Texas Holdem Frequently Asked Questions
What is Texas Hold’em Poker?
In 2003, a relative nobody from Nashville, Tennessee, won the World Series of Poker after winning a small buy-in satellite on PokerStars, an online poker site. This nobody, whose name is Chris Moneymaker, is now a household name in poker and is generally regarded as the man who started the worldwide poker boom. This boom is still in full effect, and the type of poker in question is Texas hold’em.
This poker variation is thought to have been invented in the early 1900s in Texas and is the most popular form of poker today. Players are dealt two hole cards which are their own to use throughout the hand. These cards will remain hidden until the showdown in the hand if this occurs. Five cards are dealt face up in the center of the table for all players to use. These are known as community cards.
Texas hold’em can be played as no limit, pot limit, or limit. This is purely in relation to the maximum bet amount a player can make at any point in the game. The no limit variation is the most popular and this is where you’ll find the most choice in online and live casinos.
The game is a simple one to learn and play. However, it can take a long time to master and playing styles are continuously evolving so you can never rest on your laurels and must always adapt how you play to keep your opponents guessing. Texas hold’em uses hand rankings in line with standard poker and you can find cash games and tournaments.
In this game, the casino or poker room where you’re playing simply runs the game. They don’t take part and you’re never playing against the house. In cash games, the house will take a rake, which is a capped percentage of the pot, and in tournaments, they take a commission from the buy in. For many casinos poker is a loss leader and is almost run as a casino amenity to get players in the casino to hopefully play other casino games before or after their poker session. Online poker is a massive money maker due to the low overheads. This also means more choice for the player and lower rakes and commissions.
How do I Play?
Texas hold’em is a very simple game to play. The real art comes into play once you’ve mastered the basics and begin trying to read opponents, stop them from reading you, and making positive expectation plays in every single hand.
To play, all you need to do is find a cash game or tournament, buy in to the game or pay the entrance fee if you’re going in to a tournament, and take a seat. The dealer will run the game and will most importantly deal the cards and manage the action on the table.
The hand begins with cards being dealt in a clockwise fashion starting with the person sitting next to the dealer button. This is a small white disc that also rotates around the table in a clockwise fashion. The person to the left of the dealer has to make a forced bet called the small blind, and the person to the left of them makes double this forced bet which is called a big blind.
Once every player has two hole cards action will begin with the person to the left of the big blind. They can choose to call the big blind, fold, or raise. After this, each player takes turns to do the same. Play will continue until all players have either folded or called, at which point three community cards, known as the flop, will be dealt face up in the middle of the table.
These cards are used by players to make the best five-card poker hand. They can use one or two of their hole cards. Another round of betting now takes place which is followed by another card dealt face up, known as the turn. After another round of betting a fifth and final card is dealt face up, called the river, and a final round of betting takes place.
At any point in the hand if everyone folds then the remaining player wins the pot and the hand is over. If there are multiple players left after the last round of betting they show their hands and the winner is established.
In the no limit form of the game if a player bets all their chips and is called, then both hands will be exposed and all five community cards will be dealt at once. If a player is all in and others still have chips and are betting, then a side pot will be made and the main pot will be locked for the all in player. Once all other action has completed the all-in player will show their cards in a showdown with the remaining player or players.
Although this sounds quite confusing, it’s pretty simple once you start playing. If you play online all the action is taken care of automatically and the user interface will alert you to the options you have at any point in a hand.
In a live casino, the dealer will manage the action and will assist you in respect to what you need to do at any point in the game. As with most games, the best way to learn how to play is by playing and getting used to it as you go. Online poker is a great option to learn how to play before you take a seat at a daunting live casino table.
After you learn the basic mechanics of the game you can start learning how to read opponents and their betting patterns. On top of this, you can also work out your starting hand range, how to bet in certain situations, and how to calculate odds at any point in a hand.
Odds can help you in making decisions on what to do and also enable you to work out if a decision is the right one and will make money in the long run. This coupled with reading and understanding opponents are by far the most important things to learn in poker as these will enable you to be a winning player.
What is the Difference Between a Tournament and Ring Game?
In tournament Texas hold’em players pay an entrance fee to participate. For your entrance fee, you’ll be assigned a certain number of chips to play in the tournament. As long as you still have chips, you are still in the tournament.
Blinds and antes will go up at an established rate to ensure action and to make sure that players are knocked out. The tournament ends when there’s one player left with all the chips. From the entrance fee, the house will take a commission and the rest will go into a prize pool. Generally, the top 10% of players will win a prize in a tournament.
Ring games, also known as cash games, are played completely separately to tournaments. In a ring game, the blinds are set and players can come and go as they please. The chips that are used have real cash value and players can keep buying in with more cash in exchange for these chips whenever they run out. In ring games, the house will take a percentage rake of each pot in order for them to make money for running the game.
Although the game is the same, the way you approach it in a tournament will be different from a cash game. As once you lose your chips in a tournament it’s all over, but in a cash game, you can simply re-buy. Therefore, positive expectation plays should always be made in cash games as opposed to choosing your spots in tournaments to ensure you are playing the highest percentage play while remaining in the game to receive a prize.
On top of this, bluffing can be done much more successfully in tournaments due to the fact that you can put other players at risk of being knocked out. The subtle differences will become obvious once you start playing.
Should I Play Texas Hold’em Online?
Online poker could be a great option for you if you’re new to the game, or if you’d like more variety in respect to game types. On top of this, online poker will allow you to play from anywhere in the world, provided online poker is legal in that jurisdiction and you have an internet connection. Unfortunately, online poker is only available on a limited basis in many US states.
