Understanding the rules of Split Hold’em

Photo by World Poker Tour / CC BY-ND 2.0

If you and your friends are looking to breathe new life into your home poker games, there are plenty of new and innovative versions of the classic Texas Hold’em to try. The latest craze to take hold online is Split Hold’em. On the face of it, Split Hold’em looks very similar to Texas Hold’em, but there is one intriguing twist. The community cards are split into two separate boards, with two flops, two turns, two rivers and two halves of the pot up for grabs.

Prior to the flop, the game of Split Hold’em plays out identically to Texas Hold’em. The game is a no limit version of poker, with players getting two cards and small and big blinds in play throughout. Post-flop is when the action takes on a completely new light. Rather than dealing just one board of five cards, the dealer reveals an additional board of five cards. The hand then plays out in the same way, with rounds of betting on the flop, turn and river. Players can compete to win half of the pot on the first community board, the second community board, or both (if they believe their hand dominates both boards).

It’s quite possible for you to arrange a home game of Split Hold’em. The hand strengths are the same as Texas Hold’em, and if you’ve ever played hi-lo games such as Omaha or Stud, the split pot-style action won’t be any different to you either. All that’s different is that you must consider both community boards rather than one. Naturally, if you play Split Hold’em online, you’ll have to consider how the rake affects your long-term profits, given that there are two pots split two or more ways. Nevertheless, if you play at home, this won’t be an issue.

What’s great about Split Hold’em is that it offers unrivalled levels of action. This is particularly important for beginner poker players who want to understand the dynamics of Texas Hold’em in a fun and relaxed way. With two community boards on the table, action will almost certainly be frenetic and fast-paced, with lots of players involved in each hand. Of course, the more experienced you become at Split Hold’em, the more you’ll recognise the importance of not attempting to chase winners on the river on a single board. It’s not worth battling it out and risking lots of your chips just to win half of the pot.

With Split Hold’em there will be opportunities to try and win both pots. There will be situations on both flops where your hole cards may connect promisingly on both boards, in which case you should play your hand strongly to avoid others catching favorable turns and rivers. As another note of caution, even if you wake up to pocket aces or kings, the introduction of five more community cards means that there’s an even greater chance of an opponent landing a hand that can beat yours. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play aggressively pre-flop, but it’s a good idea to be statistically clued up that bad beats will happen more often in Split Hold’em than Texas Hold’em.