The ideal number for a game of poker is probably between five and eight players, but tables often hold ten players, and just two people playing "head to head" can be breathtakingly exciting. Home games have been played on kitchen tables for centuries, so throw a piece of green baize (or some felt, a rug, a carpet, even a towel) over your table and we can begin – almost.
Get hold of a full deck of cards, take out the jokers and give the pack a good shuffie.
You are going to need some chips. You can buy these easily over the Internet or from shops. You can use pennies, or play for cash or even, when following these pages, use matchsticks or sweets or ball-bearings. But remember, when the game really starts, you will be playing to win or to lose. You don’t get to collect your chips back again at the end of the evening and laugh about what good fun it all was. The chips are your money, and you must play to win. So, give each player about thirty chips, and that will do for the moment.
Now, a word about the dealer:
Dealing is either performed by a staff member provided by a card club or casino, or it is done by the players themselves. This might be done by drawing for seats: everyone chooses a card; the player with the highest is the dealer, the next highest on his right, and so on. If the players perform this task, the first person shuffles the deck thoroughly, asks the player on his right to cut the deck and then deals the hand. Then the role passes to the next player, in a clockwise rotation. If there is an appointed dealer, then there will be a "dealer button" (a white plastic disc with "dealer" printed on it) placed in front of the player to indicate for whom the cards are being dealt.
At poker, everything moves clockwise from the dealer. At Hold ‘Em, your position at the table in relation to the dealer is absolutely crucial. As you will learn, to be the dealer can be very advantageous – that is why the role must move around the table after each hand.
The dealer shuffles the cards and offers them to his right-hand opponent who lifts off a portion of the deck and places it face down next to the remaining cards. The dealer then puts the remaining cards on top of the portion cut off. This is called the "cut" and it ensures that the dealer hasn’t stacked the deck in his favour. Before the dealer begins to distribute the cards, there is still one task to be undertaken.
The player to the left of the dealer must make a Small Blind bet, let’s say one chip, and the player to his left must make a Big Blind bet – usually double the amount of the small bet – two chips. These bets are called the Blinds (because you have to make the bet "blind" – without having seen your cards) and they are used to set the action going. So, with the Blinds placed, the dealer deals one card to each player starting on his left and going around the table. He then deals a second card to each player and stops.
The players look at their cards, ensuring that their opponents cannot see them or the player’s reaction to them. There is now a round of betting, based on the strength of these two hole cards.
Now, the purpose of the Blind bets becomes clear. If players wish to stay in the hand, they must match – or exceed – the bet placed by the Big Blind (in this example, betting two chips).
This is a key part of poker betting. To stay in the hand, you must match (or, if you think you have the best hand, exceed – by raising) the largest bet currently made, If you choose not to do this, then you must fold (or muck) your cards, discarding them face down in the direction of the dealer. You now take no further part in this particular hand.