Texas hold 'em (also hold'em, holdem) is the most popular type of poker in the professional poker playing community. It is also the most popular poker variant played in casinos in the United States, and its no-limit betting form is used in the main event of the World Series of Poker (WSOP), as seen on ESPN, widely recognized as the world championship of the game. It is also the main game in the World Poker Tour (WPT) that hosts international poker tournaments around the globe. This main stream popularity has made it very popular with strip poker players.
Although it can theoretically be played by up to 22 players (or 23 if burn cards are not used), it is generally played with between 2 and 10 people. It is one of the most positional of all poker variants, since the order of betting is fixed throughout all betting rounds. Hold 'em is commonly played in the rest of the world as well, but seven-card stud, Omaha hold 'em and other games may be more popular in some places.
Strip Poker - Texas Hold'em - Origins
There is no precise information on where or when Texas Hold 'em Poker was first played. According to legend, the earliest game played was in Robstown, Texas, in the early 1900s and it first came to Dallas, Texas in 1925. Texas hold 'em was introduced to Las Vegas by a group of Texan gamblers and card players, including Crandell Addington, Doyle Brunson, and Amarillo Slim. Addington wrote about the history of no-limit Texas hold'em for Brunson's Super System 2. The game was later introduced to Europe by bookmakers Terry Rogers and "The Gentleman" Liam Flood.
Strip Poker - Texas Hold'em - Rules
The descriptions below assume a familiarity with the general game play of poker, and with poker hands. For a general introduction to these topics, See Strip Poker, Poker Hand Ranks, Poker Hand Probability, and Poker Hand Slang Names.
Strip Poker - Texas Hold'em - Objective
Like most variants of poker, the objective of Texas Hold 'em is to win the pot, which is the sum of the money bet by oneself and other players. The pot is won either at the showdown by forming the best poker hand out of up to 7 cards available, or by betting to cause other players to fold and abandon their claim to the pot.
Strip Poker - Texas Hold'em - Betting Structures
Hold 'em is normally played using small and big blind bets. Antes may be used in addition to blinds, particularly in later stages of tournament play. A dealer button is used to represent the player in the dealer position; the dealer button rotates clockwise after each hand, changing the position of the dealer and blinds. The small blind is posted by the player to the left of the dealer and is usually equal to half of the big blind. The big blind, posted by the player to the left of the small blind, is equal to the minimum bet. In tournament poker, the blind/ante structure periodically increases as the tournament progresses. (In some cases, the small blind is some other fraction of a small bet, e.g. $10 is a common small blind when the big blind is $15. The double-blind structure described above is relatively recent; until the 1980s, a single-blind structure was most common.)
The three most common variations of hold 'em are limit hold 'em, no-limit hold 'em and pot-limit hold 'em. Limit hold 'em has historically been the most popular form of hold 'em found in casino live action games in the United States. In limit hold 'em, bets and raises during the first two rounds of betting (pre-flop and flop) must be equal to the big blind; this amount is called the small bet. In the next two rounds of betting (turn and river), bets and raises must be equal to twice the big blind; this amount is called the big bet. No-limit hold 'em is the form most commonly found in televised tournament poker and is the game played in the main event of the World Series of Poker. In no-limit hold 'em, players may bet or raise any amount over the minimum raise up to all of chips the player has at the table (called an all-in bet). In pot-limit hold 'em, the maximum raise is the current size of the pot.
Strip Poker - Texas Hold'em - Play of the Hand
Play begins with each player being dealt two cards face down. These cards are the player's hole or pocket cards. These are the only cards each player will receive individually, and they will only (possibly) be revealed at the showdown, making Texas hold 'em a closed poker game. The hand begins with a "pre-flop" betting round, beginning with the player to the left of the big blind (or the player to the left of the dealer, if no blinds are used) and continuing clockwise.
After the pre-flop betting round, the dealer deals a burn card, followed by three face-up community cards called the flop. The flop is followed by a second betting round. This and all subsequent betting rounds begin with the player to the dealer's left and continue clockwise.
After the flop betting round ends, another card is burned, and a single community card called the turn (or fourth street) is dealt, followed by a third betting round. A final burn card is followed by a single community card called the river (or fifth street), followed by a fourth betting round and the showdown, if necessary.
Strip Poker - The Showdown
If a player bets and all other players fold, then the remaining player is awarded the pot and is not required to show his hole cards. If two or more players remain after the final betting round, a showdown occurs. On the showdown, each player plays the best five-card hand he can make from the seven cards comprising his two hole cards and the board (the five community cards). A player may use both of his own two hole cards, only one, or none at all, to form his final five-card hand. If the five community cards form the player's best hand, then the player is said to be playing the board and can only hope to split the pot.
If the best hand is shared by more than one player (e.g. if no player is able to beat the board), then the pot is split equally amongst all remaining players. However, it is common for players to have closely-valued, but not identically ranked hands. In particular, kickers are often needed to break ties. Nevertheless, one must be careful in determining the best hand. The goal is to make the best five-card hand; if the hand involves fewer than five cards, such as two pair or three of a kind, then kickers are used to settle ties (see the second example below.) Straights often split the pot, and multiple flushes may occur. In the case of flushes, the flush is awarded to the player with the highest flush card which completes a flush and beats the board's flush cards. If there is a flush on board, (i.e. if all the board cards are the same suit), then under cards in that suit do not play, and if no one has a card in the flush suit beating the board, then the pot is split. The sole exception to this rule is the case of a straight-flush.
The best possible hand given the five community cards is referred to as the nuts. The lowest possible nuts is three queens (this occurs with, for example, 2 3 7 8 Q on the board, with no more than two cards of any one suit).
