How to Play Texas Holdem

Learning how to play Texas Holdem is pretty easy. It only looks complicated because there are so many rounds of action. But other than the action preflop and at showdown, each round is the same. So once you get the general idea of the game, it’ll be easy to pick it up.

This page will explain the basics behind Texas Holdem poker, including the rules, betting, winning hands and terminology.

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An Example Hand of Texas Holdem – Game Play & Rules

Here is an example hand of Texas Holdem. This should give you an idea as to the rules and how the game plays.

The Blinds & Hole Cards

Before the cards are dealt the blinds are posted. The small blind posts the small blind and the big blind posts the big blind.

Once the blinds are posted the dealer deals each player two cards face down, one card at a time, starting with the small blind and working around the table clockwise. These are the players hole cards.

Preflop

After the hole cards are dealt the first betting round begins. The betting round begins with the player to the immediate left of the big blind, also known as the player under the gun. The options are to call, raise or fold.

Once that player acts the action will continue clockwise around the table. Each player will have the option to call, raise or fold. It keeps going like this until all but one player has folded, winning the pot outright, or until 2 or more players called.

When the action gets to the blinds, they will only need to call the difference between what they posted and the current bet. For example, if you’re playing $2/$4 and the current bet is $12, the small blind would only have to call $10 and the big blind $8 to see the flop.

The Flop

The flop is the first 3 community cards that players can use to make their 5 card poker hand. The dealer will usually burn one card, and then turn over 3 cards in the center of the table. After this another betting round starts.

The betting round will start with the first player to the left of the dealer button that’s still involved in the hand. The options are to check or bet (players can fold too, but checking is free).

Betting will continue clockwise until each player has acted. Depending on the action, players will have the option to check (if there is no betting), call (if someone bet), fold (if someone bet) or raise (if someone bet).

The Turn

The turn is the 4th community card. The turn will play just like the flop.

The River

The river is the 5th, and last, community card that players can use to make their hand. The river will play just like the flop and turn.

Unless all but one player folded during the betting round, once all players have acted there is a showdown to determine the winner. If there was no betting on the river then the first player to the left of the dealer button will need to flip up his or her hand. If there was betting on the river then the player who made the bets/raises (not the caller) will be the first to show. Then going clockwise around the table each player can show their hand (if they think they have the best hand) or muck (if they don’t think they have the best hand).

The player with the best 5 card poker hand, using any combination of their hole cards and community cards will win the hand and pot.

After the chips are awarded, the dealer button is moved one seat to the left. The 2 players to the left of the dealer button will post the blinds and a new hand of Texas Holdem will be dealt.

Texas Holdem Betting

The betting is usually what trips people up when learning how to play Holdem. This section will explain how Texas Holdem betting works, depending on the betting type being used.

No Limit Betting

No Limit Texas Holdem, or NLHE, is the most common form of Holdem nowadays. The betting rules for NLHE are simple:

  • Raises must be at least twice that of the current bet. For example, if you wanted to make a raise in a $2/$4 game, the minimum raise would be $8. It can be $9, $15 or even $11.25 — it can be whatever you have the chips for, as long as it’s 2x the current bet.
  • A player can move their entire stack “all in” at any time.

Limit Betting

Limit or “fixed limit” betting is a little bit more complicated. Using $2/$4 blinds as an example, here is how the betting works:

  • The blinds are half of the small and big bet. So with blinds of 2/4, the small bet would be $4 and the big bet $8.
  • Preflop and on the flop the small bet is used. So each bet and raise would be $4. If one player made a bet of $4 and you wanted to raise, you’d make it 8 total. If a player after you wanted to raise, it’d be to $12 total, then $16 and so on.
  • The turn and river is the same as preflop and the flop, except for that the big bet is used. So each bet would be in increments of $8.
  • Most poker rooms/sites have a cap of how many raises can take place per round. It depends on where you play, but it ranges from 3 to 5. After the cap has been reached, the only options are to fold or call until another the next round.

Pot Limit Betting

Pot Limit is the least common betting type used in Holdem. It’s also pretty easy to understand.

  • The minimum bet must be that of the big blind. The minimum raise must be 2x the big blind. So at blinds of $2/$4, the minimum bet is $4 and the minimum raise would be $8 (or 2x the last bet or raise).
  • The maximum amount a player can bet is determined by the amount in the pot. If there is $20 in the pot at a game of $2/$4 Limit Holdem, you can make a bet as large as $20. Assuming you bet $20, the player after you can wager as much as $40 ($20 from you + the $20 that was in the pot before you bet). The bigger the pot gets the more that can be wagered.
  • There are no betting caps. Players can continue to raise until each player has folded or called, or until everyone is “all in.”
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What Hands Win in Texas Holdem

Texas Holdem uses the standard poker rankings chart to determine the winning hand. In order of best hand to worst:

  • Royal Flush
  • Straight Flush
  • Four of a Kind
  • Full House (Boat)
  • Flush
  • Straight
  • 3 of a Kind (Trips or Set)
  • Two Pair
  • Pair
  • High Card

In Texas Holdem if 2 or more players have the same hand, the winner is determine by who has the highest of that hand. For example, if 2 players had a flush, one a 9 high flush and the other a J high flush, the J high flush would win.

If 2 or more players have the exact same (high) hand, then the pot is split between those players.

Suits do not break ties in Texas Holdem. It’s not possible to have more than one suit in Texas Holdem, anyway, as there aren’t enough cards in play.

Texas Holdem Terms

Here are some commonly used terms in Texas Holdem. They should help you understand this page a little better, as well as the chit-chat that might go on while you play.

Blinds – The blinds are forced bets made before the cards are dealt. It’s “dead money,” so it encourages action.

Small Blind – The small blind is the player to the immediate left of the dealer button. This player puts in the small blind, which is usually the smaller of the two forced bets, and about half the big blind. For example, in a $2/$4 Holdem game, $2 would be the small blind.

Big Blind – The big blind is the player to the immediately left of the small blind, or two seats to the left of the dealer button. This players puts in the forced big blind before the players are dealt their cards, which is usually twice the small blind. In a $2/$4 game, the big blind would be $4.

Hole Cards – Hole cards are the cards dealt to each player.

Under the Gun – This is the term used for the player first to act (usually to the immediately left of the big blind) pre-flop.

Flop – First 3 (of 5) community cards.

Turn – Fourth community card dealt. Dealt following the betting action on the flop.

River – Fifth, and final, community card. Dealt following the betting action on the turn.

Showdown – Where one or more players show their hands to see who wins the pot. Follows the betting action on the river.

Muck – When a player throws their hand away (folds), usually without showing it.