Poker won’t be enjoyable for you – or other players at the table – if you don’t learn the rules first. Not only won’t you have a good time, but you won’t have a chance to win any money either – in fact, you’ll probably lose most of your chips pretty early on. Poker is a simple game to play, but there are certain regulations and technical terms that you should know before you sit down at a card table. These will give you the confidence to bet and bluff, as well as pacing yourself in terms of raising the stakes. There are many different variations on the rules of poker, but learning how to play Texas Hold ‘Em is the most common way people first get into the game, as well as the best method for beginners. Here are some basics that will help you get started.
Poker has always been one of the most popular card games in casinos or at home with friends. It has become a distinctive presence in our popular culture, appearing in countless films, TV shows, and songs. Iconic, atmospheric, exciting, and lucrative (if you’re lucky). And its appeal is only broadening, bolstered by the huge online casino industry. More and more players are finding their feet under the card tables on their computers, smartphones, and tablets, many of whom have never set foot in a brick-and-mortar casino before. Every continent enjoys online casinos, and one of the newest and fastest-growing markets is Africa. When it comes to online poker South Africa is the market leader – millions of players enjoying all the variations in thousands of casinos.
Texas Hold ‘Em
All of the major marquee tournaments on the professional poker circuit play no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em – and pretty much every casino you walk into or tap into online will feature it prominently. Since it’s the most popular variation of poker, we’ll have a quick rundown of the basic outline and rules.
The idea is to use your ‘hole’ cards (the two cards you’re dealt initially, face down) to build the best possible hand, betting on it at every stage of the way. Following the hole cards are the community cards, placed face-up on the table, which every player can use in their hand. The first stage of these is called the ‘flop’ (the first three cards dealt). After that, the ‘turn’ card and ‘river’ card complete the seven-card setup. The winner is usually the player with the highest hand, using bluffing tactics and causing others to fold is possible, mainly when the highest hand is relatively weak.
The first thing you should familiarise yourself with before you play is hand rankings. The hand you have determines how you approach betting and bluffing. Recognising when some unpromising cards could lead to a flush or a straight is all-important – a pair of queens as your hole cards could end up being the weakest hand in the latter stages. Misjudging the strength of a hand is one of the most common mistakes for poker newbies. Getting to know the hand rankings will also allow you to assess what cards your opponents might be holding.
‘Small blind’ and ‘big blind’ are forced bets at the start of each hand, placed by the player to the left of the dealer button, and the next player to the left, respectively. This creates a starting pot for the players, and if there were no blinds in poker games, the best strategy would be to fold everything except premium hands because it would be free to wait.
Once each player is dealt their hole cards they must match the big blind to stay in the hand. At this point, a player with strong hole cards may choose to raise (matching and then raising to require players to match this raise). At each of the stages, players must decide what to do – if they have a weak hand (or have been out-bluffed) they fold, giving up their stake in the pot. A player can ‘check’ – choosing not to raise, as long as they have kept up with the betting. Once all cards have been dealt players can continue raising, and re-raising, until finally one or more players ‘calls’, by matching the high bet. Then all cards are turned over, and the winner is revealed.
Poker is simple to learn, but tough to master. And for a simple game, it throws open some incredibly complex situations. To have more fun, and win more money, getting to grips with the rules is essential.