Texas Hold'em is the world's most popular poker game at both land-based and online poker rooms. This game is appealing for a number of reasons. One is that it takes just a few minutes to learn, but at the same time it's challenging enough that you'll never fully master it. Another is that it's a game of skill as much as it is luck, and the more skilled you become in playing Texas Hold'em games, the more often you will be able to win.
In this guide, we will explain how to play Texas Hold'em and give you an overview of the main Texas Hold'em rules. We'll discuss Texas Hold'em hands and we'll talk a little about Texas Hold'em strategy. In short, we'll tell you all you need to know to get started, so sit back and we'll deal you in.
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Texas Hold’em Hands Ranking
Your goal in Texas Hold'em games is to make the best possible five-card hand from any combination of two "hole cards" and up to five community cards, as we'll explain shortly.
A standard deck of 52 playing cards is used, and the order of ranking of those cards, from lowest to highest is 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A. The letters J, Q, K, and A stand for Jack, Queen, King and Ace, respectively. Note that the A can also count as the lowest card in the deck when making a Low Straight. The Texas Hold'em Hand Chart below shows all possible hands ranked in order, from the most to the least valuable:
This is the holy grail of poker hands in Texas Hold’em. It comprises the cards 10, J, Q, K and A, all of the same suit of spades, clubs, hearts or diamonds.
A Straight Flush is a hand of five consecutively ranked cards, all of the same suit. The higher the straight, the better the hand, so 7-8-9-10-J is more valuable than 6-7-8-9-10.
Four of a Kind
This hand comprises four cards of the same rank, plus any other card. For example, K-K-K-K-6 is a Four of a Kind of Kings. The higher the rank of the four matching cards, the better.
A Full House is a Three of a Kind and a Pair. For example, 2-2-2-3-3 or 7-7-7-K-K. The higher the rank of the Three of a Kind element, the more valuable the hand.
This hand is made up of any five cards of the same suit. The highest ranked card in the hand determines its strength. An 8-high Flush is, therefore, more valuable than a 7-high Flush.
A Straight is five cards of consecutive rank and mixed suits. The higher the straight, the more valuable the hand.
Three of a Kind
This hand comprises three cards of the same rank and any two other cards. The higher the rank of the three matching cards, the better. A hand of Q-Q-Q-2-3 would therefore be more valuable than J-J-J-K-A.
Two Pair is exactly what it says – two pairs of cards matched by rank. The rank of the highest pair determines its strength. A Two Pair of Queens and Jacks would therefore be better than a Two Pair of Jacks and 10s.
This is one pair of cards with the same rank, and its strength depends on the value of the Pair. A hand of A-A-2-3-4 would therefore be better than K-K-J-Q-9.
If none of the other Texas Hold’em hand rankings have been made, you must play your hand as a High Card. Its value is determined by the highest ranked card.
The game of Texas Hold'em progresses through seven distinct stages. The best way for us to explain how to play Texas Hold'em is to take you through each stage in turn, so that's what we'll do here. When you are familiar with Texas Hold'em rules and procedures you will find it easy to watch a game being played and understand exactly what is happening at any given point:
Stage 1: Blinds are Posted
The first thing that happens in a game of Hold'em is that one player gets the betting pot started by "posting" the Big Blind. This is a sum of money equal to a minimum bet, and it must be posted by the Big Blind before he or she has seen any card.
Similarly, the player sitting to the right of the Big Blind must post a Small Blind, which is half the minimum bet, at the same time. If the player in the Small Blind position wants to participate in the coming hand, they must top up the payment with an additional sum, making it equal to the Big Blind.
The blinds move one player to the left after each hand so that all players post both the Big Blind and Small Blind in turn.
Stage 2: Hold Cards are Dealt
With the betting pot having been seeded by the blinds, all players are dealt two cards. These are known as the "hole cards", and they are dealt face-down so that players cannot see the hole cards of their opponents.
Stage 3: Pre-Flop Betting
Having received their hole cards, players make a betting decision. The player to the left of the blinds starts, and play proceeds in a clockwise direction around the table. Each player can Call, Raise or Fold, as follows:
- Call means make a bet to match the value of the preceding bets. The first player to bet in the pre-flop betting round would therefore need to bet a sum equal to the Big Blind.
- Raise means to bet more than the value of the preceding bet. This would mean betting more than the Big Blind in order to force subsequent players to also bet more or drop out of the hand.
- Fold means to fold the cards already dealt and drop out of the hand. A player can fold at any time and for any reason, but it is usually because he or she decides that the cards dealt aren't worth betting on.
