Texas Hold 'Em: A Primer

If you are new to the game, some of the rules can seem a little odd. Here's what to expect when playing Texas Hold 'Em.

A button is placed before a player at the table to designate the dealer . The player to the left of the dealer posts a wager in the pot called the small blind , essentially half the minimum bet. The player to the left of the small blind is the big blind , who posts a minimum bet in the pot (although the size of the blind tends to increase as the game goes on).

The dealer shuffles a standard 52-card deck. Before dealing, she slides the stack to the small blind, who cuts the cards, restacks and returns them. The dealer then distributes two cards, face down, to each player. These are called hole cards . Then she deals the five community cards , face down, in front of her.

After each player peeks at her cards, betting begins, starting with the player to the left of the big blind. She can opt to call by placing a bet equal to the big blind; or raise by betting an additional amount, which the other players will then have to match; or she can fold and sit out the rest of the hand.

After the first round of betting, the first three community cards are turned face up. This is called the flop . The next round of wagering starts with the first remaining player to the left of the dealer. This time, she can once again bet or raise; she also has the option to check by tapping her fingers on the tabletop to show that she wishes to stay in the game without placing a bet (although if a player after her bets, she'll have to call that bet to stay in the game). If her cards do not look favorable, a player may choose to fold.

The next community card, called fourth street or the turn , is revealed, followed by another round of betting; then the last card, called fifth street or the river, is revealed. A final round of wagers ensues; then each remaining player reveals her individual cards. The player with the highest hand wins the pot of chips.

-- Hetty Lipscomb

© 2005 The Washington Post Company