass. Once any player at the table makes a bet, however, the other players must either match that bet, raise it or fold.
The dealer deals another community card face up next to the flop. This is followed by another round of betting. This betting round is played like the last round except that in fixed-limit poker, the bets will all now be made in increments of the higher betting limit.
The River and Showdown
The dealer deals one final community card face up next to the turn. This is followed by one last round of betting identical to the previous round.
After the betting is complete, the remaining players have a showdown. The player with the best 5 card poker hand wins the pot. The players may use any combination of their hole cards and the community cards to create the best hand possible.
Basic Texas Holdem Strategy
Texas Holdem is an infinitely complex poker game when it comes to strategy but there are a few basic rules that will help you get off to a better start than the average player. To become a winning poker player, you need to play tight and be patient. It might not sound exciting but the move that will result in the majority of your profits in Texas Holdem is the fold.
It’s also important for you to remember that no matter how great you become at poker, your long term win rate will look like a stock market printout – a definite upward trend but marked by lots of little ups and downs along the way. Don’t become discouraged if you have a rough start on your first session. It takes time to learn and even if you do play perfectly on your first session (you won’t) you can still end up with a loss.
The good news is that if you take your time to learn the game and study hard, it’s absolutely possible to become a winning player. Poker is a game of skill, not of luck, and as a result, the skilled players always win in the long run. If you want to become a winning player as well, you can start by learning these key skills:
Tight Hand Selection
The biggest mistake new poker players make is to play too many starting hands. Most of the hands you receive are garbage and won’t take you anywhere. All they do is cost money and get you in trouble.
To avoid this and to gain an advantage over your opponents, you should only play the top 20 – 25% of your hands. You want to play hands that have a high card advantage such as big pairs, AK and AQ. If several people have already entered the pot in front of you, you can also play hands such as TJ suited, KQ suited and small pocket pairs (in the hopes of hitting three of a kind).
Tight-Aggressive Postflop Play
Choosing a hand is just half the battle. After you pick a hand to play, you have to continue that smart play on past the flop. As soon as the flop is dealt, you should have a good idea of how strong your hand is. In the beginning you should only classify your hands in one of 3 ways: very strong, crappy and draw.
A very strong hand is a hand that consists of top pair, top kicker or better. This means that if the highest card on the flop is a King, you have a King in your hand plus the best possible kicker – an Ace. Other strong hands include two-pairs, three of a kind, straights, flushes, full houses, four of a kind, straight flush and royal flush.
When you are dealt a very strong hand, you should start betting with it to get money in the pot. Too many times, new players try to slowplay their hands and they end up doing one of two things: letting someone draw to a better hand or not getting enough money in the pot.
Hands such as top pair, two pair and three of a kind should be played the fastest but most cautiously of them all. You need to start betting with them right away because you need to charge people to draw out against you. You also need to be very wary of stronger hands – if the board looks ugly and someone starts playing back at you, you might be up against a stronger hand.
If you don’t immediately get that “oh sweet!” feeling when the flop is dealt, your hand probably isn’t worth holding onto. Hands like middle pair, two missed overcards and such can be tempting to play but they’ll only end up costing you money in the long run. You have to resist the temptation to call bets in the hopes of improving a hopeless hand.
The second biggest mistake new players make is in playing their draws. You need to learn not to chase draws unless you have the odds to do so. New players waste tons of money chasing flush draws and straight draws for pot-sized bets. It’s a big no-no because it doesn’t make financial sense in the long run.
The only time you should chase a draw is if the pot is big and the bet is small. Otherwise, your draw won’t complete often enough to make it worth spending the money. You don’t need to know a lot of math if you can remember the odds of a few of the most important draws. For example:
Flush Draw: 4 to 1 to complete on the next card
Open Ended Straight Draw: 5 to 1 to complete on the next card
If you’re not getting 4 to 1 or 5 to 1 on your money (the pot size vs. the bet size), you shouldn’t chase those draws.
Example: You have a flush draw. The pot is $100 and your opponent bets $100. You’re now getting 200:100 odds or 2:1 odds. That’s less than 4:1 so you should fold your flush draw.
Finding a Great Texas Holdem Poker Site
Finding a great online poker site can be quite a chore if you’re not already familiar with online poker. Luckily, I’ve been playing poker for a long time now and know all about the biggest and best poker sites. If you play at one of the sites that I recommend, you’ll be in good hands. The see all my recommendations, check out our Texas Holdem poker sites page.
It’s important you play at a large, reputable site because those are the poker sites that have been around for a long time and proven themselves to be the real deal. Most small, unknown sites are honest as well but almost anybody with some cash can set up a poker site. Why take your chances with a stranger when you can play at a poker site that has been around for a decade or more and has always paid its players?