Possibly the biggest advantage of playing poker online is in relation to the speed of the game. In live poker, you generally play around 30 hands per hour at a standard no-limit hold’em table. Online this can be well above 60.
This means you’re playing twice as many hands in the same amount of time. This is beneficial in both tournament and cash games. Add to this fact that online you can play on multiple tables at once, with some professionals playing 8 or more at a time. If you play 4 tables at once then you are getting 240 hands per hour, as opposed to 30 at one live table. This can allow you to get much more experience and also play a lower risk strategy in order to be more profitable over time.
For many players, though, nothing beats playing at a real table with real people you can see and interact with. This is a big positive of playing in a live environment. Socially speaking, it’s much more fun and you’ll also be able to read your opponents in a qualitative manner as opposed to just studying statistics and quantitative factors when you play them online.
You can analyze players click rates, bet sizes, and voluntarily entering the pot statistics online which will give you a lot of information. However, it doesn’t really compare to staring down a player in their eye to try and get information about what they may be holding.
Ultimately, for most players they mix up their online and live play to get a good dose of each. This is probably a good idea for most players. Playing online is great though for all levels of player and it allows you to play much more poker within the comfort of your own surroundings.
What are some good Texas Hold’em Strategies?
Unlike many other casino games, there’s a lot you can do in Texas hold’em poker to ensure that you win and put yourself in the best possible position. Of course, you need luck in the game and even if you make the best moves at every point in a hand, you can still lose. In poker, it’s all about making sure you get yourself in the best position statistically so that when the cards fall they’ll be in your favor more often than not.
Many strategies are available to players, from simple ABC poker to extremely complex strategies which are underpinned by complex mathematics. For beginners, the best way to play poker is to use only strong starting hands and play ABC poker. This means no bluffing and just betting strongly when you have a hand and folding when you don’t. This is the best way to play when starting out as it limits your losses and is quite easy to implement at the table.
When you become a bit more comfortable with the basics of poker you can move to a standard tight and aggressive strategy. This means having a wider starting hand range yet only playing very few hands per hour. In these hands, irrespective of what cards fall you bet strongly and consistently. This way you can take the pot down by betting strongly, or you get paid off well if you make a good hand. Of course with this strategy you need to be studying your opponents to try and put them on a hand. With this information, you can decide whether to continue with a hand or bail out of it.
When you’re playing online, and to a lesser extent in live casinos, you should always be studying how many times other players enter pots. In the industry, this is known as the VPIP rate, or voluntarily put in the pot. This doesn’t include when the player is in the small or big blind. Their VPIP rate can give you a great indication of what kind of starting hand range they have.
If a player has a very high VPIP rate you know that more often than not, they’ll have a weaker hand and you can exploit this. On the other hand, if their VPIP rate is low, they may have very strong hands which can also be exploited. Be warned, other players will be studying your VPIP, so make sure you try to land yourself in the average range VPIP wise, which is around 23%.
Position is king in Texas hold’em. Being in late position allows you to see all the other players act before you make your own decision. This is huge in poker as you’ll be armed with all that information before you have to do anything. It’s always a good idea in Texas hold’em to play most of your hands in late position. This will allow you to make more money in the long run. Of course, you should still play super strong hands in early position, however, your range should be much narrower than when you’re in a later position.
Bluffing in poker is a great weapon that can be used to your advantage in order to win hands you would normally lose. You’ll need to pick your spots in respect to bluffing as it won’t always work. By studying your opponents, you can determine if they’re weak and then use this information to change how you play your hand to make them think you have a strong hand.
This is how you should bluff. It should always be a process and not just a snap decision at random to bet strong and hope for the best. Semi-bluffs are strong plays where you make a bluff when you have a high percentage of making a made hand on the turn or river. This way you can take the pot down right there with the bluff and if you don’t, then there’s a good chance you’ll make a strong hand later. If you’re a beginner, then it probably isn’t a great idea to bluff too much until you understand poker better.
Last, pot odds are quite important when it comes to making decisions in poker. Quite often you need to calculate how much money is in the pot as opposed to how much you need to put in to make a call.
If you’re getting great value in this respect, then you can allow yourself to make a call when the odds of you completing your hand are quite good. It can also help you make a call on the river. If you’re getting 3 or 4 to 1 on your money by making a call at the end, and your hand will win at a similar percentage rate then you should make the call.
If you’d like more information, some great books to start with are Doyle Brunson’s Super System II and Kill Phil by Nelson et al.
Can I Win at Texas Hold’em?
Yes, you can win at Texas hold’em. Unlike other casino games, you’re playing against other people in poker and not against the house. This means the game isn’t designed to put you at a mathematical disadvantage, although some will argue that on a long enough timeline the house will win because of commission and the rake. However, this is unrealistic in reality as the poker economy isn’t fixed.
If you play no limit games, then your variance will be much higher than in a fixed or pot limit game. The key in poker to being a winning player is to ensure that you make positive expectation plays all the time. Basically, this means that the move that you make will make you money more often than not in the long run, irrespective of how the cards fall. If all the moves you make in poker follow this line of thinking, then you’ll most likely be a winner at poker.
By following a solid poker strategy, studying other players, making positive expectation moves, and playing mostly in position with strong starting hands then you should win. It’s this simple. By playing online you’ll be able to play many more hands per hour which should drive down the variance and swings in respect to your wins and losses. If you do this in an appropriate game for your bankroll, then you should be able to steadily make money playing poker.