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How to play poker
OK, let's start at the beginning. Texas Hold'em is a fast-paced 7-card game that's the most popular, and most exciting, form of poker played today. If you've ever watched poker on the TV, chances are that you've seen Texas Hold'em.
The all important aim of the game is to make the best 5 card hand that you can, using both the two cards that you're dealt face down and the five community cards dealt face up in the middle of the table. But more of that a little later.
The dealer button
Every hand, one player will get the dealer button (a small disk marked with a D). The position of the dealer is important, as the two players to the dealer's left post the blinds. The dealer button moves to the left after each hand, so everyone acts as the virtual dealer and everyone is required to post blinds.
The player to the immediate left of the dealer posts the small blind, and the player to their left posts the big blind. The blinds are placed in the pot to kickstart the betting and give players an incentive to enter the hand. They also mean that the winner of hand can never walk away completely empty-handed.
The size of the blinds are dictated by the stakes of the table that you're playing at. The small blind is typically half the minimum bet of the game, while the big blind is typically the same as the game's minimum bet. It's probably best illustrated by an example: if you're playing at a $2/$4 table, the small blind will be $1 and the big blind $2.
The opening deal
Once the blinds have been posted, it's time for some cards. Moving clockwise round the table from the dealer, each player receives two cards dealt face down that only they get to see. These are also called pocket cards or hole cards. It's now time to start some betting. That is why we're here after all.
Betting following the opening deal
At this stage, each player is betting on what hand they feel their pocket cards could lead to. The betting starts with the player to the immediate left of the big blind.
For this round of betting, each player has three choices: to fold, raise, or call the big blind. As the players who posted the blinds have effectively opened the betting, each player has to at least call this bet to stay in the hand, so checking isn't an option at this stage.
The betting goes round the table in a clockwise direction until each player has either called, folded or raised. If no-one has raised by the time the betting returns to the person who posted the big blind, this player may check his own blind, fold or raise.
The first round of betting is at the lower level of table stakes, so in a $2/$4 game all raises are increments of $2. Once the betting is completed it's time to see the flop. Just a quick note on betting before you move on. The betting can't go on for ever, as we use the standard bet and three raises model. That is, for any round of betting there can be an opening bet and no more than three raises. After the third raise betting is said to be capped.
Right, now the first round of betting is out of the way, it's time for the flop (things start to get really interesting now). The flop is the set of three cards that are dealt face up in the middle of the table, and each player can use these community cards to build their hand. The middle of the table where these cards are dealt is commonly known as the board.
Now it's time for another round of betting, again at the lower levels of the table stakes. This time, the betting starts with the player to the immediate left of the dealer, regardless of whether the dealer is still active in the hand or not. The player to the left of the dealer will keep the initial action for the rest of the hand. Apart from that, the betting process is the same as pre-flop betting.
The turn card
Once the round of betting has finished, it's time for another card to be dealt face up on the board. This fourth card is called the turn card, and again can be used by all players to construct their hand.
The betting after the turn is now at the higher level of the table stakes, so in a $2/$4 game all bets will now be increments of $4.
Four down, one to go. It's now time for the fifth and final community card to be dealt: the river. Now that all the cards have been dealt, each player remaining in the hand can now see what their best five card hand is. It's now time for the final round of betting, again at the higher level of the table stakes.
Ta da! It's now time to see who's the daddy and takes the pot: the showdown. Each player who's remained in the hand shows their cards, starting with the last person to bet and so on. The winner is decided using these universal hand rankings.
If a player wins a pot by default, that is every other player has folded, there is no showdown and the winning player can decide whether to show their cards or not. Most people don't, it's always nice to keep people guessing.
Remember, you can play poker for free at any of our reccomended poker rooms on this website, so practice before you play poker for real money. For new starters, we reccomend VC Poker