How to Play Texas Holdem Poker
The game of poker game can be a bit intimidating to new players, but if you want to learn how to play Texas Holdem poker, this guide will give you the lay of the land. Read on for a rundown of the game’s rules, structure, and lingo. You’ll even find a free Texas Holdem poker game on this page that you can use to practice and improve.
What is Texas Holdem Poker?
Texas Holdem is the most popular form of poker in the world, as well as one of the easiest to learn.
In Texas Holdem, each player is dealt two “hole cards” face down. You can look at your hole cards, but cannot see anyone else’s. During the hand, a maximum of five “community” cards will be dealt face up for all to see.
The goal is to create the best five-card hand possible using any combination of the community cards and your hole cards. Of course, there is betting involved, as well. Betting can be used to try to grow the pot and win more money or to try to force people to fold their hands. Don’t worry about exactly how to play Texas Holdem – we will give you some more tips in the coming sections.
Why Should You Play Online Texas Holdem?
Texas Holdem is a wonderful game for the competitor and strategist inside all of us. Because it is a game of limited information, the multi-level thinking involved is a great way to keep your mind sharp. Whereas other casino games rely mostly on luck, poker is a skill game; testing that skill against real people is a lot of fun.
But there is luck involved, too, which adds to the excitement. You can make all the right moves or make terrible moves and have your fortunes change with the turn of a card.
Even more rewarding is that you don’t have to be a professional poker player to enjoy the game. Heck, most of us aren’t. You just need be willing to learn how to play Texas Holdem poker and enjoy competition to make online Texas Holdem a rewarding experience.
Texas Holdem Rules
Every Texas Holdem hand works the same way, so once you learn how to play Texas Holdem and try it a few times, that’s it, you’ve got it. At first, it could look like a lot is going on at the table or on your computer screen, but the basics of a round of poker are pretty simple.
At the start of the round, each player is dealt two hole cards. The action then starts with the player to the left of the big blind and goes around the table clockwise. Once all actions are complete, anyone who has not folded their cards moves on to the flop round. Don’t worry about how betting works, we’ll get to that soon.
In this stage, three cards are dealt face up. These first three community cards are called the flop. The action starts with the player to the left of the button and moves clockwise. Again, players decide if they are going to stay in the hand or not via betting and once all actions are completed, we move to the turn.
A fourth community card is dealt face-up, called the turn. After everyone evaluates their Texas Holdem Hands, another betting round proceeds and if more than one player remains the river is dealt.
The fifth and final community card called the river is dealt face up. This is immediately followed by another betting round. At the end of the round, if two or more players remain, their hole cards are turned face up for the “showdown”. Whoever has the best five-card hand using any combination of their hole cards and the community cards is the winner.
How Does Betting Work in Texas Holdem?
Of course, a major part of how to play Texas Holdem is betting. As touched on earlier, betting can be used in a variety of ways. Players can bet to try to build the pot and maximize their winnings. You might like your hand, but don’t want to risk getting beaten, so you might bet to try to get your opponents to fold. Your bet might be a bluff to signal strength or maybe your bet is telling a story to set up a move later.
Big Blind – a forced bet made by one player before any cards are dealt to build the pot and give players an incentive to play. The player in the big blind position acts last pre-flop.
Small Blind – the same as the big blind, but usually half the size. The player in the small blind acts second-to-last pre-flop.
Ante – a small bet that everyone is forced to make before cards are dealt. It is most commonly seen in the mid-to-late stages of tournaments and sometimes in cash games.
Call – a bet that matches the largest bet already made that round. Blinds count as bets pre-flop, so the smallest pre-flop call would have to match the big blind.
Raise – a bet that is larger than the largest bet already made that round. A raise becomes the standard that players must match to call.
Check – an option not to act at all that can only be made if you have already bet the same amount as the largest bet of the current round. Pre-flop, the big blind can check if nobody raised. Post-flop, you can check without betting if nobody has bet yet. On any street, if you bet or raise and then somebody calls, you can check when the action is back on you since you have already matched the amount of the largest bet.
Open – to start the betting in a round in which nobody has bet yet. Sometimes simply referred to as “bet.”
Fold – to give up your cards and exit the hand without betting any further. You cannot win the hand if you fold.
All-in – to commit all your chips to the pot.
To summarize, if nobody has placed a bet in the current betting round (remember, the blinds count as bets), you can check and opt not to bet or fold. There are often moments on the flop, turn, and river that everybody checks, so everybody gets to see the next card without betting. As soon as someone bets, you must at least match the amount if you want to stay in the hand (or go all-in if you don’t have enough chips). If you are faced with a bet and don’t want to call or raise, you can fold and give up your hand.
Texas Holdem Hand Rankings
The winner of a Texas Holdem hand is, naturally, the person who has the strongest hand when all is said and done. Below you will find a quick rundown of poker hand rankings, from lowest to highest:
Texas Holdem Hand Rankings Explained
High Card – A hand that doesn’t match any of the hands below; the highest card plays (ex: 2-4-6-8-Q)
Pair – Two cards of the same rank (ex: 3-3-7-8-K)
Two Pair – Two different pairs (ex: 4-4-5-5-J)
Three of a Kind – Three cards of the same rank (ex: 2-2-2-9-K)
Straight – Five consecutive cards, but they all cannot be the same suit (ex: 2-3-4-5-6)
Flush – Five cards of the same suit, but not five consecutive ranks (ex: 2-5-7-9-J, all diamonds)
Full House – Three of a Kind plus a Pair (ex: 4-4-8-8-8)
Four of a Kind – Four cards of the same rank (ex: 9-9-9-9-Q)
Straight Flush – Any five consecutive cards of the same suit (ex: 4-5-6-7-8, all hearts)
Royal Flush – Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten, all of the same suit (ex: T-J-Q-K-A, all spades)
Aces are the highest value card, but can also serve as the low end of a straight (A-2-3-4-5).
Texas Holdem vs. Other Forms of Poker
Texas Holdem is by far the most popular poker variant online, but there are plenty of other forms of poker to be found. We will briefly touch on the two most common non-Holdem games: Omaha and Seven Card Stud.
Also called Omaha Holdem, it is very similar to Texas Holdem, but with one major difference: every player is dealt four hole cards. The other change is that you must use two of your hole cards and three community cards to make your best five-card hand. No mixing and matching like in Texas Holdem.
Because everyone has twice as many hole cards, the winning hands in Omaha tend to be stronger than in Texas Holdem. You won’t often win with just a Pair.
Omaha is also typically played as a Pot-Limit game, rather than No-Limit.
Seven Card Stud
In Seven Card Stud, you are dealt three cards at the outset: two face-down and one face-up. As the game proceeds through its betting rounds, each player is dealt three more face-up cards. The seventh and final card for each player is dealt face down. There are no community cards; each player must make the best five-card hand from their cards.
No button moves around the table. The first person to act in the first betting round is the one who has the lowest-ranked face-up card. That person pays the “bring-in.” At the start of the hand, everybody also pays an ante. In subsequent betting rounds, the first player to act is the one with the strongest visible hand.
The betting rounds are named after the number of cards that have been dealt to each player: Third Street, Fourth Street, etc. Seven Card Stud is usually played with a Fixed-Limit betting structure.
Play Texas Holdem Today!
In this guide, you learned the basics of the mechanics of a poker game, Texas Holdem rules, hand rankings, betting, and even a little about other forms of poker. Feel free to try our free poker game to continue your poker education and improve your game. When you feel ready to test your skills at real money Texas Holdem, check out our recommended poker sites.