Texas Hold’em Poker

How to play Texas Hold'em

If you are new to the game of poker or want to learn more about the game, understanding the rules and format of Texas Hold’em poker is important as it’s the most commonly played variant. Texas Hold’em revolves around two hole cards, which are private to each player, and then five community cards that are revealed by the dealer as the hand progresses.

After each card reveal, players must decide whether to check, bet, raise or fold in a bid to form the most valuable five-card hand and of course win the pot. To learn more about the rules of poker, visit our poker school

Texas Hold’em Rules

Texas Hold’em is the most popular poker variant and can be played with between two to ten players. The rules are as follows: 

  1. One player is the dealer, with the position of the dealer rotating clockwise to the next active player after every hand. The two players to the left of the dealer are named the small blind and big blind.
  2. Both the small blind and big blind are required to make forced bets and are typically the only players to put money in the pot before the cards are dealt. Every player is then dealt two cards (hole cards) face down.
  3. Once the hole cards are dealt, the first round begins with the player sitting to the left of the big blind. This participant can fold, call or raise.  
  4. Betting continues clockwise, with each player able to fold, call or raise the highest bet made before them. In order to stay in the hand and see the next card, all players must typically have the same number of chips in the pot. 
  5. After the first betting round comes the flop, where three community cards are turned face-up on the table.
  6. Betting resumes with each player remaining in the hand having the option to check, bet or raise, call or fold.  
  7. When the second round is finished, another community card is revealed in the ‘turn’.
  8. The third round of betting starts with the first remaining player sitting to the left of the dealer. It is played clockwise, as with the earlier rounds. 
  9. When the third round is over, another community card is revealed in the ‘river’. 
  10. The fourth round again starts with the first remaining player sitting to the left of the dealer. The betting continues clockwise until a winner is determined. If two or more players remain active after the fourth betting round has concluded, these players’ hole cards are revealed and the best poker hand wins the pot.

The Blinds

The blinds in Texas Hold’em are determined by which player is designated the dealer, or the ‘button’ for the hand. The player to the left of the button is designated the small blind, meaning the first forced bet. The player to the left of the small blind is designated the big blind, another forced bet typically twice the size of the small blind.

The blinds can differ depending on the betting structures, as follows:

  • Limit games: The big blind is the same as the small bet, and the small blind is typically half the size of the big blind depending on the stakes. 
  • Pot Limit and No Limit games: The games are referred to by the size of their blinds. 

Depending on the game, each player may also post an ‘ante’, which is another type of forced bet that is usually smaller than either blind. Once these bets have been made, playing can proceed.

Rules are different for other variants of poker; to find out how the betting structure can differ from Texas Hold’em, visit our guide to Omaha poker

Betting Actions

Each poker hand is a culmination of various betting rounds, the number of which depends on the variation.

In Texas Hold’em there are four betting rounds, and each player must decide whether to fold, call, check, bet or raise when it is their turn to act, often basing their decision on the actions already taken by other players active in the hand. 

 

Check

Players check if they want to pass the action onto the next player but keep their cards. When a player checks, they don’t have to put anything into the pot unless they are playing with a big blind and/or small blind. 

 

Fold

If you fold your hand in poker, you lay down your cards and stop playing the hand. Folding means you are out for that hand and relinquish your claim on the pot. Folding the cards involves tossing them to the dealer. 

 

Bet

The player bets a certain amount based on the strength of his cards (or bluff if they are feeling adventurous). The bet must be more than the big blind. 

 

Call

Calling is what’s used to call a bet, which is when a player matches the amount that has been put in by another player in the form of a bet or a raise. If nobody calls the bet, the hand is over and the uncalled player wins the hand. 

 

Raise

Raising is when a player increases the opening bet. After raising it, other players still active in the hand will have to either call, fold or re-raise, which is the act of increasing a raise that’s already been put in. 

When all players have either folded or called the last raise, the betting round is over and all bets that were made are added to the pot. If all players except one have folded when a betting round concludes, the remaining active player wins. 

Start of the Game (Pre-Flop and The Flop)

The second stage of each poker hand is called the pre-flop, which is the action that occurs before the flop is dealt and after the blinds have been placed. In the pre-flop phase, players are dealt two cards or ‘hole cards’, which are meant to be seen by the player only. Players must then decide whether they want to call, bet or fold based on their hole cards.

