Poker: Texas in Singapore, Images of skip caps, whiskey, and cigars are inextricably linked to the classic casino card game of poker. With as many variants as there types of whiskey, the game has become more of an institution than a simple card game.
Most modern-day poker players know Texas Hold’em and little else, but the truth is that there have been many variations of poker going as far back as ancient China and Persia. Poker burst onto the European scene in France in the 17th century with a game called Poque, and it is from here that the eventual name was probably derived.
Like most modern casino games, poker was brought to the New World by French colonists. It was originally played in New Orleans, but spread to the Wild West with the expanding population before exploding in popularity during the US Civil War in the 1860s. It was during the Civil War era that many of the current rules and versions of poker were established, including Draw Poker, Stud Poker and the straight.
Texas Hold’em was invented in the southern Texas town of Robstown in the early 20th century, but it only received its big break when it was introduced at a small Las Vegas casino called the Golden Nugger in 1967. Two years later the Dune Casino held a Texas Hold’em tournament, and it was around this time the game started to attract attention.
In 1970, the Binion brothers acquired the struggling Gambling Fraternity Convention and turned it into the World Series of Poker, which of course is now the world’s biggest poker tournament. Their decision to use Texas Hold’em in the Main Event was one that would have ramifications for the entire online gambling industry.
Thanks to WSOP and its exposure on television, Texas Hold’em became the most popular form of poker in the world. This position was cemented with the arrival of the Internet in the late 20th century, which ensured that Texas Hold’em and online poker could be enjoyed by hundreds of millions from around the world.
The following dictionary includes terms that are part of basic poker terminology and others that are specifically used in Texas Hold’em.
Blinds: Forced bets that are made by the two players to the left of the dealer (person immediately to left places small blind, person two to left places big blind).
Bluff: Tactic in which player bets on a weak hand in order to push those with stronger hands out of the game.
Buy-in: Value of chips player must purchase to participate in a poker game.
Community Cards: In Texas Hold’em, five cards dealt face-up for use by all players.
Flop: First round, in which three community cards are dealt face-up.
Flush: Five cards of the same suit.
Hole Cards: Two cards dealt to the player.
Pair: Two cards of the same value, e.g., pair of 4s or pair of Aces.
Pot: Total value of bets placed on any given hand.
Rake: House commission from every pot. This is how the House makes money from poker games.
River: Fifth and final community card that is dealt.
Round of Betting: Players make choose one of four options at each betting round: check, call, raise or fold.
Royal Flush: Ace-high straight of matching suit – i.e., Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten of Spades. This is the best (albeit, rarely seen) possible hand in poker.
Straight: Five consecutive cards of any suit, e.g. Jack, 10, 9, 8 and 7.
Trips: Three-of-a-king, e.g. three Jacks or three 4s.
Turn: Fourth community card to be dealt.
A game of Texas Hold’em begins with the dealer (or a player) shuffling a standard 52-card deck. The player to the left of the “dealer” button posts a small blind (half of minimum bet) and the player two to the left posts a big blind (minimum bet). The dealer deals two “hole-cards” to each player, starting with the player to his left.
The first round of betting is held, starting with the player to the left of the big blind and continuing in a clockwise direction. Players may either check (if they have already matched the maximum bet on the table), call (add money to the pot to match the max bet), raise (bet more than max bet) or fold (quit the hand and forfeit all standing bets).
The flop comes out: the dealer burns the top card on the deck and flips three community cards. Another round of betting takes place, starting with the player to the left of the dealer button. Then comes the turn, (fourth community card), another round of betting, river (fifth community card) and final round of betting before players turn over their cards.
If two or more players remain in the game after the river, the dealer reveals the five community cards and the winner is determined. The winner is the player with the best five-card hand (using their two hole cards and five community cards).
The best hands, in order, are:
Royal Flush: Ace-high straight Flush
Straight Flush: Hand containing five consecutive cards of same suit.
Four of a kind: Hand containing four cards of same rank and one other card.
Full House: Hand containing three cards of one rank and two of another rank.
Flush: Hand containing five unmatched cards of the same suit.
Straight: Five cards of sequential rank of various suits.
Three of a kind: Hand in which three cards have same rank and two do not.
Two pair: Hand in which there are two pairs of cards with same rank and one other card.
Pair: Hand in which two of the cards have same rank as each other.
High Card: If nobody wins with Pair or better, the game is won by the player with the highest single card (beginning with Ace).
Like all forms of poker, Texas Hold’em is a game of skill in which maths, bluffing and other advanced strategy can help you on your quest to victory. For beginners, the most important thing to know is basic strategy: whether your hole cards are worth playing with or whether to fold and wait for the next hand.
As a general rule, if you receive two non-pair cards valued at less than 10, your chances of winning the hand are low. If you receive a pair or at least one card worth 10 or more, it might be worth staying in the game and seeing what happens. The rest of basic strategy requires a cost-risk analysis of how good or bad your cards are and how much you need to spend to stay in the game. Sometimes it’s worth putting in a little more to see what happens, while at other times it’s better to fold a hand and wait until you receive better cards.
- Don’t play every hand. We are all competitive people (poker people especially) but the laws of probability say you won’t win every hand. Once you’ve played enough times, you’ll know when to hold them and know when to fold them, as the song teaches us.
- Don’t keep playing a hand just because you’ve already invested time and money. This rule applies just as well to poker as it does in real life. If your cards are no good and your opponent has raised the stakes through the roof, it may be worth considering your initial bet a sunk cost.
- Keep calm. The best poker players never get angry. They remain cool, keep their thoughts clear, and keep their eyes on the table and on their opponents.
Take note of the community cards. These belong to everyone, so if you concentrate closely enough you will figure out not only your best potential five-card combination but also the best potential five-card combo of your opponents.