Strip Poker - Texas Hold'em - Starting Hand Terminology
There are 1,326 distinct possible combinations of two hole cards from a standard 52-card deck. However, since suits are only relevant for flushes, many of these hands are indistinguishable from the point of view of pre-flop strategy. In fact, considering suits to be equivalent unless both cards are the same suit, there are precisely 169 distinct possible starting hands in hold 'em.
As an example, although J♥ J♣ and J♦ J♠ are distinct combinations of hole cards, they are indistinguishable as starting hands. Any starting hand comprising two Jacks is called pocket jacks and is denoted JJ. Similarly, any starting hand comprised of two Aces is called pocket Aces and is denoted AA, and any starting hand comprised of two 7's is called pocket sevens and is denoted 77. Each of these starting hands is called a pocket pair or a wired pair.
The starting hands which are not pocket pairs fall into two classes“ the suited hands and the unsuited hands. An example of a suited hand is 8♠ 7♠. Any starting hand comprised of an 8 and a 7 of the same suit is called 8-7 suited and is denoted 87s, where "s" is an abbreviation for "suited". An example of an unsuited hands is Q♣ 9♦. Any starting hand comprised of a Queen and a 9 of different suits is called queen-nine off suit and is denoted Q9 (or sometimes Q9o, where "o" is an abbreviation for "off suit"). Remember, an "s" always denotes a suited starting hand, while the absence of an "s" always denotes an off suit starting hand.
In almost all poker writing, the rank of 10 is abbreviated with the letter "T", so that all the ranks can be written with a single character, unless cards are featured pictorially when "10" is often used.
Consecutive cards of the same suit are called suited connectors. Many starting hands have colloquial names. See also List of slang names for poker hands.
Strip Poker - Texas Hold'em Strategy
There is no easy way to state proper strategy for Texas hold 'em games. In general, most authors recommend a tight-aggressive approach to playing regular cash games. This strategy involves playing relatively few hands (tight), but betting and raising often with those that one does play (aggressive). Although this is an often recommended strategy, there are some professional players who employ other strategies to great success. Many strategy guides focus on playing very few starting card combinations and discuss many particular starting cards in extreme detail. Other authors claim that the importance of starting card combinations is overstated.
Almost all authors agree that altering one's play based on one's position is an important component of proper Texas hold 'em strategy. Since the order of actions is approximately the same on every betting round (with the exceptions of the blinds before the flop), those who will act later have more information than those who must act earlier. As a result, almost all poker strategy discussions encourage players to play fewer hands in early position and more in later position.
The no-limit and fixed limit versions of hold 'em are strategically very different. "In fact, the games are so different that there are not many players who rank with the best in both types of hold 'em. Many no-limit players have difficulty gearing down for limit, while limit players often lack the courage and 'feel' necessary to excel at no-limit." Since the size of bets are usually smaller in limit games, the ability to bluff in this game is somewhat curtailed. Since one is not (usually) risking all of ones money in limit, players are sometimes advised to take more chances.
In addition to these differences, lower stakes limit games exhibit different properties than higher stakes games. Small stakes games usually involve more players in each hand and can vary from extremely passive (little raising and betting) to extremely aggressive (many raises). The difference of small stakes games have resulted in several books dedicated to only those games.
Strip Poker - Texas Hold'em - In Popular Culture
In 1998, the movie Rounders starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton gave moviegoers a romantic view of poker as a way of life. Texas hold 'em was the main game played during the movie and the no-limit variety was described, following Doyle Brunson, as the "Cadillac of Poker". There was also a clip of the classic showdown between Johnny Chan and Erik Seidel from the 1988 World Series of Poker incorporated into the film.
CommanderBond.net reports that the centerpiece card game in the next James Bond film, Casino Royale, will be no-limit Texas hold 'em instead of Baccarat as in the original Ian Fleming novel.
Strip Poker - Texas Hold'em - Spectator Sport
Hold 'em first caught the public eye as a spectator sport in the United Kingdom with the Late Night Poker TV show in 1999. The popularity of the show led to lipstick cameras also being used for American poker programs.
In 2003, hold 'em exploded in popularity as a spectator sport in the United States. This was due to several factors, including the introduction of lipstick cameras that allowed the television audience to see the players' hidden cards. ESPN's coverage of the 2003 World Series of Poker featured the unexpected victory of Internet player Chris Moneymaker, an amateur player who gained admission to the tournament by winning a series of online tournaments. Moneymaker's victory initiated a sudden surge of interest in the WSOP, based on the egalitarian idea that anyone “ even a rank novice“ can become a world champion.
In 2003, there were 839 entrants in the WSOP Main Event. In 2004, that number tripled. The crowning of the 2004 WSOP champion, Greg "Fossilman" Raymer, a patent attorney from Connecticut whose trademark holographic sunglasses have become legendary, further fueled the popularity of the event among amateur (and particularly internet) players. In the 2005 Main Event, an unprecedented 5,619 entrants vied for a first prize of $7,500,000. The winner, Joseph Hachem of Australia, was a semi-professional player. The runner-up, Steve Dannenmann, an amateur from Maryland, opined that he was only "the fourth or fifth best player" in his regular home game.
Two additional hold 'em series debuted in 2003, the World Poker Tour and Celebrity Poker Showdown. All three of these shows are still currently in production and garner a large and loyal viewership.
With the ability to edit a tournament that lasts days into just a few hours, ESPN's World Series of Poker focuses on showing how various star players fared in each event. Key hands from throughout the many days of each event are shown, and similar, highly edited coverage of final tables is also provided.
The World Poker Tour does not offer general coverage of the multi-day poker tournaments. Instead, WPT covers only the action at the final table of each event. With aggressive play and increasing blinds and antes, the important action from a single table can easily be edited into a two hour episode. Although the tournament fate of fewer stars are chronicled this way, it allows the drama to build more naturally toward the final heads up showdown.
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