How Does the Betting Go in Texas Holdem?

The Basics

Texas Holdem (pronounced “tee-zah-HEM”) is a popular poker variant that can be found on almost all reputable poker websites. It is also the default game type on many mobile apps and online casinos that cater to US players. If you’re not familiar, Texas Holdem is a type of poker in which the players must make an open-ended bet (i.e. they do not have to bet a fixed amount of money) before their hand is revealed. The first player to show their hand wins the pot. So in other words, all the players are competing against each other and there is no bank or house involved.

The official odds of winning for each player are:

  • 1 in 8 for the first two hands
  • 1 in 9 for the next two hands
  • 1 in 10 for the last two hands

These odds are always the same regardless of whether the game is played professionally or recreationally. However, when playing for real money, some online casinos and poker websites may alter these odds slightly in their favor (sometimes known as “chips”).

The Handicapping

In a nutshell, handicapping is the practice of altering the odds of winning or losing in your favor. Commonly used handicapping methods include:

  • Outsider betting
  • Even money betting
  • Money management
  • Adjusting the pot size
  • Staying on top of the competition
  • Side betting
  • Stud or Draw poker
  • Taking a short break

These are just some of the most popular and effective handicapping tactics used in poker. However, exactly which ones to use depends on your strategy. For example, if you’re playing in a cash game and want to maximize your winnings, you might want to avoid betting smaller amounts as it will reduce your odds of winning. Instead, you could opt for a bigger blind amount (i.e. bigger bets) or opt for even money bets or outsized bets (i.e. bets that are twice as large as the usual amount).

The Strategy

There are three distinct types of Texas Holdem strategies:

  • Pure Strategy
  • Tactical Strategy
  • Survival Strategy

Let’s examine each one.

In a nutshell, the pure strategy is to utilize the fundamental rules of the game and form a rigid game plan. There are no variables here because there are no rules that can be broken. This type of strategy could be considered chess-like and it is the simplest and most straightforward way to play. The biggest downfall of this strategy is that it takes a lot of practice to become good at and it is not always effective. That being said, it is a safe bet to say that no one will ever become an expert in playing Texas Holdem purely by following a set of rules.

The tactical strategy is similar to the pure strategy but it tries to take some of the uncertainty out of poker by recognizing and exploiting specific, often random, fluctuations and anomalies in the game. Just like chess, where players seek to put their opponents in checkmate, players that adopt a tactical approach in poker try to trap their opponents into making horrible bluffs or bad stands. These are situations in which a player opens up their hand (i.e. shows it to their opponents) without sufficient reason (i.e. because they have a good hand or intend to make a good play).

A common misconception about tactical betting is that it involves a lot of complicated maneuvers and sleight of hand. This couldn’t be further from the truth – at its most basic level, tactical betting is about recognizing and exploiting random variables and irregularities in the game so that you can make the right play every time.

The survival strategy revolves around trying to win as much money as possible during the course of the game. Since there are no restrictions in terms of bet size or payouts, the goal is to maximize the amount of money that you put in (i.e. the size of your bets). In some cases, the goal might be to get as many cards as possible in your hand (i.e. raise the pot size), in others it could be to avoid getting too many cards (i.e. check or fold).

One of the biggest advantages of a survival strategy is that it is extremely flexible. You can play it anywhere and at any time and, because your only goal is to win as much money as possible, it doesn’t matter if you play against people with a similar strategy or if you play against people that use a different strategy. The survival strategy is, in other words, perfect for adapting to any situation.

The Rewards

Texas Holdem is a high-stakes game but the payouts can be incredibly lucrative – some players have walked away with six-figure payouts! Since there are no restrictions on how much money you can win (i.e. no upper limit) the temptation to keep playing is arguably the biggest deterrent to giving it up completely. This being said, the biggest challenge for a player that utilizes a survival strategy is staying motivated. It’s all fun and games until you start racking up massive debt.

On the flip side, the risk of losing a lot of money is a major motivator for those that play with a tactical approach. The key is to find the right motivation – are you more afraid of losing or afraid of not being able to keep playing? Perhaps it’s time for a new hobby? Playing poker for money is a serious endeavor and it’s not for the faint of heart – you’ll need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

No matter what your approach, the rewards can be great – you just have to learn how to manage your money better!