Poker Rules: How to Play Texas Holdem

Poker Rules

If you are new to poker then you will find this guide invaluable when it comes to learning about poker rules, poker hand rankings and most importantly; how to play a hand of poker.  The origins of poker can be traced back to the early 1900’s when it was officially played in Robstown, Texas.  However, there are some that believe that it could have been played a long time before that.  Texas No-Limit Hold’em is the most popular variant of poker played by poker fans around the world.  This is true because the most popular tournaments across the world like; the World Series of Poker (WSOP), World Poker Tour (WPT) and European Poker Tour (EPT) all use this poker variant.

Texas Hold’em Poker

The popularity of poker slowly spread through the whole of Texas and only during the 1960s it is said to have reached the betting mecca; Las Vegas.  As soon as it became hugely popular in the  1970’s, most of the casinos in Vegas included the Texas Hold’em poker variant and many ‘Poker tournaments‘ became popular.  Texas Hold’em attracted the attention of the world when the events in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) were documented in the book, “The Biggest Game in Town”.  Texas Hold’em is simple to learn and difficult to master as there are infinite game situations and variable factors.  There is a famous saying about Texas Hold’em that goes; “it takes a moment to learn, but a lifetime to master”, which most experience poker players will tell you is true.  The objective of Texas Hold’em is to show the highest possible poker hand against your competitors, in a hand of five cards.

When it comes to poker rules, almost everyone remembers Texas Hold’em poker, but there are a lot more variants of this game available online.  Yes, Hold’em is one of the most popular poker games that attract a major portion of the players around the world, but do you know that there are a vast number of poker games available that can provide you with fun and entertainment? If you are interested to know more about the best poker variations then continue to read through this guide. We’ll be providing you with the list of top variants, and different rules, you will learn how to play along with the pros and cons of every game, strategy, hand rankings & more.

Poker Variants

For some people all these poker categories will be new and being a beginner means that you will need to learn at least one of these to start your new poker journey. Which one you choose is entirely up to you and they all vary and have different pros and cons. Study the different ones here and decide which one you want to focus on and learn more about. For the experienced one, maybe one or two of these categories are new. In this guide, you will learn about them all and hence become a better poker player.

1. Draw Poker

Players are dealt with a hand comprising completely face-hidden cards. Players can change their hands by discarding cards they don’t want and then getting new cards. Five-card draw is one of the most popular variants of Draw Poker and has been around for a very long time. Draw poker has different rules but the goal is the same, to score the best hand by changing cards so your hand gets better than your opponent. This form of play is quite straight on and doesn’t take much practice to learn. It is the most classic form of poker and suits the beginner very well.

2. Stud Poker

Players are dealt with a hand comprising of both face-up and face-hidden cards with several rounds of betting. Some of the popular variants of stud poker are 5-card stud and 7 card stud. This type of poker is a little bit more advanced yet quite easy to learn, especially if you played traditional poker before. The goal here is the same, however; to get the best hand by using the cards you are being dealt.

3. Community Card Poker

Here players are dealt with an incomplete hand and a similar number of face-up cards are dealt on the poker table. The player that comes up with the best 5-card hand is the winner. Some of the popular variants of community card poker are Texas Holdem and Omaha. Holdem skyrocketed in popularity at the end of the 20th century, mainly thanks to online poker. Today this version of poker is the most popular one online and is being played by millions of players all around the globe.

Poker Rules

In Texas Hold’em, poker players are dealt two-hole cards each and then five community cards are dealt to allow players to make the best five-card combination.  During the gameplay, players have the option to check, call, raise or fold.  There are a total of 4 rounds of betting, initially when you are dealt your hole cards, then; after ‘the flop’ card is dealt, after ‘the turn’ card is dealt, then the final betting round after ‘the river’ card is dealt.

The charm with Texas Hold’em is that you can win with a really bad hand, you just have to let your opponents believe that you have the stronger hand. But this takes practice, experience, and you need to believe in your ability.

