How to Play Texas Holdem

Texas holdem is currently the most popular form of poker
played around the world. In the 2000’s it exploded in popularity
and remains wildly popular today.

The most popular form of poker before Texas holdem surpassed
it was seven card stud, but sometime in the 1970’s or 1980’s
Texas holdem became king.

Because it’s so popular many players just assume everyone
knows how to play. It seems like you can turn on the television
and watch a tournament almost any time, but what about all of
the people who want to learn how to play but are afraid to sit
down in a real money game at first or are afraid of making a

This page is written for you if you fit either of these
descriptions or simply want to make sure you understand
everything before playing. We’ve written this guide so you can
quickly learn how to play Texas holdem even if you’ve never
played poker before.

The first section includes general poker rules and the next
section has a complete set of Texas holdem rules. Then each of
the main parts of a hand of Texas holdem poker is described in

General Poker Rules

Before you learn how to play Texas holdem you need to
understand the basic rules of poker. The basic poker rules
include information about the deck of playing cards and the rank
of hands.

Most poker games, including Texas holdem, use a standard 52
card deck of playing cards. Each deck of cards has four suits
with each suit containing 13 cards. The suits are:

Spades denoted by this symbol
Hearts denoted by this symbol
Clubs denoted by this symbol
Diamonds denoted by this symbol

The ranks of cards in each suit from highest to lowest are:

  • First: Ace
  • Second: King
  • Third: Queen
  • Fourth: Jack
  • Fifth: 10
  • Sixth: 9
  • Seventh: 8
  • Eighth: 7
  • Nineth: 6
  • Tenth: 5
  • Eleventh: 4
  • Twelveth: 3
  • Thirteenth: 2

The ace can also be used as a low card, equal to 1, below a 2
for straight purposes.

Some poker games use one or more jokers, but Texas holdem
doesn’t so they aren’t included in the information on this page.

Here’s a list of possible poker hands from high to low. When
you determine which player has the best hand look at their best
five cards and start from the top of the list and work down. The
hand you get to first that’s held by a player is the winning

  • Royal Flush

    A royal flush is five cards, all of the
    same suit, which forms a straight starting with an ace high.
    The ace of clubs, king of clubs, queen of clubs, jack of
    clubs, and ten of clubs is one of the four possible royal
    flushes. The ace, king, queen, jack, ten or hearts is
    another, and of spades is another, and finally in diamonds
    is another.

  • Straight Flush

    A straight flush is five cards, all of
    the same suit, which also have five cards in sequential
    order. The only difference between a royal flush and a
    straight flush is a straight flush is king high or lower.
    The king of spades, queen of spades, jack of spades, ten of
    spades, and nine of spades is a straight flush. The six of
    clubs, five of clubs, four of clubs, three of clubs, and two
    of clubs is also a straight flush.

  • Four of a Kind

    When you have four cards, all of the
    same rank, you have four of a kind. The eight of spades,
    eight of hearts, eight of diamonds, and eight of clubs forms
    a four of a kind in eights.

  • Full House

    A full house is three cards of the same
    rank and two other cards of the same rank that aren’t the
    same rank as the three of a kind. Three kings and two sevens
    is a full house.

  • Flush

    When you have a flush you have five cards of the
    same suit. It doesn’t matter which five cards you have, as
    long as they’re all five hearts, or all spades, or all
    diamonds, or all clubs.

  • Straight

    A straight is five cards in sequential order
    that aren’t all of the same suit. Remember the ace may be
    played as above the king or below the two. So both an ace,
    king, queen, jack, ten and a five, four, three, two, ace are
    straights. You can’t play what is sometimes called around
    the world, though. This means you can’t play a hand like a
    king, ace, two, three, four as a straight.

  • Three of a Kind

    Three of a kind is any three cards of
    the same rank. The ace of spades, the ace of clubs, and ace
    of hearts is three of a kind. The suits don’t matter when
    looking at a three of a kind.

  • Two Pair

    Two pair is two cards of the same rank and
    two other cards of the same rank that aren’t the same rank
    as the first two cars. Two aces and two sixes form two

  • One Pair

    One pair is two cards of the same rank. Two
    threes is a pair or two kings is a pair.

  • High Card

    When you don’t have any of the other hands
    listed above you have a high card hand. The highest card in
    your hand is your high card. If you have an ace you have an
    ace high hand. If the highest card you have is a nine, you
    have a nine high hand.

If two or more players tie for the best hand you break ties
using the following rules.

  • When two or more players have the exact same five card
    hand they tie and split the pot. For example, two players
    each have a pair of sevens, a pair of twos, and an ace.
  • If two or more players have the same best one card, two
    cards, three cards, or four cards hand, the winner is the
    player with the next highest card not being used for the one
    two, three, or four card hand. For example, if two players
    each have a pair of aces and the next highest card in one
    player’s hand is a jack and in the other player’s hand, it’s
    a seven, the player with the jack wins. This is called a
  • When two players have a flush the player with the
    highest card in their flush is the winner. If they each have
    the same highest card the next highest card is compared,
    until one player has a higher card.
  • If two players have a straight the player with the
    highest card in their straight wins.
  • When two players each have a full house, the player with
    the higher three of a kind wins. If the three of a kind is
    the same in both hands the player with the best pair wins.
    For example, a hand with three queens and two sixes beats a
    hand with three tens and two aces.

