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Official Texas Hold'em Poker Rules

Official Texas Hold'em Poker Rules
2009/10/21

Texas Hold'em Poker

Texas Hold'em is the game of poker that has became a world wide sensation in the past few decades. It is now the main poker game in almost all the casinos and poker rooms all over the globe. In the 21st century it has also occupied the world wide web, thanks to the enormously growing popularity of online poker. PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Party Poker – these are only few names of the great population of the online poker rooms. And almost all of them introduce Texas Hold'em as their main poker game.

Game Play

Unlike in some other popular games of poker such as Omaha or 7 card stud, in Texas Hold'em each player receives only two cards as their own, the rest of the cards being dealt face up for everyone to see and to use in their combinations. This makes Texas Hold'em more of a strategy game, as the cards are not that important, as is the way of playing them. Because of it's popularity and the strategic aspect, Texas Hold'em is the game played at the final table of the world's most important poker event of the year, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) as well as at the World Poker Tour (WPT) European Poker Tour (EPT) and the most of the other big tournaments.

Limit Variations

Texas Hold'em can be played as a limit, no-limit and a pot-limit game. These variations may change the game quite radically so there are almost no professional poker players who would  be equally good in all of them. This proves that strategy in Texas Hold'em in most cases matter more then the cards do. Poker professionals agree that it is not the game of luck and therefore should not be treated as gambling.

Texas Hold'em History

Texas Hold'em poker is believed to have developed in the early 20th century in Robstown, Texas. However, it was only in 1967 that the game was brought to Las Vegas. For the first few years it had only been available at the Golden Nugget Casino, which at the time was a dump of a place, with no actual poker professionals anywhere around. So it took some time for Texas Hold'em to take its position under the Nevada sun.

It was in 1969 that the games was introduced to the wider audience. The poker professionals of the time have first played Texas Hold'em at the Dune Casino and then at the Second Annual Gambling Fraternity Convention the same year. However, the first attempts were not that successful for the pros. In 1970 the gambling fraternity convention had acquired the name of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and moved to the Binion's Horseshoe Casino. From the second year of the WSOP, NL Texas Hold'em had been adopted as the game for the tournament's main event and had remained this way since.

The WSOP has now become the world's main poker event of the year. The first World Series of Poker main event had gathered as much as 7 players, whereas in 30 years the number had increased to more than 800 in 2003 and to the biggest ever - almost 9,000 entrants in 2006.

It comes as no surprise that more than a half of 55 WSOP events are played as Texas Hold'em games.

Texas Hold'em Official Rules

There are basically nine stages in a regular Texas Hold'em poker game. All of the stages are necessary and have to be followed. However, there are certain circumstances under which the game may finish at one stage or another. Texas Hold'em can be played by any number of players from 2 to 10 at one table. The winner of the game is the player that is either the only one left in the game or the one with the best hand.

The Start of the Game

The game starts with betting small blinds (SB) and big blinds (BB). The blinds are the necessary bets made by two players prior dealing the cards. The rate of the blinds is always arranged before the game and might constantly increase in Texas Hold'em tournaments. The small blind is posted by the player on the left of the one with the dealer button. The button might indicate the player actually dealing the cards, or just the one sitting on the right to the small blind in a casino. The dealer button is always passed clockwise after every hand. The player on the left to the small blind posts the big blind. Small blind is always a half of a big blind. BB indicates the smallest possible bet by any player who wants to stay in the game. This means that everyone at the table has either bet the amount of the BB if they want continue playing, raise the bet or fold.

Card Dealing

The next phase of a Texas Hold'em game is dealing the cards. Every player receives two cards that stay under their own disposition until they decide to fold or until the showdown at the end of the game. These two cards are called the player's hand or the hole cards. After the players have seen their hand the first betting round starts. There are three types of Texas Hold'em games that depend on the betting structure. There is No Limit (NL) Texas Hold'em when the bets are unlimited and the players are free to bet any amount in their disposition. In Pot Limit (PL) Texas Hold'em the players cannot bet more than there is already in the pot. The Fixed Limit (FL) games have an arranged amount that may be used for raising the bet. In order to avoid  explaining each step in all the three types of the game, the further will apply only to NL Texas Hold'em which is the most popular poker game at the time.

Betting

The first player to bet is the one on the left to the big blind. The player may call the bet by putting in the amount equal to the BB, raise by adding two times the BB or any bigger amount limited only by the funds that are in the player's disposition. All the following players are free to do the same only every next player is dependent on the previous player's bet on the same basis as the player betting the first after the big blind. Every player is always free to fold their hand, however with no chance of receiving their funds already submitted to the pot.

Flop

The first betting round ends when all the players who have decided to stay in the game have submitted the same amount into the pot. After the first betting round is over the first three community cards are dealt on the table. This is called the flop. The players can now observe the possible card combinations and make their next move that would be already based on some existing or a drawing hand.

