Texas Hold’em is the most popular form of poker. It’s played in a variety of formats including poker tournaments, cash games and even heads up or 1 on 1. We’ve all heard the statement that in Texas Hold’em the ultimate goal is to put a player to a decision for all of their chips. In this step by step guide, we’ll show you how to play Texas Hold’em, understand the rules and even share some basic poker strategy to help you get started taking down tables.
Texas Hold’em Poker Video Tutorial
If you’re more of a watch-and-learn poker player, check out the Texas Hold’em Poker video tutorial below:
Types of Texas Hold’em
When playing Texas hold’em for the first time, it’s important to understand the different variations available, all of which are distinguished from each other by their betting limits. Knowing this will allow you to choose the type that best suits you so you can start off on the right foot.
Below are four of the most commonly played variations today:
Limit Texas Hold’em
♠ Betting in Limit Hold’em is in pre-determined, structured amounts.
♠ Pre-flop and flop bets and raises are the same amount as the big blind.
♠ Turn and river bets and raises are doubled.
♠ Up to four bets are allowed per player per betting round, which includes 1 bet and 3 raises.
No Limit Texas Hold’em
♥ The minimum bet is equal to the big blind, with the maximum bet being anything up to all their chips.
Pot Limit Texas Hold’em
♣ Minimum bet is equal to the big blind, with the maximum bet being anything up to the size of the pot.
♣ Minimum raise is equal to the previous bet or raise, with the maximum raise being the size of the pot, which is defined as the total of the active pot plus all bets on the table plus the amount the active player must first call before raising.
♣ There is no cap on the number of raises allowed.
Mixed Texas Hold’em
♦ The game switches between rounds of Limit Hold’em and No Limit Hold’em, with rules switching respectively.
How to Win
The winner is determined by the player who holds the best hand, made from a combination of hole cards and the community cards. In the event of identical hands, the pot is split equally between the winners.
➤ Your best hand can be made using both, one or none of your hole cards.
➤ Poker hands must be exactly five cards
➤ Suits are never used to determine the strength of a hand
➤ If all remaining players have nothing, the winning hand is the one with the highest-valued single card, going down to the very last of the five card should any players have identical first four cards.
Once the Pot is distributed to the winner(s), a new hand of Hold’em is ready to be played. The button now moves clockwise to the next player, and the blinds are put out respectively.
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When all players have gathered around the table, one is selected to start off as the nominal dealer for the first hand. This selection is determined through a high card draw (each player is dealt one card; the player with the highest value card goes first, with Ace being the highest. If two or more players have the same value card then they are ranked according to suit).
A button is used to indicate the current dealer. The button is then passed to the player on the left of the current dealer to act as the new dealer for the next round. This process is repeated for each new round.
As well as determining who the dealer for the current hand is, it also indicates who receives the first card – the player to the immediate left of the dealer button.
After the dealer has been determined, the player directly left from the dealer posts the “small blind”, and the player immediately left from the “small blind” posts the “big blind”, which is typically twice the amount of the small blind.
These are also known as “blind bets”, and as the name suggests, is a bet made by a player who is blind, because s/he does not know what his/her hole cards will be. These forced bets are posted is to make the game interesting by adding money into the pot so that everyone has something to play for right from the start.
The blinds can vary depending on the stakes and the betting structure being used. Typically, the “buy-in” is no less than 100 times the size of the “big blind”.
So for example, if the “buy-in” is $20, then the blinds are 10c/20c, or rather 10c/25c for convenience sake.
Once the blinds are posted, the first hand is dealt.
Dealing Cards & Betting Rounds
The first card is dealt to the player immediately left of the button, and then going clockwise dealing one card to each player at a time until everyone has 2 cards. These are your “hole cards”.
There are a total of four betting rounds in Texas hold’em, and players are all required to make at least one action before the next betting round begins.
Betting begins with the person directly clockwise from the big blind, also known as the player “under the gun”.
A hand ends when all players but one have folded, or the fourth and the final betting round completes with multiple players still in the hand – whichever comes first. After which the players enter the “showdown”.
First Betting Round – Pre-flop
Each player, after seeing his/her hole cards, now has the option to take several actions, starting with the player to the left of the big blind. The available actions to the first player are “fold”, “call” or “raise”.
Fold: Relinquishing your cards and pay nothing further, waiting for the start of the next round. Your cards are placed in a pile of other discarded hands, known as the “muck”, by the dealer.
Call: Match the amount of the big blind.
Raise: Raise the bet by doubling the amount of the big blind, or within the predetermined limits of the game. Most cardrooms have a limit on the number of raises allowed, which is usually 3 on each round of betting. After the 3rd raise, the remaining players to act can only call or fold.
