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How to Play Texas Hold'em

The Cadillac of Poker is Simple to Play

Texas Holdem dominates poker to such an extent that if you refer to poker it is assumed that you are talking about No-Limit Texas Holdem. The beauty of this format is that the rules are simple, yet the strategy and thinking behind how you play is deep.

You can play Texas Holdem Poker in many different formats. The most common is called a ‘Cash Game’ or ‘Ring Game’. Here you are playing for real money, with chips that have a one to one match with the dollar amount stamped on them. Tournaments use ‘tournament chips’ instead. Here you buy-in for a fixed amount (rebuys may also be possible), and are given a stack of chips. Play continues until one player has them all, and prizes are awarded according to the spot you finish in. There are now many tournament variations, including sit n goes, satellites and knockout bounty games.

There are 3 main types of betting for Texas Holdem. No-Limit involves the ability to bet as much as you like at any point in the hand, based on the chips you have on the table when the action starts. This is by far the most popular betting type. You can also find Fixed Limit Holdem, where units are specified in advance. Pot-Limit betting, which lets you bet up to the size of the current pot when the action gets to you can sometimes be found.

This page takes you through a single hand of No-Limit Texas Holdem poker, explaining the rules along the way. After the hand, you will find some simple strategy tips to give you a start in winning some pots!

Texas Holdem: Blinds, Dealer Button and Pre-Flop Betting

In this form of poker, players need to post bets known as ‘Blinds’ before the cards are dealt. 2 players post these for each hand. After each hand, a ‘dealer button’ moves to the left, and the 2 players to the left of this get to post. The player 2 from the button posts a ‘Big Blind’ (usually 1% of the full starting stack) and the player to the immediate left of the button posts a small blind of half of this amount.

The cards are then dealt, with each player getting 2 cards which are visible only to them.

Betting starts with the player to the left of the big blind. This player can choose to fold, call (match the big blind) or raise to any amount they wish. If a player raises, then all the players must either match this raise (call), fold, or re-raise. Action continues clockwise until every player has either folded or called the last bet.

If at any point only one player remains with a live hand, they win the pot. There is no requirement to show cards in this case.

Flop, Turn and River

When everyone has completed the betting a card is ‘Burned’ (discarded) from the top of the deck, and 3 cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table. This is known as the flop. Since the idea is to make the best 5 card poker hand using your own cards and the community cards, you will know a lot about your chances of winning the pot when the flop cards are dealt.

Betting now starts with the player to the left of the dealer button, and goes clockwise around the table. The player with the button will act last on all streets, giving them an information advantage over their opponents.

There is no requirement to bet. If a player prefers, they can ‘check’, this is a zero-bet and essentially passes the action to the next player. If someone raises then that raise must be called in order to continue in the hand.

Note on Side Pots

If a player runs out of chips during a hand, and two or more other players wish to continue, then the pot that the all-in player contributed to is separated. A new pot, known as a ‘side pot’ is then created for new bets by live players.

After the flop betting round, another card is burned and one more community card is dealt. This is repeated for the river.

Showing Down Hands and Determining the Winner

When the last bets are in, it is time to show hands and see who wins the pot. The player who made the last bet will show first – even if this was on an earlier street.

At showdown, you need to create the best 5 card poker hand using any combination of your own 2 cards and the community cards. This can be both of your cards + 3 community cards, 1 of your cards + 4 community cards or even all 5 community cards alone. Only 5 cards count, and in the event of a tie, then the pot is split.

Tips for Playing Texas Holdem

During the run-through of a hand, I noted that the player on the dealer button has an information advantage on their opponents. This button moves around the table, meaning each player is ‘in position’ the same number of times. When you first start to play, then you can play more hands when you are last to act compared to when you are one of the first players to bet. That extra information that you get from seeing what your opponents do before you bet will help you to win more pots.

While any starting hand can connect with a flop, some are dangerous to play. Examples include a single ace with a low card. You might think that pairing your ace will win a big pot, however there are some big hazards. Your opponents might have an ace with a bigger side-card – effectively ‘dominating’ your hand and making it hard for you to win a big pot, though easy to lose one! Unsuited picture cards and picture / non-picture cards which are suited are also dangerous, especially from early position.

The final tip is to take notice of the tendencies of your opponents. A bet on the river from someone who hardly ever gets aggressive has a completely different meaning from that same bet made by a wild player that likes to bluff a lot.