Poker rules - this is how it works
Texas Hold'em, Texas or just Hold'em – our dearest children tend to have many names. It’s said that it takes ten minutes to learn to play Texas Hold'em, but a whole lifetime to master it.
The ‘Cadillac of Poker’ is another nickname it has... and here you will learn everything you need to know to get started with the card game everybody loves to talk about.
When you play at the kitchen table players take turns to deal. If you play at a casino or online at a Paf poker table then you have a dedicated dealer who deals the cards and collects the bets and so on. In the second case the game has a dealer button which represents the player in the dealer position, ie the player who receives their hole cards last. The dealer button moves one step to the left after each completed hand. This keeps the game fair – as the dealer button determines who acts first in each betting round.
Before the cards can be dealt two players are required to make the first bets – these bets are called the "blinds". The player one step to the left of the dealer button is called the "small blind" and the player one more step to the left is the "big blind". The small blind is usually half of the big blind, but there are sometimes exceptions, for practical reasons. For example, you may want to play with blinds of €2 and €5, instead of splitting euros into cents.
If you play online or at poker tournaments it is normal practice for only two people to pay the blinds. However, at live cash games, it's not unusual to agree to allow more voluntary preliminary bets – called “live straddles” . A live straddle allows players to bid for the right to take the last action (normally this right falls to the big blind). These bets then follow the doubling format – for example, if the little blind is €1, the big blind is €2, live straddle €4, live straddle €8 etc.
The big blind is also the amount that determines the minimum opening bet in all betting rounds. For example, if you play with blinds of €1 and €2, the minimum bet is €2 in each betting round.
The first betting round
The dealer deals the cards, starting at the small blind (ie, to the left of the dealer button). Each player gets two cards, one at a time. Then the player to the left of the highest blind (left of the big blind if no voluntarily straddle is in play) starts the game by deciding whether to fold (throw the cards), call (match the big blind) or raise the bet. This position is also called "Under The Gun" (UTG). Play progresses clockwise around the table until all the players have had the opportunity to fold, call the current bet or raise. Once all players have either folded or matched the bet level of the pot, the first betting round is complete.
The flop and other betting rounds
If more than one player is left in the hand after the first round, the dealer deals out the “flop” – three of the five cards that are common to all players. The common cards are laid open (face-up) at the centre of the table. If you play live, the dealer will always "burn" a card, that is to say, put it aside before the three common cards are dealt. This is always done live just in case there is any visible damage to the top card, but it doesn’t fulfill any real function in online network play.
Now the next betting round begins with the player closest to the left of the dealer of those remaining in the hand. The game continues in the same manner as the first round of betting - players in their turn decide if they want to fold (throw away their cards and stop trying to win the pot), call any bets or raise themselves.
The turn and third round of betting
When the second betting round is completed, the dealer deals the fourth common card face-up on the table, called the "turn". Another new betting round follows the same way as before.
The river and fourth round of betting
When the third round of betting is completed, the dealer deals the fifth and final common card face-up on the table, called the "river". A final fourth round of betting follows the same way as before.
There are two ways to win a poker hand – either you are the only player remaining in your hand by making your bets in the four rounds so as to "convince" your opponents that you have the best hand (you win the pot "uncontested"). Or at least two players remain in the pot when the final betting round is complete and then it’s time for the "showdown" of all the remaining hands. In this case, the winning player is the one who makes the best five card hand by combining the five common cards with the two hole cards in their hand – according to the ranking of poker hands.
Six Plus Hold’em
Six Plus Hold’em is a variant of Texas Hold‘em that uses a reduced deck. Instead of the standard 52 card deck, all cards with the values of 2,3,4,5 ( 4 deuces, 4 treys, 4 fours and 4 fives) are removed from the deck, resulting in a 36 card deck, where the lowest card is 6 and the highest A. Six Plus Hold’em follows the same game logic and betting structure as the classic Texas Hold’em. The only exception comes in the hand strength.
The aces can still be used for the high straight (AKQJT) as well as for the low straight (also called the wheel). This means that in Six Plus Hold’em, the hand A6789 is equivalent to the A2345 hand in classic Texas Hold’em, which is the weakest straight in both game types.
Six Plus Hold’em has a slightly different hand ranking from the classic Texas Hold’em. The two differences are that Three of a kind now beats a Straight, and Flush beats a Full house. This is implemented to make up for the changed probabilities of hitting, due to the reduced deck as compared to classic Hold’em game with 52 cards.
Rules for Omaha
We will end by quickly explaining the rules of another popular poker game.
Omaha Hold'em works in the same way as Texas Hold'em, but with one very important difference.
In Texas, you get two personal hole cards and five common cards, and you will form a five-card hand using these seven cards – you can use two cards from the hand and three from the table, one card from the hand and four common cards from the table, or even, in exceptional cases, use all five cards on the table and nothing from your hand.
In Omaha, however, you get four private cards and five common cards on the table. You must use exactly two cards from the hand and exactly three cards from the table.
For example, you have Ace of Spades, Ace of Hearts, Ace of Diamonds and 8 of Hearts
and the five common cards are Ten of Spades, 9 of Spades, 7 of Spades, 6 of Diamonds and 6 of Spades. What should you do? Test yourself!
The answer is that you do not have a flush – you cannot use the single Ace of Spades in your hand and the four spades from the board. Similarly, you also don’t have a straight, because you cannot just play the eight from your hand and the T976 from the table. You also don’t have a full house because you can not play AAA from your hand and the 66 from the table. So your final hand is AA from your own hand and the T66 from the table for two pairs – hardly a winning hand.
5 Card Omaha
The difference between ordinary Omaha and Five Card Omaha is only that you get a fifth private card in your hand. Apart from that, the rules are exactly the same - you aim to get the best poker combination using exactly two cards from your five private ones, and exactly three cards from the common ones on the board.