Texas Hold’em is the most popular game of the Poker family, a genre of comparing card games that share many mechanics, rulesets, and melds.
The State of Texas officially recognizes Texas Hold’em as having been conceived in Robstown, Texas. Despite this being legally designated as the origin of the game, the actual inventor of the game is unknown.
Texas Hold’em is the most popular variant of Poker in the United States, with many Americans simply calling it “Poker” for shorthand. It has overtaken Five Card Draw in popularity in recent years due to its prevalence in media and the casino-room floor.
How to Play Texas Hold‘em Poker?
This guide will explain the rules for Texas Hold’em Poker step by step in a well-organized fashion. Beginners follow along with the article or skip down to the relevant headers if this is merely serving as a refresher of the rules.
Texas Hold’em is played using a single deck of 52 cards in the Standard Anglo-American pattern. It can be comfortably played with up to 10 Players concurrently.
Texas Hold’em is what is known as a High-Hand game. High-Hand games are a type of comparing game in which Players attempt to form the best or “High-Hand” that they are able to form. This “best possible hand” is also known as “The Nuts.”
The overall objective of Texas Hold’em, as with all gambling games, is to win more chips than you started playing with. Winning money is the whole purpose of gambling, and as such is the top objective. In order to win chips, a Player must win individual hands and take the pot. The “pot” is the total amount of money wagered by other Players.
The winner of a hand gains the whole pot, unless there is a split pot for some reason. To split the pot, Players must tie, or there must otherwise be a “side pot” formed by particular betting conditions.
The first Dealer is determined at the start of the game, and they will remain Dealer for the duration of the first hand. After this round, the Dealing position will change.
The Dealer Button, a small chip usually marked with the letter “D”, is the visual representation of a Player being the Dealer. It is left on the table in front of a Player, and after their round as the Dealer, will then move to the Player on the Dealer’s immediate clockwise
The Dealer must shuffle and deal the cards, and is given the privilege of making their bet last. This allows the Dealer to see what all other Players are going to do before they make their decision.
Blinds (Big and Small)
The player to the immediate clockwise of the Dealer is the Small Blind, and the player to the immediate clockwise of the Small Blind is the Big Blind. Another name that is often used is ‘Under the Gun’, which is the player to the immediate clockwise of the Big Blind.
In a game of Texas Hold’em Poker, Players are required to pay what is known as the Ante after they are dealt their cards. The Ante is a minimum amount, the same for each Player. Players are given the option to pay the Ante or fold, surrendering their cards and any rights to the pot for the rest of the hand.
However, the Blinds are compelled to pay some or all of the Ante, even if they wish to fold their cards. The Big Blind must pay the whole Ante automatically, while the Small Blind must pay half of it.
Betting Order and Options
The player’s individual betting order is always clockwise from the dealer, with the dealer having the option to act last after all other players have acted.
The betting order starts with the player to the immediate clockwise of the Big Blind and moves around the table in a circular manner until it reaches the Dealer, who may then act last.
When betting, Players are able to make a new bet, call a previous bet, or raise upon a previous bet. When betting, Players are only limited by the number of chips they have in their possession.
When Players are not making the first bet, they have the option to Call or Raise. A “Call” is a matched bet, equaling the previously highest bet made by another Player. For example, Player 1 Bets $10, so Player 2 calls $10.
A “Raise” therefore increases upon the previously highest bet made by another Player. For example, Player 1 bets $10, so Player 2 raises $5, for a total of $15. When declaring a Raise, it is assumed that the previous bet will be met and then increased.
As such, a Player should declare that they raise by the increased amount, rather than the total amount. Player 2 raises $5, for a total of 15. Player 2 does NOT raise $15 for a total of $15. Raising $15 would make the total $25 instead.
The ultimate raise is where you bet all of your chips. This is called going “All-in”.
It’s important to note that the concept of raising in Hold’em games can vary depending on the Limit-type. In No-Limit games, players can bet and raise any amount up to the total amount of chips they have on the table. This means that a player can go “all-in” at any point in the hand. On the contrary, in Limit games, there are specific betting and raising limits that are predetermined for each round of betting.
