To get started, players need little more than a basic understanding of Texas Hold’em rules, which starting hands to play and some simple strategy tips. From there, it’s a short hop to a lifelong relationship with one of the most challenging and exciting card games in the world. Check out our editors' picks for the top Texas Holdem online poker rooms below or scroll down below the toplist for more about the game of Texas Hold'em.
A TL;DR History of Texas Hold’em
The birth of Texas Hold’em is officially credited to Robstown, Texas and dates back to the early 1900s. With four betting rounds and the majority of the cards face up on the table, Hold'em was much more “player friendly” than the other poker variations popular at that time. Since the community cards remove the need to "count cards," the game's also more beginner-friendly.
Legendary Texas road gamblers included Crandell Addington, Roscoe Weiser, Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim. They introduced Hold’em to Vegas in 1967 - with the first World Series of Poker held in 1970. Yet poker remained a “backroom” game - until Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 WSOP Main Event. Turning his $40 online satellite buy-in into $2.5 million on national TV. Thanks to Moneymaker and online poker, Texas Hold’em blew up and is now the most widely played variant worldwide.
Play Texas Hold'em
The basic rules of Texas Hold’em are simple. A standard hand in Texas Hold’em goes like this:
- The dealer shuffles the deck.
- The two players to the left of the dealer (or the player with the dealer button) pay the mandatory bets called "blinds" - one small blind and one big blind.
- Starting at the player on his left the dealer deals every player two cards face down.
- Starting at the player to the left of the big blind, the players begin the first betting round.
- The first player has the option to call, raise or fold.
- Once the betting round is over, the dealer deals one card face down (the burn card), and three face up (the flop).
- The second betting round starts at the player to the left of the dealer.
- Once the betting round completes, the dealer deals one card face down, and one card face up (the turn).
- The third betting round functions the same as the second betting round.
- Once the betting round completes, the dealer deals one final card face down, and the final card face up (the river)
- The final betting round functions the same as the previous two betting rounds.
- All players still in the hand enter the showdown, where the player holding the best hand at this point wins the pot.
- The dealer passes the deck (or the dealer button) to the player on his left, and the next hand begins.
For more information head to our Poker Rules section.
Texas Hold’em Hand Rankings
Texas Hold’em Basic Terms
- 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."
- Burn Card: The card dealt facedown before any community card is dealt.
- Button: Nickname for the player acting as the dealer in current hand, or the name for the physical dealer button used to denote the current dealer.
- Check: Similar to a call, but no money is bet. If there is no bet or raise, the next player to act 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.
Texas Hold’em Starting Hands
Texas Hold'em has enough strategic concepts, theories and equations to literally fill hundreds of books. Needless to say, you can spend as much time as you would like reading and discussing poker strategy without ever repeating the same topic twice.
When it comes to learning the game, it's best to start at the beginning. And making money in No-Limit Texas Hold'em starts with the hands you choose to play and when you choose to play them.
Making money starts with the hands you choose to play.
Even a "top 10 hand" can be the wrong hand to play depending on the situation you're in.
One of the first things you learn on the road to being a winning player is to play tight - that is, to only play strong hands, folding the rest. The stronger your starting hand, typically the easier it will be to play the hand without error.
Playing tight is absolutely fundamental when learning to play winning poker.
Unlike on the flop and turn, which you might only find yourself playing once or twice an orbit, you're making pre-flop decisions every single hand you play. If you play too loose pre-flop, you're costing yourself money every time you play a hand you shouldn't.
To learn more about what hands you should be playing, and how to play them, head to our How Not to Suck at Poker strategy series found in our beginner strategy section.
How to Determine the Winning Hand
In Texas 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.
More information and examples on How to Determine the Winning Hand.
Texas Hold’em Basic Strategy Tips: Five Common Beginner Mistakes
1) Playing too many hands before the flop
This is the biggest of them all. New players play far too many hands pre-flop. Play only the strongest starting hands which give you the greatest chance at winning the pot. The more hands you begin to play pre-flop, the more difficult your decisions will be post flop. The simplest way to minimize the number of mistakes you will make is to remove yourself from the situations in which mistakes are made.
2) Taking hands too far past the flop
This is an extension of the previous trap. Not only do most beginners play too many hands; they go too far with them. You need to evaluate the true strength of your own hand, against the likely strength of your opponents. Only if you can realistically believe you have the advantage should you continue with the hand.
You need to understand you'll only be playing a very small fraction of the hands you're dealt,and you'll only see a river with a very small fraction of those.
3) Playing by feeling rather than by cards, situations and numbers
Emotion will come back to haunt you.
Many new players play hands because they have a "feeling" about them. This is wrong. Poker is a mathematical game: everything that can possibly happen boils down to odds. You play a hand because the situation dictates that in the long term, by playing that hand, you're going to make money.
To understand this concept, you need to have a basic understanding of Hold'em Odds. For more advice on this, head to our Poker Odds strategy section.
4) Letting your emotions get the better of you
Poker can be a stressful game. If you lose a couple of hands and start to let your emotions get the better of you, you're going to start making poor decisions. Every time you act based on emotion, rather than rational thought, you're making a mistake.
If you're overwhelmed with any form of emotion, take a short walk, returning to the table once you're back to a neutral, relaxed state. For more advice on this, head to our Poker Psychology strategy section.
5) Thinking short term
A lot of players will make a correct play, lose the pot and second-guess themselves. They'll say, "Oh - I should have folded pocket aces because he ended up making a straight." This is wrong. If you get your money in good, it's the correct play, whether you win or lose.
Your ability in poker is based on the decisions you make, not the end result of. Poker is a long-term game. You can make all the correct decisions and still lose; this is the influence of luck.
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