We’ve all seen the famous no-limit Texas Hold ’em scene between agent 007, James Bond, and Le Chiffre in “Casino Royale” or the suspenseful poker scenes with Matt Damon in “Rounders.” Hollywood movies, books, and live tournaments have contributed significantly to the ever-lasting popularity of this poker game.
Chris Moneymaker, a little-known poker player and accountant, won the 2003 WSOP’s no-limit Texas Hold ’em poker event, took $2.5 million, and became a poker superstar. If you’re aiming to become one as well, we’ll show you how to play Texas Hold ’em like a veteran.
Hold ’em poker is a game with simple rules at face value, but don’t get fooled. Texas Hold ’em is as complex as you want it to be, with countless strategies and tricks that’ll give you an edge. It is also the king of psychology, a game where the right state of mind can make all the difference between a flawless victory and a shocking loss.
We could just tell you the basics: every player gets two cards facedown, for their eyes only. The dealer puts three cards on the table, then one, and another one, while the players place bets before and after every card is revealed to stay in the game. The best Texas Hold ’em hand’s opening wins the game and takes the pot with bets.
But there’s much more subtlety to this game to play like a poker superstar, and we’ll let you in on all the tips and tricks.
Before you start playing Texas Hold ’em, you’ll need to equip a large enough table with gaming accessories. You’ll need a pack of 52 cards without jokers, poker chips, a dealer button, and a couple of people to participate. It might not make you feel like you’re in a casino, but it’ll do the job. If you want to set the right atmosphere, an additional pack of cards (of a different colour) and a poker table top will fit the bill.
But we want more than just learning how to play Texas Hold ’em poker for dummies, right? The goal should be to play at online poker destinations and live tournaments.
Players, Dealers, and High Cards
A poker table usually accommodates two to ten players. When it has four players or fewer, it’s called short-handed. Those with two players are called heads-up tables. Before the game starts, every player gets a single card faceup, and the player with the highest card will play first as the dealer. High cards are ace, then king, queen, jack, ten, and so on.
In this homemade version of live poker, the next Texas Hold ’em player on the left, or clockwise, gets the dealer button after each hand. The dealer button is usually a white plastic chip.
One final step of preparations before the cards are in play includes blinds. These are forced bets for the players to the left of the dealer. There is the small blind and the big blind.
The small blind is reserved for the first player to the left, while the big blind goes to the player left of the small blind. Blinds amounts are decided in advance, with the small blind usually half the amount the big blind has put in. The next step is to see how to deal in Texas Hold ’em and participate in various online poker tournaments, of course.
Let the Games Begin
So, how to deal in a poker game? At the start of the game, the dealer shuffles the pack and hands out two cards face down to each player. They are called hole or pocket cards. These are dealt to the small blind first and then to each player clockwise. Every player can take the time to look at their cards.
Once the pocket cards are dealt, the first betting round begins. All bets go into the pot after each hand until the showdown.
As a part of Texas Hold ’em rules, every player has several options or “actions” during their turn. You can “check” (bet nothing) to continue playing. Players cannot check during the first round, though. In this instance, their options are to match or raise the big blind or fold.
If you are the one placing the opening bet, you are “betting”. If another payer does it, you can “call” (match) or “raise” the bet. The alternative to these actions is to “fold”, which means you discard your hand and give up on the betting pot. Once you learn how to play Texas Hold ’em well, you might sometimes decide to even “re-raise” the bet during a single betting round.
These actions are interdependent, so if anyone raises the bet, the remaining players must either call the increased amount or re-raise it to stay in the game. Otherwise, the player may fold, in which case their cash from the betting pot stays there. When no one raises the big blind, the big blind player can either check or raise. A player who raises the bet can only do it again if the newly increased bet is met with another raise and not called. Knowing what each action is and how to use them is crucial in mastering how to play Texas Hold ’em poker well.
The Burn and the Flop
When the players have made their choices, the dealer “burns” a card to discourage cheating. To “burn” means to discard the top card of the pack and put it away facedown so as not to reveal it to players.
