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Texas Hold 'Em

Texas Hold'em is by far the most popular variant of poker played today. It is a relatively simple game to learn but takes a lifetime to master.

Each player is dealt two ‘hole cards' which only they can see and use. Five community cards are dealt in stages face up in the middle of the table which everyone can use. The winner is the player who makes the best five card poker hand from the seven cards available to them.

To determine where to start dealing the cards from, a disc known as the dealer button is used. Dealing starts to the left of the dealer button and the player on the dealer button has the advantage of acting last during subsequent betting rounds. The dealer button rotates round the table clockwise after each hand so that every player has the positional advantage of being the dealer.

 

To get the action started the two players to the left of the dealer button must post bets before they have seen their cards. These bets are known as blinds. The person to the immediate left of the dealer button posts the ‘small' blind. This is usually half the amount of the ‘big' blind which the next player to the left posts.

All players are then dealt two cards face down which are known as ‘hole cards'. The action starts with the player to the left of the big blind. He has the option to fold, call (match the size of the last bet – in this case the big blind) or raise (bet more than the last bet – the size of raise allowed will depend on the type of game being played). Each player in turn (the action always goes in a clockwise direction) will have the same options and the betting round will be complete when all players have put the same amount of money into the pot. This betting round is called ‘pre-flop'.

Three community cards which all players can use are then dealt face up in the middle of the table. This is known as ‘the flop'. Another betting round now ensues with the action starting to the left of the dealer button. Players now have the option to check (when there hasn't yet been a bet, players can check – decline their option to bet, while still remaining active in the hand) or bet.

Once the betting round is completed a fourth community card is dealt face up in the middle of the table. This is known as ‘the turn'. Another betting round follows.

Once betting on the turn is complete a fifth and final community card is dealt face up in the middle of the table. This is known as ‘the river'. A final round of betting follows and if there is more than one player left in the pot at the end of it a ‘showdown' occurs to determine the winner.

In a showdown the player who made the last bet shows their hand first followed by the other players in a clockwise order. If a player cannot beat a hand already showing they have the option not to show their hand.

There are three types of Texas Hold'em. All of which are played the same way as outlined above, the only difference being the amount players are allowed to bet. No Limit, Pot Limit and Fixed Limit. See Texas Hold'em & Omaha Betting Structures.

Omaha

Omaha follows the same structure as Texas Hold'em, the only difference being that each player is dealt four hole cards instead of two. There are still the same five community cards and players have to make the best five card poker hand from the nine cards available to them. However, when making your final hand you MUST use an exact combination of two hole cards and three community cards. This differs from Texas Hold'em where you could use either one or both (or even none) of your hole cards.

This is where many new Omaha players slip up. They see four clubs on the board (the community cards are often referred to as the board) and they have the Ace of clubs in their hand and they think they have the nut flush, forgetting that you must use two hole cards therefore needing two spades in your hand to make a flush.

Omaha is played either Pot Limit or Limit; it is not played No Limit as having four hole cards gives so many extra possibilities and permutations that the game would be too wild if it were played No Limit.

Texas Hold 'em and Omaha Betting Structures

•  Blinds and Betting Rounds

To get the action started the two players to the left of the dealer button must post bets before they have seen their cards. These bets are known as blinds. The person to the immediate left of the dealer button posts the ‘small' blind. This is usually half the amount of the ‘big' blind which the next player to the left posts.

All players are then dealt two cards face down which are known as ‘hole cards'. The action starts with the player to the left of the big blind. He has the option to fold, call (match the size of the last bet – in this case the big blind) or raise. (Bet more than the last bet – the size of raise allowed will depend on the type of game being played.) Each player in turn (the action always goes in a clockwise direction) will have the same options and the betting round will be complete when all players have put the same amount of money into the pot. This betting round is called ‘pre-flop'.

Three community cards which all players can use are then dealt face up in the middle of the table. This is known as ‘the flop'. Another betting round now ensues with the action starting to the left of the dealer button. Players now have the option to check (when there hasn't yet been a bet, players can check – decline their option to bet, while still remaining active in the hand) or bet.

