hold'em, like all variants of poker, individuals compete for an amount of money or chips contributed by the players themselves (called the pot). Because the cards are dealt randomly and outside the control of the players, each player attempts to control the amount of money in the pot based on the hand the player holds.
The game is divided into a series of hands or deals; at the conclusion of each hand, the pot is typically awarded to one player (an exception in which the pot is divided between more than one is discussed below).
A hand may end at the showdown, in which case the remaining players compare their hands and the highest hand is awarded the pot; that highest hand is usually held by only one player, but can be held by more in the case of a tie.
The other possibility for the conclusion of a hand is when all but one player have folded and have thereby abandoned any claim to the pot, in which case the pot is awarded to the player who has not folded.
The objective of winning players is not winning every individual hand, but rather making mathematically and psychologically correct decisions regarding when and how much to bet, raise, call or fold.
By making such decisions, winning poker players maximize long-term winnings by maximizing their expected gain on each round of betting.
Although little is known
about the invention of Texas hold'em, the Texas State
Legislature officially recognizes Robstown, Texas, United
States as the game's birthplace, dating the game to the
After its invention and
spread throughout Texas, hold'em was introduced to Las Vegas in 1967 by a group of Texan gamblers and card players, including Crandell Addington, Roscoe Weiser, Doyle Brunson, and Amarillo Slim.
said the first time he saw the game was in 1959. "They
didn't call it Texas hold'em at the time, they just called
it hold'em.… I thought then that if it were to catch on, it
would become the game. Draw poker, you bet only twice;
hold'em, you bet four times. That meant you could play
strategically. This was more of a thinking man's game."
For several years the Golden Nugget Casino in Downtown Las
Vegas was the only casino in Las Vegas to offer the game. At
that time, the Golden Nugget's poker room was "truly a
'sawdust joint,' with…oiled sawdust covering the floors."
Because of its location and decor, this poker room did not
receive many rich drop-in clients, and as a result,
professional players sought a more prominent location.
In 1969, the Las Vegas professionals were invited to play
Texas hold'em at the entrance of the now-demolished Dunes
Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. This prominent location, and
the relative inexperience of poker players with Texas
hold'em, resulted in a very remunerative game for
disappointing attempt to establish a "Gambling Fraternity
Convention," Tom Moore added the first ever poker tournament
to the Second Annual Gambling Fraternity Convention held in
1969. This tournament featured several games including Texas
In 1970, Benny and Jack Binion acquired the rights to this convention, renamed it the World Series of Poker, and moved it to their casino, Binion's Horseshoe, in Las Vegas. After its first year, a journalist, Tom Thackrey,
suggested that the main event of this tournament should be
no-limit Texas hold'em. The Binions agreed and ever since
no-limit Texas hold'em has been played as the main event.
Interest in the Main Event continued to grow steadily over
the next two decades. After receiving only eight entrants in
1972, the numbers grew to over one hundred entrants in 1982,
and over two hundred in 1991.
time, Doyle Brunson's revolutionary poker strategy guide,
Super/System was first published.
being self-published and priced at $100 in 1978, the book
revolutionized the way poker was played. It was one of the
first books to discuss Texas hold'em, and is today cited as
one of the most important books on this game.
In 1983, Al Alvarez published, The Biggest Game in Town, a
book detailing a 1981 World Series of Poker event.
The first book of its kind, it described the world of
professional poker players and the World Series of Poker.
Alvarez' book is credited with beginning the genre of poker
literature and with bringing Texas hold'em (and poker
generally), for the first time, to a wider audience.
Interest in hold'em outside of Nevada began to grow in the
1980s as well. Although California had legal card rooms
offering draw poker, Texas hold'em was prohibited under a
statute which made illegal the (now unheard of) game
"stud-horse". However in 1988, Texas hold'em was declared legally distinct from "stud-horse" in Tibbetts v. Van De Kamp, 271 Cal. Rptr.
792 (1990). Almost immediately card rooms across the state
offered Texas hold'em.
(It is often
presumed that this decision ruled that hold'em was a game of
skill, but the distinction between skill and chance has
never entered into California jurisprudence regarding poker.
After a trip to Las Vegas, bookmakers Terry Rogers and Liam
Flood introduced the game to European card players in the
In 2010, the Supreme Court of
Switzerland ruled that Texas hold'em was a game of chance
(as distinct from a game of skill), because "simple math,
tactics and psychology played smaller roles than luck in
determining the winner".
As a result,
Texas hold'em tournaments in Switzerland are required to
comply with the same regulations that govern casinos, and
pay taxes of 50% on the house's profits.
