How to Play Texas Hold’em All in, partner? Texas Hold’em is a popular kind of poker in which each player is dealt two cards and hopes to combine them with a community pool of five more cards to make the best five card hand. Wagering, along with bluffing, is the largest part of the game, as players raise the stakes and choose whether to continue betting based on their odds of winning the pot as more of the community cards are revealed. Hold’em is the variation of poker most often played in casinos and in televised tournaments like the World Series of Poker. Online versions are also very popular, but all you really need to play is a few friends and a deck of cards.
Method 1 of 4: Playing a Hand
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Set up a bank. One trusted player, or an outside party, should collect and count the money, or whatever you are wagering, and exchange it for poker chips for each player. If you are not playing for money, then the bank should simply divvy out an equal number of chips to each player. There are a couple ways to organize your game from here.
- No limit buy-in, winner takes all. In this version, each player buys into the game with a set amount—perhaps $5 for a friendly game, or hundreds for more serious wagering. There is no limit on how many of their chips a player can bet—you can go “all in”—but if a player runs out they are out of the game unless allowed to buy back in for another share of chips. In these tournaments players are usually eliminated one by one until the last remaining player wins the whole pot.
- Limit, no buy in. In these games betting at each stage of the hand is constrained, but players can usually buy more chips at any time. This means that instead of playing until eliminated, players simply wager until they are no longer willing to put up more money. Often a player can cash out of the game to take their winnings at any time.
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Pick who deals first. Give this person a token, “the button,” and a standard deck of 52 playing cards (no jokers). The dealer shuffles the cards and always deals to his her her left, clockwise around the table. After each hand the button is passed to the left, and the job of dealing thus rotates around the table.
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Ante up. Have each player put in an “ante”—the minimum bet for the table before seeing any cards. Using an ante is optional, but it keeps the game moving and makes sure pots are always sizable.
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Deal each player two cards face down. Hand them out one at a time, starting to the dealer’s left and ending with the dealer. Players can look at their own cards and should keep them hidden. These are the “hole” or “pocket” cards, and each player hopes their pair combines best with the community cards.
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Put in the small and big blinds. The player to the left of the dealer for each hand is the small blind and must first put in half the decided minimum bet. The next player to the left is the big blind, who puts in the full minimum. Betting begins in earnest to the left of the big blind.
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Call, raise or fold based on your pocket cards. Starting with the player to the left of the big blind, each player must meet or increase the current stakes to stay in the hand. If a player choses to raise, the next player must meet or raise that new bet, and so on. Raises must often be in increments of the minimum (big blind) bet. If a player doesn’t think their two pocket cards are good, they may fold, quitting the pot and sitting out the rest of the hand. Betting goes around the table clockwise until every player has either folded or called. If one player makes a bet none of the remaining players are willing to match, the hand ends and that player wins the pot.
- When betting circles the table and returns to the big and small blind players, these players subtract the money they’ve already put in from the current stakes. Thus if no player bets more than the minimum, the big blind has the “option” to either raise or stay in the game at no additional cost.
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Deal out “the flop,” three cards face up where everyone can see. These are community cards that players still in the betting hope will combine favorably with their pocket cards.
- Before dealing out the flop, or any subsequent cards, the dealer should discard, or “burn,” the top card of the deck face down to prevent cheating.
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Bet, check or fold again. There is another round of betting, this time without blinds starting with the player to the dealer’s left. Players are betting on the total of the two cards they have face down in front of them and the three community cards face up in front of the dealer.
- If no one has yet bet, players may “check” to pass without betting. If no one bets the game moves on, but if a bet is made those that checked must call the new stakes to stay in the game.
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Flip “the turn” and have another round of betting. The turn is a fourth community card dealt face out by the dealer. Now players evaluate their chances based on the best five-card combination of their two hidden hole cards and these four community cards—with the knowledge that they there is one more community card that could improve their hand. Players without a significant combination at this point should probably fold unless they hope to bluff their opponents out of the pot.
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Deal the last community card, “the river,” and have a final round of betting. Since the river is the last card, players bet based on the best five-card hand in these seven total cards—this hand will not improve, so fold now it you don’t believe it is going to win. Again, if one player makes a bet the remaining players aren’t willing to match, he or she wins without having to reveal his cards.
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Reveal your hands for “the showdown.” Assuming there are at least two players who haven’t folded by the end of the last round of betting, the remaining players flip over their two pocket cards, starting with the last player to bet and going counter-clockwise. Each player announces their five card hand. The player with the highest hand wins the pot (the total sum of all chips bet on this hand).
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Rotate the button, shuffle the deck and play again. Hold’em poker usually continues until most of the players have been knocked out or quit and either a single winner has all the chips or the remaining players choose to split the pot proportional to how much each has won.
Method 2 of 4: Understanding Poker Hands
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Understand the ten basic poker hands. Poker is based on assigning ranked value to different combinations of cards. The hand with the rarest combination wins. Below are the different standard poker hands from lowest to highest.
