How to Play Texas Hold’em

Texas Hold'emTexas Hold’em is the most popular poker variation at the moment. Learn here how to play this great poker game.

Supposing that you already know the poker hand rankings, we can start going through the Texas Hold’em game playing. We recommend you also practice a bit the game online, for free, before playing for real money. Download a poker client now and register a free account for practicing.

Texas Hold’em index

Playing Texas Hold’em is made of at least 2 players. At most online poker rooms, you will find tables of 6-10 players. Each poker hand starts with the the posting of the blinds (small and big blind), at the left of the dealer (the dealer has a button labeled D). The dealer and blinds are moved after each hand around the table, clockwise.

A hand of Texas Hold’em is made of up to four betting rounds. After placing the blinds (blind bets), each player received 2 cards, faced down, also called Pocket cards. Through the next rounds, up to 5 community cards are dealt, face up, that each player can use in conjunction with their 2 pocket cards, in order to get the best 5 card hand possible. Each round is usually followed by betting. At the final, concluding we have more than 2 players left after the 5 community cards have been dealt and bets concluded, we enter the final phase, the showdown, where players show their cards and the best hand wins the pot. This would be the summary of a poker hand play. For details, please go through the below step by step guide.

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Sitting down

First, in order to play poker, you must pick up a table and choose to sit down. After sitting down, you must wait for the big blind to arrive at your position in order to start playing. The big blind gets to your position naturally, as the dealer button moves clockwise around the table after each hand. Also, for online poker you will get the option to enter sooner in the game (without waiting for the blind to naturally get to your position), by posting the second big blind.

Blinds

Each hand of Hold’em starts with 2 blinds. Blinds are preliminary bets made by 2 players in the close vicinity in the left side of the dealer. These bets are made to stimulate the action at the table, having a pot to win even before the cards are dealt. Once the blinds have been posted, the dealer start distributing the cards to all participating players, starting with the one in his left (who posted the small blind), and than to the second player in his left (who posted the big blind), and so on (clockwise).

First round

Once the blinds are in place, the dealer distributes to all players 2 cards faced down, called the hole cards. In online poker, all cards will be face down, only yours will be face up (but don’t worry, because only you can see your cards, to the other players the cards will appear face down). All the other players sitting at the table have a similar view.

Each player starts with cards, and then 5 cards are placed face-up on the table, called the Community Cards. The 5 cards in the center of the table are common to all players, and they must try to make the best possible hand from the 2 hole cards they posses and the 5 Community Cards. As a poker hand is formed of 5 cards, only the best hand from 5 cards will be considered.

In the first round, players take part at betting in order to continue playing. There are several sizes of bets, that depend on the game structure, but these are explained for convenience in other articles: limit, pot limit and no limit poker.

Betting in the first round starts at the left of the player who posted the big blind. This position is also know as under the gun. This player has 3 options: fold (gets out of the game without betting, and your cards are removed from the game), call (match the preceding bet size – in this case the big blind), or raise (an increase of the preceding bet). In online poker, these options are available as buttons you click to show your intended action. The next player (left – clockwise), has the same options, and same goes for all players sitting at the table.

If everyone folds, and the same happens with the person who posted the small blind, the pot goes to the one posting the big blind. If there is a raise, each player who chooses to continue, must either call the total bet or raise. The players that posted the blinds have the same options, but their bets are made keeping in mind that blinds also count as part of their bets. If the betting reaches the person who posted the big blind, and there have been no raises, this player has the options to fold (not recommended in this particular situation, as continuing with check doesn’t cost a thing), check (let the blind as the calling bet for other players) or raise.

The Flop

Once the betting in first round equalized (all players either folded or matched the total betting), the dealer deals three cards face up, to the center of the table. These first 3 cards, part of the community cards, are what is known as the flop.

From this point, we take part at second round of betting. In this round, the betting starts with the first active player (still participating in the game) to the left of the dealer. This player has again three options: fold (not recommended in this situation as it doesn’t cost a thing to check), check (continue without making a bet), bet (make a bet). These options are available for all players around the table, as long as all previous players are checking. If any of the bet, the next players have the options to: fold, call (match the preceding bet) or raise (increase the preceding bet).

The Turn

Once the Flop round (second betting round) equalized (players either folded or matched the total betting of the round), the dealer deals one more card face up to the center of the table. This card, along with the other 3 cards dealt during the flop, are community cards and are what is know as the turn.

At this point, we take part again at the same type of betting round as during the flop, with the first active player from the left of the dealer. All players go through the same options of betting as previously explained.

The River

Once the Turn round (third betting round) equalized (players either folded or matched the total betting of the round), the dealer deals one more card face up to the center of the table. This is the last card to be dealt, and all 5 cards face up on the table are the community cards, also called as the river.

The fourth and final round of betting takes place. Again, the betting starts with the first active player to the left of the dealer. The betting proceeds exactly the same as the two previous rounds.

The Showdown

Once the betting for the fourth round (the river) is equalized, the betting is over. Last step of the game is the showdown, where remaining active players show their cards and the best hand formed from a combination of the 2 hole cards of each player and the 5 community cards, wins. The holder of the winning poker hand get the pot (bets added over the 4 rounds of betting).

The showdown is also a process that takes place in a specific order. Players do not show their cards simultaneously, but starting with the last player who placed a bet/raised in the previous round. If the nest active player has a better hand or ties this one, he must show the cards (or in online poker the software will do this automatically). However, if the next active player does not have a better hand, he has 2 options: show his cards (if he wishes to do so), or get rid of the cards (without showing, also called as mucking cards).

In online poker you don’t have to worry about misreading your hand or accidentally throwing away your winning cards, the poker application will guide you with a recommended action, and if you have a winning hand, it will make sure you are awarded the pot.

In order to reach the showdown, there must be at least 2 active players left after the river. However, if someone places a bet / raises during the river, but no one calls it, the pot goes to this player, marks as the winner, and there is no showdown.

If a player runs out of chips before the end of the hand, there will be formed 2 side pots, and in online poker the software will award the appropriate winnings to each player.

Determining the winning hand at Texas Hold’em, the combination of the 5 cards sometimes include both player’s hole cards. In other situations, only one of the player’s hole cards us used, and rarely, but possible, no hole cards are used. In this last situation the community cards are in such a combination that would rank better than any other combination using the player’s hole cards.

If at the showdown, more than one player have a ranked hand as the best (equal hands), the pot will be split among the winning players.

Don’t forget: practice for free the Texas Hold’em variation just by simply downloading the poker software and opening a free account (regular registration without depositing any real money).

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