Hold’em Poker Casinos
What You Need to Know
If you happened to land on any of the ESPN channels in the 2000’s you might have seen one of the thousands of episodes they aired of Texas Holdem poker tournaments. You can still see poker tournaments on television, but from 2003 to the end of the decade it seemed like one was on every day.
This introduced millions of new players to Texas Holdem and fueled the poker boom. Both online poker rooms and land based poker rooms saw more action than ever before. Sites like Party Poker and Poker Stars grew into billion dollar businesses on the back of Texas Holdem.
If you’ve been caught up in the craze and want to learn how to get started or simply want to get a quick refresher you’ve found the right place. For additional answers try out the Texas Hold’em FAQ page.
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How to Play Texas Hold’em
Every game of Texas Holdem starts with two players placing forced wagers called the blinds. Usually, you’ll see a large or big blind and a small blind. You can learn more about blinds in the next section.
Five Easy Steps to Playing Holdem
The small blind is one seat to the left of the button or dealer position and the big blind is one seat to the left of the small blind.
During each hand, one player is designated as the dealer and usually ha a small button with the word dealer printed on it sitting in front of her position. After each hand, the dealer button is passed one player to the left and the blinds move one player to the left. In poker rooms and casinos the actual person who deals the cards is an employee of the house. In some home games, the person with the dealer button actually deals the cards as well.
Dealing Out the Cards and First Round of Betting
After the blinds have been posted the dealer passes two cards face down to each player, one at a time starting with the first player to the left of the button. Once each player has their two hole cards the player to the left of the big blind is the first to act.
This player can fold, call the big blind, or raise. Play continues to the left with each player folding, calling the current bet, or folding until the most recent wager has been called by all of the remaining players.
The Flop and Second Round of Betting
At this time, the dealer burns the top card and turned the next three cards face up in the center of the table. This is called the flop and these are called community cards. Players use any combination of their hole cards and the community cards to form their best five-card hand.
The first player to the left of the dealer button remaining in the hand either checks or bets at this time. Play continues to the left with each player checking if a bet hasn’t been made, calling the current bet, or raising. This continues until each remaining player has called the last bet or every player has checked.
The Turn and Third Round of Betting
The dealer burns another card and then places a fourth community card face up in the center of the table. Another round of betting is conducted at this time, in the same manner as the betting round after the flop.
The River and Last Round of Betting
Finally, another card is burnt by the dealer and a fifth community card is placed face up in the center of the table. The final betting round is conducted just like the one after the turn. Once all betting is completed the remaining players show their cards and the winner is determined and awarded the pot.
If two or more players have identical best five card hands the pot is split between them.
Hand ranking follows traditional poker hand strengths as follows. The hands are listed from highest to lowest.
If two players have the same hand or high card in the case another card is present in the five card hand that isn’t being used to form the hand listed above these cards are compared and the player with the highest off-card, or kicker, is awarded the win.
For example, if two players have a pair of aces, the player with the next highest card in their hand wins. If one player has a king and the other doesn’t the player with the king wins. If both players also have a king the next highest card is considered in each hand. This continues until all five cards are compared and if they’re identical the spot is split.
You can play Texas Holdem in: limit, pot limit or no-limit. You can also play in multi-table tournaments, sit and go tournaments, or ring games. You will also find that some casinos offer Live Dealer Holdem that can be played against the house.
The most common form is no-limit, but limit is a close second in popularity. Pot limit is rarely played, but you may run across it from time to time. If you play poker games other than Holdem you’re more likely to see pot limit action.
All three varieties start with the blinds, usually a small blind and a big blind. From that point on for the rest of the hand, players may bet up to their entire stack whenever it’s their turn to act in no-limit.
In limit play, the betting on before and on the flop is conducted in increments equal to the big blind. On the turn and river, each bet is two times the big blind.
In a $1 / $2 limit Texas Holdem game each bet and raise on before the flop and on the flop is $2. On the turn and river, each bet or raise is $4.
When you play pot limit you can bet or raise up to the amount that is currently in the pot. In the case where someone has bet and you decide to raise, you add what your opponent bet and what it takes to make the call to the pot and then you can raise up to the total amount of the pot.
This may seem a little confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it’s pretty easy. Plus, when you play Texas Holdem online the software takes care of everything so you don’t have to determine the proper bet size.
Pot Limit Example
You’re facing a single opponent and at the beginning of the betting round the pot has $20 in it. Your opponent bets the size of the pot, $20. This makes the pot size $40. Do you know how much you can raise?
When you raise you first add the amount that is required to make a call before determining how much you can raise. So, the pot is actually $60 and if you call you can raise another $60. To do this you get $80 worth of chips and announce that you raise $60 more.
You never say you call and raise like you see in the movies. You either call or raise. When you raise you’re actually calling the bet and then raising, but when you say call and then try to raise it’s called a string bet.
Hold’em & Poker Variations
Taxas Hold’em is not the only version of the game. Online casinos all over use different games that follow similar rules to this popular poker game, and they include:
Types of Holdem Tournaments
The other varieties mentioned above can all be played in limit, no-limit, or pot limit. The type of Texas Holdem game you usually see on television is a multi-table tournament.
