The Ins and Outs of Texas Hold’Em
Thanks to some great marketing and huge exposure on the television, Texas Hold’Em is now the most popular poker version in the world. Regardless of whether you are in a land-based casino, accessing it online or just chilling with friends, this game is fun-filled, fast-paced and intense. Its popularity is due in part to the fact that its rules are simple to pick up but harder to master. Unlike many other gambling games found at casinos, Texas Hold’Em does require a large amount of skill, with players able to influence the game outcome through the way they play their hands, place bets, observe other players and, of course, bluff. The fact that there appears to be an almost infinite number of ways that players can strategize and use various tactics adds a nuance and subtlety to a game that is not found elsewhere. Of course, there is the addition to this that you, as a player, have the chance to win some serious prize money if your skills are good enough to enter a tournament.
The main objective in Texas Hold’Em, as it is in all poker variants, is to compete for a pot of money that has been created through contributions from the players themselves. The value of this pot will depend on the bet limits of the table and the wagers placed by each of the players participating. The cards are dealt in a fashion that is outside the control of the players and because of this, players will attempt to control the value of the pot through the betting decisions they make on each of their hands. Unlike other games where the idea is to win instantly, poker is more about the long game. Players can lose individual battles, with the intent on winning the war. Through the making of psychological and mathematical bets, players can influence the way others play, without speaking a word. The truly great poker player is able to simultaneously get other players to put more money in whilst maximising the amount of money they expect to win in an effort to have a large pot at the end.
A brief history of Texas Hold’Em
Despite being so popular, there is not much known about Texas Hold’Em or about how it exactly came into being. However, the birthplace of the game is recognized as Robstown in Texas, with the game dating as far back as the 1900’s. After its initial conception in Texas, it spread across the States to be introduced to the California Club in Las Vegas in 1963. In its time there, the game quickly became vastly popular and soon spread to other casinos in the area. In 1967, a group of Texas players and other high-flying card players got together to play in Las Vegas. It was during this point that the original low Ace value was changed to high. Texas Hold’Em had a relatively long tenure at the California Club where it was exclusive to them. However, because the club was so low-key, many of the higher stakes players did not frequent it, seeking more favourable locations elsewhere. In 1969 a game was held at Dunes Casino; a number of professionals were invited where they reaped big wins.
The same year saw the first ever poker tournament held, where a number of poker variants were offered, including Texas Hold’Em. By 1970, the tournament had been acquired by the Binion brothers who changed the name to the World Series of Poker, an event known around the world to this day. From this point on, the main event was to be a no-limit Texas Hold’Em game and, through the following decades, interest in the game continued to flourish. From just eight players entering the tournament in 1972 to two hundred in 1991, it is instantly clear how fast it grew. During this period, a book on poker strategy was also published, further pushing forward the way the game was played. To this day, the book is still one of the go-to guides for the game. After the 1980’s, popularity of the game spread beyond Nevada to the rest of the States, and from there to the rest of the world. With the arrival of online casinos in the early 2000s’ came greater accessibility with thousands of players joining the game.
How to Play
It is imperative you know the specific rules of Texas Hold’Em before you even think of starting to play. Each player in the game will be dealt two cards, or ‘hole cards’ as they are known. These are the player’s own cards and should not be shown to anyone else at the table. This is then followed by a betting round where players can choose to fold, bet or check. This is also called the ‘pre-flop’ and the decisions made here are completely dependent on the hand you’ve been dealt. After players have made all their bets, the
dealer will then deal three cards face up on the table. This is called the ‘flop’ and players are able to use any or all of these cards to create the best hand possible. Once again there is a betting round before a fourth card — the ‘turn’ — is dealt by the dealer. Again, there is a round of betting with potentially more players dropping out as the cards go against them.
With this betting round over, the dealer will place the fifth and final card with the rest of the community cards. This move is called the ‘river’ and triggers the final round of betting in the game. Hands are created using five cards, but the combination of community cards and hole cards is completely up to each individual and the cards that they hold. There is a series of different hands, ranging from a high card as the lowest hand through to a Royal Flush, which is the highest. For the most part, the highest hand will win. However, this is not always the case and there are actually two different ways a round can end. Usually, players will turn over their hole cards with the best hand winning in what is called a ‘showdown’. The other option is that a player bets so much that other players will fold, leaving the pot uncontested and the winning hand left unrevealed. Part of the fun of Texas Hold’Em is exactly that: the best hand doesn’t always win.
