Firstly, there are 5 main 'rounds' in a game of Texas Hold 'em:
• The Pre-Flop
• The Flop
• The Turn
• The River
• The Showdown
There are also 5 decisions you can make during a hand formation in Texas Hold 'em:
• Bet - To place an initial amount of chips on the table or money in the pot.
• Call - To match the bet of the preceding player.
• Raise - To bet an increased amount of chips in comparison to the preceding player.
• Muck (or Fold) - To quit the hand and give your cards face down to the Dealer.
• Check - To choose to make no decision at this point. You may be obliged to make a decision later in the course of the round.
Dealer Button & Blinds
The game starts with a single card being dealt to each player. The player with the highest card shown is appointed as the Dealer Button. Each subsequent hand starts with a player receiving the dealer button which is passed clockwise round the table after each play. The cards are dealt clockwise starting with the person following the dealer on the left. In an online environment, tables are constantly active, so the position of the Dealer Button will usually have already been established when you join the table. The Dealer Button represents the theoretical position of The Dealer. In a live environment, this person may actually deal the cards, but at most casinos, and certainly online, The House (the venue) deals the cards.
Prior to The Flop, two Blind Bets are made in order to create an initial pot. The blind bets are made by two players sitting to the dealer's left. The player sitting next to the Button, posts (bets) the amount of the Small Blind. This is set as a half of the lower table limit. In our 20/40 example, this would be 10 USD. The player to his or her left posts the Big Blind. This is set in the amount equal to the lower limit (20 USD in our example). These forced bets ensure that there is a pot for people to compete for. They are called Small and Big, for obvious reasons - Because of their relative size. They are called Blinds because the players are making these bets before receiving any cards and are therefore blind to their hand. This may seem a little unfair to these players, but remember, the Dealer Button will move around next time and two new players will be the Small and Big Blinds. This ensures that everyone get to be The Dealer, the Small Blind and the Big Blind.
In case, for whatever reason, you miss you turn at posting either the Small or Big Blind - without leaving the table - ( such action called “Sitting Out”), there is a penalty to be made once you return to the table:
For missing the Small Blind - You must pay a penalty equal in value to the Big Blind. This is an additional amount for the person who is naturally the Big Blind at this point.
For missing the Big Blind - or, the Small and the Big Blind - You must pay a penalty equal in value to the Big Blind, and another one equal to the Small Blind. This smaller amount goes straight into The Pot (the chips/money that is being gambled) and does not count towards the player's bets for the game. This is called a Dead Bet.
Each player receives two face-down cards (also called Hole Cards, Pocket Cards). The person sitting to the left of the Big Blind position is the first one to act. In this round, he has three options. He can Call, Raise or Muck. If he mucks, as already mentioned, he throws his hand away, and the action passes to the next player on the left. If he calls, he matches the value of the Big Blinds forced bet (20 USD in our 20/40 example). If he chooses to raise in a Fixed Limit game he can only raise by a further 20 USD, to 40 USD.
In a Fixed Limit game, there are a maximum of 1 initial bet and three raises in a single round. All three kinds of raises have specific names:
In our 20/40 example during The Flop the initial bet would be 20 USD, the raise would be a further 20 USD - meaning that player has bet 40 USD, the re-raise would be to 60 USD and the cap would be another 20 USD which amounts to 80 USD. After the cap was made, no more raises allowed during this round. Remember, bets and raises on the Turn and River will be made at the higher limit (we will see this later). Eventually, the consequence of the allowed raises looks the following: bet, raise, re-raise, cap.
Now let’s get back to the game. The action continues clockwise around the table, requiring each player to make a decision whether to call, raise or muck as they see fit, until it reaches the player at the Small Blind position. Let's suggest that everyone has called. In our 20/40 example, this would mean they have all committed 20 USD to the pot. So now it is the Small Blind's turn to act. Remember, in the beginning of the round this person has already bet an amount equal to the half of the lower limit (10 USD in our example). Because of this, if this player decides to call, he will only have to add 10 USD in the pot (making 20 USD in his total). Of course he can also raise up to 40 USD or muck.
So here is when the action moves to the Big Blind. This player has already committed 20 USD to the pot. Theoretically, the Pre-Flop may be considered to be over, because everyone has committed the same amount but, as the Big Blind is the only position that has not yet made a decision based on his cards, he is allowed to do so in this specific moment. He can raise (to 40 USD), check or muck. Usually, a player cannot check whilst there is money on the table, but, in this specific case, the player at the Big Blind position can actually check.
It is also important to remember, that, in most cases if you still have an option, especially at the very beginning of the game and in the first couple of rounds, you should better check instead of mucking your hand. This gives you more opportunities as you are still in the game and you may always receive cards that will enhance your hand. In case the player at the position of the Big Blind decides to make a raise, the game traditionally continues clockwise the table again until all players have called or mucked their cards. At the end of all regular rounds, the game continues until all players have committed the same amount of money into the pot, or have mucked their cards. In the current example, we’ll let our Big Blind player check.
