Texas Hold'em Rules and How to Play Poker

Sep 23 2013 |

The latest craze in the gambling world is Texas Hold’em. This game has become the most-played form of poker since the year a portly accountant from Tennessee won the WSOP and took the world by storm. You can’t turn on a sports channel without seeing an ad for one of the hundreds of online poker sites that offer up this game and try to attract your business with lucrative bonuses.

You want to join in on the excitement, but aren’t exactly sure how the game is played. It can be a bit confusing if you’ve only seen it on television. The action goes rather fast and they have commentators who use terms that are only applicable to those in the know. This guide will teach you Texas Hold’em rules and how to play poker, but if you are more of a hands-on learner you should pick up some Color Up poker flash cards.

The Goal of Texas Hold’em PokerTexas Hold'em rules

Let’s start with the goal of the game. Your overall objective is to win the hand, either by having the best possible hand at the end, or by making all your opponents fold so that you are the only one still in the game.  

Poker Terms:

A full poker glossary could include hundreds of terms used in poker; this is just a list of words used frequently in poker games, and specifically used in this how-to article.

Dealer/Dealer button – A button is a marker that shows who the dealer is. The role of dealer (and thus the dealer button) moves clockwise before every new hand is dealt. The dealer deals cards clockwise, starting to her/his immediate left and dealing him/herself last.

Small Blind – The small blind is the smaller of the two forced pre-flop bets. The small blind falls on the first player to the immediate left of the dealer. This player must bet a predetermined amount (usually half of the big blind) before the cards are dealt.

Big Blind – The big blind is the larger of the two forced pre-flop bets. Big blind is the player two spots left of the dealer, the person to the immediate left of the small blind. This player must bet a predetermined amount (usually twice the small blind) before the cards are dealt.

Hole cards/Pocket cards – The hole cards, or pocket cards, are the two cards that are dealt face-down to each player at the start of each hand.

Board – The board is the name for the community, or shared, cards seen face up on the table.

Burn (burn card) – The burn card is the card on the top of the deck that must be discarded face down before dealing any new card(s) to the board.

Pre-flop – The round when players have their hole cards, but no community cards. This is the first round of betting.

Flop – The flop consists of the first three community cards to hit the board face-up simultaneously. This is the second round of betting.

Turn – The turn is the fourth community card to hit the board face-up, following the flop and before the river. This is the third round of betting.

River – The river is the fifth and final community card to hit the board face-up, following the turn. This is the fourth and final round of betting.

Check – To check is to choose not to be the first person to bet following any new card(s) on the board. You cannot check on the pre-flop round because the blinds are a forced bet.

Bet – A bet is any money or chips wagered, which opens a betting round during the play of a hand.

Call – To call is to match someone else’s bet and stay in the hand.

Raise/Reraise – To raise or reraise is to make an additional bet on top of someone else’s previous bet or raise.

Fold – To fold is to surrender your cards and not play the hand any further. Any chips bet during that round are forfeited.

Showdown – A showdown is the absolute end of the hand when all active players show their cards to determine the winning hand and winner of the pot.

Hand Rankings

To win with the best hand in Texas Hold’em, you need to know what hands beat what. This is one of the most common questions asked by new players. It is also one of the biggest mistakes you can make while playing.

Here is the list of hand rankings in order of best to worst.
  1. Royal Flush (10-J-Q-K-A straight with all cards of the same suit)
  2. Straight Flush (Any straight five cards in a row with all five cards of the same suit)
  3. Four of a Kind (Any four cards of the same rank)
  4. Full House or Boat (Any three cards of the same rank together with two cards of the same rank)
  5. Flush (Any five cards of the same suit, not sequential)
  6. Straight (Any five sequential cards of different suits)
  7. Three of a kind (Any three cards of the same rank)
  8. Two Pair (Any two cards of the same rank together with another two cards of the same rank)
  9. One Pair (Any two cards of the same rank)
  10. High Card (If no player has any of the above, the player with the highest-value card wins)
The higher ranked hands above, such as flushes and full houses, are much harder to get in Hold’em than the more common types of hands, such as pairs or three of a kind, that you will see quite often.

The objective is to build the best 5-card hand using any combination of the cards on the board and the two cards in your hand.
A couple of examples:
-Let’s say your pocket cards are 2 non-sequential hearts, and the board has 3 cards that are also hearts. You now have a flush, using both of your hole cards.
-Alternately, if you have one Ace in your hand and the community cards have a 2, 3, 4, and 5, you have a straight only using one card from your hand.
You can use any 5 out of the 7 cards you see (the two in your hand and the five on the board) to make the best hand.