Poker Actions

Playing Texas Hold’em means that you have a few options to choose between when it is your turn.  Learning about all these options means you are ready to play Texas Hold’em.  But mastering Texas Hold’em involves a lot more than just learning the rules, actions and options available.  When to use them takes a lot of experience and you need to take a lot of factors into consideration when making any plays.  For example, anyone can raise, but the ability to raise to get your opponent to fold is more difficult.   So in Texas Hold’em you do not only play your hand, but you play your opponent’s hand also.  Now, let us look at some of these basic phrases that you need to know to be able to play.

  • CHECK: is the most common deceptive play used by most players where you just pass on your round to another player without doing any action. It means you are waiting for the next stage to decide upon your option.  It does not necessarily mean that you have a weak hand since you can trap someone by checking with a good hand and waiting for them to bet.  Experienced poker players are wary of the possibility of a CHECK-RAISE.
  • RAISE: is a possible option if you see that you already have some combination and think that it could be a winning hand. Or if you want to scare your opponents and make them fold, you can raise the bet.
  • CALL: Players who think that they have got a strong enough hand to continue but decide against betting more money will CALL.  Calling can also be used as a form of deception, as to make your hand appear weaker to your opponent.
  • FOLD: If you think that you don’t have a winning hand and don’t want to risk your money/chips, then you can simply FOLD and let other players continue with the action.

Dealer Button

In Texas Hold’em, the game moves clockwise where the dealer is a player which is denoted by a round disc in front of a player. After each round, the round disc or the button moves to the left and that player becomes the dealer. But when you are playing in live poker rooms, there is a separate dealer who takes care of dealing the cards and supervising the action throughout the game.

Blinds

The players to the left of the dealer need to post blinds or forced bets. Yes, the first player to the left of the dealer needs to place a small blind and the next player need to post a big blind. In other words, blinds mean you are placing bets without even seeing the 2-hole cards, which makes the game more interesting. In tournaments, players can even raise the blind amounts, but in cash games, the blind amount stays the same. The big blind is double the amount of the small blind. For example, if the first player posts a small blind of $1, then the big blind need to be $2.

Antes

Similar to blinds, antes are forced bets, however all players at the table post antes.  You will find antes in both cash games and tournaments.  Generally you will most likely see antes towards the end of a poker tournament.  Antes serve a purpose of driving action, by all players contributing to the pot prior to receiving their cards.  There are a number of poker sites now incorporating antes in some of their cash tables, this not only helps generate action, but also helps stamp out passive players.

Fun fact: Poker has been featured in many popular movies such as James Bond: Casino Royale

First Betting Round: Preflop

Once each player is dealt with 2 cards, the betting starts with the first two players to the left of the players posting blinds. The player next to the big blind player needs to play next and he can either call, raise or fold their cards.  If a player folds, he can no longer take part in the round, or the hand.

If he chooses to raise the bet, then the amount he can raise depends on the type of game he is playing. For example, in No-Limit Hold’em, the minimum raise should be twice the amount of the big blind and the maximum raise amount can be all the chips the player has in possession. It is called the “all-in” bet, where the player bets all his amount in the hand.

Once the player next to the big blinds plays, the action continues to the players around the table in a clockwise direction, and every player has the same kind of options as to whether to call, raise or fold.  Once all players complete their play, the pre-flop stage is done and the action moves on to the next stage ‘the flop’.

Second Betting Round: The Flop

In this round, the first three cards are dealt face-up and the second-round betting starts. Players who have folded in the pre-flop stage cannot take part any longer in the game.  The action starts with the first remaining player to the left of the dealer.  Here the players are provided with an additional option “Check” along with other options to raise, call or fold.  If a player calls (Check) the action moves on to the next player.  In real poker tables, normally the players tap their hand onto the table to indicate they are checking.  Once all players complete their play, the flop round gets completed and moves on to the next round, ‘the turn’.  Generally, your odds of winning the pot go down if there is a large number of players in the hand.