Texas Holdem Rules

Now that you know how poker works, in general, it’s time to
dive into the specific rules for Texas holdem. In this section,
you’ll learn about the different types of Texas holdem and what
happens in each part of a hand.


Texas holdem is offered in variations based on betting limits
and also based on the format.

The three betting variations include:

  • Limit
  • Pot Limit
  • No limit

And the format variations include:

  • Ring Game
  • Multi Table Tournament
  • Single Table Tournament
  • Heads Up

All of the formats can be offered in any of the betting
variations. You can play limit ring games or tournaments and no
limit heads up games, single table tournaments, multi-table
tournaments, and ring games. Basically, you can attach any of
the betting variations to any of the formats.

In a no limit game players can bet or raise any amount up to
their entire stack. In a pot limit game players may bet or raise
any amount up to and including the size of the current pot. When
you play in a limit game all bets and raises are restricted to a
set amount based on the limits.

A limit game has two amounts. The smaller amount is the
betting limit on the first two betting rounds and the higher
amount is the betting limit on the last two betting rounds.


In a $30 / $60 limit Texas holdem game, the first two betting
rounds use bets and raises of $30 and the last two betting
rounds use bets and raises of $60.

Each Texas holdem game also has a pair of forced bets called
blinds. Blinds are set by the house in no limit and pot limit
games and set based on the limits in a limit game.

The big blind is the same size as the smaller betting limit
in a limit game and the small blind is half the big blind. This
is the most common setup, but you can find a few games with
blinds that are the same or in another strange configuration.
Occasionally a pot limit or no limit game has both blinds post
the same amount.

Pot limit play is the least popular of the three Texas holdem
variants so you may never play but if you do there’s a unique
rule dealing with the size of bets that you need to be aware of.

When you make a bet or raise you can bet as much as is in the
pot. So if the pot has $100 in it, you can bet up to and
including $100. But if an opponent bets first and you decide to
raise the amount you can raise is different than you might

If the pot has $100 in it and an opponent bets $20 and you
want to raise you can place a bet of $160 total. The way it
works is you use $20 to call the bet, making the pot size $140,
and then you can raise up to and including another $140. It’s
important that you understand how this works, though because you
can’t say you call a raise. You have to announce your intention
to raise and move all of your chips for the raise forward at one

A Texas holdem ring game is one where players come and go and
once it’s started it doesn’t have to end as long as players want
to play and a dealer is available. Most poker rooms close or, at
least, have tables close, but some online poker rooms can have
the same table open for months or longer if players keep joining
when others leave.

In a ring game, you can buy more chips or leave whenever you

If you’re playing in a tournament you post a buy in and
receive chips. When you run out of chips you’re eliminated from
the tournament. In some tournaments if you run out of chips
early you can pay an additional fee and buy more chips. These
are called rebuy tournaments. In rebuy tournaments, you can only
buy back in for a limited time.

The only difference between a single table and multi table
tournaments are the size of the field of entrants. A single
table tournament has 10 entrants or less and a multi-table
tournament can have thousands of entrants.

The number of entrants who win prizes and the amount of the
payouts are listed with each tournament and you should make sure
you completely understand them and the other rules before
entering a tournament.

Occasionally you may be forced to place ante best later in
tournaments. These are bets placed be each player at the table
before each hand. In many ways, these are like blinds. If a
Texas holdem tournament has antes in the later rounds it’ll be
listed in the tournament information when you sign up.

The last thing you should know before learning more is that
most Texas holdem games have a minimum betting limit. This is
usually equal to the big blind. You also have to raise at least
the size of the last bet when you raise. So the minimum bet will
be equal to the big blind unless it’s posted differently in an
un-raised pot, and in a situation where you’re making a raise
you have to raise at least as much as the last bet.

So if the bet was $50 and you want to raise, you have to
raise at least $50 more. A minimum raise in this situation would
be $50, making a total bet of $100. This is $50 for the call and
another $50 for the raise.


We’ve already mentioned blinds briefly, but here’s a little
more information about how they’re assigned at the beginning of
each ring game or tournament.

Usually, the dealer shuffles the cards and deals one card
face up to each player at the table. The highest card is awarded
the dealer position or dealer button. This player acts last on
each round of play for the hand except the first round. The
small blind is posted by the person to the immediate left of the
dealer button and the big blind is to the immediate left of the
small blind.

The person who deals the cards and the person with the dealer
button aren’t the same in poker rooms and casinos. They can be
the same person in private or home games that don’t have a
designated dealer.

