“The beauty of poker is that on the surface it is a game of utter simplicity, yet beneath the surface it is profound, rich, and full of subtlety.”To reach those depths and discover the hiddensubtleties will take some practice, and if you want to minimise the bad beats that every newcomer takesyou should arm yourself with some basic knowledge at the very least. This post and those that followaim to transform you into a better player, so ante up and let’s get into the action!History
Poker has come a long way from humble beginnings in the 19thcentury. What began as a recreational form of gambling has now become an international pastimewith countless tournaments played across the world. Since the ‘80s the game has been commonplace inpopular culture and by 2009 the International Federation of Poker began marketing poker as a mind sport.
The noughties saw a huge surge in the game’s popularity, with the rise of online gambling and televisedpoker tournaments. People now hold poker nights at their houses and top poker players are minor celebrities.Pokeris a generic term for a large group of card games, from seven-card stud and Texas hold ‘em to lowballand razz. Without a shadow of a doubt, Texas hold ‘em is the most popular variant, the most commonform found online and in tournaments, and the one that most players learn first.As is often the case,Texas hold ‘em has hazy origins.
The official birthplace of the game is recognised as Robstown, Texas,from where its popularity spread during the first half of the 20thcentury. By the 1960s the game had reached Las Vegas with the Golden Nugget being the only casinoto offer it. The game was introduced to Sin City by a group of notorious professional gamblers, includingDoyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim, and Crandell Addington. Addington is quoted as saying:
“They didn't call it Texas hold 'em at the time, they just called it hold 'em.… I thought then that if it were to catch on, it would become the game. Draw poker, you bet only twice; hold 'em, you bet four times. That meant you could play strategically. This was more of a thinking man's game."Hewas right: it has becomethegame and inspired countless books on the tactics of the games. For that reason, we will only belooking at hold ’em in this strategy guide.
The BasicsHold ‘em is both a high game and a communitycard game: the highest-ranked hand wins and players make the best hand they can from the two cardsthey are dealt and the shared community cards.
Initially three community cards are dealt, commonly knownas the flop, then two more, known as the “turn” and the “river” cards (assuming the game goesto completion).The game tends to take place with two or more players with the maximum usually being nineor ten on a table.
As is common in most variants of poker, a standard 52-card deck is used without jokers.Thegameplay starts with the dealer dealing each player (including themself) two cards face down in an anticlockwisefashion, with the dealer getting the last card. These cards are named either pocket or hole cards andare usually shown by card cameras in televised games.
There’s only a chance of players showing whathands they have when it comes to a showdown.Betting begins pre-flop (before the first three communitycards are dealt) after the blinds have been placed. Blinds are just chips that add value to the pot,essentially so there’s more to win if not much betting goes on. There are small and big blinds withbig blinds usually being double the small blinds. The players who have to pay the blinds are those tothe left of the dealer with the first paying the small one and the second paying the big one.
The dealer,also called the button, rotates left around the table so those who have to pay the blinds changes everytime.Betting is the most important aspect of the game, but before we get to it you’ll need to knowhow the hands are ranked so you can work out your probability of winning. The easiest way to do thisis with a table:The table pretty much clears up the rankings. The only thing left to explain is that cards are rankedlow to high from 2 to Ace, so three or “trip” sevens will beat three sixes, and a pair of kings willbeat a pair of queens, for example.Depending on what you are dealt and what community cards come up,you can bet in several different ways: check, call, raise, re-raise, go all-in just bet. As an exampleof how betting works, imagine you are the player to the left of the big blind, so the first person whocan get in on the action.
You can check and bet nothing. If you have a bad hand you can fold it. If youlike the look of your cards you can bet any amount if there’s no limit but usually you’d make a smallbet. If you bet, other players can call, which means they bet the same amount or they can raise you bybetting more than you. You can then call this bet or re-raise. In each round this can technically goon until all players go all-in (have put all their chips in the pot) or everybody calls or folds.Thisis the minimum you need to know before getting yourself involved in a poker game.
There’s an immenseamount of probability and theory that goes into poker strategy and much of it centres on betting plays,psychology and things like pot-to-stack ratios. If you want to play more like a pro you’ll need tolook into this,