How to Play Texas Holdem

Texas Hold’em is far and away the most popular version of poker. Featured in such televised events as the World Poker Tour (WPT) and canonized in the poker film Rounders, to many, Texas Hold ‘em is the only game to play.


Basic Rules for Texas Hold 'em

The game concept itself is pretty simple. Each player is dealt two cards face down (called pocket cards). The dealer then deals five community cards face up; these are available to all the players to help make their hand. Players may use any combination of their pocket cards and the community cards to make their hand. The best five-card hand takes the pot.

Of course, the game is a little more complicated than that, and as usual, the complications revolve around money. In our poker lobby, you may have noticed three different options under the limit column (Fixed, PL, NL). These options represent the three different Hold ‘em games we offer: Fixed Limit, Pot Limit, and No Limit. The game type you select will dictate the bet minimums and maximums for that game.

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Game Types

In a Fixed Limit game, both the bet and raise amounts for each round are a preset amount. For example, in a $5/$10 Fixed Limit game, both the bets and raises for the first two rounds of betting must be $5, no more, no less. The last two rounds have a bet/raise amount of $10.

In a Pot Limit game, the maximum bet/raise can't be more than the current pot amount. So, if the pot is $30, you can't bet more than $30. One thing to note: If you are raising on a player's bet, your call is already included in the pot. So, for example, let's say the pot is $100. Player X opens the betting with $100. Your maximum bet is now $300 (Pot = Initial $100 + Player X's $100 + your $100).

The final game type is No Limit. The name says it all: There are no maximum bet limits. You can bet as much as you like during any round of betting. The minimum bet is the big-blind amount. No Limit Hold ‘em makes for big pots, fast action and great watching.

Now that you've chosen a game type, it's time to talk about three other betting concepts: the stakes, the cap and the blinds.

The Stakes: The stakes are tied directly to the game type you select. For a Fixed Limit game, the stakes dictate the bet and raise amount for each round. Let's use our $5/$10 stakes example again. In the first two rounds of betting, both the bet and the raise amount must be $5, no more, no less. The last two rounds have a bet/raise amount of $10.

The Cap: In Fixed Limit games, each round of betting can consist of one bet and has a maximum number of three allowable raises, known as the cap. So, if a bet is made, that bet can only be raised three times, after which all players must call or fold. However, if only two players remain in the hand, the cap is increased to a maximum of five raises.

In both Pot Limit and No Limit, the stakes represent the amounts posted as the blinds.

The Blinds: The blinds are mandatory bets posted by two players at the start of each hand, prior to the cards being dealt. The player directly to the left of the dealer posts the small blind, which in a Fixed Limit game is half the small stake, rounded down to the nearest dollar. In Pot Limit and No Limit games, the small blind is equal to the small stake. The player to the left of the small-blind player posts the big blind, which in a Fixed Limit game is equal to the small stake. In Pot Limit and No Limit games, the big blind is equal to the big stake.

Let's use our trusty $5/$10 stakes again. In a Fixed Limit game, the small blind posts $2 (half of $5 rounded down). The big blind posts $5. In a $5/$10 Pot Limit or No Limit game, the small blind posts $5, and the big blind posts $10. In poker, blinds are used as an incentive for players to play a hand and build the pot. Consider blinds to be mandatory bets and raises; any player that wants to play the hand must match the big blind to stay in. The blinds are considered live bets, so when the action goes around the table and returns to the players who posted the blinds, they have the option of checking, calling, raising or folding.

Some other notes about blinds: Any player has the option of sitting out and waiting for the big blind to reach them. However, if a player sits out and misses posting the big blind, then that player will be required to post a big blind and a small "dead" blind before returning. This rule is in place to prevent potential abuse from players who join a table and then leave before having to post the blinds.

One thing we haven't talked much about is the dealer. In poker, each player in turn plays as the dealer. At the table we represent the dealer position with:

The Dealer Button: The button is a graphic symbol that represents the theoretical dealer. After each hand, the button moves clockwise to the next active player, who becomes the dealer for that hand. This player is considered to be "on the button," and is the last person to act in the betting round. The first player to the left of the button is the first player to be dealt cards, the first player to act in each betting round and the player that posts the small blind.

The Game play: OK, let's play some Hold ‘em. You've bought into a table, sat down and posted your big blind. What's next?

Pre-Flop...The Pocket Cards: (aka the Hole Cards). The dealer deals each player two cards face down. Only the player can see his/her pocket cards. After the cards are dealt, action lies on the player after the big blind. This player must decide whether to call, raise or fold the big blind. Each player is given these options in turn, until all bets are called and the big blind checks. Don't forget, in a Fixed Limit game, any raises are limited to the lower stake amount and in a Pot Limit game, the bet can't exceed the pot amount.

The Flop: Now the dealer turns over the first three community cards, called the "flop." All betting rounds start with the player directly to the dealer's left. For Fixed Limit games, this round of betting still uses the lower stake, using our example $5/$10 game, any bets or raises must be $5. The Pot Limit and No Limit rules don't change.

The Turn (aka Fourth Street): The fourth community card is dealt and a new betting round begins. The bet amount for Fixed Limit games increases to the upper stake. Betting continues until all bets are called.

The River: Here the final community card is shown and the last round of betting takes place. The bet amount for Fixed Limit games is still the big stake.

The Showdown: All the bets have been called; it's time to show the cards. The last player to bet or raise during the final round of betting will show his/her hand first. If all players checked through (nobody bet), the player to the left of the dealer will show first. The remaining players' hands will be automatically revealed moving clockwise, unless a hand is weaker than the winning hand shown. In this case, you'll have the option to show, or muck (fold without showing) your cards. The best five-card hand takes the pot. For a complete list of hand rankings, please consult the Hand Rankings page.

Buying the Pot:If during a betting round you make a bet and all players fold to you, you've bought the pot. You have the option to show or muck your cards.

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