For the rest of the parts of a Texas holdem hand, the play is
the same whether you’re playing in a tournament or in a ring

Before Each Hand

At the end of each hand or at the beginning of each hand the
dealer button is passed one place to the left and both blinds
move one place to the left. The players in the blinds place
their blind bets and the dealer starts dealing one card at a
time face down to the first player to the left of the dealer
button and continues dealing to the left until each player has
two face down cards.

These are called pocket cards or hole cards.

These hole cards are used in combination with the community
cards, discussed in the next section, to form the player’s best
five card hand. The community cards consist of five cards, so
players can use both of their hole cards and three community
cards, one of their hole cards and four community cards, or none
of their hole cards and all five of the community cards to form
a five card hand.

Once each player has two hole cards the player to the
immediate left of the big blind folds, calls the big blind, or
raises. To call the big blind simply say that you call and slide
chips forward in the same amount as the big blind. If the big
blind is $20 slide $20 worth of chips forward.

If you want to raise state that you raise and the amount
you’re raising. The maximum amount of the raise is based on the
variation of Texas holdem you’re currently playing. This was
discussed earlier in the variations section.

After each player acts the next player to the left must fold,
call the current bet, or raise.

When play comes around to the small blind she can fold, call
the difference between the current bet and her blind, or raise.
If the small blind is $10 and the current bet is $40 she only
has to place another $30 into the pot to call.

If the pot hasn’t been raised the big blind can check or
raise when it’s her turn. By checking you get to see the flop
for free in an un-raised pot.

Play continues until every player has folded or called the
last bet or raise. If you fold simply slide your cards to the
dealer face own. Until you fold protect your cards at all times.
Many players place a chip or other small item on top of their
hole cards. This shows that they want to remain in the hand and
the dealer shouldn’t attempt to get their cards.

The Flop

Once the before the hand parts are completed the dealer
places the flop in the center of the table. The dealer burns the
top card in the deck by placing it in a discard pile, and then
deals the next three cards face up in the center of the table.

These are the first three of the five cards that will make up
the community or board cards at the end of the hand. As
mentioned above, the community cards are used by each player in
combination with their hole cards to form the best possible
five-card poker hand.

Texas Holdem Flop Example

After the flop cards have been dealt the first remaining
player to the left of the dealer button is the first player to
act. She may check or bet. Play continues to the left with each
player remaining in the hand checking if no one has made a bet,
calling the current bet, raising, or folding. Play continues
until each player has folded or called the last bet or raise.

In limit Texas holdem the bets before the flop and on the
flop round are at the lower betting limit. The next two rounds,
the turn, and river, are completed using the higher betting

The Turn

Once the flop betting round is completed the dealer burns the
top card of the deck again and then deals one card face up in
the center of the table beside the flop cards. This is the
fourth of five total community cards.

The first remaining player to the left of the dealer button
acts first, by checking or betting. Play continues to the left.
Each player may check if no one has made a bet, call a current
bet, and fold if a bet has been made, or raise a current bet.

Once each player has called the last bet the dealer starts
the river round.

The River

Just like the turn, at the beginning of the river, the dealer
burns the top card of the deck and places a single card face up
in the center of the table. This is the fifth and final
community card.

At this time, the first player remaining in the hand to the
left of the dealer button starts the action. She may check or
bet. Play continues to the left just like it did on the turn
with each player checking if able, calling, raising, or folding.

Once each remaining player has called the latest bet it’s
time for the showdown.

If all of the players check on the flop, turn, or river play
moves on to the next round. No one has to make a wager on a
betting round.

The Showdown

After all of the betting rounds have been completed each of
the remaining players show their cards so the pot can be awarded
to the player with the best hand. If no one made a bet on the
river the first player to the left of the dealer button is the
first to show her cards. Each remaining player to the left then
either shows her hand if it beats the current high hand or

You don’t have to show your cards if you fold, but if you
make a mistake you can’t be awarded the pot unless you show your

If a bet was made on the river the player who called the bet
can wait for the original bettor to show their cards first
before revealing her cards.

Top Tip

Never take your hands off your cards if you think
you have the winning hand until the dealer gives you the chips
from the pot. Also, never take another player’s word for the
strength of his hand. Look at the hand yourself before throwing
your cards away.

After the best hand has been determined by the dealer she
gives the chips to the winning player, collects all of the
cards, makes sure the dealer button has been moved and the
blinds have been placed, shuffles the cards and gets ready to
start the next hand.


Now that you have a complete guide on how to play Texas
holdem the next step is learning more about how to be a good
Texas holdem player. We have a complete strategy section to help
you become a winning player.

Make sure you read the starting hands page and the low limits
page to get started. Once you master those two areas continue to
the pot odds page and then add the rest of the poker strategy

Before you finish with the strategy section you should be
able to play at a breakeven level or better. With a little
practice and time, you should be able to start winning on a
regular basis