Texas Hold’em Poker Game
Game: Poker, specifically Texas Hold’em
For Ages: 8+
Number of Players: 2+
Family game night started out with a regular poker game. To say that I am not a poker player is an understatement. I have probably played poker twice in my life previous to this game. But someone in my family suggested it so I thought, sure, why not? I wasn’t the only one not familiar with the rules however. Out of seven players, three had a good idea how to play, and four of us were looking pretty confused. After a few fits and starts and going over the Texas Hold’em poker rules, we played our first game. It didn’t really work well because we were seven and we were running out of cards when we threw out some and asked for more. So we switched to Texas Hold’em since one of our players pointed out that we wouldn’t run into that issue.
The Game History
Texas Hold’em is a variation on the classic poker game. According to Wikipedia, it was created in the early 1900s and became the most popular and widely-played poker game in the 2000s with the dawn of the internet age. It had already been one of the most popular games in Las Vegas. Robstown, Texas has been designated as the birthplace of Texas Hold’em, as decided by the Texas Legislature.
The players decide who the dealer will be and he or she goes round the table twice, so that each player has just two cards in their hand which they do not show to the other players. The remaining deck is placed at the center of the game table. The top card is a ‘flop’ card, that is, it’s put aside the deck to prove that the dealer has not cheated. Not sure about your family, but mine is not good enough at cheating to get away with it!
Then three cards are placed face up on the other side of the deck away from the flop card. The person immediately to the left of the dealer is the ‘small blind’. This means they must bet the minimum amount to get the game started. The person to the small blind’s immediate left is the ‘big blind’ and they can raise the bid or check, meaning they can bid higher than the small blind or just leave the bid as is and contribute the same amount as the small blind.
The Play (at least how my family played!)
The play begins with each player looking at their cards and deciding how they will play based on how their two cards relate to the cards face up on the table. They are looking to find a pair, or 3 or 4 cards of the same kind, i.e., three jacks, as well as straights, flushes, and so on. These poker hands are based on classic winning hands.
So, if a player is holder a pair of kings and two of the three cards on the table are two kings, then that player will have four kings. Chances are he or she will win that hand. But, play isn’t over yet and other players still have a chance to win.
If the small blind decides to bet the minimum, say a dime, and the big blind decides to increase the bet to a quarter, then each player after will either fold because they think they are holding nothing and don’t want to lose any money, or they will contribute a quarter themselves until play goes around the table back to the small blind. That player has to decide if a quarter is too rich for their blood or if they think their hand is good and so add fifteen cents to the pot.
If any of the players decide to fold, their cards are put onto the flop pile and they are out of the game for that round.
At this point another card is drawn and put on the flop pile. The next card at the top of the deck is drawn and added to the three cards already face up so that now four cards are showing. Each player can then decide what to do based on the plays of the small and big blinds. They must ante up to match their bids, hold (or check) or fold.
When play has returned to the small blind, that person again decides whether they want to also hold, fold or ante up. If they decide to hold, then the next round can be played by adding the top card on the deck to the flop pile and the second card added to the face up cards, which now number five. The small blind again will decide to increase their bid, fold or hold. Then play continues round the table with each remaining player also deciding to fold, hold or up the ante.
Once all players have had their turn, and play lands back to the final player still in the game, their hands can be shown to show who has the winning hand.
The winner is the player who has the best hand according to the rules of poker. The best hand will be any three cards on the table matched up with the two cards being held in whichever hand is best.
The good thing about this game is that on the table everyone shares the same hand on the table so that a measure of Texas Hold’em strategy can be used and must be used even on the first round of a hand. At the start of my game, there were a number of plays I made where I realized that had I continued to play instead of folding because I had no cards in my hand that matched up with any of the three on the table, I would have won if I had not folded since cards were subsequently laid down that did match up. For instance, for one hand, I was holding a king of clubs and a three of hearts. The cards on the table were a ten of spades, a Jack of hearts and a two of spades. I folded. On the next round a king of spades was revealed. Had I stayed in the game I would have won since the player that did win just had a pair of tens. I quickly learned not to give up so easily!
Should you try it?
Why not! When my family played we used change from a change jar. Each player was given the same amount of change. Because it was family game night and the object of our games nights is to have fun, we were not so careful about who was ahead in the overall scheme of things. At the end of the evening everyone returned the change to the jar!
I still wouldn’t call myself a poker player by any means, but it was a fun night and that’s what family games night is all about.