In one of these tournaments, an unlimited number of players pay an entry fee, receive a set number of chips, and battle until only one player has all of the chips. The prize pool is usually divided among the top 10% or so of the entrants with first place receiving the most, second place the second most, etc.
Sit and go tournaments are run much the same way, but they usually only have 9 or 10 entrants and the top 3 finishers win money. A common payout structure is 50% for first place, 30% for second place, and 20% for third place.
Ring games don’t have a set entry fee or start and end times. Players play with their own money and come and go while the game is running. If a player loses all of his money he can buy in again and you can leave anytime you want.
Where to Play
Where you can play poker online is just like where you can play in a land based poker room or casino. It depends on where you live.
Online and local gambling laws and regulations vary from one jurisdiction to the next and they seem to be changing all of the time. You can find a short list of online poker rooms below that should include at least one place that you can play no matter where you’re located.
Top Hold’em Sites
888 Poker – 888 was one of the very first online casinos on the internet and they have a strong poker platform for players from around the world. They have solid traffic numbers, numerous games and tournaments running all of the time, and do a good job taking care of their players. At this time, 888 Poker isn’t available to most players in the US.
Bovada – If you live in the United States and aren’t lucky enough to be in one of the few states that regulate online poker your best bet for online poker play is Bovada. It’s the US facing poker arm of Bodog and is by far the biggest operation serving the market.
Bodog – Much like Bovada for US players, Bodog serves the Canadian market of poker players. Bodog and their brands are amongst the oldest and most respected brands in the world.
PokerStars – Currently the largest online poker room, PokerStars runs more ring games and tournaments than most of their competitors combined. Like 888, they aren’t available to players in the US at this time.
Free Texas Holdem
While it’s rare you can walk into your local poker room and play Texas Holdem for free, you can log into almost any online poker room and try the games without spending a penny. Some of them even give you an opportunity to play for free and win real money.
Simply choose any online poker room listed on this page, click the link, sign up for a free account, and start playing. The free money tables are the best place to learn how the software works and see how you like playing online.
Once you get comfortable playing at the free Texas Holdem tables you can make a deposit and start trying your luck at winning some real cash at the real money tables.
The level of competition is quite poor at the free tables, so don’t expect the play to be the same when you switch to real money. While the micro limits and low limit tables are filled with poor players, they’re quite a bit better than the average players at the free money tables.
If you’re interested in the opportunity to play Texas Holdem for free and have a chance to win real money you need to keep an eye out for special tournaments called freerolls. Each online poker room has a different freeroll schedule so check with each one you sign up with to see when the next one runs. If you don’t see any, ask the support department about them.
Freeroll Texas Holdem tournaments are usually listed with the other tournaments. Simply sort them by buy-in amount, if possible, to see which ones are free to enter.
Basic Holdem Strategy
Learning how to play Texas Holdem is fairly easy. Hopefully, you’ve already got a firm grasp of how to play from the instructions earlier on this page. Below is a basic chart showing suggestions on what to do for unsuited pocket cards, however, there is no “one-answer-is-the-right-answer” when it comes to playing Texas Holdem.
If you want to be a winning player you need to practice good strategy. The problem is it’s impossible to cover strategy well enough to make you a great player on a single page. So we’ve listed an overview of proper Texas Holdem strategy below. It gives you a solid place to start. You should also become familiar with the different Hold’em Terms that player use.
When you start any Texas Holdem hand with a better starting hand than your opponent you are a favorite to win more often than them. So you should concentrate on only playing your best-starting hands. Most players are playing far too many hands to show a long term profit. Play 15 to 20% of your starting hands at the most until you learn how to adjust your play based on your competition.
You win more money on average from the late position than from early position. This is mainly because when you’re in late position all of the other players are forced to act before you have to. This gives you additional information you can use to win more money. You should play fewer hands from the early position because you’ll be out of position for the entire hand.
Even when you fold your hand you should always be paying attention to the rest of the players at the table. You can learn how they play, how often they bluff and possibly pick up a few tells that help you catch them doing something you can take advantage of later. If you’re not watching you might miss a great deal of profitable information.
Unless you decide to start playing poker as a professional the size of your bankroll isn’t extremely important, but you should always have enough that a single playing session doesn’t wipe you out. Pros should keep 200 to 300 big blinds for the level they’re currently playing or around 25 buy-ins for no-limit play.
Tight and Aggressive Play
This is somewhat related to your starting hand selection, discussed above. In addition to playing a tight game by not playing too many starting hands, you should lay most hands that you play aggressively. When you play aggressively it forces the other players to make mistakes and give you the chance to win when they fold. If everyone else folds you don’t have to worry about showing down the winning hand.
Most players bluff more than they should. This comes mostly from watching poker on TV. You don’t see all of the hands on most televised poker broadcasts so it seems like the pros are always bluffing. But the truth is you should rarely bluff, and only when it has the best chance to work. You should bluff less than 5% of the time. Some players bluff as low as 1 or 2% of the time. Start bluffing less and your overall profitability will almost certainly go up.
Pot odds are a comparison of the amount of money in the pot, how large the bet is you have to call, and the odds of you hitting a certain hand. You really need to learn more about pot odds before you start playing too much poker because they help you understand when it’s profitable to call and when it’s not.