Due to the popularity of poker on TV, Texas Hold’em (often just called “Hold’em”) has become the world’s most popular poker game, both in casinos and online. You can read more about the game if you want to learn more about Texas Hold’em. We’ll get into more detail later on, but here are the most important things to know about Texas Hold’em:
- Each player is dealt two cards. Only the player is allowed to see these cards.
- The dealer places five cards on the table – first three at once, then another, and then one more. All players can use the cards on the table together with their own cards to form the best possible five-card hand.
- Before and after the cards are shown, the players take turns to place bets. To stay in the hand for the next card, all players are required to place the same number of chips in the pot.
- The best poker hand wins the pot.
- The game is easy to learn but can be played with a seemingly infinite number of strategies, tactics and nuances.
Rules of Texas Hold’em
Before you start playing Texas Hold’em, it’s important to learn the rules. In Hold’em, each player is dealt two private cards, known as pocket cards, that can only be used by that player. Five community cards are dealt face up and make up the “board”. All players in the game can use these community cards along with their own pocket cards to form the best possible five-card poker hand. In Hold’em, a player can use any combination of the seven cards at his disposal to form the best five-card hand, using zero, one or both of his pocket cards.
These are the four major variants of Hold’em that differ from each other due to their betting limits:
- Limit Texas Hold’em: There is a predetermined betting limit on each betting round.
- No Limit Texas Hold’em: A player can bet any amount up to all of their chips.
- Pot Limit Texas Hold’em: A player can bet any amount up to the size of the pot.
- Mixed Texas Hold’em: The game alternates between rounds of Limit Texas Hold’em and No Limit Texas Hold’em.
In Texas Hold’em, a marker called the “button” or “dealer button” indicates which player is the nominal dealer in the current game. Before the game begins, the player to the left of the dealer pays something called the “small blind”, which is the first forced bet. The player immediately following the small blind pays the “big blind”, which is typically twice the amount of the small blind, but blinds can vary depending on the stakes and the structure of the game.
In Limit games, the big blind is the same as the small bet, and the small blind is typically half of the big blind but can be larger depending on the stakes in the game. For example, in a $2/$4 Limit game, the small blind is $1, and the big blind is $2. In a $15/$30 Limit game, the small blind is $10, and the big blind is $15.
In Pot Limit and No Limit games, the games are referred to by the size of their blinds. For example, a $1/$2 Hold’em game has a small blind of $1 and a big blind of $2.
Depending on the structure of the game in question, each player may also have to pay an “ante”, another type of forced bet, which is usually less than both blinds, that all players at the table must pay to the pot.
Next, each player receives two pocket cards. The betting round runs clockwise around the table, starting with the player “under the gun” (the next player following the big blind).
As in other forms of poker, the options available in Texas Hold’em are “fold”, “check”, “bet”, “call,” and “raise”. The available actions depend on previous actions taken by other players. If no bet has yet been made, then the player can either check (abstain from betting but still be in the hand) or bet. If a player decides to bet, subsequent players can either call, raise or fold. A call means that you match the previous player’s bet. A raise means that you not only match the previous bet but also surpass it. A fold means that you have decided to remove yourself from the hand and stop playing.
Before the flop
After seeing their pocket cards, each player now has the option to play their cards by calling or raising the big blind. The turn starts to the left of the big blind, which is considered a “live” bet in this round. That player has the option to fold, call or raise. If the big blind was $2, it would cost $2 to call or at least $4 to raise. The betting then continues clockwise around the table.
Note: The bet structure depends on the type of game. Explanation of the betting structure in Limit Hold’em, No Limit Hold’em, and Pot Limit Hold’em can be found below.
Players must continue to bet in each round until all active players (who have not folded) have placed matching bets in the pot.
Now three cards are displayed face-up on the table. This is called a “flop”. In Texas Hold’em, the three cards on the flop are community cards that all active players can use. Bets on the flop start with the player to the left of the dealer. The betting possibilities are the same as before the flop, but if no one has made a bet, you can choose to check so that the action moves on to the next player at the table.
When all players have finished betting in the flop round, the “turn” card is shown face up in the centre of the table. The turn card is the fourth community card in Hold’em and is sometimes called “Fourth Street”. Another betting round begins with the first active player to the left of the dealer.
When players have finished betting in the turn round, the “river” or “Fifth Street” card is revealed face up in the centre of the table. The river card is the fifth and final community card in Texas Hold’em. Again, betting starts with the first active player to the left of the dealer, and the same betting rules apply as in the flop and turn rounds described above.
If more than one player remains when the last betting round is completed, the last player to bet or raise shows their cards. If no bets are made in the last round, the player to the left of the dealer shows his cards first. The player with the best five-card poker hand wins the pot. In the event of a tie, the pot is split equally between the players with the best hands. According to Texas Hold’em rules, all suits have the same value.
After the pot has been given to one or more players, a new round starts. The dealer button is now moved clockwise to the next player. Blinds and potentially the ante are paid again, and a new hand is dealt to each player.
Limit, No Limit, Pot Limit and Mixed Texas Hold’em
Texas Hold’em rules are the same in Limit, No Limit and Pot Limit poker games, with a few exceptions.
Limit Texas Hold’em
Bets in Limit Hold’em take place in pre-determined, structured amounts. Before and on the flop, all bets and raises are the same amounts as the big blind. On the turn and river, all bets and raises are doubled. In Limit Hold’em, a maximum of four bets are allowed per player in each betting round. These consist of a bet, raise, re-raise and cap, the last raise.
No Limit Texas Hold’em
The minimum bet in No Limit Hold’em is the same as the size of the big blind, but players can bid as much as they want, up to all their chips.
In No Limit Hold’em, a raise must be at least as much as the previous bet or raise in the same round. For example, if one player bets $5, the other must raise by at least $5 (a total bet of $10). A maximum raise is the size of your stack (all your chips on the table).
In No-Limit Hold’em, there is no ceiling on the number of raises allowed.
Pot Limit Texas Hold’em
The minimum bet in Pot Limit Hold’em is the same as the size of the big blind, but a player can always bet up to the size of the pot.
A raise must be at least as much as the previous bet or raise in the same round. For example, if one player bets $5, the other must raise by at least $5 (a total bet of $10).
The maximum raise is the size of the pot, defined as the total pot plus all bets on the table plus the amount that the active player must first match before they raise.
For example, if the pot size is $100 and there are no previous bets in a given betting round, a player can bet a maximum of $100. After that bet, the turn continues clockwise to the next player. This player can either fold, call $100, or raise an amount between the minimum ($100 more) and the maximum. The maximum bet, in this case, is $400 – the raiser first calls $100, so there is $300 in the pot, after which the player raises another $300, making a total bet of $400.
In Pot Limit Hold’em, there is no ceiling on the number of raises allowed.
Mixed Texas Hold’em
In Mixed Hold’em, the game alternates between rounds of Limit Hold’em and No-Limit Hold’em. Blinds usually increase when the game switches from No Limit to Limit to ensure some consistency in the average pot in each game. The betting rules in each round follow the rules for the variant in question, as described earlier.
Learn to play Texas Hold’em for free
If you want to learn how to play Texas Hold’em, there are many websites with free poker games where you can play online against others. Unlike real money poker, nothing is at stake, so you can take your time to learn all of the rules of Texas Hold’em.