After the flop, the second betting round starts. It goes the same way as the first one, only with no blinds and the amount of BB being the smallest possible bet. The players may also check. By checking the player does not bet any funds, but does not flop either. If all the players in the game check, the pot does not increase and the next community card is dealt. However, if one of the players decides to bet, the rest have to call or raise the bet in order to stay in the game.

Turn, River, Showdown

When the betting is done, the fourth card is dealt on the table. This card is called the turn. It is again followed by another betting round. Finally the last community card, which is called the river, is put on the table. The fourth and the last betting round follows the river after which the remaining players reveal their cards and the one with the best combination wins the pot.

However, the game does not necessarily has to end with the showdown. If at some point all players but one decide to fold, the last person having his two cards still in hand wins the game. In some cases the player does not need to bet in order to stay in the game. If a person goes all-in in one of the betting rounds with at least one round yet to come, they stay in the game, although they cannot submit any additional bets. If the funds of the other remaining players allow them to make the bets and the players are willing to bet the game and the bets continue as usual.

Texas Hold'em Starting Hands

There are 1,326 possible distinct combinations of two cards in a standard 52-card deck. In Texas Holde'em, however, this number is much lower. Because suits have no actual value before the flop, the same card combinations of different suits are treated as equal in Texas Hold'em. Qh Jc and Qs Jd are of the same value pre-flop. Therefore the possible starting hand combinations narrow down to 169 (13 pairs, 78 suited hands, 78 unsuited hands). Most of the Texas Hold'em manuals tend to discuss each starting hand individually as the number of the combinations is rather low.

Types of Hands

Usually three types of starting hands are distinguished: pairs, suited and unsuited hands. The odds of getting each type as a starting hand are not the same. According to the complex calculations the chance of receiving a pair is 1/17, the suited hand – 4/17 and the unsuited hand – 12/17. This explains a large number of folded hands in Texas Hold'em poker, as the player's hole cards are rather important in the game, and the chances of getting a strong starting hand are not that high.

Names and Abbreviations

It is common to abbreviate the card names in poker in order to save time and space. Most of the poker websites and online poker rooms allow abbreviations with suit symbols next to them Ah meaning the ace of hearts and Qc the queen of clubs. This also applies to the suit, KQs representing the suited and J9o “offsuit” hand.

As the number of starting hand combinations in Texas Hold'em is not that high, it comes as no surprise that all of them have nicknames, for example Anna Kurnikova for AK (both look better then they play), or The Prostitute for QQ (it blows and it costs you money).

Texas Hold'em Strategy

As Texas Hold'em is played with only two cards in hand and as much as five community cards, it is said to be the most strategy-based poker game. The player's success in Texas Hold'em depends not as much on the cards that they have, but the way the cards are played. The mostly applied Texas Hold'em tactics is called tight-aggressive, when only a small number of the hands is played and a lot of betting and raising is done when in the game.

However, Texas Hold'em has lots strategies and ways of playing. Beginning with Doyle Brunson's bestseller “Super/System” published in 1978, the secrets of Texas Hold'em poker strategy became available for everyone. The book made such influence on the poker market that both young and old poker professionals still learn from it and refer to “Super/System” as the bible of poker. Brunson himself has observed that the book probably cost him more money that he was payed for writing it.

Player's Position and Odds

There are a few major Texas Hold'em strategy points that all the professional players agree upon. First is the player's position at the table which is of the high importance. Depending on their position at the table players tend to have more or less information about their opponents. The later the player acts the better is the position. The one who acts the last has the advantage of having seen all  the other players' moves.

Another important strategic aspect of the game is the relationship between the pot odds and the odds of winning. In order to expect a positive outcome of the game the player's odds of winning have to be higher than their pot odds. To observe the odds of winning, players usually use the poker odds calculator, whereas the pot odds are determined depending on the ratio between the size of the pot and the size of the bet required to stay in the game.

Deception

Deception also plays a very important role in poker strategy. However, this part does no longer depend so much on counting the odds, as it requires more psychological knowledge or just sense. There are two main ways of deception in poker: bluffing and playing slow. Players bluff when they do not have the superior hand, but want to collect the pot. Bluffing usually includes aggressive betting and raising in order to scare the opponents and make them fold, so that the bluffing player would gather the pot without even having a decent hand. Slow playing is the opposite of bluffing. The players play slowly when they have a good hand, but do not want their opponents to fold immediately. The goal of playing slow is to let the other players build a large pot and to stay in the game until the end when the player is sure of having the superior hand. In this way the player increases the chances of winning a bigger pot, but is not protected in case of his opponent having a better hand.

