Can We Simplify Texas Hold’em?
Texas Hold’em is a difficult form of poker. It seems so straightforward; every player has two hole cards and everyone shares the five community cards. Nevertheless, as simple as the Texas Hold’em poker rules are, the game has subtleties and complexities that make it enormously challenging.
Let’s see if we can simplify Texas Hold’em for players who are just now coming to the game or experienced players who feel that they need a refresher course in the game. Many players at Juicy Stakes Poker are new online poker players so this tutorial will come in handy.
There is No Ante in Texas Hold’em
In lieu of every player putting in an ante, as is common in most variations of poker, only two players put money into the pot to get things going. These players are called the Small Blind and the Big Blind. They sit side by side at the table and their identity rotates around the table so sometimes every player will be a Small Blind or a Big Blind.
The Small Blind is Half the Big Blind
The significance of the blinds will become more apparent a little later but for now, we can say that no other players have any money at risk in any hand unless they at least call the Big Blind. This is true even for the Small Blind who has to match his or her money already in the pot in order to call the Big Blind.
The strategic element here is that any player can fold after the hole cards are dealt and they will lose no money at all in the hand. It naturally means that players will fold many hands that they might have played if they already had some money in the pot.
There are Four Rounds of Betting in Texas Hold’em
These are: after the hole cards are dealt, after the flop, after the turn, and after the river.
The terminology in Hold’em is important since any chat conversation will naturally use these terms.
We have introduced the blinds. The hole cards are the two hidden cards each player gets on the initial deal. Then there is a round of betting. In tournament games, where the blinds may be for large sums, almost all players will fold before the flop.
The flop comes next. This is a set of three community cards. A lot of players call the Big Blind so they can see the flop. Sometimes this is a good strategy and more often it is a very poor strategy that costs the player needlessly.
It is very tempting to call to see the flop. One of the most important early lessons in Texas Hold’em is to be patient, fold all bad or marginal hands, and wait for a hand that you can reasonably call in order to see the flop.
Position in Betting
At a tournament, one person, who is not playing, will be the dealer for all hands. The Small Blind is always to the dealer’s left and the Big Blind is to the Small Blind’s left. But we have said that the blinds rotate around the table. So, while the acting dealer is the same, the functional dealer for all other purposes rotates around the table.
The first round of betting starts with the player to the left of the Big Blind. This player is “in early position”. Being the first to act puts this player at a severe disadvantage as he or she cannot gather any information from the actions of the other players.
As a result, players downgrade hands when they are in an early position and fold hands that they might have called with in a later position.
After the flop, the player to the left of the dealer, the Small Blind, bets first. So, the blinds have great position before the flop but are at a disadvantage after the flop.
On the other hand, by the time we get to the flop in tournament games, most of the players have folded. In fact, one or both of the blinds may have folded in the face of a strong bet from another player and poor hole cards.
Strategy in Hold’em
This is the real heart of the game! Many books have been written about Texas Hold’em strategy. Here we can’t delve deeply into strategies but we can point out a few subtleties that new players often miss.
Outs and Odds
We have to introduce poker math at some point and we will do so by counting outs and determining the approximate odds that you will win the hand. Counting outs is a little counter-intuitive in that you see the deck as including all cards that you have not seen. In other words, all of the hole cards at the table are still “in the deck” for the purpose of counting outs.
It is impossible to count outs before the flop. Thus, the best strategy on moat hands is simply to fold rather than risk money on a poor hand. After the flop, there may be no outs for you or there may be several possibilities. You might have an out for a straight or a flush or both. You might have a high pair or two pair.
Counting outs will give you a good picture of where you stand on the hand. When a player gets good at counting outs, they will start to count the opponents’ outs as well! This is a skill that takes time to master! But it puts your hand in comparison with the other hands still vying for the pot.
To determine the odds, you simply take your outs and divide them by the number of cards “still in the deck”. Let’s say that you have three outs after the flop. You have seen 5 cards so there are still 47 cards in the deck. the odds of getting an out are 2 divided by 47.
Is that Good?
It may be very good or very bad!
The other players have also counted outs. It could be that an opponent already has a better hand than you can get! The last bit of advice that we can give for new Texas Hold’em players is that this game requires very close attention to every hand. Many new players simply space out on hands that they have folded out of.
Much better is to watch how each player still in the hand plays and how the hand turns out. Knowing what to do on any given hand takes quite some time to learn but if you want to play and enjoy Texas Hold’em it will be time well spent.
Juicy Stakes Poker Offers Great Online Poker
We have just skimmed at the basics so we will return to this subject in subsequent articles. For now, you can’t find a better place to play online poker than JUICY STAKES POKER!