How to Play Texas Hold'Em
One of the most popular poker games in the world.
Texas Hold’Em Poker
Texas Hold’Em is one of the most popular poker games in the world and is a great party game for friends and family. While you don’t need to bet anything to play, we definitely recommend either getting a set of poker chips, grabbing a few stacks of pennies, or some snacks to bet with, just to keep things interesting.
Terms and Definitions
Before getting into the gameplay itself, let's cover a few important terms for learning how to play Texas Hold’Em.
- Pot - This is the sum of everything that is being wagered during a game of poker
- Ante - The ante is an amount all players at the table must pay into the pot so they can be dealt into the game. Texas Hold'em is typically played with blinds (see definition below) instead of antes. However, it's still good to know the term. Some higher level tournament play uses both antes and blinds.
- Blinds - Blinds are forced bets as well, however they are only imposed on one or two players. There is usually a small blind and a big blind in Texas Hold'Em. You can think of the big blind as the "full" ante for the round. The small blind is typically half of the big. The blinds are paid by the two players to the left of the dealer. They must pay their blinds before any cards are dealt, hence why it's called a "blind". After cards are dealt, the rest of the players at the table must call or raise the big blind in order to stay in the game.
- Bet/Raise - The first time a player adds money to the pot during a betting round is called a bet, when a player increases the bet it is called a raise
- Check/Call - A check is when there is no bet and the player doesn’t make one themselves, a call is when a player matches a bet without increasing it
- Fold - A player can fold at any point when it is their turn, when a player folds they sit out of that round
How to Play
First things first, to start a game of Texas Hold’Em, you need to select a dealer. The dealer can be chosen by having everyone cut the deck, or by dealing each person one card. Whoever has the highest value card deals first. Play order then goes clockwise around the table.
In Texas Hold’Em, aces can be treated as both a high or low card.
First Round of Betting
Once the dealer is selected, each person puts their ante into the pot and then each player is dealt two cards. These are known as your “hole cards”.
Once cards are dealt, the person left of the dealer is allowed to check, bet, or raise. This continues clockwise around the table until everyone has had a turn. If a bet is made, each player must choose to call, raise, or fold.
Once everyone has checked, or all bets have been called, then the first round of betting is over.
The flop occurs after the first round of betting. The dealer burns a card (places it in a discard pile) and deals three cards face up. These are community cards that each player uses with their hole cards to form their hand.
There is then a second round of betting, this is done the same way as the first.
A fourth community card, called the turn, is dealt and another round of betting occurs.
The fifth and final community card, the river, is dealt and the last round of betting occurs. A final round of betting occurs and, at this point, each player knows how good or bad their hand is.
Once the final round of betting is over, each player reveals their cards and whoever has the best hand wins.
In the event that everyone else has folded, the player who hasn’t folded automatically wins. This can happen at any point and the player who hasn’t folded doesn’t reveal their cards unless they want to.
As a piece of advice, it’s best not to show your cards in this case so the other player’s can’t tell if you were bluffing or not.
Blind Rules & Betting Limits
Many poker chip sets include big and small blind buttons to make keeping track of blinds easier. As mentioned above, blinds are bets that only two players need to make before the round begins.
The small blind is placed left of the dealer and the big blind is left of the small. The value of the blinds is determined at the start of the game and the small blind is usually half of the big blind.
Let’s use an example. If there are three players in a game and the big blind is $10, the player to the left of the dealer, Player 1, would have to contribute $5 for the small blind. Player 2 would then contribute $10 for the big blind. Now each player would be dealt their cards and the game can begin.
Unlike antes, which give all players equal stake in the game, blinds give only one or two players incentive to stay. This can encourage folding in the first round before any betting takes place. If a player sees their first two cards and thinks they're no good, it might make sense for them to fold before investing in the hand. However, part of the fun of Texas Hold'Em is that you never know what's going to come up in the river.
In small/big blind games, there are two different ways to play, No-Limit or Fixed-Limit.
No-Limit is the most popular, since the only restriction on your max bet is how many chips you have. There is a minimum though. When a player makes a bet, they are required to match the big blind. So using the previous example, $10 would be the minimum bet a player could make.
If a player decides to raise a bet, they are also required to make a minimum raise of $10.
Keep in mind this is just the minimum bet. It would be possible in no-limit hold’em to raise by $15, $20, or even more so long as the player has the money.
In fixed-limit, the maximum a player can bet is determined by the stakes of the game. For the rest of this example, let’s use a $10/$20 fixed-limit.
In this game, $10 is the small limit, while $20 is the high limit. The small limit is equal to the big blind. This means $10 is the big blind and $5 would be the small blind.
Betting in fixed-limit hold’em is restricted to the game stakes. So the only bets a player can make in this game would be $10 or $20. Players are also only allowed to raise by these same amounts.
Let’s revisit our previous example. If there are three players in a game, Player 1 would have to contribute $5 for the small blind. Player 2 would then contribute $10 for the big blind. Now each player would be dealt their cards and the game can begin.
Player 3 can now choose to check or bet. If they choose to bet, they are required to either bet $10 or $20. Let’s say Player 3 bets $10, now Player 1 can either fold, call, or raise by $10 or $20.
Tips and Strategy
When using blinds instead of antes, it opens up the opportunity to push players out in the first round.