Texas Hold’em Rules of Game Play: The Skeleton Outline

Before cards can be dealt in Hold’em, the small blind and big blind need to post/place their forced pre-flop bets.  Then the poker player in the dealer position deals every player at the table two cards face down.  Here is the outline of the game play action once players have their hole cards.
- Pre-flop betting round:
Player options at table: fold, call, or raise/reraise. All players must call highest bet, or fold.
- Dealer burns and deals the flop cards to the board
- The Flop round of betting:
Player options at the table: fold, check (if no new bets are on the table), bet, call, or raise/reraise. All players must call highest bet, or fold.
- Dealer burns and deals the turn card to the board
- The Turn round of betting:
Player options at the table: fold, check (if no new bets are on the table), bet, call, or raise/reraise. All players must call highest bet, or fold.
- Dealer burns and deals the river card to the board
- The River round of betting:
Player options at the table: fold, check (if no new bets are on the table), bet, call, or raise/reraise. All players must call highest bet, or fold.
- Showdown of remaining players; best hand wins
- Dealer rotates clockwise and the cycle repeats

Inside the Action: The Nitty-gritty Specifics

During a hand of Hold’em poker you will go through a few rounds or phases of betting. It’s important to know how each step works and what your choices are during these rounds.

Pre-Flop
The pre-flop round happens before the community cards are dealt out. Each hand starts with two players posting a small blind and big
poker Texas hold'em
blind. These are two forced bets that will be the size of the table limits. If you are playing at a table with $1/$2 blinds, the small blind will be $1 and the big blind will be $2. Every player will have to post this forced bet at some time. The blinds move around the table in a clockwise fashion after each hand, just as the dealer button moves around.

Once the players in the blinds post their bet, the dealer deals 2 cards to everyone at the table in a clockwise manner. Once the cards are dealt, the person to the immediate left of the big blind is first to act.

You have 3 choices at this point: fold, call the big blind, or raise. All bets must be at least the amount of the big blind. If you fold, your hand gets put aside and you are no longer in the hand. If you call or raise, you keep your hand and continue playing the hand.

If a player before you has raised, you can call that raise or re-raise them. Re-raising is when someone bets bigger than the player previous. For example: Player A bets $5, and when it is your turn you raise to $15; the action is now on Player A to call by meeting your $15 bet, raise it even more, or fold.

All players must call the highest bet placed or fold before the flop cards can be dealt.

The Flop
The flop is the first round of betting with the community cards. Before the dealer shows the flop cards he must burn or discard the top card from the deck. The dealer then places 3 cards face up in the middle of the table, and the round of betting begins. Now that the blinds are already in the pot, the betting action starts with the first active player sitting to the left of the dealer and continues around the table clockwise.

The first player to act will now have the option to check, bet, or fold. Checking is when you don’t wish to bet, but unlike the pre-flop round, you do not have to fold. If you check, the next player to act can either check, bet, or fold.
If someone bets, you can call that bet or fold. You can also raise, just as you could pre-flop. Again, the minimum bet for all rounds is the table’s big blind. All raises have to be at least double the previous bet.  All active players must call the highest bet placed or fold before the turn card can be dealt.

The Turn
After all players have made their decisions on the flop, the dealer will “burn and turn,” discarding the top card from the deck and then dealing out another card face up. This is called the turn card. The same sequence of actions that occurred on the flop will now happen again on the turn. Depending on previous players’ actions, players can utilize options to check, bet, call, raise, or fold.

The River
After the turn round is over, the dealer discards a burn card and deals out the final card, the river. Again, the same actions that took place on the turn and flop now happen on the river. Players can check, bet, call, raise, or fold.
win Texas hold'em


Showdown
Once the river action is complete, all players still in the hand turn over their cards and the player with the best hand wins.

“A Second to Learn, A Lifetime to Master”

In general, it is important to know that not every hand will make it to the river. Many hands will see all players fold pre-flop or at some other stage of the hand. Texas Hold’em is an aggressive game and you will see players bet and raise with force. This causes others to fold a large part of the time and you will often find that no hands see the river.

You do not need to have the best hand in this game to win. Being able to determine what your opponents have based on certain factors will allow you to bluff them off their hands. Bluffing is when you have no real type of hand and are betting with the hopes that your opponents fold.

There are many strategies that you can employ in Texas Hold’em. A common saying about the game is, “a second to learn, a lifetime to master.” You will find this to be very true once you begin playing. Here you’ve learned about poker, Texas Hold’em rules, and how to play the game.  For more practice with the terms used in this article and strategy around how to play, click here to get the Texas Hold’em 101 poker flash cards. They’re a great tool for those just learning the amazing game of Texas Hold’em.

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