Beginning to Play

Learning the secrets of Texas Hold'em strategy might take some time and effort, therefore the Internet is loaded with special offers for the beginning poker players. First, there are poker school websites that issue cash prizes to the ones who learn and then pass their tests. Then there is the Facebook Texas Hold'em, a free online poker application where the members of the world's largest online community may practice their poker skills absolutely free. Online poker rooms also encourage the beginners to learn the game at the play money tables, or by introducing some special promotion deals like PokerNews' Party Poker $50 no deposit bonus.

Online Texas Hold'em

Online poker has gained its popularity only at the beginning of the 21st century. The breaking point for the industry was the 2003 WSOP final, when the amateur online poker player Chris Moneymaker who had acquired his WSOP ticket by winning a satellite at PokerStars has outplayed one of the best Texas Hold'em players of the time, Sam Farha. As soon as it had been televised on ESPN, millions of people from all over the world had started signing up at the online poker rooms pursuing the Moneymaker's dream. The process has later on been called the 'Moneymaker effect'. The benefits of online poker companies in just four years had grown from $83 million in 2001 to $2.5 billion in 2005. By the year 2008 there were about 40 online poker rooms in the world with noticeable player traffic.

Online Regulations

However, on October 13, 2006 the President Bush had signed the Safe Port Act, a part of which is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). According to this law “unlawful internet gambling" means to place, receive, or otherwise knowingly transmit a bet or wager by means of the internet where such bet is unlawful under any law in the State in which the bet is initiated, received, or otherwise made.” After the signing of this bill most of the online poker companies have stopped providing their services for the US citizens.

This had the major impact on Party Poker, which was the biggest online poker room until the release of the UIGEA. After the signing of the bill Party had withdrawn from the American market as well as from the world's #1 position. However, not all of the poker rooms had stepped out. There is still a number of online poker companies who accept the U.S. players and therefore have taken up the players left out by Party Poker and other retreated poker rooms. Such decision had enabled PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker to become the major online poker providers in the world.

Texas Hold'em Popularity

Texas Hold'em is the most popular game in online poker. All the main online poker rooms offer Texas Hold'em as the main type of poker for their players to enjoy. The statistics show that the absolute majority of the online poker players choose Texas Hold'em as their favorite poker game. About 90% of all the online players prefer Texas Hold'em over Omaha and Omaha Hi/Lo which are played by 6% and 3% of online players respectively, leaving only around 1% to the other types of of the game. The most popular variation is No Limit (NL) Texas Hold'em with more than 75% of the players choosing it instead of Fixed limit (16%) or Pot Limit (9%). The popularity of shorthanded and full online poker tables is approximately the same, with 98% of players almost equally divided between the two, leaving only 2% playing heads-up. The distribution among the stacks varies the most with $1-$4 being the most popular ones, played by almost 36% of the players and high stakes from $100 by only 1%.

With Texas Hold'em being the most widely played poker game all over the world, it proves to be the most popular and the most exciting type of poker. In order to boost the excitement some of the poker rooms provide their players with the possibility to test their poker skills against the world's best poker players, such as Daniel Negreanu, Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer, Joe Hachem and many others playing at PokerStars, as Full Tilt Poker might offer playing against such poker stars as Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Gus Hansen, Patrik Antonious or Jennifer Harman. Online poker proves that it is no longer necessary to take part in some major live poker tournament to play against the world's best players.

Famous People Playing Texas Hold'em

As poker, and Texas Hold'em in particular, is a constantly growing form of entertainment with more and more people enjoying the game. Stars and celebrities are no exception. A lot of famous people often participate in various charity poker events, but there are also a large number of Hollywood movie stars and well known singers and musicians who play poker professionally on the regular basis. Some have even made themselves known to the poker community by receiving the most honorable poker trophy – the WSOP bracelet. These are the french actor and singer Patrick Bruel (in 1998) and American actress Jennifer Tilly (in 2005).

Hollywood Stars and Celebrities

One of the most notable poker playing celebrities is the Hollywood stud, actor and director – Ben Affleck who has the record of being a California state poker champion in 2004. Ben's companion both in real life and on screen, Matt Damon, is also known not only for playing a poker player in one of the bets know poker movies of all time – Rounders, but also for enjoying a game of poker once in a while. Some of the other famous people known for playing poker are James Woods, Boris Becker, Mathew Perry, Dennis Rodman, Nicole Sullivan, Meat Loaf, Kevin Pollak, Dennis Quaid and many others.

In fact there are so many celebrities playing poker that in 2003 American cable network Bravo had even launched a game show called “Celebrity Poker Showdown”. Numerous famous people have appeared on the show including Martin Sheen, Hank Azaria, Coolio, Tom Green, Tony Hawk, Macaulay Culkin, Andy Dick and lots of others. The Anthony Anderson vs. Michael Vartan episode from the sixth tournament of the show has become one of the poker classics.

