How to Play Texas Hold'Em is the most popular form of poker, and the easiest to learn and play. The dealer places a small blind bet (half the usual bet), and the person to the left of the dealer places a big blind bet, which becomes the minimum bet for the table. The dealer "burns" (gets rid of) the top card on the deck and deals two cards to each player. Players look at their cards at this stage and place a bet. Players will have to use these two cards with the cards dealt on the table to form their winning hand. The dealer then draws three cards, face up. This is "the flop". Now players will have an idea of whether they have a viable hand or not, but there are still two more cards to be drawn. Players choose to check (avoid betting), call (match a bet), raise (bet higher), or fold (handover the cards and no longer participate in the round). The dealer burns the top card and places one card face up next to the flop. Players will again see what hand they hold and choose to bet, call, raise or fold. The dealer then burns the top card on the deck, and places the last card on the table, known as the "river", and all players will reveal their cards to determine the winner. ## Rules As a starting point, it is undoubtedly essential to understand the different winning hands in poker. The best hand wins. Winning hands are based on the value and suit of cards: - Royal Flush (A-K-Q-J-T in the same suit) - Straight Flush (a sequence all the same suit (9-8-7-6-5)) - Four of a Kind (four cards of the same value) - Full House (this is a pair and three of a kind) - Flush (any numbers in the same suit) - Straight (consecutive values such as 6-5-4-3-2 in any suit) - Three of a kind (three cards that are the same value such) - Two-pair (two pairs) - Pair (any pair) - High Card (highest card in any hand) Players must understand the rules and etiquette of poker. Not fully following the rules and hands could not only result in potentially losing money in making poorly strategized bets, but also lead to frustrating other players. Some rules of etiquette which poker players need to remember are: - Players can only make a call when it is their turn. The action moves around the table in a clockwise manner, and one player may play at a time - Make decisions quickly; don't hold up the game - Don't discuss a hand with others; and - Don't throw chips into the pool. Make sure a bet is clearly visible to all players and the dealer. ## Strategy There are some tried and tested poker strategy techniques, but a personal method will come with experience. Read Other Players A player should always be watching others, to see if they may be trying to conceal a wry smile. A new or inexperienced player may make a song and dance of trying to bluff other players, and fidgeting may show a player who is uncomfortable with a hand and the bet placed. Raise the Bet on a Good Hand While it is a risk, if a player has a good hand, raising will weed out players with bad hands and increase the pool. Fold on a Bad Hand If it is clear that a player has a weak hand, while other players appear to be raising their bets, a player should fold and wait for the next deal. Start Strategizing from the Starting Hand From the very first two cards dealt, a player should be starting to calculate what possible hands they may have. This will also assist them in deciding whether to bet, raise or fold and potentially save an unnecessary wager. For example, if a player has a King and Queen of the same suit, it would be worth it for them to continue to play in the hopes of a Royal Flush being drawn. ## Free Games Free play and online play are tools invaluable to new players. While the rules of poker are simple, strategy and play in practice can be quite complicated and overwhelming, especially at a table with experienced players. Free play allows a player to make as many mistakes necessary to learn the basic rules of the game. There are many platforms which offer free online poker games, where a player will either play against a computer-generated dealer or even enter a live dealer game. Both of these can help an inexperienced player to build up skill and confidence, which is an invaluable advantage around a poker table. ## Playing for Money The most important factor for players to remember is to only play with money which they can afford to lose. Players should set themselves budgets before playing and stick to them. Once a player is at a table, they can get swept into the excitement and be tempted to forget their budget. It is undoubtedly for this reason that players must also ensure that they avoid drinking alcohol while playing, as this may loosen inhibitions and result in a player blowing their budget. If a player suspects they may actually have a gambling issue, they need to remove themselves from such situations and seek help as soon as possible. ## Early History The origins of poker are hard to define. Some historians believe its roots are in an ancient Chinese domino card game, others believe it was developed from a Persian game "As Nas". In Europe, the French game "Pogue" and German game "Pochen", played in the 17th century are considered the early games of poker. It is believed that French colonists brought Pogue to North America, particularly New Orleans when they settled there. It is likely that English settlers then adapted the game into what is most similar to how the game is played today, namely that each player has five cards and the game is played with a 52 card deck.