How to Play Texas Hold’em Poker

Introduction to Texas Hold'em Poker

If you're just getting started learning poker games and Texas Holdem Poker specifically, keep this guide handy for quick reference. If you ever get confused by the action, read below for some guidance. Each topic contains links to more in-depth articles on that specific aspect of Texas Holdem rules. When you feel you've got the hang of it and are ready to play, check out where you can play some real money online poker.

How to Play Texas Hold'em

The official rules of Texas Hold'em are actually very logical and simple and require just a few minutes to learn. Mastering Texas Hold'em, however, will take you a bit longer. Join us as we go through the rules and gameplay step-by-step.
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Before we get into describing the full Texas Hold'em rules and gameplay, here's a quick glossary of terms you'll encounter:

  • Blinds: Short for “blind bets,” these are the forced bets made before the cards are dealt. In Hold'em, blinds take the place of the classic “ante.”
  • Button: Nickname for the player acting as the dealer in current hand.
  • Check: Similar to a call but no money is bet. If there is no preflop, the big blind may check.
  • Flop: The first three community cards dealt.
  • Fourth Street: See Turn.
  • Fifth Street: See River.
  • : A player puts all of his or her remaining chips into the pot
  • Preflop: Anything that occurs before the flop is dealt is preflop.
  • River: The 5th and final community card dealt; also known as fifth street.
  • Showdown: After the final round of betting when players reveal their hands to discover the pot's winner.
  • Turn: The fourth community card dealt; also known as fourth street

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Basic Texas Hold'em Poker Rules

Watch our How to Play Texas Holdem introductory video below. Then read on underneath for a more detailed look at all of unique Texas Holdem rules.

Texas Hold'em Poker is a community card poker game with game play focused as much on the betting as on the cards being played. Although the rules and game play are the same, the end goal is slightly different depending on if you're playing a Holdem cash game or a Texas Holdem Poker tournament.

A Texas Hold'em tournament is the same as any other game of Hold'em with a few added rules and twists. Learn more about the unique rules of Texas Holdem poker tournaments. Meanwhile, a Holdem cash game is played on a single table with 2 to 10 players. The goal is simple: win as many chips as you can, one pot at a time. You win a pot by having the best hand after the final community card has been dealt, or by having all other players fold before the showdown. A full hand is made by combining your one or both your with the community cards.

A Texas Hold'em game can be broken up into three main parts:

  • Setup
  • Betting Rounds
  • Showdown

Basic Video on Texas Hold'em Rules

You don't have much time? Our short video will teach you the basics of Texas Hold'em in just 2 minutes!

The Texas Hold'em Dealer Button

Texas Hold'em Live Dealer

Once you have your players around the table the first thing you need to play poker is to have chips. Before you can figure out what kind of chips to give each player, you need to understand how the game works a little better, so we'll get back to this. For now, assume all players have chips in front of them and everyone is ready to play poker.

The next step is picking the player who will start with the dealer button. Hold'em is played with what's known as a rotating dealer, meaning a player will act as the dealer for one hand and then pass the role of dealer on to the player on their left when the hand is completed. To choose the dealer, either deal every player one card or spread the cards facedown on the table and have every player choose one. The player with the highest-valued card (aces are high for selecting a dealer) starts as the dealer.

The Button

If you're in a live poker room or casino with a professional dealer (or someone volunteers to always physically deal the cards) the dealer button will still rotate around the table. Even though he or she is physically dealing the cards, for all intents and purposes the person with the button is viewed as being the dealer for the hand. Once the hand completes the player with the dealer button will pass it to the player on his or her left.

Texas Holdem Layout

Note that the Texas Holdem layout includes three flop boxes, one turn box and one river card box on the felt table. You may also have a play section marked on the table where your bets are made, away from your stack.

The Blinds in Texas Hold'em

Now that you have a dealer, you need to put out the blinds. There are two blinds in Texas Holdem Poker – a small blind and a big blind. These are forced bets required by two players to make sure there are some chips in the pot worth playing for. Without any money in the pot all players might be inclined to fold much more often, slowing down the action considerably.

The player directly to the left of the dealer puts out the small blind. The big blind (usually double that of the small blind) is then paid by the player to the left of the small blind. The size of the blinds will dictate the stakes of the game you're about to play. Typically, you want players to buy in for no less than 100 times the size of the big blind. If you want to buy in for $20 you should play with blinds of 10¢/20¢. For convenience, most people will play 10¢/25¢.

In poker games at a live casino or poker room the maximum and minimum amounts a player can be in for will be in relation to the blinds. For example in a $1/$2 game the table minimum is usually $40 (20x the big blind) and the maximum is $200 (100x the big blind).

Related Reading:

Back to the chips: If you're playing in a live casino or online your chips will be provided for you in increments that make sense for the stakes you're playing.

If you're playing at home, you'll need to determine which chips to use and how to distribute them. Once the blinds are set we know what kind of chips we'll need to play with. (In the above example we'd use 10¢ chips, 25¢ chips and maybe a few $1 chips.)