Beginner Winning Strategies
As poker is such an open game, there are many strategies that can be employed to get ahead. For a beginner, there are a number of basic strategies to think of before moving into more depth within the game. First up is the actual mindset you’re in as you play, though this goes for advanced and professional players as well. We can’t emphasize it enough here – never play when angry, sad or drunk. These emotions or states of being, can highly affect your judgement, leading you to make rash decisions, which will rarely have the desired outcome. After this though, new players need to make an initial decision – whether they are playing for fun or to win. Playing to win requires a lot of work and study. Playing for fun doesn’t mean that you should be losing, but it does give you the chance to hone your skills in a much more stress-free environment. Nevertheless, determining how you will play at each session will make it easier for you.
As a new player, you should not always expect to win. Learn not to let the losses define you. Even the best players have losing streaks. With this in mind, you should endeavour to always play to the best of your ability, with no assumptions that you’ll always win. If you can concentrate on that, then the way you play will gradually improve. Knowing all the specific hands and their values is also key. As poker is rather mathematical in nature, even though you don’t hold all the information, learning which hands to play from the offset is key to being successful later in the game. Essentially, the more often you can start a round with a better hand than the other players, the more likely you are to win. The more skilled players out there will know these little aspects much faster and be able to capitalize on being able to calculate odds, see patterns and use their position to their advantage. Finally, you should avoid ’tilt’, where players use your emotions against you – this circles back to the very first tip.
Advanced Winning Strategies
Once you’ve got to grips with the basics, you can look at other strategies. You’ll soon find that each player has a unique style to his or her gameplay. These different styles can be utilized in different aspects of the game, resulting in additional success. Tight gameplay, for example, is one that is cautious, with players not taking huge risks and only playing a few hands here and there. Loose is the complete opposite and players will play many hands, always with a high level of gambling involved. The third approach is aggressive and players that indulge in this style of play will often place multiple bets, open pots and place larger bets in an attempt to put pressure on the rest of the table. Again, the opposite is passive play. Passive players will call more than they bet, which enables their opponents to dictate the way that the game plays out. If you are able to change between these types of plays, then you’re in for a better shot at poker!
To Bluff or Not to Bluff?
One of the main features we all associate with poker is that of bluffing. ‘Poker-faced’ has become a commonly used term because of our imagination regarding the goings on at a poker table. However, something that might surprise many of you is that bluffing is not to be used all the time. In fact, many
professional players use a bluff sparingly, if at all. To seasoned players, a newcomer’s bluff can be seen a mile away and actually serves more to tell them a lot more about your play than it does to actually help you. To be able to bluff well, you need to understand the goal of a bluff. When poker players bluff, they are simply trying to get their opposing players to fold their – potentially better – hand. Successful bluffs convince the other players that your hand is superior, causing them to fold even though they could have won. However, this must be carefully thought through, as these bluffs can easily backfire when faced with a savvy opponent.
Knowing the Odds
We’ve touched on this already but knowing the odds in a poker game will also see you get ahead. In simple terms, odds are just the probability that something is going to happen. If you know the probability of certain events occurring within a game of poker, it will stand you in much better stead of making the correct moves and bets. For example, there are thirteen clubs in a standard fifty-two card deck. If two of them are in your hand and two are among the community cards, there are nine clubs unaccounted for. With four cards on the board and two in your hand, there are still forty-six possibilities that can be dealt in the last round. These final nine cards, that could make that flush for you, are called the ‘outs’. At this point, the chances of you getting one of those nine cards is standing at 37/9, which makes your chances around 4 to 1. This kind of odds calculation can also be used to determine your chances of winning the pot.
Well, there you have it. This is really just the bare bones of what playing Texas Hold’Em is all about. There is much more depth that you’ll need to go to in order to become a truly accomplished player, and of course a ton of practice. However, this will at least give you a good start in the game, and maybe see you not lose too many first hands. With this in mind, when you do start to hit a losing streak, there’s no shame in just leaving the table, clearing your head and re-joining later. One of the most important things is your mental focus (as we touched upon earlier) so anything that can affect your judgment, should be removed – including that little inner voice we all get. At the end of the day, being a poker pro is all about practice. It’s a lot of hard work – so don’t say we didn’t warn you. Get out there, put these tips into practice and hopefully you’ll quickly improve.