How to Play Texas Holdem: Guide

Last Updated: January 18, 2024

Written by Erik Jensen

If you are interested in playing Texas Hold’em, but don’t know how it works and how to start, then look no further. That’s exactly what our beginner’s guide to Texas Hold’em is all about.

The game is pretty straightforward, but getting started can be a little scary if you’re unfamiliar with poker. But don’t let that stop you… by the time you finish this, you’ll know everything you need to get started.

So, let’s look at how to play Texas Hold’em…

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Texas Holdem

About Texas Hold’em Poker

Texas Hold’em is, arguably, the most popular poker game in the world. Pretty much all of the major global tournaments – from the World Series of Poker to the European Poker Tour, feature no-limit Texas hold’em games.

In fact, because it is so popular, some players only learn this game and none other. This seems to be what the big players play.

The good news is that the rules of the game are so simple that it’s pretty easy to learn how to play, so it’s easy to get started.

But, that’s not to say you should take the game for granted – you still need practice, strategy, skills and luck.

The different combinations and situations you might come across in Texas Hold’em poker, can make it pretty complicated if you do start playing at the more competitive levels.

But let’s not run before you can walk. If you are starting out, then you simply need to get to grips with the basic rules of the game first.

They are super easy to learn but are vital to master. First, understand the rules, then perfect your strategy and finally, you can start playing for real money.

The Rules in Texas Hold’em

First, let’s take a look at how you play the game…

Essentially, your goal is to combine your hole cards with the community cards to try and get the best five-card poker hand you can. It’s that simple.

In fact, it’s pretty similar to other variants of the game, so great if you are familiar with poker already.

The main difference is that you construct your hand a little differently when playing this game compared to other poker games, such as 5 Card Draw.

In a Texas Hold’em game, you will be dealt two face-down cards, which are your ‘hole cards’.

This is followed by a number of betting rounds where no fewer than five cards will end up being dealt face-up in the center of the table (community cards.

These five community cards will be dealt over three main stages:

1) The Flop: The first three of the community cards are dealt.

2) The Turn: This is when the fourth card is dealt.

3) The River: When the final community card is dealt.

Using a mix of these five cards and your two private cards, you need to make up the best poker hand that you can.

You can either do this by using your two cards and three community cards, one of your hole poker cards and four community cards – or even all five community cards.

You simply need to choose the best five of those seven, regardless of whether they are private or community poker cards.

The game of Texas Hold’em is just about getting a better hand than your opponents, or making them think you have!

If you get through the betting structure and everyone folds apart from one player, then they will automatically win the pot.

This means that, if you are brave and a good bluffer, then you can win without even actually having the best hand.

However, if you are left with other players after the final betting round, then it is the player with the best-ranked hand that wins the pot.

It’s pretty simple to play – and now you know the structure and aim of the game, let’s delve a bit deeper.

Here are the main things you need to remember:

The Basic Features of Texas Hold’em

1) The game consists of several different betting rounds

2) There are two private cards and five community cards

3) Unless you are the only player to make it to the showdown, the player with the best poker hand wins the pot!

Getting Started

So, now you know the rules, we need to take a deeper look at the different betting rounds and table positions:

The Button

The ‘Button’ is simply a round disc that is placed in front of the player and is passed one seat to the left after each hand is played.

The play starts to the left of the dealer and then moves clockwise around the poker table – the button following the gameplay – and the player with the button becomes the dealer.

That being said, if you are playing in a professional poker room or casino, then the player with the button won’t deal as there will be a dealer hired by the casino to do that.

Ultimately, if you are playing against friends, the button simply determines which players will be acting as the dealer.

Betting Structure

The first two players to the left of the dealer will be asked to post a ‘small blind’ and a ‘big blind’ to get the betting started.

After this, the betting action proceeds clockwise and follows several streets:

1. Preflop

2. Flop

3. Turn

4. River

We will look at these betting rounds or ‘streets’ later on.

The ‘Button’ is given to the player that acts as the dealer.

The player with the button will receive the last action on all of the post-flop streets.

The placement of the button will determine which players need to post the small blind and the big blind and where the dealing starts.

The button determines which active player at the table is the acting dealer.

