Texas Hold'em Rules and Game Play

CHiPs!

Learning how to play a game of Texas Hold'em can seem much more difficult than it really is.

The game itself is actually very logical and simple and requires just a few minutes to learn.

Mastering it, however, will take you a bit longer.

This article provides all the information you need to start playing the game.

Any time you get confused by the action, read below for some guidance. Each topic also contains links to more in-depth articles on that specific subject.

When you feel you've got the hang of it and are ready to play for real be it in online poker or live, check out our Texas Hold'em toplist for the best places to get started.

Quick Glossary

Before we get into describing the rules and game play, here's a quick glossary of terms you'll encounter.

  • Blinds: Short for "blind bets," these are the forced bets made before the cards are dealt. In Hold'em, blinds take the place of the classic "ante."
  • Button: Nickname for the player acting as the dealer in current hand.
  • Check: Similar to a call but no money is bet. If there is no raise preflop, the big blind may check.
  • Fifth Street: See River.
  • Flop: The first three community cards dealt.
  • Fourth Street: See Turn.
  • Preflop: Anything that occurs before the flop is dealt is preflop.
  • River: The final (5th) community card dealt; also known as fifth street.
  • Showdown: When players reveal their hands to discover the pot's winner.
  • Turn: The fourth community card dealt; also known as fourth street.

Overview

Texas Hold'em is a community card poker game, with game play focused as much on the betting as on the cards being played.

Although the rules and game play remain mostly the same, the end goal is slightly different depending on if you're playing a cash game or a tournament.

A Hold'em tournament is the same as any other game of Hold'em with a few added rules and twists. If you'd like to learn the rules unique to tournaments, head to this article. (There will also be a link at the bottom of the page).

Texas Holdem is played on a single table with two to 10 players. The goal is simple: win as many chips as you can, one pot at a time.

You win a pot by having the best hand, or by having all other players fold before the showdown.

The structure of Texas Hold'em can be broken up into three main divisions:

  • Setup
  • Betting Rounds
  • Showdown

Setup

Once you have your players sitting around the table, the first thing you need to have is chips. Before you can figure out what kind of chips to give each player, you need to understand how the game works a little better, so we'll get back to this.

For now, assume all players have chips in front of them.

The next step is picking the player who will start with the dealer button. Hold'em is played with what's known as a rotating dealer, meaning a player will act as the dealer for one hand, handing the role of dealer to the player on their left when the hand is completed.

To choose the dealer, either deal every player one card, or spread the cards facedown on the table and have every player choose one.

The player with the highest-valued card (aces are high for selecting a dealer) starts as the dealer.

If you're in a place with a professional dealer, or someone volunteers to always physically deal the cards, the dealer button will still rotate around the table.

Even though he or she is physically dealing the cards, for all intents and purposes, the person with the button is viewed as being the dealer for the hand.

Once the hand completes, the player with the dealer button will pass it to the player on his or her left.

Putting Out the Blinds

Now that you have a dealer, you need to put out the blinds.

There are two blinds in Holdem - a small blind and a big blind. The player directly to the left of the dealer puts out the small blind.

The big blind (exactly, or conveniently close to, double that of the small blind) is placed by the player to the left of the small blind.

The size of the blinds will dictate the stakes of the game you're about to play. Typically, you want players to buy in for no less than 100 times the size of the big blind.

If you want to buy in for $20, you should play with blinds 10¢/20¢, or for convenience, most people will play 10¢/25¢.

Back to chips: Once the blinds are set we know what kind of chips we'll need to play. (In the above example, we'd use 10¢ chips, 25¢ chips and maybe a few $1 chips.)

You want to give players enough chips in each denomination to allow the game to run smoothly.

Typically a player will need only 10% of their total chips in the smallest denomination, as they are only ever used to pay the small blind. For the most part, all betting will be done with chips larger than that of the small blind.

Once you have the blinds out, you're now ready to deal the first hand.

 

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Game-Play and Betting Rounds

The person dealing the cards deals to the left of the player with the dealer button first, rotating around the table in a clockwise manner, giving each player one card at a time until each player has two cards. These are known as your hole cards.

A hand of Hold'em consists of a minimum of one and a maximum of four betting rounds.

A hand ends when all players but one have folded, or the fourth and final betting round completes with multiple players still in the hand - whichever comes first.

At that point, players enter into the showdown (to be explained in the next section).

Preflop

When all players receive their hole cards, you are now in the preflop betting round.

Each player must look at their cards and decide what action they would like to take. In Hold'em, only one player can act at a time.

The preflop betting round starts with the player to the left of the big blind. This player has three options:

  • Fold: They pay nothing to the pot and throw away their hand, waiting for the next deal to play again.
  • Call: They match the amount of the big blind.
  • Raise: They raise the bet by doubling the amount of the big blind. A player may raise more depending on the betting style being played. (For more about No-Limit and Pot-Limit betting formats, check out this article here.)