The Stars of Poker

However, it's not all just about movie and TV stars or the famous artists. As poker is gaining it's popularity and more poker events are being televised every year, the most notable poker pros become known just for being the best in the game. Some of the most famous are 2003 WSOP champion Chris Moneymaker, who had acquired his seat at the main event by winning a tournament at PokerStars. Millions of people fascinated by the Moneymaker's achievement had started playing online themselves expanding the industry several times in a very short time. The credit should also be given to the ESPN which had televised the 2003 WSOP final table and made it available to the wide TV audience.

Greg Raymer repeated the Moneymaker's story by getting to the WSOP via PokerStars and becoming the champion in 2004. Only this time it didn't cause such a fuss as online poker was already a hit and unlike Moneymaker who was an amateur player at the time, Raymer was already a poker pro. These are the two poker players who are best known for causing the online poker fever mostly in the United States as well as in the rest of the world.

Some other poker pros that may be called poker celebrities are Daniel Negreanu – the leading member of the team PokerStars pro, 2004 WSOP and 2005 WPT player of the year, the 3rd most successful player in the history with almost $12 million in poker tournament winnings. Phil Ivey – the owner of 7 WSOP bracelets, the 2006 poker player of the year and the second most-winning poker player in the world with more than $12 million. Joe Hachem – the 2005 WSOP champion and the winner of the World Poker Tour Five Diamonds Poker Classic event at the Bellagio Casino in 2006, which makes him one of only 5 players in the world to have won both WSOP main event and WPT titles. Phil Helmuth – the 1989 WSOP champion, the owner of the most WSOP bracelets in the history of poker – 11, 4th most successful poker player in the world with almost $11 million in tournament winnings. Chris Ferguson – best known by his nickname “Jesus”, in 2007 completed the run from $0 to $10,000 at Full Tilt online poker room, know as the “Chris Ferguson Challenge”, one of the creators of the Full Tilt Poker software, holds almost $8 million in poker tournament winnings. Jamie Gold – the 2006 WSOP champion, collected $12 million as the grand prize and therefore is still at the 1st spot in all-time poker winnings. Doyle Brunson – a living poker legend, two time (76 and 77) WSOP champion, the holder of 10 WSOP bracelets, the host of an online poker room – Doyles Room, the author of several most influential books on poker, almost $6 million in poker winnings.

The list might continue with numerous names well known to millions of poker players and fans all over the world, but the one's that have been mentioned are arguably the best-known and some of them have probably been heard of by the people who are not so much into poker. Another important detail to note is that almost all the people playing poker and the pros mentioned in this paragraph are playing Texas Hold'em, both as their favorite game and as the game that is played at all the main poker events in the world.

Texas Hold'em Example

Here's an example of an NL Texas Hold'em play at a Full Tilt Poker's Play Money Sit & Go 15/30 8-player table. The replay of the hand has been made using Online Poker 10 Poker Hand Player


This Hand History Player is supported by www.onlinepoker10.com

Compulsory bets: Victoria posts a 15 small blind, John follows with a 30 big blind.

Pre-flop: Mike folds whereas Jose calls 30 with the Ac Ts. Matt then raises to 100 chips with Ad Js, which at this point is a better hand than Jose's or John's 7s 9c. Then the rest of the players fold, except Victoria, who calls the 100 bet by adding 85 chips to the 15 small blind. The next move by John does not seem as a very smart one. He goes all-in with 420 (390+30), although has only a 17% possibility of winning. His only intention might be to scare the opponents by his high bet, so they would all fold and he would gather the chips that are already in the pot. But having in mind that Matt has already made quite a high raise a bit earlier, John's scenario is not very likely to happen. And Jose proves this point by raising the bet to 740, leaving John with almost no chance of getting his money back. Matt and Victoria call Jose's raise and close the bets. The pot pre-flop is 2640 chips.

Flop: The flop brings Tc, Qc and Ah making Jose the leader of the play with two pair (Ac Ah, Ts Tc). Victoria checks and Jose with no doubt goes all-in with his 610. Matt feels pretty confident too with the pair of aces (Ad Ah) and a drawing Ace-high straight, so he also goes all-in with 760. Victoria's pot would have allowed her to call and still remain in the game in case of loosing the hand (unlike Jose and Matt who both went all-in), but her hand obviously was not good enough for such a risk. The pot is 4010 and no further contributions are possible, therefore the three remaining players show their cards. Jose must be pleased with what his opponents have, although a King or a Jack on a turn or a river might turn the hand Matt's way.

Turn: 6d does not actually change much except increase Jose's chances of winning and Matt's chances of loosing the hand. It also brings some hope for John as an 8 on a river would be his way to winning the hand with a ten-high straight.

River: Now this is called the Lucky River. Kc was one of the few cards that could have saved the game for Matt and it did, although the odds were on Jose's side. Matt wins the game with an ace-high straight and collects the 4010 pot.

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