Texas Hold'em For Dummies
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Texas hold’em poker is everywhere these days — on TV, online, and in clubs and casinos. Before you sit down to a game of Texas hold 'em, make sure you’re in good shape to be successful — take care of non-poker issues and check your physical, mental, and financial status.

During the game, you need to understand basic odds and playable hands, as well as how to bluff successfully and follow proper poker etiquette. Texas hold 'em also has its own abbreviations for online play.

Playable Texas hold’em hands

Texas hold’em is a game of strategy, like any poker game. But where you’re sitting in relation to the action becomes part of your strategy when playing hold’em.

If you bet early, you generally need better cards than you do if you’re one of the blinds. The following table offers sound advice on what hands are playable when you’re sitting in different positions.


Questions to ask yourself before you play Texas hold’em

Whether you’re playing Texas hold’em for fun or money — make that whether you’re playing for high stakes or low stakes — make sure you’re in a position mentally, physically, and financially to enjoy the game and make the most of your chances. Ask yourself these questions before you sit down to a game:

  • What is the purpose of my playing this session? Whether it’s to learn more, win money, or just hang with friends for a good time, make sure you know why you’re there and that you’re doing everything you can to accomplish that goal.

  • If I were to play an opponent who’s exactly the same as a well-rested, un-stressed version of me, would that person have an advantage? If the answer is “yes,” hold off on playing until you’re in a better psychological and physical state.

  • Can my bankroll handle this level of play? If not, play a lower level.

  • Are there any distractions in my life that I need to get rid of before I play? Pay your rent, walk your dog, call your significant other — whatever it is, get it out of your head so you can focus.

  • Do I know if the house I’m playing in has any bonuses for players such as bad beat jackpots, high hands, free food and/or drinks for players, or freeroll tournaments? If not, ask a floor person before you start playing and find out about the details of how you can qualify.

  • Is there an aggressive person at the table I’ll be playing at? If so, try to get yourself seated to his left so you see the raises before your action and not after.

  • What do I know about the people sitting at the table? Whatever it is, use it to your advantage.

Rough odds for Texas hold’em

Playing poker is about playing the odds. The following list gives the odds for outcomes in Texas hold’em hands. When you realize how heavily the odds are stacked against you, you may want to rethink going all-in before the flop with two suited cards. Use the odds to your advantage:

  • 1 percent (1-in-100): Percentage of time that no player holds an Ace or a King at a table in a 10-handed game

  • 1 percent (1-in-100): Percentage of time that if you hold two suited cards, you’ll flop a flush

  • 6 percent (about 1-in-20): Percentage of time that five community cards will give pocket suited cards a flush

  • 6 percent (about 1-in-20): Percentage of time that you’ll be dealt a pocket pair

  • 8 percent (about 1-in-12): Percentage of time that you’ll hit at least trips after having a pair on the flop

  • 12 percent (about 1-in-8): Percentage of time that you’ll flop trips if holding a pocket pair

  • 12 percent (about 1-in-8): Percentage of time that two more cards will flop in the same suit as a suited pocket pair

  • 19 percent (about 1-in-5): Percentage of time that the five community cards will at least trip your pocket pair

  • 32 percent (about 1-in-3): Percentage of time that you’ll pair one of your cards on the flop (with no pocket pair)

  • 33 percent (about 1-in-3): Percentage of time that you’ll make a full house or better after having trips on the flop

  • 35 percent (about 1-in-3): Percentage of time that you’ll make a flush on the turn or river if you have four cards to a flush after the flop

Texas hold’em bluffing tips

What makes any poker game exciting, and Texas hold’em is certainly no exception, is that players can bluff at any point. Sometimes half the fun of a game is seeing whether you can successfully bluff an opponent out of some money. But, even as you’re misleading your opponents, make sure you bluff in the right circumstances. Heed these bluffing tips:

  • Only bluff where it makes a difference to your standing — either in a tournament or to your stack of chips.

  • Be careful bluffing someone considerably worse than you are. He may call just to see what you have, or on some probabilistically low draw when he already has you beaten anyway.

  • Bluff in situations where the board hints at the great hand you do not have: straights and flushes being hinted at by the board, the turn of an Ace, and so on.

  • Don’t try to bluff players who only play the most solid of hands if they’re still in the pot.

  • Don’t bluff people who are extremely likely to call.

  • Do bluff the timid or people who are likely to fold.

  • Remember that it’s easier to bluff in No-Limit than Limit because the bets (both implied and real) are bigger.

Poker etiquette for Texas hold’em

The etiquette tips in the following list apply to Texas hold’em and to any other poker game. Sure, you can have fun while you play poker, but you can have all the fun you want without being impolite to the other players or the dealer. Basic poker etiquette includes these tips:

  • Always play in turn.

  • Be aware of when it’s your turn to post the blinds and do so promptly.

  • Any time there is a discrepancy at the table, talk to the dealer — not the other players — about it. If you’re not able to get satisfaction from the dealer, ask for a floor person. Talking with other players about the problem you perceive may generate ill will among people who have no authority in the situation in the first place.

  • Place your bets in front of you. Do not splash them into the pot.

  • Do not show your hand to other players at the table while a hand is in progress.

  • Tell the dealer when you intend to raise. In No-Limit, gather the amount that you’re going to raise and either announce the total, or move it all forward with one motion. This prevents being called on a “string raise.”

  • Don’t forget to tip your dealer. Dealers work for minimum wage and rely on tips for their livelihood.

Online poker abbreviations for Texas hold’em

Playing online poker in general, and Texas hold’em in particular, is a very popular pastime. When you’re online, you may encounter abbreviations specific to the world of poker. To understand what other players are saying, get familiar with these online abbreviations:

Abbreviation What It Means Abbreviation What It Means
86 To remove or ban ne1 Anyone
brb Be right back nh Nice hand
gc/nc Slightly sarcastic phrase meaning good catch/nice catch gg Good game
lol Laughing out loud gl Good luck
nl No-Limit ty Thank you
n1 Nice one 🙂 Smiley face (view sideways)

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Mark “The Red” Harlan is an avid poker player and co-creator of the first company to offer legal online poker in the United States. Along with his hours at the poker table, Mark has also spent time as a software developer for leading Silicon Valley companies.

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