At the start of the Texas Holdem poker game, the Dealer shuffles a standard 52-card deck. In casinos and card-rooms, the Dealer does not play. However, when there is a shortage of Dealers or in home games, games may be self-dealt. In self-dealt games, the deal changes each hand in a clockwise direction. In games with a Dealer, a round disc called the “Dealer Button” moves clockwise from player to player with each hand. The Button marks which player would be the dealer if the game was self-dealt.
The Button was previously called “the Buck”, from a buck knife used for the purpose, and is the origin of the phrase “the buck stops here”.
There are no Antes required from all players in Texas Holdem poker game, instead, there are two forced bets called Blinds. Games begin with the two players to the left of the Dealer or putative dealer (The Button) putting a predetermined amount of money (the Blinds) into the pot before any cards are dealt, thus ensuring that there is something to play for on every hand. In tournaments this amount is increased in a time pattern in order to ensure the elimination of players.
Most often, the Small Blind (the player on the immediate left of the dealer) puts up half the minimum bet, and the player on his left (the Big Blind) puts up the full minimum bet. This is called “posting the blinds.”
Each player is dealt two cards, face down (the Hole Cards). He keeps their denominations a secret, usually emphasised by shielding the cards with one hand while turning a corner of them up. The Hole Cards must stay on the table but may be momentarily raised to ensure that a player has full sight of them. They must then be replaced on the table but may be consulted at any time during the hand, but only by the player to whom they were dealt.
The object of the game is to combine these two cards with the five cards which will eventually be laid out in front of the Dealer (“the Board”) to make the best poker hand (see “Hand Order”) among the players. This hand may consist of the two Hole Cards and three of the Board, one Hole Card and four of the Board or – very occasionally – neither of the Hole Cards and just the Board. The holder of this hand wins the Pot (the accumulation of all bets).
First Round of Betting
This takes place immediately after the Deal. The first player to speak is the player to the left of the Big Blind. In non-tournament games he may choose to become a third Blind by placing a bet of double that of the Big Blind before the cards are dealt. This is known as the Straddle. The advantage of this to the Straddler is that in the first round of betting he gets to speak last, which enables him to take into consideration the bets of all the other players.
The First To Speak (on the immediate left of the Big Blind or Straddler) has three options: Call, Raise or Fold.
To Call, the player places a bet that is equal to the Big Blind or Straddle.
To Raise, the player adds an additional amount at paysafe casinos. The size of this amount varies with the type of game being played: in Limit Games, it is a fixed amount and may be Capped (limited) after a set number of rounds, normally four online; in Pot Limit games it cannot be larger than the amount currently in the Pot; in No Limit games, it may be any amount, limited only by the number of chips in front of the player.
To Fold, the player places his cards face-down in front of him and pushes them towards the middle of the table where they constitute the Muck. When any card touches the Muck it is deemed to have been folded. That player can take no further part in the hand and any bets he has made are forfeit.
Subsequent players have the same three options, plus the option to ReRaise (or ReReRaise). A ReRaise must equal at least the size of the last Raise.
After the first betting round, the dealer discards the top card of the deck. This is called Burning, and is done to ensure that no one accidentally saw the top card, and to help prevent cheating. The Burnt Card is placed alongside the Flop, under the next Open Card or in the Muck.
The dealer then places the next three cards face up on the table. These cards are called the Flop.
Second Betting Round
This round and all subsequent betting rounds start with the first player to the dealer’s left still in the hand. In addition to Calling, Raising or Re-Raising, players now have the option to Check – staying in the hand without betting until it is their turn to speak again.
Once a bet has been made a player may choose to Call for that amount or Raise (or ReRaise, where applicable). If he chooses to do neither, he must Fold. Thus, at the end of the round, all players will have put in an equal amount of bets except where a player has an inadequate amount of chips in front of him; in that case, he may go All-In (betting the total amount he has) and one or more Side Pots are established, limiting the amount he may win to an accumulation of equal amounts from the Main Pot from players who contributed to that pot.
The Turn (also called Fourth Street)
After the completion of the Second Betting Round, a further card is Burned.(discarded) and the next card exposed and added to the Board. This the Turn card.
Third Betting Round
In Limit games, the fixed amount doubles and remains at that amount for the final round of betting.
The River (also called Fifth Street)
After the completion of the Third Betting Round, a further card is Burned and the fifth and final community card is exposed and added to the Board. This is the River card.
Fourth Betting Round
This precedes the Show-Down, when the challenged player must reveal his cards.
If two or more players have the same hand, the next highest card in the player’s hand (the Kicker) is used to break the tie. If there is no kicker card (the tied players have used both Hole Cards, or have the same hand), the pot is split between them.
Players wishing to Play the Board (relying on the five exposed cards to make the best hand) must announce that this is what they are doing before throwing their cards away; otherwise they relinquish all claim to the pot.
If the first Hole Card dealt is exposed, a misdeal results. The dealer will retrieve the card, reshuffle, and recut the cards.
If any other Hole Card is exposed due to a dealer error, the deal continues. The exposed card may not be kept. After completing the hand, the dealer replaces the card with the top card on the deck, and the exposed card is then used for the Burn Card. If more than one Hole Card is exposed, this is a misdeal and there must be a redeal.
If the Flop contains too many cards, it must be redealt (this applies even if it were possible to know which card was the extra one.)
If the Flop needs to be redealt because the cards were prematurely Flopped before the betting was complete, or the Flop contained too many cards, the Board Cards are mixed with the remainder of the deck. The Burn Card remains on the table. After shuffling, the dealer cuts the deck and deals a new Flop without burning a card.
If the dealer turns the fourth card on the board before the betting round is complete, the card is taken out of play for that round, even if subsequent players elect to fold. The betting is then completed. The dealer burns and turns what would have been the fifth card in the fourth card’s place. After this round of betting, the dealer reshuffles the deck, including the card that was taken out of play, but not including the Burn Cards or discards. The dealer then cuts the deck and turns the final card without burning a card. If the fifth card is turned up prematurely, the deck is reshuffled and dealt in the same manner.
If the dealer mistakenly deals the first player an extra card (after all players have received their starting hands), the card will be returned to the deck and used for the Burn Card. If the dealer mistakenly deals more than one extra card, it is a misdeal.