Most people have seen people playing poker on TV or in movies. The most common type of poker shown on the tube is going to be no-limit Texas Hold’em. Why? Because it makes for pretty exciting television with people going “all-in” and shoving a huge stack of chips into the middle of the pot. Ok, so enough of all that drama, let’s just learn the basics of how to play the game.
The first thing you need to know is the order in which you act, or in other words, when it is your turn. You will notice a larger chip, usually with the word “dealer” on it (but not always). This is referred to as the button. The button represents who’s turn it is to deal. In reality, there is usually a designated dealer, but this way, everyone gets a turn at each position on the table. The button moves around the table after each hand, and always to the left of the person who had it last.
The person immediately to the left of the dealer is called the small blind. The next person is called the big blind. The blinds are “forced” to place bets before the cards are even dealt. They are betting without the benefit of looking at their cards, therefore, they are betting “blind”. The small blind puts out a bet equal to half the normal minimum bet and the big blind puts out a normal minimum bet. So for instance, if you are playing in a $1 minimum bet game, then the small blind puts out $.50 and the big blind puts out $1. A $1 minimum bet game might be called $.50/$1 no-limit Hold’em for this reason. The amount of money you buy-in for is usually equal to 100x the big blind, so in this instance, $100. You are usually allowed to buy-in for less, with a minimum somewhere around 40 big blinds.
Once the blind bets are placed, all players are dealt two cards, starting with the small blind and going around the table clockwise. The first person to act once the cards are dealt is the person to the left of the big blind. This position is called “under the gun” (UTG). They have the option of “limping”, or calling the minimum bet, $1 in this case, folding their hand, or raising. Since it is no-limit they can raise up to the total amount they have on the table. Then the action moves clockwise around the table until it gets back to the big blind, who gets to act last during this round of betting. Players then have the option to “call” whatever is the largest bet on the table, fold, or raise. So if UTG raised to $5, then other players have to either call $5, raise, or fold.
After everyone has acted during the first round, the dealer will deal the flop. This is 3 community cards, dealt face-up in the middle of the table. Everyone uses these cards to try to make the best 5 card hand. Again, betting will move around the table, in order, this time starting with the small blind and ending with the button. The minimum bet is still $1, and players can choose to not bet if no one has bet before them – this is called checking. Once someone has bet, the only options are to fold, call, or raise.
Once everyone has acted on the flop, the dealer will turn another card face-up, in the middle of the table. This is called the turn, or fourth street. Again, players try to make the best 5 card hand using any of the cards and betting goes in the same order as on the flop.
The final round of betting comes after the last card is dealt. This card is called the river. Players now have 7 cards that they can use to make the best 5 card hand. Betting again starts with the small blind and moves around the table to the button, who gets to act last.
Once all bets are placed, any players remaining in the hand show their cards and determine who has the best hand. The best hand wins all of the money in the pot. If there is a tie, then the players will split the pot evenly. The button then moves to the left and the process starts over again.
Once you understand how to play the game, you should then spend some time really getting to know the rules, including hand rankings. If you are playing live games, you should learn about the proper poker etiquette. For any type of poker, the real key to becoming a profitable and successful players is to learn and practice the strategy. There are plenty of strategy books, videos, and articles out there. So be sure to do some research and make sure you are using advice from a reputable website or poker player.