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Hold'em in a Nutshell
The fundamentals of Limit Hold'em are quite simple.
Players receive a pair of private "hole cards" that only they can see. After that, the table is dealt five community cards face-up. These constitute the "board", and are shared by everyone. As a player, you combine your hole cards with community cards to create the best possible five-card poker hand.
You can use any number of your hole cards, including none at all. Hands are ranked in classic poker fashion.
You place bets at key junctures in the card dealing called "streets", which have colorful names like "the flop" and "the turn". And that's basically it, although the strategies of betting to win have filled both volumes and websites.
Getting a Game off the Ground
The limit poker variation defines a pair of bets called the small and big bets, which are sometimes represented as 'SB' and 'BB' online. For example, in a $2/$4 limit game, the small bet is $2 and the big bet is $4.
All forms of Hold'em use a button to indicate the position of the dealer for card distribution and betting purposes. Prior to the game, the first player clockwise from the dealer button places the first forced bet called the "small blind". The next player clockwise then places a "big blind" bet. The rest of the players must see the big blind to play.
In limit Hold'em, the big blind is the same as the small bet, and the small blind is half the big blind. There can be variations based on the stakes, but this is the most common blind structure. Some games also require an initial ante from all players prior to the blinds.
At this point, players receive their hole cards. Betting rounds referred to as "streets" occur in and around additional community cards that are dealt. The streets have easy to remember nicknames:
- The Flop
- The Turn
- The River
Types of Bets
The standard poker betting options are permitted depending on the actions of previous players:
- Fold - surrender one's hand and interest in the pot
- Check - choose not to bet when others haven't bet
- Bet - choose to bet when others haven't bet
- Call - match the bet of a previous player
- Raise - both match and increase the bet of a previous player
After everyone examines their hole cards, the first player to bet is "under the gun", which means they're the first player sitting clockwise from the big blind. Betting continues clockwise until all players are either in by having placed the same amount of money in the pot, or have folded.
In limit Hold'em, pre-flop bets and raises must equal the small bet limit amount. In a $2/$4 game, that would mean $2 to bet, $2 to call, and $4 to raise.
Betting the Flop
The flop occurs when three community cards are dealt face-up. The first player to bet the flop is directly clockwise of the button. Players exercise their betting options for the same small bet amount as in the pre-flop.
Betting the Turn
After the flop round of betting is complete, a fourth community card is dealt face-up, signaling the turn. From here on in, players bet at the big bet level, which is $4 in this example. The turn is sometimes referred to as "Fourth Street" for occurring after the fourth community card is dealt.
Betting the River
Following the turn, a fifth and final community card is dealt face-up. The game has progressed to the river. Players bet as they did on the turn. You'll occasionally hear the river called "Fifth Street", as it arrives after the fifth community card is dealt.
Showdown in Limit Town
If enough players fold on any street leaving just one player, that player wins the pot and the game is over. However, if two or more players remain after the river, it's time for a showdown!
If nobody bet the river, players show their hands in order, starting clockwise from the button. Otherwise, players show their hands starting from the last player to bet the river.
The pot goes to the player with the best five-card poker hand they can make from the community cards on the board and their hole cards. Suits are equal in Hold'em, so tying hands split the pot equally. If the pot can't be split equally, the excess chips are awarded clockwise to players starting left of the button.
Once the pot is dispersed, a new Hold'em hand can begin after the button advances one player clockwise.
Online gambling and real life dealers discard or "burn" a card before each street. The reason for this is a mix of tradition and game integrity. It prevents players from possibly discerning the next community card to be dealt for having been marked.
Hands of equal rank aren't necessarily equal. When ranking cards tie, the other cards in the hand determine relative hand strength. For example, hands with a pair of kings are equally ranked. But if one hand's highest lone card is an ace and the other's is an eight, the hand with the ace "kicker" wins. When kickers tie, subsequent kickers are consulted.
Limit is a variation on Hold'em governing the sizes of bets and raises you can make, and how often you can raise.
Bets and raises are the same small bet amount pre-flop and on the flop. The size of bets and raises shifts to the large bet amount on the turn, and remain at that level at the river.
Also, you can make a maximum of four bets per betting round. That includes a bet, a raise, a re-raise, and a final raise known as a "cap".
Outs Based Strategy
Good Texas Hold'em strategy revolves around being able to quickly and accurately rate your hand. Knowing your hand's strength is crucial in online gambling to knowing when to appear weak or when to bluff being strong. Appearing weak with a strong hand can coerce other players into additional pot contributions. Bluffing strong can scare them off when you're weak.
Some online gambling players use calculators to evaluate their hands. Calculators take hole and current community cards into account, determining the odds of drawing various hand ranks on subsequent community cards. Obviously, such calculators aren't permitted in live, physical casino games.
Other players evaluate their hands by counting outs, which are cards that deliver a winning hand. The more outs that remain in the deck, the greater your chances of drawing an out to make a winning hand.