The following players have the same three actions available to them. In the case of a ‘raise’, the player must raise the amount by at least double that of the big blind or within the specific limits of the game, or, if the first player had chosen to raise, then the minimum raise amount is the same as the amount in which the first player had raised.
For example: If the big blind is $10, and the first player decided to raise it to $50 – an increase of $40 – then the next person to raise must raise it by a minimum of $40, so the raise will have to be at least $90.
There is a special rule that only applies to this round of betting, called “last action” pre flop, which is available to the person who posted the big blind. If everyone called the big blind (ie, no one raised), s/he may choose to raise him/herself. This is an exception to the rule that nobody is allowed to raise their own bet.
Betting continues on each betting round until all active players (who have not folded) have had the chance to act, and have placed equal bets in the pot.
Second Betting Round – The Flop
When the previous round of betting has finished, the card on the top of the deck is dealt face-down on the table (this is the burn card), followed by 3 cards face-up on the board. These are the first 3 of the 5 community cards available to all players still in the hand. Betting for this round now commence.
The betting rules are similar to the previous round, with two exceptions. As there are no longer any blind bets in this or subsequent rounds, the first player to act is now the first active player to the immediate left of the button. S/he has the same 3 actions as the first round, with the addition of “bet” and “check”.
Bet/Open: The first player gets to initiate the betting round by betting/opening the round, or, s/he has the choice of “checking”
Check: If no one has yet opened the betting round, a player can “check”. This means they wish to pass the action to the next player, but keep their cards to give them the option to “raise” (also called “check-raise”), “call” or “fold” later on in the betting round.
If everyone “checked”, then the betting round has ended and play proceeds to the next betting round. If someone had made a “bet” after the initial “check”, everyone else (going in clockwise) will have to either “call”, “fold”, or “raise”. When the play returns back to the first player who “checked”, s/he then gets to “call”, “fold” or “raise” too.
Third Betting Round – The Turn
Once the previous round of betting is completed, the card on the top of the deck is burned, and then the “turn” is dealt face-up on the board. Betting commences just like in the “flop” round, only now the bet is doubled.
Fourth Betting Round – The River
If there is more than 1 player left after the “turn” betting round, the 5th and final card, “river” is dealt. Just like before, the top card is burned, and then the next card is dealt face-up on to the board.
Betting for this round is identical to that in the “turn”. If more than 1 player remains after the end of this round, we then go on to the “showdown”.
The last person to bet or raise in the river round shows their cards unless there was no bet on the final round, in which case the player immediately clockwise from the button shows their cards first, continuing clockwise around the table.
If a player has a losing hand after seeing the other hand(s) that have been revealed, s/he can decide to show or muck their hand and conceded the pot.
Before you can walk the walk, let’s get accustomed to all the Poker jargon so you can talk the talk.
Buy-in: The minimum required amount of chips that must be bought to become involved in a game or tournament. Blinds: Short for “blind bets”. These are forced bets made before any cards are dealt by the player to the left of the Button. Ante: Another type of forced bets, usually smaller than either blinds, posted by all players at the table into the pot. This isn’t always required, and is determined by the exact betting structure of the game. Button: This is a marker to indicate the player acting as the dealer in the current hand. Bluff: This is when a player tries to convince the opponents that his/her hand is stronger or weaker than it actually is, and attempts to make them take an action that they otherwise wouldn’t have, such as folding or betting more. Check: This is equivalent to betting zero and/or to calling the current bet of zero. Bet: Also known as “open”, the first person to start the betting round can choose to “bet” or “check”, in which case the action is passed on to the next player. Raise: Players who wish to bet more than the current amount can choose to raise and place a greater bet. Other remaining players will have to call the new raise or raise themselves (re-raise) in order to stay in the game. Hole cards: The first 2 cards that are dealt face down to each player during the Pre-flop, and only belong to that individual player and remains concealed from other players until “Showdown”. Pre-flop: Anything that happens before the flop is dealt. Flop: The first three community cards dealt face up to form the board that all players can use. Fourth Street/Turn: The fourth card dealt face up to the community card board. Fifth Street/River: This is the final (5th) card dealt face up to the community card board. Showdown: When all remaining players after the last betting round, reveal and compare their hands to determine the winner(s) Pot: All the money that the players have betted in that round.
The above list is the most common terms you’ll come across when playing Texas hold’em. To learn more, check out our in-depth poker terms guide.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s dive into the game itself.
Did you know:
The burn card – the card at the top that protects the rest of the deck between dealer actions was put in place because of the old wild west days of poker where cheating was rife. Some traditions are worth standing the test of time!