Welcome to the world of poker. In the world of poker, Texas Hold’em is by far the most popular game. The most popular form of hold’em is without doubt, structured-limit. At the time of this writing,) this form of limit hold’em is found in nearly every B&M; cardroom within the US and Canada, as well as being offered on every single poker site in cyberspace.
Structured-limit means the initial bet pre-flop and on the flop is equal to the size of the big blind and the initial bet on the turn and the river is equal to twice the size of the big blind. This applies to all players yet to act unless they want to raise, in which case the first raise is exactly twice the initial amount, the second raise would be exactly three times the initial amount and so on. For example, in a $10-$20 hold’em game, the big blind is $10 and therefore with no raise pre-flop and on the flop, the bet is $10 to call and all raises are in increments of $10. On the turn and the river with no raise, the bet is $20 to call and all raises are in $20 increments.
Other Betting Structures
Hold’em is also played with three other types of betting structures, which are: no-limit, pot-limit and spread-limit.
No-Limit & Pot-Limit
No-limit hold’em (NLH) means the maximum a player can bet is determined by the amount of money he/she has on the table. Pot-limit hold’em (PLH) means the maximum a player can bet is determined by the size of the pot, including his/her bet (i.e. there is $60 in the pot including a $30 bet from a player; therefore, it is $30 to you if you want to call. If you want to bet the size of the pot you can bet $120. The following will clarify how you can bet $120: $60 + your $30 = $90, so now you can bet the size of the pot which is $90; therefore, your bet would be $30 + $90 which equals $120).
NLH and PLH games are not as scarce as they used to be in B&M; cardrooms within North America, but these games are not readily found. However, online is a different story. Players can find NLH and PLH games on most poker sites, these games usually have a small blind structure (eg. $2-$4, $1-$2, 50 cents-$1 or 25 cents-50 cents) and the maximum buy-in is also usually quite small (eg. $200, $100, $50 or $25 respectively). Some sites offer a slightly higher blind structure as well as higher maximum buy-ins.
Spread-limit means you can bet any amount (in increments of the smallest value chip at your table) between a specified minimum and maximum amount. For example, $1-$4 means you can bet between $1 and $4 in whole dollar increments and $1-$4-$8-$8 means you can bet any whole dollar increment between $1 and $4 pre-flop and on the flop and then $1 to $8 on the turn and river.
With the exception of Check n Raise Poker.com, I have never come across spread-limit online. In B&M; cardrooms spread-limit is most common at low limits like discussed in the above paragraph and many cardrooms don’t even offer this form of limit hold’em.
Strategy Differs With Betting Structure
Limit hold’em, NLH and PLH are completely different games and effective strategy for each form of hold’em often differs like night and day. Due to the mass popularity of limit hold’em, the material within these pages will only deal with this form of hold’em.
Mechanics of Texas Hold’em
Most hold’em games you will encounter, both in B&M; cardrooms and online, will seat ten players. Some B&M; cardrooms will seat only nine players in their hold’em games, particularly in California. Nine players per table will also be found on a couple of online sites. Eleven players per table is very rare, but will sometimes be encountered in some hold’em games in Canada.
A dealer button is moved clockwise to the next player at the end of every hand. The first player seated to the left of the dealer button is known as the “small blind” and must post a portion of the amount posted in the big blind, which is pre-determined according to the limit being played. In some cases, if the limit is very small, the small blind is the same amount as the big blind, but the most common small blind amounts are: half the amount of the big blind, two-thirds the amount of the big blind or one-third the amount of the big blind. Examples: (1) if the big blind is $10 then the small blind is $5. (2) if the big blind is $15 then usually the small blind is $10, but in some games the small blind would be $5. (3) if the big blind is $3 then usually the small blind is $1.
The first player seated to the left of the small blind is known as the “big blind” and must post a pre-determined amount according to the limit being played. The big blind usually equals the lowest amount quoted in the limit structure. For example, if the limit is $10-$20 then the big blind is $10, if the limit is $20-$40 then the big blind is $20. Some places have low-limit games with “mini” blinds. For example, the Orleans in Las Vegas offer $4-$8 games with $1-$2 blinds.
Each player is dealt two cards face down (your hole cards) and then a round of betting takes place. The first player seated next to the big blind has the option to fold, to call the amount of the big blind or to raise. Each subsequent player has the same options. The last player to act pre-flop is the big blind. If there was no raise and if he wishes not to raise, then he simply checks.
After all action has been completed pre-flop, three cards are spread face up in the middle of the table. This is known as the “flop”. Now there is another round of betting and the first player to act is the first active player to the left of the dealer button.
After all action has been completed on the flop, one more card is placed face up next to the flop. This is known as the “turn” card or “fourth street”. Now there is another round of betting.
After all action has been completed on the turn, one more card is placed face up next to the turn card. This is known as the “river” card or “fifth street”. Now there is a final round of betting. The highest hand is determined by players using one or both of their hole cards, in any combination with the five cards on the board. In the event that neither hole card improves their hand, they will have to “play the board” (use the five community cards as their hand). In this case, they will either lose the pot or tie with one or more players.