Rules of Texas Hold'em

Texas Hold'em is the world's most popular form of poker. Almost all big tournaments are Texas Hold'em events. The game is played either in No-Limit or Limit format. The rules of the game are fairly simple and easy to learn, but mastering Texas Hold'em can take years. This article aims to look at the basic rules and game play.

How to Play Texas Hold'em

Texas Hold'em is played using a standard 52 card deck, and can be played by two to ten players. Before any cards are dealt, players need to determine who the nominal 'dealer' is. This doesn't mean that the player actually has to deal (dealing is done automatically online and by a casino dealer when played live). The dealer is identified by a marker known as the dealer button or 'button'. The position of the dealer determines which two players have to post the 'blinds'. So that there is always some money in every pot, two players each hand have to post compulsory bets, known as 'blinds' (because they are paid before the players see their cards). One player posts the 'small blind', and the player to their left posts the 'big blind', which is usually twice the size of the small. The dealer rotates position every hand, which means that players takes it in turns to be the dealer, small blind and big blind.

When the blinds have been posted, all players are dealt two cards face down. These are known as hole cards, and can only be seen and used by the player who has been dealt them. A total of five community cards are then dealt, which are available for all players to use. The aim is to make the best five-card hand out of the seven available.

The four betting rounds

Pre-flop - the first round of betting

All of the action that takes place before the first three community cards (the 'flop') are dealt is described as 'pre-flop'. After each player has looked at their hole cards, they each act for the first time.

Sample view of a Texas Hold'em table in the pre-flop betting round.

The player sitting to the left of the big blind acts first, and is said to be 'under the gun'. This is because, from a positional point of view, acting first puts you at a disadvantage.

Each player has the following options when it's their turn to act:

  • Fold: This means that you no longer want to play the hand, and are throwing your cards away. You no longer have any claim to the money in the pot, even if you paid one of the blinds.
  • Call: This means that you want to play the hand by matching the size of the current bet. Note that after the flop, you may also have the option to check if there have been no bets before you.
  • Raise: This means that you want to raise the size of the current bet. If nobody before you has made a raise, you can make a bet yourself.

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