A Check is the simplest of the positions, though it has some limitations. A Check, or a “knock” as it is sometimes known, is a Pass on betting. It is a Player saying that they do not wish to bet at this time, but they are not folding. They are essentially betting nothing.
However, Players must at least call the previously highest bet if they wish to continue playing the hand. As such, a Player may only check if no other Players have bet before the checking Player. If there is an outstanding bet, Players may not check but must instead match or “call” the previously highest bet.
The Fold is the surrender, both of a Player’s cards and their stakes in the Pot. Players that Fold are not required to match the previously highest bet, as all other Players at the table are. However, Folding Players also surrender their right to any winnings they might have received from the pot, even if their cards would have won that hand.
Rounds or Stages
The Ante phase of the game. This is where the Big and Small Blinds must pay their Ante automatically, as well as every other Player that wishes to partake in the game based on their starting deal of two cards.
Each Player will be dealt two cards, face-down. If they wish to Play, they must pay at least the Ante. If Players wish to raise the Ante at this point, they may do so. However, as the Ante counts as the highest previous bet, no Player may check.
Once all betting positions have been settled, the Dealer will then deal three cards to the center of the table. These cards will be dealt face up, and are community cards from which any Player may build their hand.
These three cards, as well as this phase of the game, are collectively known as the Flop. Players may bet as in the previous state of the game, though this is the first stage where Players may check if all previous Players have also checked.
Checking is the most popular position to take during the Flop, as it is still quite early in the game and bluffing or betting too highly can be a drawback whether a Player has bad or good cards.
The Turn is the middle stage of the game. All play is the same as the Flop, with the exception that there is only a single community card revealed during the Turn itself. That single card, as well as this stage of the game, is referred to as the Turn.
The River is mechanically the same as the Turn in every way. However, The River is the most crucial phase of Texas Hold’em. The River is the phase where skilled Players are able to utilize a concept known as “sunken cost” to win considerable amounts of money in a single hand.
As the River is the final phase before the Showdown, it is the Players’ last chance to bet if able. This also means that it is the last chance for players to fold. This is where Sunken Cost comes into play. Players that have already bet during the previous three phases may feel obligated to “see the game through” as they have already bet money or they have “sunk cost” into the hand.
As such, Players are statistically more likely to be psychologically affected by this fallacious line of thinking than at any other phase of the game. As such, skilled Players will bet the most heavily during this phase of a hand.
This will either scare the opponent into believing they cannot win, folding and relinquishing the pot to the aggressive Player without any need of card comparing. Otherwise, they will bet more to call the aggressive raise and could potentially defeat the aggressive Player, but could also lose even more money than they should have.
These are the psychological pressures that make Texas Hold’em Poker a game of skill, rather than a mere game of chance.
The final stage of the game is where no bets are made. Instead, Players reveal their cards and compare them.
- As a High-Hand game, the highest-value hand will win the whole pot.
- In the case of a tie, the highest individual card within a Player’s well wins the hand.
- If both Players have the same highest card in their well, then the pot will be split between all tying Players.
The hierarchy of potential melds or “hands” as they are called in Poker is explained below in the “Hands” section of the guide.
Texas Hold’em Rules
Below you can find a summary of the essential rules:
- Players may bet as much as they are able, to the maximum of the number of chips in their possession. Casinos that have betting maximums normally refer to the maximum number of chips a Player may start the game with. This maximum is not necessarily a maximum on the number of chips a Player may bet in a particular hand.
- A common form of shorthand for checking is physically knocking on the felt Poker table. Hence checking’s other name, “knocking.” Knocking on the table is a tradition so old that it is now considered a part of the official rules of Poker.
- If none of the Players in the Showdown phase form an actual meld, they instead play based on the “High-card” of their hand, the highest ranking of their two hole cards. While the melds will be explained in detail later, the “high card” is actually considered a one-card meld in itself.
