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More on Texas Hold'em Poker

3 February 2006

Last week, we started discussing how Texas Hold'em Poker is played. If you'll recall, the following are steps in playing one hand of hold'em.

(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.

Last week, I talked about steps (a) through (d), but before we go to (e), I need to explain the last part of (d), which is the big blind's option. The small blind, to the big blind's right, has already put in $1, and if he stays in and if no one has raised, then he has to put in another $1. If he folds, he loses his initial $1.

So now we're at the big blind. You'll remember that the big blind has already put in $2; that's the minimum bet in a typical low-stakes game of $1-$4-$8-$8. On this initial pre-flop round of betting, he is the last one to act. If no one before him has raised, then he has the option to raise or to simply leave his bet at $2. If he decides to raise, then all the players still in the hand must decide again whether to fold, call or re-raise.

(e) Once the first round of betting is finished, then the dealer "burns" or discards the next card face down. He proceeds to deal three more cards, turns them over or "flops" them, and spreads them face up for everyone to see. These three cards are the first of five "community" cards. Community cards are so named because they belong to everyone still in the game. Each player uses his two "hole" cards in combination with the community cards to make his best possible hand in order to beat the other players, who are also using the community cards.

(f) This round of betting is similar to the first, but the betting spread is from $1 to $4 although most players normally bet from $2 to $4 instead of just $1. Raises are in increments of $4. There is usually a limit as to how many times players can raise and re-raise, depending on the casino's policy.

(g) After the post-flop betting round, the house dealer burns another card and then turns over the fourth community card, which is commonly called the "turn card." Some players also refer to the turn as "fourth street." What that fourth community card is called depends on the locale and custom in the area. Often, you'll hear both terms used interchangeably in the same poker room, so it helps to recognize both.

(h) The next betting round has a minimum/maximum bet of $1 to $8 and raises in increments of $8. If the first bet in this round is $8 and if there are three raises, then each player could easily have $32 invested in just this one round of betting. And that doesn't count pre-flop, post-flop and the final round of betting. Did I hear you ask why they call this low stakes poker?

(i) The fifth card turned face up is called the "river card" or "fifth street." Personally, I like the way "river" sounds.

(j) The next and final round of betting is exactly like the previous one: min/max of $1 to $8 and raises in $8 increments. The players still in the game turn their cards up and the best five-card hand from the seven cards available to each player wins the pot.

$1-$4-$8-$8 is just one example of a spread-limit game. And, of course, there are the "fixed-limit" games, which have higher limits such as $6-$12 and $10-$20.

All this and we haven't begun to talk strategy. But, of course, whole books are written on strategy. As you've probably guessed by now, often a player's strategy is based on what players to his right have done, whether they've bet or raised or just called. Or on a player's estimate of his opponent's skill level. Or on a player's guess that his opponent is bluffing.

As I wrote these two columns about how to play Texas Hold'em, I tried to keep them simple and straightforward. But I remember when I first read about the game, I had to re-read it two or three times and still had a friend demonstrate it to me. So if you have the same problem, keep trying. What I recommend is that you go to a poker room, have someone point out a Hold'em game and just watch for about ten minutes.

Try it. It's fun. Until next week, 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