Known as the ‘Cadillac’ of poker games, No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em is the game that caused the poker boom and is the variant currently played at the World Series of Poker main event. It was introduced to the Las Vegas poker scene in the late 1960s and has grown in popularity ever since. No Limit Holdem’s popularity stems partly from the fact that it takes ‘a minute to learn and a lifetime to master’. The no limit betting structure, where players have the chance to win their opponent’s entire stack in one hand makes the game exciting both to play and to watch.
How to Play No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em
At the start of a No Limit Holdem hand the two players to the left of the dealer are forced to put in blind bets to get the action going; the player to the immediate left of the dealer puts in the ‘small blind’ and the player to his left the ‘big blind’ (typically twice the small blind). Each player is then dealt two cards, faced down and the ‘pre-flop’ betting action starts on the player to the left of the big blind. If he wants to continue in the hand, he may ‘call’ the amount of the big blind bet or ‘raise’, meaning all other players must match this raise if they wish to continue. Alternatively, he can ‘fold’ and give up his interest in the pot.
The action continues clockwise around the table with each player having the option to call, raise or fold. If there has been no raise by the time the action reaches the small blind, he has the option to complete his bet to the amount of the big blind or indeed raise. Similarly, the big blind has the option to ‘check’, meaning the hand progresses, or to raise. If someone raises pre-flop and everyone else folds, the pot is awarded to the player who made the raise.
Because of the no limit betting structure, each player can bet or raise the amount of his entire chip stack at any point in the hand. Players can only play with chips that are on the table however, and can not add to or remove chips from their stack during the course of a hand. This rule is known as ‘table stakes’.
When all players still in the pot have matched the amount of the big blind, or the last pre-flop raise, we proceed to the ‘flop’, where the dealer puts three cards face up in the middle of the table. These three cards are known as community cards, and can be used by all of the players at the table to make their best 5-card poker hand. The action on the flop and subsequent betting rounds starts on the small blind who has the option to bet or to check, handing the betting initiative to the next player. Note that if there is a bet facing a player he must call, raise or fold; checking is no longer an option. As with pre-flop, if a player makes a bet on the flop that is not called by at least one player, they’re awarded the pot.
If the last bet on the flop betting round has been called, we move on to the ‘turn’. On this round, the dealer places a single community card face up on the table, which can again be used by all players still in the pot to make their hand. They can now use any 5 of the 6 total cards (4 community and 2 hole cards) to make their poker hand. Once again the action starts on the small blind and continues clockwise around the remaining players who have the opportunity to check or bet.
When betting on the turn is complete, we move to the ‘river’, the final round of the hand. On the river, the dealer places a final community card face up which the remaining players again may use to form part of their hand. They now have 7 cards from which to make their poker hand. Once the last bet has been called on the river or if all players remaining in the hand check, the hand goes to a ‘showdown’, where players must turn their hole cards face up and state the strength of their final poker hand. The player with the strongest 5-card poker hand wins the pot in this situation.