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How to Play Texas Holdem Poker Part I

Some say it all started back in 1998. I know it’s hard to remember with much clarity anything that happened before the millennium ball dropped, but bear with me here. I’m telling a story about how Texas Hold’em became the most dominant force in gambling since the invention of the roulette wheel.

As I was saying, some say it all started back in 1998. That was the year a movie came out that, to be quite frank, not a whole lot of people saw. The movie was called “Rounders.” It starred Matt Damon (fresh off his Oscar win for co-writing “Good Will Hunting” with life partner Ben Affleck), Edward Norton and John Malkovich. The story of a small-time gambler who gets himself into a whole mess of trouble with the Russian mob, the flick was kind of a dog, according to the critics. As I mentioned, it didn’t break any records at the box office, and wound up in the bargain bins at video stores across the country in a matter of months.

So why am I bothering to write about this forgotten little movie, you ask? Because “Rounders,” despite its many shortcomings in terms of cinematic art, was responsible for introducing the game of Texas Hold’em to a whole new generation of gamblers, both professional and amateur.

Think I’m exaggerating? Then consider this simple fact: Chris Moneymaker emerged from total obscurity back in 2003 to absolutely dominate the World Series of Poker. Suddenly, the unwashed masses of frustrated gamblers coast to coast had a hero they could call their own. Chris was one of them, a real everyday American. And his real name was actually Moneymaker! Many poker pundits have noted that the current tidal wave of popularity that Texas Hold`em (and professional poker in general) enjoys is due in large part to the appearance of Moneymaker on the big stage of televised play.

What does this have to do with the movie “Rounders,” you are no doubt chomping at the bit to inquire? Well, my friend, that humble little turkey of a film was the impetus that inspired Chris Moneymaker to start playing poker seriously. Yes, he was so moved by the action of the game depicted on-screen (which was the first time Texas Hold’em was ever showcased in a major motion picture, in case you forgot or just suffer from ADD) that Chris decided to radically change the direction of his normal, average, everyday life. The rest, as they say, is history.

So, maybe you would like to learn this poker variant that is spreading across the world faster than a Malibu brush fire during an especially dry autumn. Well, let’s take it one step at a time, and examine a few Texas Hold’em fundamentals.

Play begins with each player being dealt two cards, face down. These cards known as the “hole cards,” and are the only cards each player will receive individually. The hole cards will possibly be revealed at the showdown, but this does not always happen. All depends on what happens during the next few betting rounds.

The hand begins with the pre-flop betting round, beginning with the player to the left of the dealer, and continuing clockwise. The dealer then tosses out a “burn card,” followed by three face-up community cards called the flop, which then has its own (second) round of betting. Then another card is burned, and a single community card called the turn is dealt, followed by a third betting round. A final burn card is followed by a single community card called the river and (you guessed it) another betting round.

Then comes the showdown, which contains so much excitement it will have to be covered in a later section of this three-part series. Go ahead, tell the truth. The suspense is killing you, isn’t it?

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