Texas Holdem Rules
If you’re just getting started learning Texas Holdem, keep this guide handy for quick reference. If you ever get confused by the action, read below for some guidance.
Each topic contains links to more in-depth articles on that specific aspect of Texas Holdem rules. When you feel you’ve got the hang of it and are ready to play some real money online poker, check out our Texas Hold’em poker site rankings for the best places to get right into a Texas Holdem game online.
Before we get into describing the full rules and game play, here’s a quick glossary of terms you’ll encounter:
How to Play Texas Hold’em
Watch our How to Play Texas Hold’em introductory video below and read on underneath for a more detailed look at all of Texas Hold’em’s unique rules.
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 are the same the end goal is slightly different depending on if you’re playing a Texas Holdem cash game or a Texas Holdem tournament.
A Texas Hold’em tournament is the same as any other game of Hold’em with a few added rules and twists. Learn more about the unique rules of Texas Holdem poker tournaments.
A Texas Holdem cash game is played on a single table with 2 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.
A Texas Hold’em game can be broken up into three main parts:
- Betting Rounds
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Texas Holdem Rules – The Dealer Button
Once you have your players 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 and then pass the role of dealer on 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 live poker room or casino 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.
Texas Hold’em Rules – The Blinds
Now that you have a dealer, you need to put out the blinds. There are two blinds in Texas Holdem – a small blind and a big blind.
These are forced bets required by two players to make sure there are some chips in the pot worth playing for. Without any money in the pot all players might be inclined to fold much more often, slowing down the action considerably.
The player directly to the left of the dealer puts out the small blind. The big blind (usually double that of the small blind) is then paid 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 of 10¢/20¢. For convenience, most people will play 10¢/25¢.
At a live casino or poker room the maximum and minimum amounts a player can be in for will be in relation to the blinds. For example in a $1/$2 game the table minimum is usually $40 (20x the big blind) and the maximum is $200 (100x the big blind).
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Back to the chips: If you’re playing in a live casino or online your chips will be provided for you in increments that make sense for the stakes you’re playing.
If you’re playing at home, you’ll need to determine which chips to use and how to distribute them. Once the blinds are set we know what kind of chips we’ll need to play with. (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 chips sorted out and the first blinds in the pot, you’re now ready to deal the first hand.
Texas Holdem Betting Rules
The person dealing the cards deals to the left of the player with the dealer button first and rotates clockwise around the table. Each player gets one card at a time until each player has two cards, both face down.
These are known as your hole cards and they are for your use alone when making your final 5-card poker hand.
A round of Texas 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) and the player with the highest hand takes the pot. If two players share the highest hand, the pot is split equally between them.
Texas Holdem Betting Rules – Pre-Flop
When all players receive their hole cards you’re now in the pre-flop betting round. Each player looks at his or her cards and decides what action to take. In Hold’em only one player can act at a time.
The pre-flop betting round starts with the player to the left of the big blind. This player has three options:
- Fold: Pay nothing to the pot and throw away their hand, waiting for the next deal to play again.
- Call: Match the amount of the big blind (pre-flop this is also known as “limping in.”)
- Raise: Raise the bet by doubling the amount of the big blind. (Note: a player may raise more depending on the betting style being played, again see the rules for No-Limit and Pot-Limit above.)
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 current bet (if the previous player raised, that is the amount you must call; if no one has bet it’s the big blind amount) or raise.
In Limit Hold’em 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 re-raise they would put in a total of 75¢ (the previous bet + one additional bet). Again, though, in No-Limit Hold’em a player can bet as much as the total amount of their chips on the table at any time.
A Texas Hold’em betting round ends when two conditions are met:
- All players have had a chance to act.
- All players who haven’t folded have bet the same amount of money for the round.
Example Betting Round 1
There are five players at the table:
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
There are five players at the table:
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 re-raise. 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.
Texas Holdem Betting Rules – 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 (called the “burn” card, it’s not in play), followed by three cards face-up in the middle of the table (see below).
These are the community flop cards which all players can use to make their best 5-card poker hand.
Once the flop has been dealt the first post-flop betting round begins. The rules of a post-flop betting round are the same as a pre-flop with two small exceptions:
- The first player to act is the next player with a hand to the left of the dealer
- The first player to act can check or bet; as there has been no bet made, calling is free.
A bet on the flop in Limit Holdem is the amount of the big blind. In No-Limit it has to be at least twice the size of the big blind but can be as much as all of a player’s chips.
In our Limit Hold’em game as described above, a player must put out 25¢ to make a bet in the first post-flop betting round.
Texas Holdem Betting Rules – The Turn
Once the betting round on the flop completes (meaning any players who want to see the next card have matched the value of any bets), the dealer again ‘burns” one card facedown out of play followed by a single card face-up in the middle of the table beside the 3 flop cards (see image below).
Once the turn has been dealt the third betting round starts.
The third betting round in Limit Hold’em 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¢.
In No-Limit Hold’em a player can again bet any amount of their chips as long as it’s at least twice the big blind or double that of any previous bet.
Texas Holdem Betting Rules – 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 burned facedown followed by a single card face-up.
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.
Once the river betting round has been completed the players now enter into the showdown. At this point the best 5-card poker 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.
For more on How to Determine the Winning Texas Hold’em Hand and Which Hand Wins, check the links below:
Texas Holdem Rules – Best 5-Card Hand
In Hold’em you must make the best 5-card hand possible using any combination of your two hole cards and the five community cards on the table.
You can use both, one or none of your own hole cards to make your best hand. Here are some rules about evaluating a winning poker hand:
- Remember the official poker hand rankings. There are no exceptions to this order: a flush always beats a straight; three of a kind always beats two pair, etc.
- 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,” and the highest-valued two pair make up your final hand.
- Final poker hands must be exactly 5 cards and only those five cards are used to evaluate the winning hand.
- If all remaining players have nothing (no pair or anything stronger), the winning hand is the hand with the highest-valued single card, meaning:
- A3467 is a better hand than KQJ98
- AJ986 is a better hand than AJ982
- Suits are never used to evaluate the strength of a hand.
Once you determine the winning poker 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.
More Texas Holdem Rules
- 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.
- 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.
- In a cash game 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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While the rules of Texas Hold’em might seem a bit complex in spots they really are quite easy to pick up in practice. And there’s nothing more important to learning the game than playing some actual Texas Holdem poker hands in real life.
This can easily be done at home among friends (check out our full guide to running an amazing poker home game), at a real live casino or at an online poker site.
Playing Texas Holdem online might even be the easiest way to get comfortable with the rules of Texas Hold’em as you can play hands at a much faster pace. You can choose to play for real money, of course, or you can start playing the free Texas Holdem games offered at every site.
Check our page for the best places to play free Texas Holdem online here:
More on How to Play Texas Holdem Poker
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- Beginner Texas Hold’em Strategy
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