The game of Texas hold ’em poker is complex and beautiful, with an element of luck that elates and disappoints. Let's dive into a complete guide to playing Texas hold 'em poker, it’s perfect for anyone fresh to the game.
Most people consider Texas hold’em just another way to gamble at a casino, but it’s so much more. One of the most complicated card games ever invented, it’s more similar to chess than blackjack. Originating in Texas sometime around the 1900s, the card game’s history is vague before it reached Las Vegas in 1967. A few years and a few tournaments later, Texas hold’em was bursting with popularity. Promoters astutely marketed it as a “thinking man’s game”.
Fast-forward to the present day; Texas hold’em is an official mind sport and the most popular card game in the world. It has funded American presidents’ elections, sparked numerous scandals, and is followed by millions worldwide. There are plenty of poker rooms online as well!
- Increased first deposit bonus
- Increased rakeback and reloads
- Help with deposits and cashouts
- Access to closed freerolls
- Round-the-clock support
How To Play Texas Hold’em Poker
I’ll outline the basic rules and flow for Texas hold'em, so that you can hit the felt and get started. The aim is to make a hand using five cards. Hands are ranked and compared, so you’ll take the pot if yours ranks the strongest. We’ll talk more about hand rankings further down the page.
Players are each dealt two cards to remain face down until the showdown at the end of a hand. There will be five cards placed on the table incrementally as the hand progresses. These are the community cards. To create a five-card hand, combine both, just one, or neither of your cards with the community cards.
A maximum of 10 players sit around the table, and a minimum of 2, which is called “heads up”.
Making Your 5-Card Hand
- Two cards from your hand, plus three from the community cards.
- One card from your hand, plus 4 from the community cards.
- Nothing from your hand, and all 5 cards from the community cards.
But you can also get your opponent to fold their hand, without ever showing your cards. One of the beautiful aspects of poker is that we represent hands, whether we have those cards or not. Our playing style becomes storytelling, which we use to our advantage.
There’s more to learn before we start dealing the cards, you can also look at our in-depth guide.
Texas Hold ’em Dealing Rules
Dealers manage the game, and control the action, we’ve written a full article on poker dealing here.
If you’ve ever watched a game of Texas hold'em poker, you must’ve seen three little buttons moving clockwise around the table. Those are the dealer, small blind, and big blind buttons. They might be small but they do a lot, mainly governing the timing and flow of the game. The dealer button stays in position for one round, moving one spot to the left after each hand. Home game players deal cards out and slide the dealer button to their left after a hand concludes. Everyone deals a hand, one at a time.
Casinos have professional dealers, but the dealer button will still move around the table as usual.
What Are The Blinds?
A blind is a unit of measurement for a game of Texas hold'em, it’s a way to control the size of the bets and the game. You’ll typically see something like “$2/$5 No Limit Texas Hold ’em”. In this example, the small blind is $2 and the big blind is $5. The big blind amount is also the minimum bet amount.
Player Actions In Texas Hold ’em
You’ve got several different actions you can take during a game of Texas hold 'em. Let's talk about each one briefly.
Checking is used when you are not obligated to put any money into the pot, and you don’t wish to. If you check, the action moves to the next player. If a player raises, you won’t be able to check. Checking only works if you are not required to add any money into the pot. Before the flop is dealt, the only person who can check is the big blind, because they have already put in the minimum amount.
Betting. Poker players can bet pre-flop, post-flop, and on the turn and river. If you bet, the other players need to call, fold, or raise you. The minimum bet size is the same as the big blind size.
Calling is putting in chips valued equally to a bet from another player, or the blind amount pre-flop.
Raising. If you have an unbelievable hand, or you just want to appear that way, you can raise. This means you are increasing the bet size, and the amount you raise must be equal to the big blind size.
Folding. If you aren’t feeling like continuing in the hand, it's time to fold. You can fold even if there are no bets before you, but it’s unorthodox. Players usually fold when they are unwilling to put more money into the pot.
|Action||Potential Reasons For The Action|
Your hand is weak and vulnerable
You want other players to act first
Your hand is strong, and you want the other players to feel comfortable betting
Your hand is strong, you want to build a pot
Your hand is weak and you want your opponents to fold
You are drawing for a better hand
You don’t want to scare off your opponents
You have a strong hand, or the best possible hand, and want to get more value.
You want to frighten the other players into folding their hands
|Folding||You think you are behind your opponent’s hand and don’t think a bluff will work.|
The Four Stages Of Texas Hold’em
Now that you know how to use your hand with the community cards, let's talk about the playing stages.
Pre-flop. You’ve just been dealt two cards face down, and it’s time for the round to begin. The pre-flop stage is crucial, and it's a good time to suss the strength of your opponents.
The action begins with the player seated left of the big blind, moving left until it reaches the big blind. Players who want to enter the pot need to call the blind amount, equal to one big blind (BB). During this stage, weaker hands usually fold, and stronger ones enter the pot with a call or a raise. The small and big blind have to call the amount or fold in the face of a raise. The big blind is last to act during the pre-flop stage, and the small blind is first to act post-flop.
Post-Flop. There's suspense in the air when the flop is getting turned over, will the cards help or hurt us? The dealer “burns” the top card, putting it aside, this is to prevent cheating.
Three cards are shown face-up in the middle of the table, and this is the flop. After a betting round, where players can check or bet, we move on to the turn. One more card is burned, and we add another to the community cards. On the turn, we’ve got a total of four cards on the table. Another card is burned before the river card is added to the community cards.
