There’s no denying that poker has played a part in the history of the United States. Poker has been featured in US culture, from the early riverboats of the Mississippi to the bright lights of Las Vegas. Much of that comes from the Wild West, with stories of the world’s longest poker game at The Birdcage and Wild Bill Hickok being shot by an opponent in Deadwood. That moment gave rise to the term Dead Man’s Hand, and it isn’t the only legacy poker takes from the Wild West. In fact, the variant Texas Hold’em comes from the era originating in Robstown in the Lone Star State.
Texas Hold’em is by far the most popular poker variant; it is used in the World Series of Poker held in Las Vegas, for example. If you sit down to play online (in one of the five states with provision for real money games), you’ll likely play Texas Hold’em. Movie stars such as Ben Affleck and Matt Damon play, and most free-to-play online apps feature Texas Hold’em. Even basketball star Luka Doncic was pictured at a poker party celebrating the opening of the 2021 Olympics! It pays, sometimes literally, to understand Texas Hold’em; if you’re new to the variant the US gave the world, this is how it works.
Texas Hold’em is usually played with a table of up to ten players. There will usually be a dealer – this will rotate in home games but remain fixed in a casino. There will be a ‘button’ which is passed anti-clockwise around the table, denoting which players bet first. This button also denotes the dealer for that round in games played amongst friends.
The first bet is known as a blind, as it is laid before a card is dealt. The player to the left of the button will lay a small blind bet, and the player to the left of them a big blind – the game rules will set the value. This creates a small pot before the cards are dealt. In some instances, everyone will be asked to put in before the deal; this is known as an ante.
Once that is done, then the cards are dealt. There are four stages when it comes to learning how to play Texas Hold’em and, more importantly, how to deal, and the first is getting used to the pre-flop. This is where two cards are dealt face down to each player. These cards are called hole cards, which are the unknown element of the game, as players do not reveal what their cards are. After this deal, there’s a round of betting, where players can opt to stay in the game, put money in, or drop out.
The flop is next; this is the introduction of three community cards, face up in the middle of the table. The flop is when players discover how strong their hands could be. For instance, you might start with a queen and a king, seemingly a strong hand, but things change dramatically if the flop is all low numbers of a different suite. There’s a betting round after this, before the next two stages.
Fourth and Fifth Street
Also known as the Turn and the River, these are two more betting rounds. After betting has ceased on the flop, we get the fourth card, and once again, there’s a round of betting. Finally, there comes the Turn, the moment when the complete picture is known. This is arguably the game’s biggest moment, as it can change a good hand into a bad hand and vice versa. As we saw in the recent Texas Hold’em cheating scandal, the turn can leave a player formerly looking good in a bad position. There’s a final round of betting before all players reveal their cards, and the pot is awarded to the winner.
Texas Hold’em isn’t just the most popular variant – it’s also the most exciting. With no fewer than five rounds of betting and plenty of twists and turns, it’s the variant that demands the most skill and an analytical approach. Throw in the unknown and element of chance, and it’s easy to see why it’s played by so many people, online and offline.