QUESTION: How Do the Cards Work in Texas Holdem?
ANSWER: One of the first questions asked by novice players is “How do the cards work in Texas Hold’em.” It’s a basic query to be certain, but the answer is essential to understanding the game that’s become a household name and elevated the World Series of Poker to a nationally recognized event. In this article, we’ll detail how the cards are used in Texas Holdem, from the value of suits and ranks to how they’re used during actual gameplay. With this information under your belt, you’ll then be ready to move on to more complicated areas of the game.
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Suits and Ranks
In order to understand how the cards work in Texas Holdem, the first step is to be aware of what suits and ranks are. This may seem almost childlike to an experienced player, but everyone has to learn to crawl before they can walk.
The symbols in the corners of a card mark its suit. There are four suits in a standard American deck of cards and these include:
Clubs – Black symbol that looks similar to a cloverleaf.
Spades – The black symbol that doesn’t resemble a cloverleaf. Looks like a digging implement.
Hearts – Red symbol that looks like a heart.
Diamonds – Red symbols that resemble diamonds.
While the suit places the card into one of four categories, the rank determines its value within that category. The ace can serve as the highest or lowest card in a rank, but the other rankings remain the same. They are (from highest to lowest): King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2.
Hand Rankings in Texas Hold’em
If a game of Texas Hold’em results in a showdown, the winner is determined by comparing the cards of each remaining player. The participant with the strongest hand takes the pot. The following are all the available hands in order from strongest to weakest.
Straight Flush – Five cards of the same suit in sequence. The highest poker hand is the royal flush, which has an ace high followed by a king, queen, jack , and 10 (all of the same suit). Aces can also be used as low cards. In the rare case that multiple players have a straight flush, the winning hand is the one with the highest card. The chance of getting a straight flush during a game of Texas Hold’em is 0.0311%.
Four of a Kind – A hand containing four cards of one rank, as well as one unmatched card. Since Texas Hold’em uses community cards, it’s possible for more than one player to wind up with the same set of four. In this case, the winning hand is the one with the higher unmatched card. The odds of getting four of a kind (also known as “quads”) in a game of seven-card poker are 0.168%.
Full House – Also known as a “full boat,” this hand contains three matching cards of one rank and two matching cards of another rank. The three matching cards are meant to break ties, but the pairs can also be consulted if players have identical three-card sets. The probability of getting a full house in a game of seven-card poker is 2.60%.
Flush – Five cards of the same suit that are not in sequence. In the case of a tie, each card is compared (starting with the highest one) to find the player with the superior hand. A player can expect to get a flush 3.03% of the time when playing Texas Hold’em.
Straight – A five-card hand that’s in sequential order but is made up of at least two different suits. If two players have a straight, the highest card of each hand is compared to determine a winner. The chances of getting a straight during a game are 4.62%.
Three of a Kind – Also known as a “set” or “trips,” this five-card poker hand is comprised of three cards of the same rank, as well as two other unrelated cards. If two players have the same set of trips during the showdown phase, then the higher of the two unrelated cards are compared to determine a winner. Players can expect to achieve this hand 4.83% of the time during games of Texas Hold’em.
Two Pair – This hand is made up of two cards of the same rank, two cards of another matching rank, and another card of a third rank. The highest ranking pair is compared to break ties, and the second pair is consulted if these are the same. In the rare case that both sets of pairs are the same, then the hand with the highest fifth card is declared the winner. The player receives this hand 23.5% of the time.
One Pair – Contains two cards of an identical rank, as well as three other cards of different but non-matching ranks. If two players each have a pair, then the highest pair wins. In the case of a tie, the other cards are compared in descending order. In Texas Hold’em, the chance of getting a pair is 43.8%.
High Card – This hand has no matching ranks, and its value is determined by the highest card present. The probability of ending up with one of these hands is 17.4%, which means players have a better percentage chance of receiving a one or two-pair hand.
Dealing the Cards
If you’re learning about how the cards work in Texas Hold’em, you’ll need to be familiar with the order in which they’re dealt. No matter where you play, the following order will always be adhered to:
1. The game begins with each player receiving two cards face down (known as hole or pocket cards). The player in the small blind receives the first card dealt, while the player with the dealer button gets the last card.
2. If two or more players remain after the pre-flop betting round, then three community cards known as the “flop” are dealt face-up in the center of the table. Players may use their two hole cards and the community cards to make the best five-card hand possible.
3. After another round of betting, a fourth community card known as the “turn” is dealt.
4. Another round of betting occurs, and a final community card known as the “river” is dealt in the center of the playing surface.
5. No more cards are dealt from this point on. One more round of betting takes place, and a showdown then occurs if two or more players remain in the pot.
Types of Playing Cards
If you’re going to host your own game of Texas Hold’em, you’ll need a deck of cards to play with. This might sound like a simple matter, but the array of options for the consumer is surprisingly vast. Playing cards come in all shapes and sizes, from the traditional 52-card American deck to international decks with different suits and ranks. If you’re looking for a standard deck of cards, however, the following are your best options.
Kem – Made by the United States Playing Card Company, this quality brand costs about five times more than the average deck of cards. You’ll get what you pay for, though, as Kem cards hold up even when exposed to water and grime. If you’re serious about cards, this is the deck to purchase.
Bicycle – If you’re looking for a cheaper option, you can’t go wrong with this popular brand. They’re the first brand of cards manufactured by the USPCC, and magicians are especially fond of them for performing tricks. While cheaper than Kem cards, they’re also less durable. Exposure to dirt and water leads to warping, and the corners will begin to show signs of wear after frequent use. Still, their low price makes them hard to beat.
Bee – Commonly used in casinos, this brand from the USPCC is another one of the leading options for players who want quality cards without spending lots of money.
And that is how the cards work in Texas Hold’em.