Afterward, three cards are placed faceup in the middle of the table. This is known as “the flop”. They are the first three of the five cards all players can mix with their pocket cards to come up with the best hand.
After the flop comes the second round. The small blind plays first and may choose to check, bet, or fold. If you’ve read the instructions on how to play Texas Hold ’em carefully thus far, you’ll know that, at this point of the game, you may choose to “check” if you wish so and if no raise has been made.
The Turn and the River
After another round of betting, when all players fold, call the previous bet, or check, the dealer burns another card from the top of the pack and places the next one on the table. This part of the game is called “the turn”. Players place their bets for the third time, with the small blind playing first. Similar poker rules apply across different poker apps and websites, and they all use the same terminology. Knowing these definitions is an integral part of the basic rules of poker.
In the final round, referred to as “the river”, the fifth card is placed faceup on the table. If everyone but one player folds, the remaining player in the game gets the pot. If this happens, the winner may “muck” their hand, putting the cards in the discard pile facedown. Mucking can help you keep your Texas Hold ‘em strategy a secret.
The showdown follows the final betting round. Each player who’s still in the game participates with the best five cards they can gather from the two pocket cards and five cards on the table, known as “board cards”. If you learn how to play Texas Hold ’em very well, you’re bound to get to this part of the game.
The players show their hands to determine the winner, with the last betting player going first. Afterward, the other players can choose to “muck” their hand and leave the game without showing their cards.
In case two or more players win, they share the betting pot. The same goes if there are five highest cards on the table.
The winner is the player who has the best hand of five cards out of all participants. An essential part of learning how to play Texas Hold ’em is forming a hand. You use your pocket cards along with the board cards to get the best combo. You may combine up to two pocket cards with the board cards or use none. If you only use the board cards, you have to let the other players know this before showing your hand. If you don’t, you’ll lose the right to get the pot. Seeing as how gambling sites are reporting a rise in online Texas Hold ‘em poker popularity, you can imagine the amount of winnings their tournament pots can hold. It would be a pity if you let the winnings slip through your fingers at the very last moment.
The Winning Combination
Another crucial factor in figuring out how to play Texas Hold ’em poker like a pro is knowing how the cards are ranked. Different hands have different poker scoring. The ace is the highest card, followed by the king, queen, jack, and then numbers from ten to one. However, the ace may be the lowest card of a straight if the sequence is ace, two, three, four, and five.
Diamond, club, heart, and spade don’t have value, meaning that the players with otherwise matching hands are treated equally. For breaking a tie, the highest side card is observed. Also called a “kicker”, this card is one of those not determining a hand’s rank and used only to determine the winner on this occasion.
If you want to learn how to play the ultimate Texas Hold ’em, you also need to know all the hand variations, from the strongest to the weakest:
- Royal flush – Same-suit combination of ace, king, queen, jack, and ten.
- Straight flush – Same-suit cards forming a sequence.
- Four of a kind – Four cards of the same rank and a kicker.
- Full house – Three matching cards of one rank and a pair of another rank. The highest-ranking three-card combo wins. In case of a tie, the highest pair wins.
- Flush – Five same-suit cards. The highest one breaks the tie.
- Straight – Five cards in a sequence with different poker suits, where the high card wins.
- Three of a kind – Three same-rank cards and two kickers. This is one of the weaker Texas Hold ‘em hands.
- Two pair – A pair of same-rank cards with two cards of another rank. The highest pair wins.
- One pair – A pair of same-rank cards and three kickers. The highest pair wins.
- High card – One high card with four different low-ranking cards. Ace is the strongest card, and the highest kicker breaks a tie.
Setting the Limits
Different kinds of Texas Hold ’em are played, the most common being limit, no-limit, and pot-limit. With the limit Hold ‘em, there’s a limit on how much you can bet. Usually, the betting amount is tied to the big blind, which you may double when raising the bet. This betting style is well-suited for those learning how to play Texas Hold ’em poker and for beginners who have already gained some experience.