Third Betting Round: The Turn

In this round, along with the three community cards, a fourth card is dealt face up and the betting starts right away.  Players then have all four similar options like the previous round to check, call, fold, or raise.

Final Betting Round: The River

The next stage is ‘The River’, where an additional card is dealt face-up to start the betting.  This is officially the last round of betting, but players can go on raising the bets and the rounds continue until someone calls.

The Showdown

If there is at least two players remaining after ‘the river’ betting round, then all players need to reveal their two-hole cards and the winner with the highest hand will be announced.  This is what it all comes down to.  An experienced poker player will almost know by now what kind of hand the opponent has and losing at this point could be a big blow to the player’s stack of chips.  Hands that make it to showdown will usually involve a larger portion of a players chip stack than had the hand ended on the flop for example.

Poker Hand Rankings

Before you play online poker, you also need to understand the Texas Hold’em hand combination rankings.  See the image below which shows the rankings in detail.  Royal Flush is the top-ranked hand and anyone with this set of cards is the winner of the pot undoubtedly.  It is pretty easy to understand poker hand rankings and they are the same for all the most popular games including No-Limit Hold’em, Pot-Limit Omaha, and Seven-Card Stud.

To be able to play and win a player needs to know what hands are the winning hands.  Knowing this is the most important thing to know before one engages in a hand of poker.  A royal flush is the most difficult one to get and is rarely seen at any given poker table, some poker players will play their entire life without actually scoring a royal flush.

poker hands from best to worst

Poker Hand Rankings (click to enlarge)

Poker Hand Odds

Here you see the poker odds (probability) for getting different five-card poker hand combinations.  You will normally only see hands ranging from no pair, right up to a full house in Texas Hold’em on a daily basis.  For you to get a royal flush, on average you only get this around once in around every 650,000 hands, therefore it is rare to get this hand.

  • ROYAL FLUSH: 1 in 649,740 (0.000154%)
  • STRAIGHT FLUSH: 1 in 72,193.33 (0.00139%)
  • FOUR OF A KIND: 1 in 4,165 (0.0240%)
  • FULL HOUSE: 1 in 694.16 (0.1441%)
  • FLUSH: 1 in 508.80 (0.1965%)
  • STRAIGHT: 1 in 254.80 (0.3925%)
  • THREE OF A KIND: 1 in 47.32 (2.1128%)
  • TWO PAIR: 1 in 21.03 (4.7539%)
  • ONE PAIR: 1 in 2.36 (42.2569%)
  • NO PAIR: 1 in 1.99 (50.1177%)

Poker Strategy Tips

If you are just a beginner, then master your strategy by learning how to play poker.  Play low-limit poker games and acclimatize yourself with the basics of the game.  There are a lot of poker training schools that can help you with hand analysis, mindset, hand reading, aggression, tilt control, etc.

Poker is all about getting the best hand possible, being self-disciplined, learning and controlling your emotions are key.  According to the fundamental theorem of poker introduced by David Sklansky; “Every time you play a hand differently from the way you would have played it if you could see all your opponent’s cards, they gain; and every time you play your hand the same way you would have played it if you could see all their cards, they lose. Conversely, every time opponents play their hands differently from the way they would have if they could see all your cards, you gain; and every time they play their hands the same way they would have played if they could see all your cards, you lose”.

Table Position

A great strategy tip for new Texas No-Limit Hold’em players is to understand your table position.  You will hear a lot about a player being ‘in-position’ or ‘out of position’.  Basically a player is in position when they are the last person to act in a hand.  There is an advantage for being the last player to act as you get to see what other players do prior to you making your decision.  The worst position to be on the table is the small blind, as you are the first to act on every street of betting.  Conversely, the best position to be in is the button, as generally you are the last person to act on every street.

With experience, you will be able to alter your playing strategy based on your table position.  A players position is a big factor in both tournament and cash games.  Players often assess the strength of their hand ranking when dealt their cards, and having a small pocket pair in an early position may be a fold.  You may make this decision as there is a lot of players to act and you may get raised and have to fold.  Meanwhile being dealt the same hand in a late position, you may elect to raise or call.