The players sitting to the left of the dealer – in the place of the small blind will get the first card and the cards are then dealt clockwise until each player has two cards.

The Blinds

The action begins when the two hole cards are dealt to each player face down – and thus the betting begins.

Before each new hand begins, two players will need to post small blinds and big blinds as we have mentioned… but what exactly are they?

Basically, blinds are forced bets that get the betting started.

Without these, the game wouldn’t be as exciting because no player would need to put any money in the pot at all – and they could just sit around and wait until they are dealt aces and then start playing.

The use of ‘blinds’ means that every hand will see some sort of betting action – as this is where forced betting occurs. A blind is a forced bet that must be played.

In tournaments, where the stakes are big, the blinds will be raised regularly to up the ante. However, in cash poker games, the blinds remain the same.

In tournaments, as the players keep dropping out and the stacks of chips each remaining player has gets bigger, the blind has to increase as the tournament progresses.

However, cash games play out differently and so remain the same.

The player to the left of the dealer will post the small bling and the player directly to his or her left will then post the big blind.

The big blind is usually double the amount of the small blind, although this rule can change depending on the type of game being played and the room you are playing in.

So, for example, if you were to play a $2/$4 game, then the small blind would be $2 and the big blind would thus be $4.

1: The Preflop – First Betting Round

After each player has been dealt two face-down cards, the first round of betting – the preflop betting round will start.

The person to place the first bet properly is the player seated next to the big blind.

The position is often referred to as ‘under the gun’ because they need to play first – and they will have three different options:

Call – to match the Big Blind bet

Raise – to increase their bet within the limitations of the game

Fold – to throw in their hand and stop playing the round

Should the player fold, then they will be completely out of the game and will have to wait for the next round to rejoin and try to win.

As a player, you can bet anywhere from the Big Blind amount up to the total amount that is currently in the pot.

However, the amount you can raise the bet as a player depends on what game you’re playing.

For example, if you play No-Limit Texas Hold’em, the minimum you can raise if making the opening bet is double the big blind. The maximum you will be able to raise the bet can be everything you have in your stack of chips – which is called going ‘All In’.

That being said, there are other games with different limitations:

Fixed Limit Hold’em – The raise will always be double the Big Blind

Pot Limit Hold’em – The player can bet anywhere between the Big Blind (minimum bet) up to the amount that is currently in the pot (the maximum bet).

When the first player next to the Big Blind has made their bet, the betting action goes clockwise around the table – with each player being able to call, raise or fold.

As soon as the last bet has been made in that first betting round, the action will be over and play will move on to the second round of betting – the ‘flop’.

2: The Flop – Second Betting Round

Thus the flop begins. In this round, three community cards will be dealt face-up on the table and the next round of betting starts.

This second round of betting will only be played by those players who did not fold in the first round of betting.

During this round (and the following rounds), the betting will start with the player directly to the left of the dealer (or the dealer button).

As well as being given the options of ‘call’, ‘raise’ or ‘fold’, there will also be the chance to ‘check’ if there has been no previous bet beforehand.

To ‘check’, simply means you pass the bet to the next player along.

The betting will continue until the last bet or raise has been called, and this will close the action.

In some instances, all players around the table might choose to ‘check’ – and this will also close the second betting round.

3: The Turn – Third Betting Round

During the third round of bets, the fourth community card will be dealt and the next round of betting will begin.

The round starts when the fourth community card is dealt and the players evaluate the six cards they have to make their hand from.

The betting options are exactly the same as the previous round of play and you will have the same four options:

  • Call
  • Raise
  • Check
  • Fold
  • 4: The River – Final Fourth Betting Round

    The final round of betting begins – the fourth street.

    This begins with the last community card being dealt – and the final round of bets, followed by the Showdown.

    The fifth and final card has determined the best possible hands available to players.

    The fifth and final community card is named ‘The River’ card. And this is where the last of the action of that hand starts.

    When all five community cards are visible, the last betting round plays out and there are the same four options.

    You can opt to call, raise, check or fold.

    Once this is done, the remaining players that are still left in the game will show their hole cards – in what is known as the Showdown.

