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Get Hold of Basics of Texas Hold'em Poker

27 January 2006

I haven't been playing fair with you. For the last few weeks, I've been talking about Texas Hold'em Poker but haven't explained how the game is played or defined any terms. When I mention check or raise or even check/raise, someone who has never learned any poker game won't understand.

So, what I thought I would do is run through how a hand is played, then explain in more detail each part of the play. Here goes.

(a) The dealer "button" is moved one spot to the left; (b) players in the "blind" positions put their bets in the "ring;" (c) two cards are dealt to each player, and then (d) there's a round of betting; (e) the dealer burns a card and "flops" three cards, turning them face up; (f) another round of betting takes place; (g) the dealer burns another card and then turns up a fourth card; (h) another round of betting; (i) another card is burned and a fifth card is turned face up; (j) last round of betting and the showdown.

Whew, I did it. Didn't think I could do that in one paragraph, did you? But let's go over each step a little more thoroughly.

(a) In home "kitchen" games, players take turns being the dealer. However, in a live casino game, of course, the house dealer deals the cards. In Texas Hold'em, though, position is an important aspect of the game, so an imaginary player/dealer has to be designated. Thus, a flat round disk, or "button," with "Dealer" imprinted on it is moved clockwise from player to player at the beginning of each hand.

The player with the dealer button in front of him is said to be "on the button." That means he is in last position. That player, if he decides to stay in the game, is the last one to make any betting decision.

The players in the three positions to the left of the dealer are said to be in "early" position. The players in one and two spots to the immediate right of the dealer are said to be in "late" position. Everyone else is in "mid" position.

As opposed to social situations, in poker "early" is bad, "late" is good, and "mid" is just kinda' neutral. But pages and pages are often devoted to position in poker books, so we won't discuss that here.

(b) The player to the immediate left of the dealer position is in the "small blind" position. The person to that player's left is in the "big blind" position. Before any cards are dealt, these two players place their bets. These two bets combined are the "ante" and are considered seed money to get the pot started. At this point, only two players are betting.

An example of a typical low-stakes, unstructured-type game is $1-$4-$8-$8. In this game, the small blind player puts in $1 and the big blind puts in $2. Don't ask me why they don't name this game $1-$2-$4-$8 because I haven't the foggiest.

(c) Starting with the small blind, one card is dealt to everyone face down. Then a second card; pretty simple stuff so far.

(d) This is where it gets more complicated. Each player looks at his two "hole" cards and decides if they're good enough to play with or if they're so bad that he has to "fold." The person to the immediate left of the big blind is the one to start with betting decisions, and the big blind is last. This is the only time that the player on the button does not act last.

What the first person has to decide is to fold or to bet or to raise. If he folds, then he discards his two cards face down, pushing or tossing them toward the house dealer. If the player decides to bet, then he "calls the big blind" by putting $2 in the pot.

If he wants to "raise," then he matches that $2 plus puts in another $2, $3 or $4.

Then the next person to the left either folds, calls or re-raises. If the prior person has simply called, then the current bettor can either call also or raise. If the prior player has raised, then the current bettor has to decide whether or not to fold, match the raise (call it), or re-raise.

Every person at the table has to make this same set of decisions - fold, call, raise or re-raise. And all this is just pre-flop. Next week, we'll discuss the flop, the turn and the river. Until then, aces and faces to you.

Linda Mabry

Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com
Linda Mabry
Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com