When every player has made their pre-flop betting decision, the game progresses to the next phase.
Stage 4: The Flop
Now the first three community cards - known as the flop - are dealt face-up in the middle of the poker table. Players take those into consideration before betting, raising or folding, as they see fit. However, it isn't essential to bet unless a previous player has done so. Instead, if no earlier player has made a bet, you can simply "check", which is effectively calling a bet of zero.
Stage 5: The Turn
The Turn card is a fourth community card that is dealt face-up in the middle of the table. This card gives players many more five-card poker hand possibilities, and when it has been dealt another round of betting takes place.
Stage 6: The River
Here a fifth and final community card is dealt face-up. At this stage of the game, all players should know what their best Texas Hold'em hands are. A final round of betting takes place so that players can call, raise or fold, accordingly.
Stage 7: The Showdown
After the final round of betting, all players who are still involved in the hand will reveal their hole cards so that the actual best hand - according to the poker hand rankings discussed earlier - can be determined. The player with the best hand of all wins the betting pot, and if there is ever a tie for the best hand, the betting pot will be shared equally.
All of the above assumes that a hand of Texas Hold'em will go all the way to the Showdown, but that doesn't always happen. It can also be the case that all but one player fold their hands during earlier betting rounds. When that happens, the last remaining player will win the pot no matter what cards they are holding.
There are several types of poker online and the game of Texas Hold'em is no exception. The core Texas Hold'em rules remain the same, but how much you can bet in any given betting round will depend on the variation being played, as follows:
- No Limit Texas Hold'em allows players to bet and raise as much as they want. They can even bet their entire chip stack in one go if they want to, and that is what is meant by the term 'going all-in'.
- Limit Texas Hold'em puts a fixed limit on the size of bets that can be made in each round of betting. The size of bets permitted might increase with each round, but they will still be limited to a maximum value.
- Pot Limit Texas Hold'em allows players to bet up to the current value of the betting pot. Because the betting pot grows as the hand progresses, so does the size of the bets that can be made.
The chips used in these games represent actual cash, and you can play for as long or as short a period of time as you want. Cash games run around the clock, so they games that that you can always fit in, no matter what your schedule. Most online poker rooms offer a wide range of cash tables to suit all bankrolls. This means that you can play for as little as $0.05/0.10 or as much as your budget allows.
A single-table tournament can have anything from 2 – 9 players, and the game begins once all available seats are occupied. Instead of playing with cash, you ‘buy in’ to the tournament for a fixed amount and receive a fixed number of playing chips. You then play Texas Hold’em until just one player remains at the table. A prize is paid to the outright winner and in many cases, smaller prizes are paid to players in second and third place.
Multi-table tournaments use multiple tables to accommodate more players than a single-table tournament. These events take longer to play, so they are scheduled to begin at stated times. With more players being involved, prize pools are bigger and a larger number of runners-up will usually win a share of them. The only downside is that you’ll need to beat a greater number of opponents to win the game outright.
As with many casino games, luck determines which cards will be dealt in a game of Texas Hold'em, but actually playing the game takes skill. The more you know about the game and how to play it strategically, the better your chances of winning will be. Although we don't have the time here to present anything approaching a complete guide to Texas Hold'em strategies, we can provide a few tips on how to start developing the skills needed for long-term success:
1. Study the Game
As we said in our introduction, Texas Hold’em takes just a few minutes to learn, but a lot longer to master. One of your biggest priorities should be to study the game in depth by reading books, watching YouTube videos and listening to instructional online poker podcasts.
2. Play Often
The more experience you get at the tables, the faster you will learn how to play effectively. When you first start playing online, remember to play at low-stake tables to begin with and then you can progress to higher staking levels as your skill and experience grow.
3. Track Your Progress
It’s easy to overlook losses and remember only your successes, but that give an accurate picture. Keep records of how your bankroll fluctuates, the games you play and how well or badly you perform. This will help you spot weaknesses in your game that you can strengthen through study and practice.
The exact origins of Texas Hold'em aren't known, but the game can be traced back to the early 1900s. The 80th Legislature of the State of Texas formally recognized that the game was born in Robstown, Texas, and its popularity in the US exploded in the mid-20th century. European players were introduced to the game in the 1980s, and televised games in the 2000s made it even more famous. The ability to play Texas Hold'em online made it accessible to more players than ever before, and it is now the most popular poker game in the world. If you want to get started playing Texas Hold'em online, check out some of our most recommended casinos listed above and enjoy the games.