Texas Hold’em is the most popular variation of poker in the world.
Until the early 21st Century, it was a favorite of professional poker players and experienced gamblers but was little known among the mainstream population. That all changed with the ‘poker boom’ which saw the convergence of online poker play, growth in television coverage of live poker tournaments and the higher profile of the annual World Series of Poker.
It wasn’t long before Texas Hold’em was being played in basements and rec rooms all across the United States.
Like many casino games the exact origin of Texas Hold’em is shrouded in mystery. The Texas Legislature recognizes Robstown, Texas as the birthplace though there’s little to validate that claim.
No matter where and how it started, it grew in popularity across Texas during the early part of the 20th Century. By the early 1960’s, it appeared in Las Vegas for the first time with the California casino downtown being the first to offer the game. It caught on in Las Vegas and within a couple of years spread to the Golden Nugget, Stardust, Dunes and other properties.
In 1970, it became the game played in the main event of the World Series of Poker. That lit the fuse that began the booming popularity of poker in general and Texas Hold’em in particular.
You’ll often hear about Texas Hold’em that it ‘takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master’. That statement is extremely accurate.
A Texas Hold’em round begins with two forced bets called the ‘big blind’ and ‘small blind’. The players immediately to the left of the dealer pay the blinds after which it continues to move around the table in a clockwise direction. The specifics of betting rules from this point forward vary depending on the type of Texas Hold’em being played—the most popular betting formats are Limit Hold’em, No-Limit Hold’em and Pot Limit Hold’em.
Once the blinds have been posted each player is dealt two cards. The pre-flop betting round then begins and each player must choose one of three options: to fold, to call by matching the amount of the big blind or to raise the bet. Each player repeats the process in turn until all players have bet. At this point, three ‘community cards’ are dealt face up in the center of the table—this is known as the ‘flop’ in poker slang. These three cards are common to every player and combined with the two hole cards the goal is to come up with their best 5 card poker hand. Another betting round takes place at this point with the same options as before.
After the flop round of betting has ended another card is dealt face up—this card is known as the ‘turn’ in poker lingo. The betting process is repeated as detailed previously after which a fifth and final card is dealt face up. This card is known as the ‘river’ and after another round of betting the ‘showdown’ occurs. The player who bet on the river is traditionally the first player to show their hand though if another player takes that initiative it’s no big deal. If a player is holding a losing hand, they have the option of ‘mucking’ their hand and conceding the pot or revealing their cards.
The winner of the round is the player with the best five card poker hand made from the five community cards and their two-hole cards.
The previous section detailed the ‘minutes to learn’ part of the Texas Hold’em equation. This part is where the ‘lifetime to master’ component comes into play.
One important part of successfully playing Texas Hold’em is knowing how to rank starting hands. With each player dealt two cards there are 1,326 distinct combinations. Since the four suits are of equal value in poker, it means that there are just 169 different hole card combinations that a player must be concerned with. If you’re serious about playing the name there’s no excuse not to learn everything you can about how to evaluate each starting hand and the most effective strategy for playing them.
Most experts recommend that players be very selective about the starting hands that they do play. Playing relatively few hands is known as ‘tight’ play. At the same time, it’s a decent strategy to play more aggressively when you do decide to see the flop. Keep in mind that a player’s position in the order of play is extremely important.
Players who act later in the hand have more information to work with than those who act earlier. For this reason, you can be slightly looser in late positions but should play tighter in early positions.
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