Once a player has made their action, the player to the left of them gets their turn to act. Each player is given the same options: fold, call the bet of the player to their right (if the previous player raised, that is the amount you must call) or raise.

A raise is always the amount of one bet in addition to the amount of the previous bet, for example: if the big blind is 25¢, and the first player to act would like to raise, they put in a total of 50¢ (the big blind + one additional bet).

If the next player would like to reraise, they would put in a total of 75¢ (the previous bet + one additional bet).

A betting round ends when two conditions are met:

  1. All players have had a chance to act.
  2. All players who haven't folded have bet the same amount of money for the round.

 

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Example Betting Round 1

There are five players at the table:

Player 1 - Button

Player 2 - Small blind (10¢)

Player 3 - Big blind (25¢)

Start of betting round

Player 4 - Calls the big blind (25¢)

Player 5 - folds

Player 1 - Calls the big blind (25¢)

Player 2 - Calls the big blind (since they already have 10¢ bet, they only have to add another 15¢, for a total of 25¢)

Player 3 - Checks (since they already have the bet matched, they do not need to add more money to call; this is called checking)

End of betting round

When Player 2 calls the big blind, all players now have the same amount of money in front of them, but Player 3 (the big blind) has not had a chance to act, so the betting round is not over.

Once Player 3 checks, both conditions are met, and the betting round is over.

 

Example Betting Round 2

Greg Mueller
Canada's own Greg "FBT" Mueller

There are five players at the table:

Player 1 - Button

Player 2 - Small blind (10¢)

Player 3 - Big blind (25¢)

Start of betting round

Player 4 - Calls the big blind (25¢)

Player 5 - Raises (50¢)

Player 1 - Folds

Player 2 - Folds

Player 3 - Reraises (they already have 25¢ in as the big blind. They complete the bet of 50¢, and add one additional bet for a total of 75¢)

Player 4 - Folds (their previous call of 25¢ is now in the pot)

Player 5 - Calls (matches the bet of Player 3 for a total of 75¢)

End of betting round

In this scenario all players had had a chance to act when Player 3 made the reraise. But all players did not have the same amount of money bet.

Once Player 4 folds, only Player 3 and Player 5 are left in the pot. When Player 5 calls, both conditions are met, and the betting round ends.

The Flop

Once the preflop betting round ends, the flop is dealt. This is done by dealing the top card in the deck facedown on the table (it becomes the burn card), followed by three cards faceup.

Once this has been dealt, the first post-flop betting round begins.

The rules of a post-flop betting round are the same as a preflop, with two small exceptions: The first player to act is the next player with a hand to the left of the dealer, and the first player to act can check or bet; as there has been no bet made, calling is free.

A bet on the flop is the amount of the big blind. In our game, a player must put out 25¢ to make a bet.

 

The Turn

Once the betting round on the flop completes, the dealer deals one card facedown followed by a single card faceup, also known as the "burn and turn." Once the turn has been dealt, the third betting round starts.

The third betting round is identical to the flop betting round with one single exception: The size of a bet for this round, and the final betting round, is doubled, meaning that to make a bet in our game will now cost a player 50¢.

 

The River

Assuming more than one player is left, having not folded on one of the previous streets, the river is now dealt. Dealing the river is identical as dealing the turn, with one card being dealt facedown, followed by a single card faceup.

This is the final street, and no more cards will be dealt in this hand. The betting round is identical to the betting round on the turn.

Showdown

Once the river betting round has been completed, the players now enter into the showdown. At this point, the best hand wins the pot. Here are the rules you need to know about a Hold'em showdown:

  • The player who bet on the river is the default first player to reveal their hand. If any other players choose to show their hand first, that is OK.
  • If no betting happened on the river (all players checked), the player closest to the left of the dealer must open their hand first, continuing clockwise around the table.
  • If a player is holding a losing hand, it is their option to reveal their cards or simply muck their hand and concede the pot.

 

Evaluating Hands

In Hold'em you must make the best hand possible using any combination of your two cards and the five community cards on the table.

You can use both, one or none of your own cards in making your best hand. Here are some rules about evaluating a winning poker hand:

  • The poker hand ranking order can be found here. There are no exceptions to this ordering: a flush always beats a straight, and three of a kind always beats two pair.
  • There are no hands used in Hold'em other than the hands listed in this chart. For example, having three pairs is actually only "two pair," with the highest-valued two pair making your hand.
  • Poker hands must be exactly five cards, and only those five cards are used to evaluate the winning hand. For example:
  • if the board is 2 J Q K A
  • Player 1 holds T 9
  • Player 2 holds T 2

Both players hold the very same hand (a straight from ten to ace). This means the pot is split between the two players. The remaining cards and the fact Player 1 also has a pair means nothing - only the best five-card hand factors into deciding the winner.