In March 2010, a Pennsylvania, United States appeals court
ruled that Texas hold'em was an illegal form of gambling "because the outcome is more dependent upon chance than skill".
The ability to play cheaply and anonymously online has been credited as a cause of the increase in popularity of Texas hold 'em.
Online poker sites both allow people to try out games and also provide an avenue for entry into large tournaments (like the World Series of Poker) via smaller tournaments known as satellites.
The 2003 and 2004 winners of the World Series No Limit Holdem Main Event qualified by playing in these tournaments.
Although online poker grew from its inception in 1998 until 2003, Moneymaker's win and the appearance of televisions advertisements in 2003 contributed to a tripling of industry revenues in 2004.
Hold 'em is normally played using small and big blind bets – forced bets by two players. Antes (forced contributions by all players) may be used in addition to blinds, particularly in later stages of tournament play.
A dealer button is used to represent the player in the dealer position; the dealer button rotates clockwise after each hand, changing the position of the dealer and blinds. The small blind is posted by the player to the left of the dealer and is usually equal to half of the big blind. The big blind, posted by the player to the left of the small blind, is equal to the minimum bet.
In tournament poker, the blind/ante structure periodically increases as the tournament progresses. (In some cases, the small blind is some other fraction of a small bet, e.g. $10 is a common small blind when the big blind is $15, and still other tables may use two equal blinds.
The double-blind structure described above is a commonly used and more recent adoption.)
When only two players remain, special 'head-to-head' or 'heads up' rules are enforced and the blinds are posted differently. In this case, the person with the dealer button posts the small blind, while his/her opponent places the big blind. The dealer acts first before the flop. After the flop, the dealer acts last and continues to do so for the remainder of the hand.
The three most common variations of hold 'em are limit hold 'em, no-limit hold 'em and pot-limit hold 'em. Limit hold 'em has historically been the most popular form of hold 'em found in casino live action games in the United States.
In limit hold 'em, bets and raises during the first two rounds of betting (pre-flop and flop) must be equal to the big blind; this amount is called the small bet. In the next two rounds of betting (turn and river), bets and raises must be equal to twice the big blind; this amount is called the big bet. No-limit hold 'em is the form most commonly found in televised tournament poker and is the game played in the main event of the World Series of Poker.
In no-limit hold 'em, players may bet or raise any amount over the minimum raise up to all of the chips the player has at the table (called an all-in bet). The minimum raise is equal to the big blind. If someone wishes to re-raise, they must raise at least the amount of the previous raise.
For example, if the big blind is $2 and there is a raise of $6 to a total of $8, a re-raise must be at least $6 more for a total of $14. If a raise or re-raise is all-in and does not equal the size of the previous raise, the initial raiser cannot re-raise again.
This only matters of course if there was a call before the re-raise. In pot-limit hold 'em, the maximum raise is the current size of the pot (including the amount needed to call).
Most casinos that offer hold 'em also allow the player to the left of the big blind to post an optional live straddle, usually double the amount of the big blind, which then acts as the big blind.
No-limit games may also allow multiple re-straddles, in any amount that would be a legal raise.
Play of the hand
Play begins with each player being dealt two cards face down, with the player in the small blind receiving the first card and the player in the button seat receiving the last card dealt. (As in most poker games, the deck is a standard 52-card deck containing no jokers.)
These cards are the player's hole or pocket cards. These are the only cards each player will receive individually, and they will only (possibly) be revealed at the showdown, making Texas hold 'em a closed poker game.
The hand begins with a "pre-flop" betting round, beginning with the player to the left of the big blind (or the player to the left of the dealer, if no blinds are used) 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. See betting for a detailed account. 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 remain 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.
In all casinos, the dealer will burn a card before the flop, turn, and river. Because of this burn, players who are betting cannot see the back of the next community card to come.
This is done for historical/traditional reasons, to avoid any possibility of a player knowing in advance the next card to be dealt due to it being marked.
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 the best poker hand they 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 other 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 (see the second example below).
Note that the card's numerical rank is of sole importance; suit values are irrelevant in Hold'em. The last player to bet is the first player to show their hand.
If the first or second card dealt is exposed, then this is considered a misdeal. The dealer then retrieves the card, reshuffles the deck, and again cuts the cards. However, if any other hole card is exposed due to a dealer error, the deal continues as usual. After completing the deal, the dealer replaces the exposed card with the top card on the deck, and the exposed card is then used as the burn card. If more than one hole card is exposed, a misdeal is declared by the dealer and the hand is dealt again from the beginning.