Poker Table Position

All poker table hand positions. Credit: GGPoker

Online Poker Tells

Learning poker tells is vital in poker.  You might not think it, but there is tells in online poker also.  We will discuss some useful hints when playing online with regards tells.

Watch out for the instant check, the player may have pre-selected the check/fold button, or they may be impatient and not happy with their hand, this is usually a good indicator that they are weak.  Another online tell is a min-raise, this is often a sign of huge strength, and your opponent wants to keep you in the pot and get maximum value.  Furthermore you have the overbet, often on the river, and sometimes all-in.  Prior to the overbet, your opponent may shove all-in also after an overlay long period of time, again indication of a strong holding.  Donk betting, or leading the betting out of position is also a sign of weakness, as is a middling-sized check raise or raise on the flop, where your opponent may try and steal the pot, or see where they are.

Don’t forget to know your opponents playing style and be wary of experienced opponents mixing up their play and make themselves look weak when they are actually strong.

Poker Cheat Sheet

Want something more? Then grab our poker cheat sheet, by clicking the image below and saving it for future use. This cheat sheet is in high quality so you can print it for future use during home games.

poker hand ranking and a starting hand cheat sheet chart

Poker Cheat Sheet (click to enlarge)

Some additional Hints

  • Don’t take part in every round and play very aggressively.
  • Bluffing is another skill that you need to develop if you want to win more hands.
  • When you have strong hands, try to build the pot and protect your equity.
  • Get the latest tips for beginners & experts (training sites, private coaches).
  • Sometimes folding is good, to win in the long run you have to make a lot of good laydowns.

Where to Play Poker Online?

To see which poker sites are available for your country, please go to our iGaming brand section and select your country.

Alternatively, choose one of these awesome sites below:

Make sure to click on the links shown in the reviews in order to participate in all exclusive promotions and rake races.

Conclusion

This guide should have provided you with all the information you needed about the online poker rules, hand combinations, and gameplay.  You will be able to easily sign-up and to an online poker room and use your knew found knowledge to take part in some Texas No-Limit Hold’em poker.  But if you want to begin your poker career on a good note and gain some more knowledge we suggest you read our guides in our Academy section.  If you have done so already we can only congratulate you, you are now a player with a greater chance of winning more in your next session.  But remember, at poker, you don’t play your cards, you play your opponents. Good luck!

POKER RULE FAQ

What is the easiest poker game to play?

Five card draw is considered the simplest form of poker and easiest to play.

Can you play poker without knowing the rules?

Yes, but if you want to play poker with money, it is best that you learn the rules and understand the basics.

Where should I play once I learn the rules?

Make sure to only visit online poker sites recommended by PokCas.com, those are safe options plus, you may get additional promotions for being our player.

Is poker a game of skill?

Poker combines both skill and luck. However, to win consistently you cannot rely on luck, you have to improve upon your skill and understanding of the game.

What is the best possible hand in poker?

The best possible hand is a Royal Flush. This is a straight flush from the ten to the ace. However, the poker odds of getting this hand in Texas Hold'em is roughly 650,000 to 1.

What is the best table position in poker?

The button or also called the dealer position. After the flop you are the last player to act, you gain an advantage by this, as you are the last player to act and can see what your opponents do first.

Are there any unwritten poker rules?

Yes, there are many, and include; not to slow roll your opponents, don't waste time, angle shoot, always act in turn, pay attention to the game and keep quiet if you are not in the hand.

Is Texas Hold'em Poker easier to learn than Omaha?

Both are very similar, once you master Texas Hold'em, it won't be hard to learn Pot Limit Omaha.

What is a donkey in poker?

This is a disparaging term for a weak player.

What is ratholing in poker?

When you leave a cash game after winning and returning with the minimum buy-in or less than you left the table with. This is frowned upon and most poker operators prevent this behaviour occuring.