Rules of the Game
To understand how to play Texas Hold’em, it’s best to start with the basic rules and hands. We’ll explore these below.
Objective of the game
The primary objective of the game is to win your opponent’s chips or money by forming the best five-card poker hand from a combination of your hole cards (private cards) and the community cards (face-up cards on the board).
Positions at the Table
Before we continue to explain how Texas Hold‘em is played, let’s have a look at the positions on the table.
Dealer / Button: The player with the dealer button (player 1) represents the dealer position. The button moves clockwise after each hand, affecting the order of play.
Small Blind: The player to the left of the dealer button (player 2) posts the small blind, typically half the minimum bet.
Big Blind: The player two seats to the left of the dealer button (player 3) posts the big blind, which is equal to the minimum bet for that hand.
Clockwise Play: The action proceeds clockwise around the table, starting from the player to the left of the big blind (player 4).
How is the Game Played
Texas Hold'em is played with a standard 52-card deck and the game can consist of anywhere between 2 to 10 players.
One of them will be the dealer who manages the shuffle, deal, and distribution of cards, oversees the betting rounds and enforces the rules of the game.
To ensure there's money in the pot at the start of the game, the "small blind" and "big blind" must make "forced bets" before even knowing their hole cards (hence why it’s called the “blind”).
The purpose of blind bets is to initiate the action and create a starting pot.
After the blind bets have been put out, the cards are dealt and the betting round begins. Let’s have a look at how a typical Texas Hold'em hand is played step by step:
Step 1: Dealing Hole Cards
Each player is dealt two private hole cards face down. Players can only look at their own cards.
Step 2: Preflop
This is the first betting round. It starts with the player to the left of the dealer (excluding the blinds) all the way through to the last player, which includes the players at the dealer and blind positions.
Players have 3 options:
- Call: The player puts in the same amount of chips as the previous bet, i.e. the big blind.
- Raise: The player increases the amount of the previous bet.
- Fold: The player gives away their cards and discards the hand.
All the chips are now gathered together to form the pot.
The pot consists of all player chips or money wagered during a hand and serves as the prize that the winning player or hand will receive at “showdown.”
Step 3: The Flop
After all players have made a move, three community cards are dealt face up in the center of the table. These are called “The Flop.”
After the flop, another round of betting occurs, starting again with the first player on the left of the dealer, excluding players who have folded in the previous round.
Players can now bet, call, raise, fold or check (pass the action to the next player).
A player can only check if no one has bet before them in a round, and if they check and someone else bets, the action goes around the table until the checking player calls, raises, or folds.
Step 4: The Turn
A fourth community card is revealed face up. Another round of betting follows and the same rules apply.
Step 5: The River
The fifth and final community card is revealed. There's one last round of betting.
Step 6: Showdown
If more than one player remains after the final betting round, there is a showdown.
Players reveal their hole cards, combine these with the 5 community cards on the table and the player with the best five-card poker hand wins the pot.
Step 7: The next hand begins
The dealer, small and big blinds move clockwise.
When learning how to play Texas Hold‘em, understanding the values of poker hands is crucial. Here's a quick overview, ranked from the highest to the lowest:
- Royal Flush: A, K, Q, J, 10 of the same suit.
- Straight Flush: Five consecutive cards of the same suit (e.g., 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 of hearts).
- Four of a Kind: Four cards of the same rank (e.g., four 7s).
- Full House: Three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank (e.g., three 9s and two 3s).
- Flush: Five cards of the same suit, not in sequence.
- Straight: Five consecutive cards of different suits.
- Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same rank (e.g., three Jacks).
- Two Pair: Two cards of one rank and two cards of another rank (e.g., two 8s and two Queens).
- One Pair: Two cards of the same rank (e.g., two 5s).
- High Card: If no player has any of the above hands, the player with the highest card wins.
There are three primary variations of Texas Hold’em, each with its unique dynamics, influencing strategy and decision-making in the game. However, the key difference lies in the flexibility of raising amounts.