    5: The Showdown

    This is where every remaining player reveals their hand and the player that has the best five-card combination from the five community cards and two hole cards

    The player with the best combination of five cards wins. You can construct the best hand possible using any of the seven cards available.

    Players reveal their two hole cards and, with the help of the dealer, the best hand will be determined.

    The player that has the best five-card hand according to the official poker hand rankings, will win the pot.

    However, if you live in a state where playing poker for real money isn’t yet legal, you can simply play for fun at a social casino site – and play for pride!

    The Value of Hands in Texas Hold’em

    The winner of the game will be the player with the highest value hand. However, this will be the same no matter what game you play – Five Card Draw or Pot Limit hold’em…

    So, let’s take a look from highest to lowest value:

    1. Royal Flush: Five cards of the same suit – 10, J, Q, K and A of hearts
    2. Straight Flush: Five cards of the same suit in numerical order – i.e. 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of spades.
    3. Four of a Kind: Four cards with the same rank – i.e. J, J, J, J, 8
    4. Full House: Three cards of the same value and two cards of the same value – i.e. Q, Q, Q, 7, 7
    5. Flush: Any five cards of the same suit – i.e. 3, 7, 9, J and K of diamonds
    6. Straight: Five cards in numerical order – but they don’t have to be in the same card suit – i.e. 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of any suits.
    7. Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same value – i.e. 7, 7, 7 5, 10
    8. Two Pair: Two cards of the same value and another two cards of the same value – i.e. 6, 6, J J and 7
    9. One Pair: Two cards of the same value – i.e. Q, Q, 7, 9, K
    10. High Card: If there are 5 unmatched cards, then the value of the highest card would be considered – i.e. A, Q, 9, 6, 2 would be an Ace high hand.

    You simply need to construct your hand by picking the best five cards from the seven cards available (five community cards and two hole cards).

    So, for example, if the face-up cards show:

  • 9 clubs, 5 diamonds, 4 spades, K hearts and A diamonds
  • You have two hole cards:

  • K diamonds and 5 hearts
  • In this instance, you could make up a hand with two pairs (two Kings and two Fives)

    However, if another player has a hand of two nines, then you would lose to that player who would have a Three of a Kind hand (nines).

    Basically, learning the game means understanding how the deal works, how the betting works – and knowing which are the most valuable hands.

    Getting a Strategy

    Obviously knowing the rules of Texas Hold’em is just the start. You then need to figure out a strategy.

    This will mean understanding what a good starting hand is, knowing the probabilities and odds of the games, the significance of your position on the table and more. There are many different guides to strategies you can find and the more you play, the more practice you get, and the better your gameplay and strategies will be.

    How to Play Online Texas Hold’em Poker Games

    So, now you know the rules of the game, the different betting rounds and the values of the hands, you need to get playing and practicing.

    The best way to get started is by playing free online Texas Holdem Poker games. This way you can get to grips with it before risking your own money. When you are more comfortable, you can then start playing for real money.

    The good news is that pretty much all of the top poker sites and online casinos will offer poker games in demo mode for this reason.

    If you are completely new to poker, you really should play with funny money first. These are completely risk-free and they can allow you to familiarize yourself with the game, practice different strategies and understand how the rounds of betting work.

    These offer you the perfect way to learn the different hand rankings and how to make the right decisions about your cards and your bets.

    You can then move on to poker freeroll tournaments. These are free tournaments that actually offer real prizes, ranging from bonus money, cash and even free entry into proper real money tournaments for big bucks.

    FAQs

    What is the Minimum Bet In Texas Hold'em?

    +

    This depends on the game you are playing – No-Limit, Fixed Limit and Pot Limit games have different minimum and maximum bets but the minimum bet is usually the same as the Big Blind.

    What Are the Different Texas Hold'em Poker Games?

    +

    When you play poker, there are a few different types of Texas Hold’em games, No limit games, Pot Limit and Fixed limit games. Read the rules of each game before you start playing. Most have the same betting rules but different limits. 

    Erik Jensen is a seasoned gambling expert that has previous worked at one of the largest igaming companies globally. He has also extensive experience working with online casino campaigns for the biggest companies in the world. In the last 5 years Erik has solely been focusing on the Canadian market to give the best up to date news and best casino bonuses available for the Canadian casino players.

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