The number of outs varies depending on the hand you hope to hit. Four suited cards hit a flush on any of the nine cards left in that suit. Eight cards can complete an outside straight. And so on.
Having counted outs, calculate the card odds, which is a ratio of the number of remaining cards that are not outs to the number of outs you need, or:
number_of_unseen_cards - number_of_outs : number_of_outs
Say you need to draw one card to make your flush. Nine cards of your suit remain, giving you nine outs. You're betting the flop, so you can see five cards: your two hole cards plus the three community cards.
That leaves 52 - 5, or 47 unseen cards. Subtracting your number of outs (9) from the remaining unseen cards (47) results in 38 cards that don't make your flush, versus nine cards that do. Your card odds are 38:9, which is roughly 4:1. That means the chances against drawing an out are four times greater than making it.
While that gives you more knowledge than a gut feel, you must now compare your card odds against your pot odds, a measure of the value of the pot relative to what you must bet to win it.
Assume a pot has $16 and another player bets $4, bringing the pot to $20. In order to win that $20, you must call with $4. The ratio of the pot to your call is the pot odds. In this case, it's 20:4, or 5:1.
Now you have a much better idea of whether calling your opponent is worth it. The pot odds are 5:1, and there are 4:1 odds against your hand drawing an out. According to the pot odds, you need to win once every six times to break even. The card odds indicate you're going to win once every five times on average, which is more often than once every six times. Since the amount you must call with to win the pot is justified by your hand, you should call.
If the pot were $12 instead of $20, the pot odds would be 3:1, requiring you to win once every four times. In that case, your hand odds would not justify calling, and you should fold.
The state of Texas recognizes Robstown, Texas as the official birthplace of Texas Hold'em sometime in the early 1900s. But it didn't start making a name for itself until a group of Texas gamblers introduced it to Las Vegas in 1967.
Though still relatively unknown the next few years, it became the main event of the new World Series of Poker in 1970. Entrants for the event rose to over 200 by 1991, in part for being mentioned in seminal books on poker strategy published in the 1970s and 1980s.
Its recognition and popularity exploded on the world stage courtesy of the Internet and televised tournament events featuring the newly invented hold card camera.
Outs Counting Pitfalls
Be careful not to count outs more than once. For example, needing a single card for a flush gives you nine outs. But if you can also complete a straight, keep in mind that you may have already counted one of the straight outs in the flush outs.
Also, don't count outs that could give others a better hand than you. For example, if you need an ace for three aces, but the flop already contains a two and a three, anyone holding a four and five will draw their straight with an ace, beating your three of a kind. A player who raises on this flop could very well be indicating they're looking for an ace out.
Counting outs more than once or outs that can deliver opponents a better hand than yours gives you a distorted view of your hand's value.
Also keep in mind that counting outs in an inexact science because you can't see opponent hole cards. For all you know, your outs have already been distributed in other players' hands. But hey, that's why they call it gambling.
As in any form of the game, there's both a science and an art to limit Texas Hold'em. You may have done the math, but you must temper it by reading players and trying to visualize why they're betting or not betting as they are.
It's all part of the mystery and spectacle of limit Texas Hold'em!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is online Limit Hold'em legal?
Yes. Players are free to play online limit hold'em whenever they like because there are absolutely no laws about citizens gambling real money online at international poker sites.
What are the best poker sites to play at?
The best sites to play limit hold'em poker at are the ones with the most secure software, the biggest bonuses and the largest player pools. We've collected all the top limit hold-em casinos in our list above, so just browse through the selection and pick the one that most appeals to you.
How does it compare to regular Hold'em?
The differences between standard Texas Hold'em poker and limit hold'em are that the betting amounts are set at a certain level and you can only raise a certain number of times.
On the pre-flop and the flop, players can only bet or raise the 'small bet' amount and on the turn and the river players can-t bet more than the 'large bet'. Players are also not permitted to make more than four bets on each round.
How much is it possible to win?
The maximum total you can win depends on how many players are at the table and whether they chose to bet in all four rounds of betting, e.g a bet, a raise, a re-raise and a final cap.
The amount of cash on the table is generally lower than it would be in a Texas hold'em game but because you are spending less money while you play, you are also lessening the risk of how much you could lose as well.
Is there a tournament option?
Yes - all the best poker sites have limit hold'em tournaments scheduled in at various times each day. That means you won't ever have to wait to long to join in a busy limit tournament.
Are the games rigged?
No. In order for a poker site to get its license and become fully regulated it must adhere to industry fairness rules and the gambling laws relating to the randomness of game results, which are set out by the government of the territory it runs its business from.
All legit Limit Hold'em online poker sites are examined on a regular basis and their software is tested to make sure that all the outcomes in every game are entirely random. You can tell a site is fair by looking for the eCOGRA seal of approval on their homepage.