- No-limit: In No-limit Hold’em, there are no set betting limits. Players can wager any amount of chips they have in front of them at any time, even going all-in with their entire stack.
- Pot-limit: Pot-limit Hold‘em allows players to bet or raise up to the current size of the pot. This structure can lead to substantial bets and strategic complexity as the pot size increases.
- Fixed Limit: Fixed-limit Hold‘em sets specific betting limits for each round. Players can only bet or raise by a predetermined amount, creating a more controlled and predictable betting environment.
Texas Hold’em Strategies
Texas Hold’em is both a luck and strategy game. Luck influences card draws, but skillful betting, reading opponents, and decision-making can help increase your chances of winning.
There are many strategies to learn and even seasoned poker players never stop perfecting their skills.
Below, we’ll share some basic strategies that will help you understand how to play Texas Hold’em successfully.
Starting Cards: Focus on strong starting hands, such as high-value pairs (e.g., AA, KK) or suited connectors (e.g., 9♠ 10♠). They offer the potential to form strong hands like pairs or flushes, increasing your chances of winning.
Position: Take advantage of where you sit in relation to the dealer button, as players in later positions have the advantage of seeing what earlier players do before making their decisions, allowing for more informed and strategic choices.
Opponent Observation: Pay attention to opponents' playing styles and adapt your strategy accordingly. Exploit their weaknesses and avoid their strengths.
Tight-Aggressive Play: Adopt a tight-aggressive approach, folding weak hands and betting or raising with strong ones to build pots when you have an advantage.
Patience: Be patient and wait for favourable situations to maximize your chances of success.
Bankroll Management: Practice responsible gambling by managing your bankroll wisely, not chasing losses, and setting limits to ensure long-term profitability.
In Texas Hold'em, winning the pot doesn't always require having the best hand; you can employ a strategy to convince players with superior hands to fold. This is called bluffing and it’s a vital aspect of poker games, allowing you to outmaneuver opponents through skillful deception.
Let's say you have a pair of low-value cards, like 2 and 3 of different suits. The community cards on the board don't seem to help your hand either. However, you decide to make a substantial bet, indicating to your opponents that you have a strong hand.
Your goal is to make them believe you have a much better hand than you actually do, prompting them to fold their potentially better hands out of fear.
To increase the effectiveness of a bluff, some poker players skillfully conceal any emotions that might betray the strength of their hand by maintaining an expressionless face: the Poker Face.
Texas Hold'em is probably the most played variant of online poker. As with all poker games, skill, strategy, and in some cases, psychology, can help increase your odds.
With practice, you can become a more successful player. Start with the basics and as you gain experience, you'll develop a better understanding of the nuances of the game.
Good luck at the tables!
Texas Hold'em FAQ
- Is Texas Hold’em hard to learn?
It’s not hard to learn how to play Texas Hold’em, but it takes practice to master. The basic rules are simple, but winning involves strategy, reading opponents, and understanding odds. With patience and practice, you can become a skilled player and enjoy the game.
- How can I win at Texas Hold’em?
To win at Texas Hold'em, focus on strong starting hands, use position advantage and make strategic bets. Manage your bankroll wisely, practice patience, and avoid predictable patterns. Continuously refine your skills and learn from mistakes to increase your chances of success in the game.
- What is the strongest hand in Texas Hold‘em?
The strongest hand in Texas Hold'em is the Royal Flush. It consists of the A, K, Q, J, and 10 of the same suit. This unbeatable hand guarantees victory if you're lucky enough to have it.
- Which hand wins most often in Texas Hold’em?
While a Royal Flush is the most powerful hand in poker, it's far from the most frequent one. The most common hand is a pair. This is thanks to the many possible ways to make it, often achievable with just two cards.
- Can I play Texas Hold’em online?
Absolutely! Many online casinos and poker sites offer video poker variants of Texas Hold ‘em or poker lobbies and dedicated apps where you can find a variety of games, including tournaments, Sit 'n' Go, and cash games. Texas Hold 'em is one of the most popular forms of online poker today.