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How to Play Texas Holdem Poker Part III

If you’re still here after reading the previous two installments of this three-part series of articles, you have shown admirable patience. Obviously, your wondering when we will get to an in-depth look at the most dramatic element of Texas Hold’em: the showdown. Perhaps you think there’s something pointlessly sadistic in making you wait so long for the big payoff. You may be right, but there’s more to it than that. One of the key elements to being a successful master of Texas Hold’em is patience. And that’s the very quality you have been called upon to use over the course of this series. If you’ve made it this far in our story, congratulations - you might really have what it takes to stand tall at the table and take home a big pot.

So here we finally are, at the showdown. We’ve all seen this type of confrontation a million times in the movies: two gunmen squaring off on a dusty street, the sun low, a mean wind howling. Both reach for their gun belts and whip out pistols in the blink of an eye. Two conjoined shots tear through the bitter air. One gunman falls to his knees, hands vainly trying to stop the flow of blood from a hole in his gut the size of a tangerine. The other casually returns his gun to its holder, and then struts back into the saloon to polish off a bottle of whiskey and see if that cute little sportin’ gal Sally feels like showing him a good time.

If you are even slightly familiar with Texas Hold’em, you know perfectly well that the climax of each hand at the card table can be every bit as thrilling as the scenario described above. When two or more players remain after fourth (and final) regular betting round, the only way to determine the winner is with a Showdown. Here’s how it works: Each player plays the best five-card hand he can make from the seven cards comprising his two hole cards and the five community cards (which are also known as cards on “the board”). A player may use both of his two hole cards, or only one, or none at all, to form his final five-card hand. If the five community cards form the player’s best hand, then the player is said to be “playing the board” and can only hope to split the pot.

On the contrary, if the best hand is shared by more than one player (e.g. if no player is able to beat the board), then the pot is split equally amongst all remaining players. However, it is common for players to have closely-valued but not identical hands. If this scenario comes to pass, kickers are needed to break then tie.

The goal, of course, is to build the strongest five-card hand. Straights often split the pot, and in some cases there may even be multiple flushes. If the latter happens, the pot goes to the player with the highest flush card which completes a flush and beats the board's flush cards. If there is a flush on board, (or all the board cards are the same suit), then under cards in that suit do not play, and if no one has a card in the flush suit beating the board, then the pot is split. The sole exception to this rule is the case of a straight flush. The best possible hand given by the five community cards is referred to as “the nuts.”

All this can be a lot to keep track of, and it can unfold with as much unexpected speed as a gunfight in a windblown alley. So when getting yourself familiar with the intricacies of Texas Hold’em, it’s a good idea to play low-limit games with friends (or, if online, play at some free tables) before moving on to larger stakes. Otherwise, you may just find yourself planted underneath a wooden cross on Boot Hill with a belly full of lead before you even know what happened.

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