There are now 5 cards on the table, and a final betting round begins. No more cards are coming, so plan this stage carefully. When the action is complete and betting is finished, cards are flipped up and compared.
What Are The Hand Rankings?
The range of hands confused me at first, but you’ll memorize them swiftly. Hands are ranked from low-probability hands to high-probability hands. We’ll start with the best Texas hold ’em hands and end with the lowest-ranking hands.
Royal Flush. Poker players never forget the feeling of hitting a royal straight flush, and it doesn’t happen to everyone. The odds of these 5 cards hitting the table are astoundingly low, at a measly 0.00015%. At that rate, after 80 years of playing 20 hands every single day, you would expect to see a single royal flush.
A royal flush is made up of a royal straight, plus a flush. That means you’ll have a straight from 10 to ace, with cards of the same suit. Hopefully, you get to witness this beautiful hand someday, on the winning side of course.
Straight Flush. Here’s another hand that rarely comes our way, the straight flush. Hollywood can’t get enough of this particular hand, as some of you will remember from Casino Royale. A straight flush consists of 5 consecutive cards of the same suit. Having 5 to 9 of hearts for example, or 9 through to the king of diamonds.
Four Of A Kind – Quads. While not quite as rare as the hands we’ve already covered, seeing this one still makes my heart beat out of my chest. It’s almost impossible to be beaten with these cards in our hands.
Formally known as four-of-a-kind, and more casually known as “quads”, I’m sure you can guess what we need for this hand. See four cards with the same value, and you’ve got four of a kind.
Full House – Boats. You’ll be on top of the world with a full house, it’s one of the strongest hands in Texas hold ’em poker. A full house is a pair and three of a kind, for example, two kings and three aces. This would be formally referred to as aces full of kings. Players shorten it these days and just say, full house aces and kings.
|Your Hand||Odds To Flop||Probability (%)||Odds|
|Unpaired Cards||Full House||0.09%||Roughly 1 in 1000|
|Paired Cards||Full House||0.98%||Roughly 1 in 100|
Flushes. There are four suits in Texas hold ’em, and you’ll need 5 cards with the same suit to make a nearly-unbeatable flush.The odds of making flushes are slim, and it’s a powerful hand, but not all flushes are equal. Flushes are ranked by the highest card that you have in your flush. Two players might have flushes, but one flush will outrank the other. Having the ace in your hand will give you the best possible flush, called an ace-high flush, or nut flush.
You need 5 cards to make the flush, but you can use one or two cards from your hand. You’ll either have three on the board and two in your hand, or four on the board and one in your hand.
Straights. Another gorgeous hand is the straight, made up of 5 cards in sequence. For example, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. It’s not easy to make a straight, and you’re usually way ahead of your opponents when you do. Two players can have different straights on the same board. In this case, the straight which holds higher numbers is the winner.
Three Of A Kind – Trips – Sets. Three of a kind is commonly referred to as trips, but you might also hear some players saying “set”, so what is the difference? You’ve got one king in your hand, and on the board, you see two more kings. Congratulations, you’ve been dealt trips, more formally known as three of a kind. A set is a little different, so let’s make an example. You have two queens in your hand, and on the board, you see another queen.
Two Pair. While more common than trips, “two pair” is still an exciting and disguised hand to have. Two pair can be made in three different ways. You hold two 9s in your hand, and the flop is 5-5-2. Using the pair in your hand with the pair in the community cards, you’ve made two pairs.
You hold unpaired cards like a 7 and an 8, and there’s a 7, 8, and a king on the board. You’ve paired both of your cards, and you’ve got two pairs now. Let’s say you don’t connect with the board at all, the community cards might contain two pairs. That’s the last way to make two pair.
Pair. Simple is best, but not in Texas hold ’em poker. While it’s not the strongest hand, players can still come out on top. There are three ways to make a pair. You are dealt a pair; your two cards are the same value. For example, you hold two kings or two 8s. One of the cards in your hand matches a card on the board, and you’ve made a pair. Your hand missed entirely, but there is still a pair in the community cards. That pair can be used by you and the other players at the table.
Ace High – No Pair
You won’t feel invincible, but I see ace high winning a lot of hands these days. If your opponent has absolutely nothing, the ace in your hand might win you the pot. Ace high means that you completely missed the board, and you don’t connect with the community cards at all. You must have an ace in your hand, but you’ve got no pair, no straight, nothing except your ace. Ace high beats hands like king high, queen high, and other hands that didn’t connect with the community cards.
Exactly like ace-high, king-high means that you weren’t able to make a solid hand, but you hold a king. A king is a high card, so if your opponents also didn’t connect with the board, you have a chance of still being ahead.
|Your Hand||Odds To Flop||Probability (%)||Odds|
|Unpaired Cards (XY)||A Pair||29%||1 in 3.5|
|Paired Hand (XX)||A Set||11.8%||1 in 8.5|
(9-10, 4-5, J-Q)
|A Straight||1.3%||1 in 77|
|Suited Connected Cards||A Flush||0.8%||1 in 119|
We’ve already posted a great article about Texas hold ’em hand combinations right here.
Want To Try Online Poker?
Since poker’s popularity skyrocketed, it’s been spreading all over the world. Some prefer to play online, some prefer the contemporary atmosphere of a casino.
Online poker started back in the 90s, and more than 100 million people have been dealt in. We’ve got an article that will point you toward reliable, secure poker rooms, you can find it right here. Approach Texas hold ’em as if it was chess, study hard and soak up as much experience as you can. Start playing online at small stakes and work your way up.
Good luck at the tables!