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High Card. When a hand has nothing, it’s value is simply based on the highest card, with 2 being the lowest and Ace being the highest.
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Two of a Kind. Two of the same value card. Example: 3(♠) – J(♣) – J(♥) – 2(♥) – 5(♦) is a pair of Jacks’s.
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Two Pairs. Two sets of two of the same value card. Example: 4(♥) – 4(♦) – 9(♠) – 9(♣) – A(♠) is two pairs of 4’s and 9’s.
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Three of a Kind. Three of the same value cards. Example: 6(♣) – 6(♦) – 6(♠) – 3(♠) – J(♣) is three 6’s.
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Straight. Five cards running in order of any suit. Example: 5(♣) – 6(♠) – 7(♣) – 8(♦) – 9(♥) is a straight.
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Flush. Five cards of all the same suit. Example: 5(♥) – 7(♥) – 9(♥) – J(♥) – Q(♥) is a flush.
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Full House. Three of a kind and a pair. Example: 7(♥) – 7(♣) – 7(♠) – Q(♥) – Q(♦) is a full house.
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Four of a Kind. 4 cards all with the same value. Example: J(♥) – J(♠) – J(♣) – J(♦) – 5(♣) is four of a kind
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Straight Flush. The highest possible hand in poker. Same as a straight, but all cards are of the same suit. Example: 3(♥) – 4(♥) – 5(♥) – 6(♥) – 7(♥) is a straight flush.
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Royal Flush – Same as a straight flush, but the cards are the ace, king, queen, jack and ten. Example: 10(♣) – J(♣) – Q(♣) – K(♣) – A(♣)
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Compare equally valued hands. If you have two players at the showdown each with the same type of hand, the winner is determined by whose version is higher in number. Here’s how this rule plays out:
- A pair of 9’s beats a pair of 4’s.
- Two pair, Jacks’s and 2’s, beats two pair, 7’s and 5’s.
- A straight that runs as high as Queen beats a straight that only runs up to 10.
- An Ace-high flush beats a King-high flush.
- If hands have combinations of the same value, the hand with the highest extra card wins. For example a pair of 8’s with an Ace-high remainder beats a pair of 8’s with a 10-high.
Method 3 of 4: Being Aware of Corner Cases
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Going “all-in.” If you are very confident your hand will win, or you believe no other player will be willing to match you, you can put all your chips on the line—a bold move. If you have more more chips than an opponent, you may put them all in by betting equal to their total chips. If only one player calls, each reveals their cards and any remaining community cards are dealt out.
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Making side pots. If one player is all in, players who call that still have more chips can still make additional bets with each other. This is called a “side pot.” Set aside one pot equal to the bets made up to each remaining player calling the “all-in.” This is the total of what the all-in player can win. The remaining players can bet against each other into a separate pot. At the showdown the main pot goes to the player with the best hand, and the side pot (or pots) go to best hand amongst the players who contributed.
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Playing “heads-up.” The order of betting is slightly different when playing with only two players. The player with the dealer button posts the small blind and his or her opponent is the big blind. The small blind is then the first to wager in each betting round.
Method 4 of 4: Mastering Strategy
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Bluff. Bluffing involves pretending your cards are better than they are, and making aggressive bets to force out all the other players—thus winning the pot with a poor or mediocre hand. Bluffing is risky, however, since you never know when an opponent might have a strong enough hand to call you all the way to the showdown.
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Read your opponents. Poker isn’t just a game of chance—it’s a game of psychology. Watch your opponents carefully for “tells”—involuntary ticks of body language that reveal when a player if bluffing or has a good hand. Also learn your opponent’s attitudes and habits. You don’t want to try to bluff against someone who will call every time.
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Juice the pot. If you have a hand you are positive is going to win, you want to get other players to bet as much as possible. To do this, don’t bet too aggressively. Rather, make your raises incrementally to string the other players along.
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Do the math. Poker is also a game of statistics. If you can, calculate the chances that the next card or cards will be one of the “outs” that makes your weak hand a winning one—or that makes your opponent’s potential hand one that beats yours. Don’t bet when the odds are far against you.
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Fold often. If your pocket cards are notably bad (2-7 off suit is considered the worst hand) or if you have no notable combinations after the flop, just fold immediately. Realistically you should only be playing about one hand in four, and the more players in the game the more conservatively you should play. If you’ve seen a poker game on TV, it can seem like the pros are playing every hand, but that’s the magic of television—they don’t show the hands where a majority of players fold immediately. Many players will fold immediately (without even seeing the flop) unless they have at least a pair or an ace.
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Manage your bankroll. For serious poker players, keeping a well-tended bankroll allows you to survive the ups and downs of the game without going broke. Start your poker session with a specific bankroll and decide how much you are willing to lose. It is recommended in Texas Hold’em to have a bankroll of 10 times the buy in amount for a game.