You want to give players enough chips in each denomination to allow the game to run smoothly. Typically a player will need only 10% of their total chips in the smallest denomination, as they are only ever used to pay the small blind. For the most part, all Texas Holdem betting will be done with chips larger than that of the small blind. Once you have the chips sorted out and the first blinds in the pot, you're now ready to deal the first hand.

Related Reading:

Texas Hold'em Poker Betting Rules

The person dealing the cards deals to the left of the player with the dealer button first and rotates clockwise around the table. Each player gets one card at a time until each player has two cards, both face down. These are known as your hole cards and they are for your use alone when making your final 5-card poker hand.

When you play Texas Hold'em Poker, each round consists of a minimum of one and a maximum of four betting rounds. The first round of betting is when all players have got their two hole cards, also known as “Preflop”. A hand ends when all players but one have folded or the fourth and final round of betting completes with multiple players still in the hand – whichever comes first.

At that point players enter into the showdown (to be explained in the next section) and the player with the highest hand, hole cards combined with the community cards takes the pot. If two players share the highest hand, the pot is split equally between them.

Example of a split pot:

Community cards are K  Q  J  10  3
Player 1 holds hole cards A  Q  making a straight using three community cards and his A  Q  from his hole cards
Player 2 holds hole cards A  A  making a straight using four community cards and one of the aces from his hole cards

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Pre-Flop

(Note: The following betting rules apply to Limit Hold'em Poker. See more about No-Limit and Pot-Limit betting formats here.) When all players receive their hole cards you're now in the pre- round. Each player looks at his or her cards and decides what action to take. In Hold'em only one player can act at a time. Preflop starts the first round of betting with the player to the left of the big blind. This player has three options:

  • Fold: Pay nothing to the pot and throw away their hand, waiting for the next deal to play again.
  • Call: Match the amount of the big blind (preflop this is also known as “limping in.”)
  • Raise: Raise the bet by doubling the amount of the big blind. (Note:  a player may raise more depending on the betting style being played, again see the rules for No-Limit and Pot-Limit above.)

Once a player has made their action the player to the left of them gets their turn to act. Each player is given the same options: fold, call the current bet (if the previous player raised, that is the amount you must call; if no one has bet it's the big blind amount) or raise. In Limit Hold'em a raise is always the amount of one bet in addition to the amount of the previous bet. For example: if the big blind is 25¢ and the first player to act would like to raise they put in a total of 50¢ (the big blind + one additional bet).

If the next player would like to they would put in a total of 75¢ (the previous bet + one additional bet). Again, though, in No-Limit Hold'em a player can bet as much as the total amount of their chips on the table at any time. A Texas Hold'em betting round ends when two conditions are met:

  1. All players have had a chance to act.
  2. All players who haven't folded have bet the same amount of money for the round.

Example of Two Betting Rounds

Example Betting Round 1

There are five players at the table:

  • Player 1 – Button
  • Player 2 – SB (10¢)
  • Player 3 – BB (25¢)
  • Player 4 – Under the Gun
  • Player 5 – Cut-Off

Start of betting round

  • Player 4 – Calls the big blind (25¢)
  • Player 5 – folds
  • Player 1 – Calls the big blind (25¢)
  • Player 2 – Calls the big blind (since they already have 10¢ bet, they only have to add another 15¢, for a total of 25¢)
  • Player 3 – Checks (since they already have the bet matched, they do not need to add more money to call; this is called checking)

End of betting round

When Player 2 calls the big blind all players now have the same amount of money in front of them. But Player 3 (the BB) has not had a chance to act so the round of betting is not over. Once Player 3 checks both conditions are met and the round of betting is over.

Example Betting Round 2

There are five players at the table:

  • Player 1 – Button
  • Player 2 – SB (10¢)
  • Player 3 – BB (25¢)
  • Player 4 – Under the Gun
  • Player 5 – Cut-Off

Start of betting round

  • Player 4 – Calls the big blind (25¢)
  • Player 5 – Raises (50¢)
  • Player 1 – Folds
  • Player 2 – Folds
  • Player 3 – Reraises (they already have 25¢ big blind in. They complete the bet of 50¢, and add one more bet for a 75¢ total)
  • Player 4 – Folds ( previous call of 25¢ is now in the pot)
  • Player 5 – Calls (matches Player 3's bet for a total of 75¢)

End of betting round

In this scenario all players had had a chance to act when Player 3 made the re-raise. But all players did not have the same amount of money bet. Once Player 4 folds, only Player 3 and Player 5 are left in the pot. When Player 5 calls, both conditions are met and the round of betting ends.

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The Flop

Once the preflop round ends, the flop is dealt and the second betting round starts. This is done by dealing the top card in the deck facedown on the table (called the “burn” card, it's not in play), followed by three cards dealt face up in the middle of the table (see below). These are the first community cards, which all players can use to make their best 5-card poker hand.

