How to Play Texas Hold’em
Texas hold’em is the most popular poker game in the world. Want to learn to play poker? Start by learning how to play Texas hold’em.
Learn these terms and a few basic tips before you jump into a game of Texas hold’em.
To make sure there’s enough betting each hand for an interesting game, Texas hold’em uses forced bets called “blinds.” A blind is like an ante, except that there are only two antes per hand. At a hold’em table with 9 players, you’ll post a blind twice every nine hands.
There are two blind bets: big and small. The big blind is a full wager, and the small blind is half of the big blind.
Pot Limit, Limit, and No-Limit
You should understand the differences between the different types of Texas hold’em betting limit styles before you participate in a cash game. The difference between them is subtle but important.
In a pot-limit game, you can’t raise more than the total pot. In a no-limit game, any player can raise the bet up to their entire chip stack at any time. Limit games are easy to recognize by the numbers in their name, such as $2/$4. In this example, the lower fixed limit is $2, while the higher fixed limit is $4.
Dealing the Cards
Each player is dealt two cards face down. These cards are called “hole cards” or “pocket cards.” There’s a round of betting after the hole cards are dealt.
Betting Before the Flop
The person to the left of the dealer button makes the first bet. This person is in the small blind and must decide to call, raise, or fold. To call the bet, the small blind must match the size of the big blind, though they already have paid half that price. To fold the bet, the player tosses their cards in and says they are folding (the small blind would lose their blind bet). To raise the bet, the player would simply raise the pot beyond the size of the big blind.
Betting with the Big Blind
If the small blind doesn’t call or raise the bet in the pre-flop betting, the big blind doesn’t have to add any more money to stay in the hand, though they can choose to raise their bet. After the big blind bets, then the option to call, raise, or fold goes around the table. After the pre-flop bets are made, the dealer produces what is called “the flop.”
The “flop” is when the dealer flops down the first three community cards. They’re called community cards because anyone can use them to improve their hand.
The flop gives Texas hold’em players the most information, so a lot of betting, raising, and folding takes place after the flop. The player to the dealer’s left is first, and can raise or call. If a bet is called by all players, this round of betting is over. If you bet and the opponents all fold, you win the hand and the pot.
The turn is when the dealer reveals the fourth community card and another round of betting starts.
When the dealer reveals the fifth and final community card, all of the cards in the game are on the table. There’s one more round of betting after the river. When this betting is finished, we’re ready for the showdown.
When there are players still in the game after those four betting rounds, we have a showdown. All players left in the game show their hole cards and the dealer figures out a winner.
Texas Holdem Hand Example
An understanding of the basic terms and betting rounds in Texas hold’em is a good start, but the only way to learn to play poker is to actually watch and play real games.
Here’s an example game to show the above information in action. Let’s pretend there are five players in the game: Tom, Jill, Austin, Dana, and Rick. The blinds are $3/$6 and the game is no-limit Texas holdem.
Tom is sitting in the small blind and Jill is sitting in the big blind. The deal provides Tom with an 10-7 suited, Jill with an 7-2 off-suit, Austin with a Ace-3 suited, Dana with a 9-6 off-suit, and Rick with an King-Jack off-suit.
Tom decides to stay in the hand and calls the big blind.
Jill also calls mostly because she has the worst hand in poker.
Austin has an Ace with a lousy kicker, so he has the decision to raise and push people out of the pot or fold and lose nothing. He foolishly decides an Ace might win and calls the big blind.
Dana doesn’t like her hand so she folds.
Rick has two face cards and is in position. He sees three players in front of him who don’t want to raise, so Rick decides to push as many people out of the pot as possible. He raises $5 to nearly double the size of everyone’s bet.
Tom calls the $5 wager. Jill folds. Austin decides to call at $5. The pot now stands at $36.
The flop comes and it offers an 8-9-King. This means Tom flopped a straight, so he decides to bet enough to keep anyone with a decent hand in the pot. He bets another $5.
Austin decides it’s a bad idea to stay in the hand and he folds. Rick hit a Jack, but he didn’t hit top pair, so he decides to call the bet. Rick calls the $3.
This leaves Tom and Rick in the hand for the turn. The turn comes and it’s a 6, which helps neither player. Tom raises the bet another $10.
Rick decides to fold. Despite flopping the top pair, Rick correctly senses his opponent had the better hand, so Tom wins the pot.
The example above shows how much psychology exists in Texas holdem. It is also an example of the fact that hands are often improved in the flop, river, and turn. The intrigue of figuring out what your opponent is thinking and the ability to improve your hand over time is part of what makes Texas holdem the most popular poker game in the world.