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Rules of Texas Holdem Poker

The game of Texas Holdem is played as a series of Hands. Each Hand can be treated as a stand-alone game broken up into four rounds of betting and ending with a showdown.
A player wins a Hand if:

  • His hand appears to be the strongest at the showdown.
  • or
  • All his opponents folded (surrendered) before the showdown.

Here we should mention that poker terms are sometimes confusing, for example the term 'hand' has two meanings: a phase of a game and a set of cadrs owned by a player. To avoid confusion, further in this article we'll write 'Hand' with capital 'H' when talking about a phase of the game and 'hand' with small 'h' when talking about a set of cards.

The goals of the game can be defined as:
  • Win as many Hands as possible.
  • In each Hand, win as much money as possible.
  • If it's impossible to win a Hand, loose as little as possible - the cornerstone of art of poker is knowing when to fold.

At each round of betting, players evaluate their hands trying to estimate their chances of beating the hands of other players. The hand in poker has exactly 5 cards. The ranking of poker hands and the rules of determining a winning hand are discussed here. A player can select for his hand any 5 cards from:

  • 2 hole cadrs (also called pocket cards), these cards are dealt face down personally to each player.
  • and
  • 5 community cards (also called board cards), which are dealt face up.
Community cards can be shared between hands of different players, for example, if player [A] has hole cards J-J, playe's [B] hole cards are Q-J, and the community cards are Q-J-A-3-7 , then the best hand of player [A] is Three of a Kind J-J-J-A-Q, and the best hand of player [B] is Two Pair Q-Q-J-J-A . Therefore, both players [A] and [B] use community cards A, Q, and J.

A variant of poker involving two players is called Heads Up. In Texas Holdem, the rules for playing Heads Up are slightly different from the rules for a variant involving more than two players. Therefore, when necessary, the Heads Up rules will be mentioned separately.

At the beginning of each Hand, one of the players is assigned a role of a Dealer. As the name suggests, the function of a dealer is to deal the cards throughout the Hand . The dealer is identified by a Dealer Button, at the end of each Hand the button is moved to the next player clockwise. Therefore, at the end of each Hand the role of a dealer is assigned to the player on the left from the current dealer.

Now after we've discussed the basic principles of the game, it's time to have a closer look at a game flow. We'll start with expalining a process of putting the blinds, and then will discuss four rounds of betting one by one.

The Hand starts with putting a mandatory bet called blinds, there are two blinds in Texas Holdem: a small blind and a big blind. Usually, the big bling is twice the amound of a small blind.
In Heads Up, the dealer puts a small blind, and his opponent puts a big blind. In non-Heads Up, the player directly to the left of the dealer puts the small blind, and the player directly to the left of the small blind puts the big blind.
After that, two hole cards are dealt face down to each player.

  • Once all players received their hole cards, the first betting round called a Preflop begins.
    In Heads Up, the small blind is the first to act and has 3 choices:
    • Fold: abandon the hand, loose all money already bet
    • Call: increase the bet to match the big blind
    • Raise: increase the bet to the double amout of the big blind
    In non-Heads Up variant, the player to the left of big blind is the first to act and has the same 3 choices. Once the player has acted, the player to the left from him is the next to act, and has the same 3 choices.
    Once all players have acted and all the players who haven't folded have bet the same amount, the preflop ends.
    At the end of each round all the bets are added to the pot.
  • After that three community cards (called flop) are dealt face up in the middle of the table and the next betting round, also called Flop, begins:
    In case of Heads Up, in flop and in all remaining rounds the opponent of the dealer is the first to act. In non-Heads Up, the player to the left of the dealer is the first to act. The first action in flop can be either check or bet.
    The turn to act moves clockwise: the second player to act is the one to the left of the first one, his options are:
    • If the previous action was check: check, bet
    • If the previous action was bet: fold, call, raise
    The third, fourth and other players to act have the same choices, plus they can fold or raise in response to a previous raise.
    Please note, that the size of a bet in flop is the amound of the big blind.
    Like in preflop, once all players have acted and all the players who haven't folded have bet the same amount, the flop ends.
  • Now the fourth community card is dealt face up and the round of betting called Turn begins.
    The turn is almost identical to the flop, the only difference is that the size of a bet in turn is twice the size of a flop bet.
  • Finally, the fifth community card is dealt face up and the last round of betting called River begins. The river is absolutely identical to Turn.
When the River ends, if more than one player haven't folded by this point, the game enters it's final phase - showdown:
All the players who haven't folded yet put their hole cards face up in order to determine a winning hand according to these rules.
The player with the strongest hand takes the pot, or, if two or more players tie, they split the pot.

After that all the cards are returned into the deck which is then shuffled, the Dealer button is transferred to the next player on the left from the current dealer, and the next Hand is played.