At that, the round of Pre-Flop is considered to be over and all the chips are collected and placed in the middle of the table.
The dealer deals three face-up cards on the table. These cards are traditionally called the Community Cards or the Board Cards and, as the name implies, these cards are shared by all players at the table to help complete their poker hands. When the community cards are dealt, the first person required to make a decision is the player to the left of the Dealer Button. Usually this is the person in the Small Blind position, but in case the latter has mucked, then the next player is the first one to start the action. This player can either check or bet. The action then continues until each player has had a chance to check, call (if there has been a bet or raise), raise or muck. Once there is a bet or raise, each player must match the made bet, re-raise or muck for the action to continue. It is usual for all players to check during a round. In this case, no money would be added into the pot, and the round would be over.
The end of the round comes once all the players have called (or mucked), and have bet an equal amount.
The dealer places a fourth face up community card on the table. Again, the players, starting with the player left of the Dealer may check, bet or muck correspondingly. Anyway, in this round (and the following), all the players should bet and raise according to the higher limit of the table. Following our example the maximum amount of bet and raise in this round is 40 USD. The action continues, as before, with all the players finally betting the same amount, or mucking their hand. Again, all the chips bet in this round are pooled in the center of the table.
The dealer now deals the 5th face up card and this is the final community card on the table. Each player now has seven cards in total: their two hole cards and five community cards on the table). These cards serve to make the best five card combination. Again, the player left of the dealer is the first to act and the action continues around the table the same way as before.
Important note: in this, or any other round, if a player bets or raises and all the other players muck their cards – the hand is over and the player who made the last bet or raise before everyone else automatically wins the hand. Beside the point, the winner is not obliged to show his hand, though he collects all the money bet up to that point.
In case the game is still in progress and all or a part of the players are still in the pot, after the River, the remaining players should compare their cards to determine the winner in the last round called the showdown. Traditionally, the player with the highest ranking hand wins the hand and grabs the pot. If two or more players have identical hands, then the pot is split between them with any remaining unpaired chip(s) going to the player left of The Dealer.
In case you are playing a professional version of Texas Hold’em and want to stick to all the peculiarities of this game, remember the following structure which shows how players should display their cards. The first one to show his cards is the last person to take aggressive action when betting or raising at The River. For instance, if the player at the Small Blind position checks, the Big Blind position bets 40 USD and everyone else calls. In such situation, the player at the Big Blind position would show his cards first. However, if someone else raised (and everyone else called or mucked), then that person would be the first to show his\her cards. If the player to his left can beat that hand, he would be the one to display his cards. However, if they have an inferior hand, then they are not obliged to show their losing hand and can simply muck. Once all the players have displayed their hands (or mucked) then the player(s) with the highest visible hand wins the pot.
What Happens Next?
After The Showdown, all cards are returned to the dealer, the winning player collects his chips and the Dealer Button is moved clockwise to the next player. This action, as mentioned before, ensures that the Dealer, Small Blind and Big Blind are rotated, ensuring that all players at the table play at all positions.
Pot Limit games are just that. Players can bet anywhere between the current limit of the table (The Lower Limit during the Pre-Flop and the Flop and the Higher Limit during the Turn and the River), and the maximum amount in the pot and on the table.
For example: We join a 20/40 game during the Flop. There is 200 USD in the pot and the player in the Small Blind position has made a 20 USD bet. The next player would need to bet 20 USD to call. Making the total pot 240 USD (200 (Pot)+20 (1st Player's Bet)+20(Your Call)). In this case, you can raise by up to 240 USD.
For instance, you raise by 160 USD. Now there is 400USD in the pot. The next player must at least call your 180 USD bet. This would mean there is now 580 USD on the table (200 (Pot)+20(1st Player's Bet)+180 (Your Bet and Raise)+180 (Next Player's Call). He may raise by anything between the table limit (Lower or Higher, in our example 20 USD or 40 USD) and 580 USD.
As you can see, the pot size increases exponentially and, because of this, this type of poker may sometimes be considered closer to a No Limit game than a Fixed Limit one.
Quite simple, as the name implies, in a No Limit game, players can bet anything between the limit of the round and their total amount of chips. Betting all your chips, in any poker game is called going 'All In'. This could be because you choose to raise by the full amount of your chips, or because you simply have run out of chips during that particular hand.
Note: Rebuying chips DURING a hand of poker is strictly prohibited.
If, during a hand, a player runs out of chips, but other players continue to bet, then the pot is split at the point the player bet all his chips. All subsequent bets made by the other players are kept in a separate "Side Pot". At the Showdown, the original player is only competing for the Main Pot, the one that he contributed to. All other players are competing for BOTH pots. In a land based environment, the winner of the side pot is determined first.
Occasionally, you may see several side pots. Again, the same rules are applied here. Once again, players only compete for the pot(s) that they have contributed to.