What's Texas Hold'em


This is a very brief description of the game of Texas Hold'em Poker, with particular reference to how it is played in Netpoker. This note assumes you are familiar with poker games in general, but not necessarily with Hold'em. Assuming you know the basics of how to play poker, I won't explain how betting, calling, raising, etc. work, and I won't go into detail about what hand beats what. For further information, consult the rec.gambling poker FAQ

The button

At the start of a hand, the "button" is moved one seat to the left. The button indicates who is the effective dealer. In the curses Netpoker client, the button is identified by an asterisk to the left of the player's name. In the java client, it appears as a yellow button containing the letter D.

The blinds

A hand begins with the one or more players to the left of the dealer posting "blind" bets. These are posted before any cards are dealt, and may be considered analogous to an ante in other games. In Netpoker, the blinds are one and two units from the player immediately left of the dealer, and the player two seats to the left of the dealer, respectively.

Each player is dealt two cards. Betting now starts to the left of the big blind, and continues around the table. Other players must now call the big blind (2 unit) bet in order to continue playing. The blind bets are "live", which means that if there are no raises all the way around the table, the blinds have the option to raise.

The flop

Three cards are "flopped", face-up, in the middle of the table (the "board"). These cards (and the two that will be turned over shortly) are shared by all players. Another round of betting proceeds. From now on, betting starts immediately to the left of the dealer, and there is no special consideration for the blinds. In Netpoker, all bets and raises in this round are in increments of 2 units.

Fourth and Fifth Streets

Another card, "fourth street", is exposed on the board followed by another round of bets. The stakes go up now, however. All bets and raises in this round are in increments of 4 units.

The last card, "fifth street" or "the river", is exposed on the board, followed by the final round of bets, in increments of 4 units.

The payoff

At any time, if there is only one player remaining, the pot is awarded to that player, and that player need not expose his cards. Otherwise, at the end of play, the remaining player's hole cards are exposed and each player constructs the best possible 5-card poker hand from the cards on the board and his two hole cards. Players may use both, one or none of their hole cards to construct a hand. The usual order of precedence is: straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pair, one pair, no pair. Ties are broken by considering only 5 cards. Thus,

Player 1:  9 6
Player 2:  8 6

Board:  6 T T J 5
is a tie because both players have two-pair, tens and sixes with a jack kicker. The fact that player 1's sixth card is a 9 is not relevant.


Player 1:  K 6
Player 2:  8 6

Board: 6 T T J 5
is a win for Player 1 because his hand is two-pair, tens and sixes with a king kicker, which beats player 2's jack kicker.

If you are the type of person who enjoys playing other games of chance, you will most likely find poker very refreshing. Also, if you haven't had too much experience playing poker, or if you've only played more basic versions of poker, you will discover how fun Texas Holdem Poker can be.

That should be enough to get you started with Netpoker. Remember, you're not playing for real money, so you don't have to worry too much about whether you understand all the nuances. It's really not hard. Just give it a try.

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John Salmon