Once the betting round is completed a fourth community card is dealt face up in the middle of the table. This is known as ‘the turn'. Another betting round follows.

Once betting on the turn is complete a fifth and final community card is dealt face up in the middle of the table. This is known as ‘the river'. A final round of betting follows and if there is more than one player left in the pot at the end of it a ‘showdown' occurs to determine the winner.

In a showdown the player who made the last bet shows their hand first followed by the other players in a clockwise order. If a player cannot beat a hand already showing they have the option not to show their hand.

•  Fixed Limit

In Limit Hold'em, or fixed limit Hold'em as it is sometimes called the betting is structured and cannot be deviated from. There are two betting limits, a higher limit and a lower limit. All bets and raises pre-flop and on the flop must be in units of the lower limit, and all bets and raises on the turn and river must be in units of the higher limit.

So say for example if you were playing a $10 / $20 Limit Hold'em game. All bets and raises for the first two rounds of betting (pre-flop and on the flop) would be in units of $10. And all bets and raises for the second two rounds of betting (the turn and river) would be in units of $20.

Simply, with fixed limit poker, the amount you can bet or raise is fixed for each round of betting another example if you're playing a $20-$40 fixed limit game, every player can only bet or raise $20 for the first few rounds (usually the first two) of betting, and can only bet or raise $40 for the last rounds of betting. It keeps it nice and simple.

The number of raised are is usually capped in a Limit Hold'em game. There can usually be a maximum of one bet and three raises on each betting round.

•  No Limit

In No Limit Hold'em the betting is very simple. A player can bet any amount they like at any time, up to the amount of chips that they have on the table. Extra chips cannot be brought to the table during a hand.

•  Pot Limit

In Pot Limit Hold'em players can bet any amount up to what is in the pot. So if there was $100 in the pot then you could bet anything up to $100. You would not be able to bet more than $100.

Omaha Hi-Lo

Omaha Hi-Lo is a variation of Omaha and is a split-pot game. Half the pot is awarded to the best high hand and half the pot is awarded to the best low hand. As in Omaha, an exact combination of two hole cards and three community cards must be used when making up your final hand. However, you can use different hole cards to make a low hand and a high hand.

Omaha Hi-Lo is sometimes referred to as Omaha Eight or Better because it is played with a qualifying requirement of 8 or better for the low half of the pot. This means that a low hand must be made up of 5 different cards, 8 or lower. And because of this requirement it is not always possible (about half the time in fact) to make a low hand depending on the community cards. For example, when the community cards are all above an 8 or contain pairs. When a low hand is not possible, the whole pot is awarded to the best high hand.

The best low hand is A-2-3-4-5 and is known as the ‘wheel'. Note that this is also a straight and may be used for the high hand as well. When a player wins both the high and the low he is said to have ‘scooped'.


The worst low hand would be any 5 card hand containing an 8, the second worst low hand, any 5 card hand containing a 7 and so on and so on until you reach 5, if you had a 5 card low hand containing a 5 you would have the wheel(5 different cards, 8 or lower).

Some example of low hands;

The worst possible low hand would be 8-7-6-5-4 although you might win the high with this hand you would very rarely win the low. 8-7-6-5-3 is also known as an 8 low but would beat 8-7-6-5-4.

An example of a 7 low hand:

7-5-4-3-2. 7-5-4-3-A is also known as a 7 low but would beat 7-5-4-3-2

An example of a 6 low:

6-5-3-2-A

A 7 Low Hand:


Where the game becomes a little complicated is that it is possible for two or more players to have the same low hand (or high hand occasionally) and when this occurs the half of the pot where players are tied is split between them. So if two players tie for the best low hand, they will, in effect, only win a quarter of the pot each.

The skilled Omaha Hi-Lo player will try and make both a low and a high hand to scoop or win three quarters of the pot. Hands like A-A-2-3 or A-K-2-3 are powerful for this reason.

 

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