- Texas Hold’em is a High-Hand game, meaning Players must form the best possible meld of five cards out of the seven cards they are presented. Two private well cards, and five public community cards a la the Flop, Turn, and River.
Like in most Poker games, the hands of Texas Hold’em are shared amongst the games of the genre. The values of these hands are also consistent among most of the games in the genre, and will be listed below.
These melds are listed in the hierarchical order, from highest value to lowest value.
A set of cards in order by rank and all of the same suit, containing all of the “Royal” or face-cards.
E.g. 9♦ 10♦ J♦ Q♦ K♦ or 10♦ J♦ Q♦ K♦ A♦
A set of cards in order by rank and all of the same suit, but not containing the full cadre of Royal cards.
E.g. 2♥ 3♥ 4♥ 5♥ 6♥
A set of four cards all of the same rank. These will be all of the cards of a particular suit in a single deck.
E.g. 8♦ 8♣ 8♠ 8♥
A Pair and a Three-of-a-Kind in the same hand.
E.g. 2♣ 2♠ 3♣ 3♦ 3♠
A set of cards that are all the same suit, but of varying rank.
E.g. 5♦ 3♦ 6♦ K♦ Q♦
A set of cards that are ascending or descending in rank, but of varying different suits.
E.g. 2♥ 3♣ 4♠ 5♠ 6♣
A set of three cards that are all the same rank, with the other two cards varying.
E.g. 8♦ 8♣ 8♠ 3♣ K♦
A set of two different Pairs, unrelated to each other, of varying rank or suit.
E.g. 4♣ 4♠ 2♣ 2♠ 8♦
A set of two cards forming a “pair” of cards that are the same rank.
E.g. 2♥ 2♦ 8♦ Q♠ J♠
Only technically a meld, the weakest hand possible in a game of Texas Hold’em.
E.g. K♣ 9♦ 2♣ J♠ 3♥
For a more detailed overview with visuals, we recommend our poker hand rankings cheat sheet.
Imagine a cash game of No-Limit Texas Hold’em between two different Players. Imagine all other Players have folded except for Player 1 and Player 2.
- Player 1’s hand: 8♦ 7♥
- Player 2’s hand: 8♠ 9♠
- The Flop: 6♣ 2♥ 7♦
- The Turn: 4♥
- The River: 10♣
Player 1 is likely to bet aggressively after the Flop and Turn, as they are only one card away from achieving a straight, and they already have a pair of 7s.
However, if Player 2 does not fold and manages to hold on to the River, they are sure to win the pot with their straight.
That being said, just because Player 2 CAN win the hand does not mean they should necessarily attempt to.
While in this particular circumstance, Player 2 was lucky on the River, such an occurrence is rather rare. Players should not bet recklessly and hope for the last card to be turned over. 60% of all the community cards are revealed during the Flop.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many cards do you get in Texas Hold’em?
Players are each dealt two cards that are their own private cards, which no other Players may use to form melds. Then, there will be five community cards that all Players can use and are dealt to the center of the table.
How many people can play Texas Hold’em?
Up to ten Players can play a game of Texas Hold’em comfortably using a single deck.
How many hole cards are there in Texas Hold’em?
There are two hole cards in Texas Hold’em, the private cards only available to the Player to whom they were dealt.
Is Texas Hold’em Poker skill or luck?
In the long term Texas Hold’em Poker is a game of skill with elements of luck. Luck determines the actual cards a Player is dealt, but a skilled psychological Player understands that with the right bluffs and the right bets, that luck holds very little sway in the game. A Player could be dealt nothing but pairs and high-cards the whole game, but still, win because they effectively bluffed their opponents.
Is Texas Hold’em difficult?
Texas Hold’em is a game that is easy to learn, but difficult to master. The psychological element of Texas Hold’em is something that takes years to harness, due to the varying skill level of Players. Someone may be very good at hiding their true intentions with a Poker face. The ability to read people and recognize patterns is integral to improving at the game.