How to Play Texas Hold'em
How to Play Texas Hold'em
The game of poker has been going on strong for hundreds of years, and it’s only gotten bigger since the internet came along. Now people around the world can play poker online for real money. There are many different poker games you can play; most people today are playing Texas Hold’em, an incredibly popular game that has taken over the poker landscape. The following tips will teach you how to play Texas Hold’em at the most basic level, focusing on the rules of the game. Once you’ve learned the rules, you’ll be ready to play Texas Hold’em for real money at Ignition Poker.
Texas Hold’em Rules
Like most poker games, Texas Hold’em uses a single standard deck of 52 playing cards, sometimes called the French deck. You also need a poker table (or several, if it’s a multi-table tournament), and you need poker chips to bet with. Most importantly, you need at least two people to play Texas Hold'em. Standard poker tables can seat up to 10 players, although nine is the usual number for a full ring game.
If you’re playing Texas Hold’em live, you also need a Dealer to hand out the cards. This can be done by the players themselves at a home game, taking turns going clockwise around the table. To keep track of whose turn it is, a special Dealer button (actually a disk, a bit larger than the poker chips) will be placed on the table in front of that person. At the casino, or at fancy home games, an employee who’s not in the game will take care of the dealing. The Dealer button will still be passed around from player to player; we’ll explain why later on. All these special items and tasks will be taken care of for you when you play Texas Hold'em
All poker players learning how to play Texas Hold’em start off by being dealt two cards (known as hole cards) that are kept face-down and private. If required, the Dealer then flips over three community cards face-up in the middle of the table. These cards are shared by all the players. You can use any combination of hole cards and community cards to create a five-card poker hand. Again, if required, the Dealer will flip over two more community cards, one at a time, for a maximum of seven cards you can use to make your five-card poker hand. The hand values in Texas Hold’em use the conventional poker hand rankings, with the famous and rare Royal Flush (Ace-King-Queen-Jack-Ten of the same suit) at the top of the list.
During a single hand of Texas Hold’em, a round of betting will take place after each deal of the cards, starting with the two hole cards. The poker chips come in different denominations; if you’re playing a cash game, those denominations represent real money. If you’re playing a poker tournament, the chips are more like points, with the prize money awarded to the longest-lasting survivors in the game. Each bet is placed in the middle of the table, creating a pile of chips known as the pot. After someone bets, the next player to the left can either raise (by putting a larger amount of chips in), call (by putting in the same number of chips), or fold (by putting the hole cards in the middle). The pot goes to the last player standing, or whoever has the best poker hand when all seven cards have been dealt. Then it’s on to the next hand.
Before you get into the action, you need to decide which of the three standard Texas Hold’em betting structures to play under. Ignition Casino offers Fixed-Limit, Pot-Limit and No-Limit tables; here’s how each of these structures work.
Fixed-Limit Texas Hold'em Rules
The amount you can bet and raise is pre-determined in Fixed-Limit Hold’em (usually called Limit Hold’em for short). For example, if you play $5/$10 Limit Hold’em, you can only place $5 bets (known as the small bet) during the first two rounds of the hand, and $10 bets (known as the big bet) during the last two rounds of the hand. The only raise you can make is for twice the size of the bet in question. Only three raises in total are allowed during a round of betting unless there are just two players left, in which case the cap is increased to five.
Pot-Limit Texas Hold'em Rules
With Pot-Limit Hold’em, the minimum bets are the same ones you can make in Limit Hold’em, but now you can also bet any amount from there up to the size of the pot, including the active bets on the table.
No-Limit Texas Hold'em Rules
No-Limit Hold’em is the most popular poker game there is. The great Doyle Brunson called it “the Cadillac of poker.” The lid is off when it comes to the maximum bet you can make; when it’s your turn, you could choose to go all-in and put your entire stack of chips in the middle.
What Does the Button Mean in Poker?
As we mentioned earlier, under standard Texas Hold’em rules, a button is placed in front of the Dealer for every hand and passed clockwise around the table – even if the players themselves aren’t dealing. It’s very important to make sure everyone takes turns being on the button because as you learn how to play Texas Hold'em the player in that seat has a considerable advantage over all the other players at the table. The player on the button will usually be the last player to act during a round of betting; they will be able to respond to the actions of the other players, which is incredibly important in Texas Hold’em.
What are Blinds in Poker?
In sharp contrast, the two players to the immediate left of the button are at a distinct disadvantage. To make sure the game flows smoothly, each of these two players is required to put some chips in the pot before every hand. The player to the left of the button is known as the small blind; they will put in a certain amount, then the next player to the left (the big blind) will put in twice that amount.
This is another reason why it’s important to pass the Dealer button around after every hand, ensuring that everyone at the table contributes the blinds in equal measure. The stakes for Pot-Limit and No-Limit Hold’em refer to the size of the blinds; a $1/$2 game will have a small blind of $1 and a big blind of $2. Added contributions known as antes may also be required from each player at the table before the start of every hand.
A hand of Texas Hold’em can be divided into two parts: pre-flop, and post-flop. The first three community cards are typically referred to as the flop, so the set of decisions that players make before those cards are dealt is called the pre-flop action. First, the Dealer will give everyone a single card, face-down, starting with the player in the small blind. Then the second hole card will be dealt in the same fashion. Pre-flop action always begins with the player to the left of the big blind; this position at the table is called under the gun.