Once the flop has been dealt the first post-flop betting round begins. The rules of post-flop betting rounds are the same as a pre-flop with two small exceptions:

  • The first player to act is the next player with a hand to the left of the dealer
  • The first player to act can check or bet; as there has been no bet made, calling is free.

A bet on the flop in Limit Holdem is the amount of the big blind. In No-Limit it has to be at least twice the size of the big blind but can be as much as all of a player's chips. In our Limit Hold'em game as described above, a player must put out 25¢ to make a bet in the first post-flop betting round.

The Turn

Once the betting round on the flop completes (meaning any players who want to see the next card have matched the value of any bets), the dealer again ‘burns” one card face-down out of play followed by the fourth community card dealt face up in the middle of the table beside the 3 flop cards (see image below). Once the turn has been dealt another found of betting begins, this is the third round of round of betting.

The third round of betting in Limit Hold'em is identical to the flop betting round with one single exception: The size of a bet for this round, and the final betting round, is doubled meaning that to make a bet in our game will now cost a player 50¢. In No-Limit Hold'em a player can again bet any amount of their chips as long as it's at least twice the big blind or double that of any previous bet.

The River

Assuming more than one player is left having not folded on one of the previous streets, the fifth and final card, (the River), is now dealt. Dealing the river is identical as dealing the turn with one card being burned facedown followed by a single card dealt face up.

This is the final street and no more cards will be dealt in this hand. The final betting round is identical to the Texas Holdem round on the turn and players can their hole cards with the community cards to make the best possible hand. Remember not to reveal your hole cards before the last betting round is complete, this will in most cases “kill” your hand.

Showdown

WhichHandWinsCalculator
Our Which Hand Wins Calculator

Once all community cards have been dealt and the river betting round has been completed the players now enter into the showdown. At this point the best 5-card poker hand wins the pot. Here are the rules you need to know about a Hold'em showdown:

  • The player who bet on the river is the default first player to reveal their hand. If any other players choose to show their hand first, that is OK.
  • If no betting happened on the river (all players checked), the player closest to the left of the dealer must open their hand first, continuing clockwise around the table.
  • If a player is holding a losing hand it is their option to reveal their cards or simply muck their hand and concede the pot.

For more on How to Determine the Winning Texas Hold'em Hand and Which Hand Wins, check the links below:

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The Best 5-Card Hand in Texas Hold'em

In Texas Hold'em Poker you must make the best 5-card hand possible using any combination of your two hole cards and the five community cards on the table. You can use bothone or none of your own hole cards to make your best hand. Here are some rules about evaluating a winning poker hand:

  • Remember the official poker hand rankings. There are no exceptions to this order: a flush always beats a straight; three of a kind always beats two pair, etc.
  • There are no hands used in Hold'em other than the hands listed in this chart. For example having three pairs is actually only “two pair,” and the highest-valued two pair make up your final hand.
  • Final poker hands must be exactly 5 cards and only those five cards are used to evaluate the winning hand.

Showdown Example

The board is 2  J  Q  K  A  Player 1 hole cards: 10  9  Player 2 hole cards: 10  2

Combined with the community cards, both players best hand has the same rank (a straight from ten to ace). This means the pot is split between the two players. The remaining cards and the fact Player 1 also has a pair means nothing – only the best five-card hand factors into deciding the winner.

If all remaining players have nothing (no pair or anything stronger), the winning hand is the hand with the highest-valued single card, meaning:

AclubsA3hearts34diamonds46spades67spades7

is a better hand than:

KspadesKQspadesQJclubsJ9clubs98diamonds8

AclubsAJheartsJ9spades98diamonds86hearts6

is a better hand than:

AheartsAJclubsJ9diamonds98clubs82spades2

Suits are never used to evaluate the strength of a hand.

Once you determine the winning poker hand that player receives the pot. The dealer passes the dealer button to his or her left and the two players to the left of the new dealer put out their big and small blinds respectively.

Additional Texas Hold'em Rules

Raising

  • A player must either declare their intent to raise verbally before making any actions or bring the amount of chips equal to the total amount of their raise into play at the same time. A player is not allowed to place chips, return to their stack and place more chips. This is known as a string bet.
  • Solutions to any other random situation you come across can be found here.

Buying Chips

  • The minimum number of chips a player is allowed to buy before their first hand dealt is determined by the house rules governing the game. Typically a minimum is 50-100 times the big blind.
  • There is no maximum to the number of chips a player may buy at any time.
  • In a cash game a player may reload, or add more chips to their stack, at any time between hands. Once a hand is started, a player may only use the chips they had in play at the beginning of the hand, during that hand. Any additional chips will not be “in play” until the next deal.

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Play Texas Hold'em Online

Do you think you have what it takes to beat your opponents? Why not sign up at one of our many recommended online poker rooms below and test the waters? We have tested all big poker sites and those are the ones we can recommend:

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