The pot-limit variation puts the breaks on how much you may raise the bet – it cannot surpass the amount in the pot. No-limit Texas Hold ’em is often used on tournaments, and a player may bet everything they have and go “all in” at any time. Any player who calls an “all in” with insufficient chips gets a side pot he cannot win but can still compete for the main betting pot. Raises are usually limited to the big blind, the first raise, and three to four re-raises. Playing Texas Hold ’em with no limits is often an exciting and unforgettable experience.
When Things Go as South as Texas
Texas Hold ’em rules we’ve mentioned earlier apply when the game is going as planned. However, you should also know what happens if there’s a fumble while dealing cards or things go wrong in any other way.
If the dealer accidentally reveals the first or the second pocket card, it’s called a “misdeal”. The dealer returns the card to the pack and has to redeal. The same goes for other exposed pocket cards, which players can’t keep. When the hand is finished, the dealer replaces the card with the one on the top of the pack. You might use this rule often while you’re learning how to play Texas Hold ’em with your friends, as dealing cards may prove tricky at first. The revealed cards are burned and put on the discard pile facedown.
In case too many flop cards end up on the table, the flop should also be dealt again. If flop cards are put on the table before the betting round is done, they are shuffled with the rest of the pack. The pack is cut, and another flop is dealt. No cards are burned at this point.
Once you are familiar with Texas Hold ’em poker and how to play it, you’ll see that the above error is not the only one that can happen during the flop. When the fourth flop card is dealt before the betting round is concluded, that card is removed from the play for that round. Once the betting is done, the fifth flop card is placed instead of the fourth flop card. After the following betting round, the pack is reshuffled, along with the removed card. Burn cards remain where they are. The dealer cuts the shuffled pack and puts down the fifth flop card.
The dealer may give an extra card to the first player by accident. In that case, the Texas Hold ’em rules state the card goes back in the pack and may be used as a burn card.
Thinking Like a Winner
The thing that is talked about the least but might as well count the most is a strong mindset when you enter the game. Texas Hold ’em is not just a card game, it’s a battle of wills. It’s not enough to know the game – you must believe you’re the winner.
Of course, although attitude is vital, you still have to go the extra mile and do everything you can to become better at the game. Start small, with a few elements of the game that you’ll focus on improving while learning how to play Texas Hold ’em. Write down your strategic plan and the possible outcomes, and analyse the results to learn from your mistakes.
Learn how and when to use every type of hand you might play. Find books on Texas Hold ’em strategies and study them. Watch poker matches and learn how the players react and when they choose which actions. Once you know how to play Texas Hold ’em and have poker rules all figured out, you’ll be able to focus on a player’s body language and what they plan to do before making a move.
Play out in your head how the entire game could go, but be prepared to make changes on the fly. Remember always to keep an eye on your bankroll – don’t let your pride get to you. Play smart, and one day you might be the next cultural ambassador for poker.
How do you play Texas Hold ‘em step by step?
Get a 52-card pack (without jokers), playing chips, and a dealer’s button. Study the basic poker game rules outlined in our guide and take it from there.
What are the rules of Texas Hold ‘em?
Texas Hold ’em rules are numerous and can be complex, but the basic ones are pretty simple. First, each player gets two cards put facedown on the table, which only they can see. The dealer then deals three cards faceup, then another one, and the fifth one. The players can bet before and after every board card is revealed. The player with the highest hand in a poker match wins the game and takes the betting pot.
How do you play poker for beginners?
Focus on the basic rules and play with limited bets with your friends until you get the hang of it. Feel free to read our article on how to play Texas Hold ’em for more information on poker rules and actions.
How do you make money playing Texas Hold ‘em?
At first, you might win some poker money by playing with your friends. Once you master the game, you can participate in various Texas Hold ’em tournaments and compete for massive prizes. If you’re looking to fill your pockets with some crypto coins, you can try your luck online with Bitcoin poker sites.