Pre-Flop Betting (1st Betting Round)
Once the hole cards are dealt, the player under the gun has three options: raise, call, or fold. In this case, a call will match the size of the big blind, which is considered a bet in poker. Again, the raise must be at least twice the size of the big blind – unless the player doesn’t have that many chips, in which case they must go all-in or fold. Once the player under the gun has taken their turn, the next player to the left can either raise, call or fold. This procedure continues around the table to the big blind, who has the same three options.
At this point, if there are two or more players left in the hand, and there is still a raise that has yet to be called, the action continues around the table until the last player left to act closes the betting round by calling or folding. If one of the remaining players has gone all-in, whoever is still in the hand will turn over their hole cards, the Dealer will put all five community cards on the table, and the winning hand will be declared. This is known as the showdown, which we’ll discuss more in a moment.
Another way a hand can end during the pre-flop action is if all of the players fold their hole cards before it’s the big blind’s turn. If this happens, the big blind takes the pot in what is known as a walk. Otherwise, the hand will continue, and the Dealer will put out the first three community cards.
If you want to learn how to play poker well, the post-flop play is the part of the game that’s the most difficult to master – and it’s also where the pot can get really, really big. There’s one major difference between pre-flop and post-flop action: Once the flop has been dealt, it’s now the player in the small blind (or, if that person has already folded, the next active player to their left) who acts first and the button (or the next active player to their right) who acts last.
Flop Betting (2nd Betting Round)
Since there aren’t any blinds to put in at this point, the first player to act once the flop has been dealt has three options: bet, check, or fold. A check is essentially a bet of zero chips. In theory, all the players at the table can check, and the next community card will be dealt. If someone eventually makes a bet, the next player can raise, call or fold, just like pre-flop betting. This round of betting continues until someone wins the pot or the action is closed; if it’s the latter, the next community card is dealt.
Turn Betting (3rd Betting Round)
The next community card is known as the turn. Action continues in the same manner as flop betting, until someone wins or the action is closed.
River Betting (4th/Final Betting Round)
The final community card is known as the river. Once the players reach this stage, there are no more cards to be dealt; if someone closes the action by calling, the previous bettor reveals their hole cards, and the caller has the option of folding their cards face-down if they’ve lost, or turning them over if they’ve won. If someone is all-in by this point, which often happens on the river, then the players go to showdown.
The showdown is the thrilling conclusion of a poker hand, and it’s even more exciting on the river. Once the all-in has been called (or raised) and everyone else either joins in or folds, the players left in the hand turn their cards over, and the winner is declared. If two or more players are tied with the best hand, they split the pot evenly. Some games will allow you to run it twice, meaning a second set of community cards will be dealt, and the pot will be split between whoever wins on the first run-out and whoever wins the second.
Poker Hand Rankings: Who Wins/Which Hands Win?
Once you understand these fundamental Hold’em rules, the next step in learning how to play poker is to memorize the standard hand rankings. These will already be familiar to most card players, but not everyone knows these rankings correctly. Make sure to have the following list (poker hand rankings in order from highest to lowest hand, with examples included) available as a reference when you’re just starting out:
Poker Hand Rankings in Order
Royal Flush: Ace-King-Queen-Jack-Ten of the same suit (As, Ks, Qs, Js, Ts)
Straight Flush: Any other five consecutive cards of the same suit (5d, 4d, 3d, 2d, Ad)
Four of a Kind: Four cards of the same rank (Ks, Kc, Kh, Kd, 2s)
Full House: Three cards of the same rank, and two of another (Js, Jd, Jh, Ts, Tc)
Flush: Five cards of the same suit (Ah, Jh, 9h, 4h, 3h)
Straight: Five consecutive cards of more than one suit (Ts, 9h, 8c, 7c, 6s)
Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same rank (4s, 4d, 4c, As, Kh)
Two Pair: Two cards of the same rank, and two of another (Ac, Ah, 8s, 8h, 4s)
Pair: Two cards of the same rank (2h, 2d, Ks, Qd, Js)
High Card: Five non-consecutive cards of more than one suit (Ah, Qd, 7c, 6h, 2d)
All these different hands are ranked based on how rarely they occur otherwise known as poker odds. For example, the chances of making a Royal Flush in Texas Hold’em are 30,939-to-1, while the chances of making a Pair are 1.28-to-1. The only exception is High Card, which is 4.74-to-1. If two hands have the same rank, the winner is the hand that contains the highest card involved in making that hand. For example, an Ace-high Flush will beat a King-high Flush, and a Full House with Queens and Jacks will beat a Full House with Tens and Fours. If the hands are still tied, the kicker will determine who wins; Aces and Eights with a King kicker will beat Aces and Eights with a Jack kicker. The suits themselves have no effect on these rankings. If you have a Royal Flush in spades and someone else has a Royal Flush in diamonds, it’s still a tie.
Poker Terms Overview
We’ve introduced a lot of different poker terms in this introduction to Texas Hold’em. Poker has a colorful language all its own, so if you want to learn the game, you’ll need to learn the language. You can also consult the Ignition Poker FAQ to find out more about Texas Hold’em and you're interested we also have a guide on how to play Omaha poker.
Those are the basic rules of Texas Hold’em. We’ve covered the equipment you need, the object of the game, the three different betting structures (Fixed-Limit, Pot-Limit, and No-Limit), how each round of betting works, and how to decide the winner. Ready for a Texas Hold’em showdown now that you've learned how to play Texas Hold'em? Download Ignition’s poker software now and get in the game.