In the first article we covered the history of Hold ‘Em, as well as the betting structures for different Hold ’Em variants. In this article we will look at how the play of the hand works.
How to Play the Hand: Hole Cards, Pre-Flop, Flop, Turn and River
After the blinds are in place, the game will begin with the dealer giving two ‘hole cards’ to each player face down, starting by dealing to the small blind first, then to the big blind, then the last card in the circuit to the person in the dealer position. A player’s hole card will remain private to them throughout the game, until they reach a show down.
The hand begins with a "pre-flop" betting round, beginning with the player to the left of the big blind and continuing clockwise. A round of betting continues until every player has folded, put in all of their chips, or matched the amount put in by all other active players. Refer to previous article for betting guide. Note that the blinds are considered "live" in the pre-flop betting round, meaning that they contribute to the amount that the blind player must contribute, and that, if all players call around to the player in the big blind position, that player may either check or raise.
After the pre-flop betting round, assuming there are at least two players taking part in the hand, the dealer deals a flop, three face-up community cards. The flop is followed by a second betting round. This and all subsequent betting rounds begin with the player to the dealer's left and continue clockwise.
After the flop betting round ends, a single community card (called the turn or fourth street) is dealt, followed by a third betting round. A final single community card (called the river or fifth street) is then dealt, followed by a fourth betting round and the showdown, if necessary.
Before the flop, turn and river the dealer must ‘burn’ a card (deal one card from the top of the deck face down and discard it) prior to dealing out the community cards. The process goes as follows:
Burn one card - Deal three cards for the flop - BETTING ROUND - Burn one card - Deal one card for the turn - BETTING ROUND - Burn one card - Deal one card for the river - FINAL BETTING ROUND
If a player bets and all other players fold, then the remaining player is awarded the pot and is not required to show his hole cards. If two or more players remain after the final betting round, a showdown occurs. On the showdown, each player plays his or her best cards/poker hand he can make from the seven cards comprising his two hole cards and the five community cards. A player may use both of his own two hole cards, only one, or none at all, to form his final five-card hand. If the five community cards form the player's best hand, then the player is said to be playing the board and can only hope to split the pot, since each player can also use the same five cards to construct the same hand.
If the best hand is shared by more than one player, then the pot is split equally among them, with any extra chips going to the first players after the button in clockwise order. It is common for players to have closely-valued, but not identically ranked hands. Nevertheless, one must be careful in determining the best hand; if the hand involves fewer than five cards, (such as two pair or three of a kind), then kickers are used to settle ties. Note that the card's numerical rank is of sole importance; suit values are irrelevant in Hold'em.
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