  • If all remaining players have nothing (no pair or anything stronger), the winning hand is the hand with the highest-valued single card, meaning:
    • A 3 4 6 7 is a better hand than K Q J 9 8
    • A J 9 8 6 is a better hand than A J 9 8 2
  • Suits are never used to evaluate the strength of a hand.

Once you determine the winning hand, that player receives the pot. The dealer passes the dealer button to his or her left and the two players to the left of the new dealer put out their big and small blinds respectively.

Random Rules

Raising

  • When there are more than two players still in the hand, only one bet and three raises can be made in one betting round. Once the third raise is made the betting is "capped." Once betting is capped, players may only call or fold.
  • A player must either declare their intent to raise verbally before making any actions, or bring the amount of chips equal to the total amount of their raise into play at the same time. A player is not allowed to place chips, return to their stack and place more chips. This is known as a string bet.
  • Solutions to any other random situation you come across can be found here.

Buying Chips

    • The minimum number of chips a player is allowed to buy before their first hand dealt is determined by the house rules governing the game. Typically a minimum is 50-100 times the big blind.
    • There is no maximum to the number of chips a player may buy at any time.
    • A player may reload, or add more chips to their stack, at any time between hands. Once a hand is started, a player may only use the chips they had in play at the beginning of the hand, during that hand. Any additional chips will not be "in play" until the next deal.

 

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Additional Texas Hold em Rules

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wiebe 2011-07-09 17:02:40

wiebe loves poker

Ray 2011-07-09 10:21:02

If a player bets, in this case raises, before his turn what is the correct procedure to follow.

delco1 2011-06-28 18:37:53

Need a ruling
2 players all in 2 players all in in side pot. p1 declares hand throws up cards beats second player for main pot rakes main pot 3rd player sits on cards does nothing 4th player throws cards up for cards read has set of tens. 3rd player shows cards to players not in hand one of them finds a winning hand and throws 2 crds up to show a straight. My objection is that this is a dead hand as soon as he passed it to another player not in the hand and did not call his hand or throw them all up for cards read I walked away in disgust what is the ruling on this type of play?

Gary7 2011-06-19 13:43:06

If the board included four spades one of which was an Ace and player 1 had an 8 of spades and player 2 held a 9 of spades, would this be a split pot as both players had Ace flushes? I was told I had lost that hand as I had the lowest card (8 spades)

Darren Blanc 2011-06-15 13:47:35

i was playin a tournament the other day and this happened, there are 3 limpers into a pot flop comes down, SB shoves all in BB folds BTN tanks for a while and says "i have the nut flush draw and an overcard" is his hand dead as he told everyone what he had?

Sarfaraz 2011-06-06 18:47:28

Question #1:
Please help answer this situation that I ran against someone. I am suggesting that its a split pot and the other person insists that Player 'A' wins.

Here is the situation:
Texas Holdem - In a straight situation where two players have the same high-end straight but one player (Player 'A') contributes two of his concealed cards in the straight and other player (player 'B') contributes one card from his concleaed cards. Is it still a split pot.

Question #2:
Please help answer this situation that I ran against someone. I am suggesting that player 'A' wins and the other person insists that its a split pot.

Texas Holdem - Can you please help determine if player A wins or is it a split pot.
Community Cards: K 3 8 8 4
Player A: K 6
Player B: K 2

Ziad Selfani 2011-05-07 05:04:46

While playing, if someone holds his cards as he intends to fold, lifts them in the air, extends his arm as to throw them, can then retrieve them back and continue the game? Or it's considered as a fold?

Anita 2011-04-27 18:43:17

When you are playing in a tournament, is it okay to show your cards to the people standing behind you?

PokerListings.com 2011-04-18 23:34:01

@Oscar

In the interest of fairness you should always play "cards speak". That means that the hand you show is the hand that counts, even if you declare your hand incorrectly.

A beginner player should be able to turn their hand over and have the dealer or other players make sure the correct winner is awarded the pot.

Oscar 2011-04-18 22:35:15

Last week during a game I had a 8 and 3 hand. The flop was an 8, 3, and a K. Then a 4 and another K fell. I called my buddies hand and I said that I had 8's and 3's with the pair of K's slipping my mind for a second. He had a pair of 4's and called the K's. When I remembered the Ks I told him that I still had the winning hand but he tried to argue that since I didn't call the K's when I showed my cards that he won since did. We argued for a while. Who was right?? Does it matter what you call when you show your cards or do you always just go with the best hand?