The round following the pre-flop phase is called the ‘flop’. During this round, three community cards are revealed to all the players in the game. Both the pre-flop and flop phases are critical rounds as it’s when players must decide their next action based on the strength of their hole hands and the revealed community cards, otherwise known as their five-card hand.

Both the pre-flop and flop phases are critical rounds as it’s when players must decide their next action based on the strength of their hole hands and the revealed community cards, otherwise known as their five-card hand.

 

During the Game (The Turn and The River)

After the flop, another card is burned from the deck and a fourth community card is revealed. All players still in the game now have six cards to choose from to form their five-card poker hands.

There then proceeds another round of betting. After the turn comes the river, which is when another card is burned and a fifth community card is dealt.

This means there are now seven cards that can be selected to make the best five-card poker card. To determine their best five-card hand, players may use one, both or neither or their hold cards in combination with five, four or three community cards. Another round of betting takes place, and if any player bets or raises without being called they win the hand without revealing their cards, or a showdown occurs.

 

End of the Game (The Showdown)

The showdown occurs when more than one player remains after the last betting round. During the showdown, the player that made the last aggressive action during the final betting round is the first to reveal their cards; if no betting took place during this last betting round, the closest player on the left of the dealer must show their cards first. 

This concludes the game by determining a winning hand that takes the pot. If the hand is a tie, the pot is split evenly. Any player dealt in has the right to ask to see any cards involved in a showdown, even those that have been burned or discarded.

Recap

The game begins with each player being dealt two hole cards, which remain private to the player, and then a series of rounds occur during which community cards are revealed. The aim is to form a five-card poker hand with the most equity, and judge whether to call, raise or fold according to what players believe their opponents have. The game concludes either when one player remains, or when multiple players hands’ are revealed. 

 

GGPoker House Rules

GGPoker allows players to play at multiple tables or in multiple games simultaneously. When entering a cash table, players may wait to play until they are in the big blind position, or pay a fee that’s equal to that table’s lower limit stake or small blind to play in the next hand dealt. A player may also choose to temporarily sit-out from a poker table. In the event that two or more active players reach showdown when holding equal ranking hands, the winner is determined by the kicker if the hands remain tied. If the hand is still a tie, the pot is split evenly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best hand in Texas Hold’em?

The best hand overall is a royal flush, which is made up of an ace, king, queen, jack and 10 in the same suit. A-A (also known as pocket rockets) is the best starting hole cards hand in Texas Hold’em as it can be played in any position. However, you should be cautious of how many players enter the pot when you have this hand, as it increases the likelihood of someone beating your aces and you can still lose to two pairs of any other cards if you don’t improve using the community cards.

How many cards do you burn in Texas Hold’em?

There are up to three total burn cards in a Texas Hold’em hand. A burn card refers to one that isn’t in play and is dealt face down on the table. Before the flop, turn or river, the dealer takes the top card of the deck and discards it, never to be shown to players (as it would influence decision making).

What wins in Texas Hold’em?

To find out what poker hands win in Texas Hold’em, take a look at our post that ranks poker hands in order. The royal flush is the best poker hand and it comprises five cards of the same suit, followed by the straight flush, four of a kind and full house. Knowing the rankings of starting hands is important in order to plan your strategy for the rest of the game.

Why is it called a 5 card stud?

Five card stud is named such because it uses five cards. It starts with the player being dealt two cards: one face down followed by one face up. Play continues until a total of five cards have been dealt, with the initial card still facing down and the other four facing up. The goal is to make the best five card poker hand.

Do you have to use your two cards in Texas Hold’em?

Your two cards, also known as hole cards, are for your use alone when making your final five-card hand. However, you may use both of your two hole cards or leave one or both of them out altogether, if your best five-card hand is made up of four or even five of the community cards.

Is Texas Hold’em easy to learn?

Texas Hold’em is easy to learn if you can put the time into learning poker hand rankings and key phrases. Our poker playing guide will help you get to grips with the basic rules, but you should look to improve your strategy wherever possible to better your game. Once you have a solid strategy, it’s easy to refine and advance your skills over time.

How do I know whether to bet or fold?

Knowing the best action to take when playing poker comes with practice. Whenever you put chips into the pot in poker, you are betting – whether you’re calling an existing bet, opening or raising. Folding means that you relinquish your claim on the pot by stopping playing your hand.

What is the side pot in poker?

A side pot is created for the other players when there are more than two opponents left in the hand, and one is all-in. Any further bets can’t be won by the first all-in player as they have bet all the chips they have, meaning the all-in player is eligible for the main pot only.