Learn how to play Texas Hold'em, understand the rules and outsmart your opponents in this feature guide. The most popular poker game can be simple to learn but difficult to master; whether you're a beginner or an experienced player, see example hands, expert tips and more right here.
There are plenty of intricacies in the rules of Texas Hold'em which we'll cover below, but all of the action can be boiled down to the following five steps:
All players receive two hole (face-down) cards that only they can look at
After a round of betting, three face-up community cards (the flop) are dealt
With additional rounds of betting in between, two more community cards are dealt
Players use any combination of their hole cards and the five face-up community cards to put together the best hand they possibly can
The player with the best hand, who is still in the game, wins the pot and the round ends
While the above represents a very quick overview of the rules of Texas Hold'em, , there's a lot more to the game than that. Although the rules can seem deceptively simple, it's the exploitation of nuances like table position and pot odds that separate experienced players from beginners.
Until you're familiar with these finer details of the game, it's wise to stick to free Texas Hold'em or play in freerolls and low stakes games. This is definitely the best and safest way to get more confident at the tables, but the information below can help you build a strong understanding of how all the action unfolds.
When playing in a bricks and mortar venue it's really important to understand the role the dealer plays, i.e. shuffling, burning and dealing the cards. Online, however, the only purpose the dealer button serves is to show which players must place blinds, determining table position in the process.
The player who sits directly to the left of the dealer must place the small blind and the person to the left of them must place the big blind. The player to the left of the big blind is the first player to act at the beginning of a round. After each hand, the dealer chip and both blinds move one spot clockwise.
Unlike some forms of poker, standard Texas Hold'em rules don't require all players to ante up before a round begins. The blinds, therefore, are forced bets that ensure all players are contributing to pots as the game moves along.
The big blind is usually equivalent to the minimum bet at the table, and the small blind is usually half of that. With this being the case, blinds prevent players who can't realistically afford to compete at a table from sitting down and 'joining the action' but never actually betting.
So, blinds determine the position occupied by a player sitting at the table. Working clockwise, the positions at the table may be referred to as follows:
Blinds (SB, BB)
Under The Gun (UTG, UTG+1, UTG+2 etc.)
Middle Position (MP)
Table position can have a significant impact on how players bet. You can see, for example, that an HJ or CO player has a lot more information about the players before them than those Under The Gun, or even in Middle Position, do.
Let's say, for example, that players keep opting to check after the flop has been dealt. HJ or CO players who have a strong hand can assume that those players before them don't yet have hands worth betting on and might choose to bet aggressively in the hopes that they'll all fold and let them take the pot.
It's the Button player, however, who has the best position at the table because (after the flop) they're always the last player to act on every street. This means that they can get a good idea of how strong their opponents' hands are, or fold without losing any chips if someone else raises late in the round.
Before players try Texas Hold'em poker online, whether for free or for real money, they need to understand what will be expected of them in a round. Here's a chronological breakdown of a typical game, along with some of the actions you might take based on an example hand.
All players are dealt two cards, face down, and there is an initial round of betting. Those who have contributed blinds, particularly the big blind, have little or nothing to lose by playing as long as no-one raises above the value of the big blind. Other players, however, might opt to fold before the hand even begins if they have a hand that they consider to be too weak to play.
You're playing against four other players. Your hand consists of an Ace of Spades and a 7 of diamonds, which you decide to play. All players call to the value of the big blind, except for one who folds. This means that there are now four of you left in the round.
Three community cards are dealt, and players should immediately be looking at how these marry up with their hole cards. Remember to look at suit as well as face value, in case a flush might be on the cards for you or any of your opponents. Players who check after the flop probably don't have the hand they want just yet, while cautious betting that steadily rises implies that a player has a solid hand and wants to keep other players in the hand. Players with a pocket pair that improves to Three of a Kind may bet aggressively here in the hopes of taking the pot early.
The first three community cards are the 7 of Spades, Jack of Clubs and a 3 of Diamonds. Your first opponent tries to check, but the player after them raises the value of the pot. You and the other remaining player decide to call that bet, but the first opponent folds.
Another community card is dealt, with only one more to go, and players should be starting to form an idea of how they want to close out the round. For example, it may not be possible to finish a straight or flush if players don't get the card they want here and they may decide to fold.
The Ace of diamonds is dealt now, giving you Two Pair. When your turn comes, you decide to raise the value of the pot. One of your opponents folds, but the other player calls your bet.
This represents the last chance players have to secure the card they want to round out their hand. In addition to figuring out their own hand, players can use this opportunity to figure out the likelihood of this card rounding out any straights or flushes being pursued by their opponents. When the final round of betting is concluded, all players still in the round reveal their cards in a showdown to determine who has won the round.
The final card dealt is the King of Spades. Your opponent places only a small bet, which you take to be a sign of low confidence in their hand. You raise, and they call your bet. However, all they have is a pair of Aces, so you win the hand!
Most players, even those who are very new to the game, have some idea of what constitutes a good hand. They might, however, struggle to recall the exact ranking of their hand under pressure. Here's a list of poker hand rankings, looking at the value of each hand.
1. Royal Flush:
An ace-high straight of the same suit, cannot be beaten.
2. Straight Flush:
This hand consists of five consecutive cards of the same suit.
3. Four of a Kind:
This includes four cards of the same rank and an additional fifth card (the kicker).
4. Full House:
Three cards that are of the same rank and two cards of another rank.
This hand involves five cards of the same suit.
Five cards that are of consecutive ranks and from different suits.
7. Three of a Kind:
Three cards from the same rank and two cards from different ranks.
8. Two Pair:
This hand holds two cards of one rank and two cards of another rank, plus a kicker.
9. One Pair:
Two cards of one rank and three different cards from different ranks.
10. High Card:
This is when you have a high card. This would be the top ranking card you hold. The player with the highest rank wins if everyone has a high card.
If you're wondering how to win at Texas Hold'em, the best strategy is to play for free and then move to real money. Experience at the table is best practice, but here are some extra tips which will help you make the right decisions when playing.
Use your position
If you're in the blinds or under the gun, make sure you're not betting for the sake of it. Someone in a better position may call and then you'll have to make another decision down the line.
More of the same here. Limping is betting the minimum required to stay in the hand – this is noticeable and can lead to you acting on a bad hand just because you already have money on the table.
Calculate your bets
If you are in a good position, take your time to figure out what an appropriate bet size is, in relation to the pot. Any bets too large may scare off opponents while too small could show weakness.
Study your opponents
While harder to do online, try and choose a player at the table and keep an eye on their actions. If a player is playing loosely without much competition, perhaps it's time to see if they're bluffing.
Think about your outs
Always have a reason behind your decisions at the table. If you're sitting on a low pair at the turn and there is nothing else out there for you, should you really be in the hand?
You win at Texas Hold'em by having the best hand after the final betting round.
There are a total of 5 community cards dealt in Texas Hold'em, with an additional 2 cards dealt to each player.
In Texas Hold'em, you bet by placing chips in the centre of the table. You can fold, check, call or raise.
To deal, the dealer will deal each player a card face down in a clockwise motion, until every player has 2 cards. Each time the dealer lays community card, they will burn a card before also.